click to enlarge FREAK ENGINE
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You know that gal or guy at work who you really like in spite of the fact that they can't pass up the opportunity to make an incredibly bad pun and causes company meetings to go on three times longer than they normally would because of a congenital urge to crack jokes about everything productive anybody else says or does? Now imagine the absolute chaos of 20 such wiseacres inhabiting a single room trying to accomplish a simple straightforward task, and you'll have some idea of what it's like to watch a rehearsal for an improv comedy cage match featuring members of Memphis' three long-running comedy troupes: the Wiseguys, FrEaK EnGinE, and Running Gag. No direction goes underided; no statement is left unsnarked. Every comment results in 20 quips, and even the best questions are met with an un-straight answer. Miraculously, in spite of the relentless goofing, decisions are made and work is accomplished.

Cage Match III, a one-night-only event on the NextStage at Theatre Memphis, finds Memphis' most spontaneous funny people going head to nerdy head in a series of predetermined games testing both their comic skills and their knowledge of pop culture. Games like "Oscar Moment" allow comics to improvise scenes from fake films in popular genres and ham it up for the imaginary cameras when somebody calls out "Oscar moment." Prepare to see ninjas dying of some rare ninja disease, wookies coming to grips with their past, and action heroes crying because bullets are a lousy substitute for love.

Other games like "That Sounds like a Song" find the comedians spontaneously composing music and lyrics based on some completely random thing somebody recently said. This year's cage match will conclude with an epic "rap battle."

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