Have you ever sat down to watch an episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, the comedy-improv TV show hosted by Drew Carey? Ever thought to yourself, "Hey! That looks easy. Bet I could do it"? If so, then head on down to New York Comedy Club for a taste of The Grown-Ups Playground, a comedy show that proves just how difficult good improv can be. Playground is both misconceived and poorly executed. The skits are performed by a well-meaning, energetic cast, but the games are inherently dull and do not encourage comedy of any kind. For example, toward the end of the night a selection of improvisers played a game that resembled the old television show To Tell the Truth. Six actors stood in a line onstage, all pretending that they had once worked as a guard at an ice skating rink. Only one of them, in fact, was telling the truth, and it was up to the audience to guess which one.
The M.C., whose drawn-out explanations were duller than a slow day on C-Span, told the audience to think of questions they might like to ask the actors about the job. She then proceeded to ask the entire group the same painfully boring question, going down the line and eliciting boring answers in response. The audience was then asked to vote for the cast member they thought was telling the truth.
But wait! What happened to the funny questions the audience was asked to provide? I wondered. Alas, this was merely a red herring, something meant to keep our minds occupied during the excruciating execution of this "comedic" game.
To the cast members' credit, they seem to be utterly enjoying themselves, and they provide much-needed encouragement when their teammates are onstage. However, this support system positively crumbles in the large group skits, during which the players' lack of training is extremely evident. All of the cardinal rules of comedy improv are thrown out the window, and the result is an unstructured mess. In the final game of the night, "Styles," five actors perform a neutral scene, then are asked to freeze. They continue the scene in a different style