Ay Que Funny Delivers Hilarious, Estrogen Fueled Comedy
If this year’s movie “Bridesmaids” and its Wilson Philips, laser-ridden, fist-pumping finale taught us anything (other than that it’s perfectly okay to soil yourself in a stolen wedding dress in the middle of oncoming traffic), it’s that crude, sketchy-girl sketches are funny again — to everyone. And that’s a good thing, and comedienne Jesenia Bailey knows it.
In their third season on the comedy stage, Bailey and her sketch troupe Ay Que Funny (AQF) give itching privates, menstrual cramps, and carb-craving the musical treatment that is strong enough for a man, but definitely made by a woman. If you’re starting to feel like Adele’s music sounds like the cue sheet for a Paxil commercial, well grab yourself a seat, pour yourself a whiskey, and give these ladies your attention: as Beyoncé’s hip flexors warned, it appears girls do indeed run this motha.
In one gut-busting sketch, AQF graphically tackles the tribulations of hair removal (I’m a sucker for schadenfreude, so I found this sketch particularly hilarious). Actresses parody Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep,” only, instead, the choruses “Rolling in the Deep,” are replaced with “Shouldn’ta Shaved My [Privates].” You can relate, but guess what, now there’s a song all about your troubles!
It’s not all razor burn here, though.
The show is refreshingly like the 90s’ comedy sketch series “In Living Color” (I know you remember pre-“Selena” J. Lo as a “Fly Girl”), where the mundane and the multicultural are extracted from their respective frames of reference and translated into absurdly comical situations with universal appeal. In one number, set to Rockwell and Michael Jackson’s brilliant 1984 tune “Somebody’s Watching Me,” Bailey dons a poncho, sombrero, and a beer to boot, as she plays up the stereotypical Mexican dude living on the border. Swigging beer with a wide stance, Bailey convincingly plays an undocumented buey who discovers the guy he was chatting up was an undercover INS agent. The song is already such an excellent and appropriate pop culture reference, but Bailey adds some light humor to offer some commentary on an otherwise heavy and current topic.
Other musical turns are similarly female-driven, but less weighty than they are, well, bloated. In “I Feel Crampy,” cast member Arielle Rosales — who could turn to music if her comedy career fails; homegirl’s got some pipes! — takes on “Westside Story’s” “I Feel Pretty” to wax poetic on the joys of PMS. And in “Hero,” the girls shun Mariah Carey’s dated, feel-good version of the song to tackle the temptation of diet enemy #1: carbohydrates. Crawling on all fours to shovel a giant hero into her mouth and replacing lyrics with one-liners like, “And then a hero comes along/with swiss cheese and parmesan,” actress Khamali Murray delivers a performance that would make Oprah literally eat her yo-yo dieting heart out.
Don’t get me wrong, AQF is more than just estrogen — and indeed the gents in the cast bring a much-needed gender juxtaposition to the stage. Dwayne McCleese and John Sartori are two of the show’s men who feel right at home with the women. McCleese is just as funny as the flamboyantly gay yuppie best friend in a sketch about the “sad” realities of relocating to the “ghettos” beyond 125th Street in Manhattan, as he is playing the foul-mouth husband scolding his wife for not trimming the weeds beneath her belt. And although Sartori’s sketch about a stalker keeping girls locked in a dungeon feels out of place in the rest of this set, he shines as the schlubby, pasty guy marching around in gray sweats and tube socks in the white-boy sloth character that has become de rigeur in comedy these days.
Watching the show, you realize that the troupe is young and has a lot of room for comedic growth and consistency. Self-editing would be a plus (here, for example, a sketch about Pinocchio breaking a cookie jar set to Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me” falls flat), and you sense — as with many aspirational artists — the “spaghetti on the wall” tactic of throwing out quantity over quality to see what sticks. But if you’re anything like me, half the fun of live comedy is seeing how actors improvise and recover from those awkward pauses. And besides, staged comedy sketches are a nice departure from your run-of-the-mill comedy club stand-up — particularly when you have a group of young, multicultural talents who are hungry to succeed.
Bailey says that every show is different, so if musicals are not necessarily your thing, you’re in luck: the next show, scheduled for October 30, is a Halloween Special, and November 11 is the group’s season finale.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve learned my lesson, and I’m late for my wax.
Salvi In The City is a Latino writer of Salvadoran descent who lives in New York City.