By John Hanley
For many couples, Valentine’s Day is a day to indulge in stereotypical romantic dates and lovey-dovey gifts. Whether it’s candlelit dinners and expensive wine or slow walks on the levee and kisses under the clock tower, February 14th is America’s day for unapologetically cheesy romance.
However, quite a few lovebirds might be looking to opt out of the Valentine’s Day rush. Restaurants will be packed, chocolates and flowers will be sold out, and people will be crawling all over Baton Rouge two by two. So, a local group of improv comedians are offering an out to the couples that want something different.
The Family Dinner, a collective of various local comedians, will be offering a “Spoof Night” on Friday, Feb. 13 at 8 p.m. at the Manship Theater. The night is in the typical “Dinner & A Movie” format (with a special deal from Capitol City Grill), but the “movie” half is where things get interesting.
The group will be showing the ‘90s classic, Ghost, a Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze helmed romantic drama about a man who becomes a ghost after being murdered, and tries to communicate with his wife as she continues living. However, as the movie plays, it will be accompanied by the group’s live commentary, improv games, and other digital clips, poking fun at the film and sharing laughs with the audience about the cheesy ‘90s romance.
“We like spoofing these romantic movies around [Valentine’s Day] just to get everyone in the mood,” quipped Evan Rabalais, a member of the Family Dinner. Rabalais said this is the second time they’ve shown a Patrick Swayze film for Valentine’s Day, with last year’s Dirty Dancing spoof being a huge success.
David Vitrano, another member of the group, said Dirty Dancing’s success was mainly due to the audience’s enthusiastic participation. He says this is in part why the group wound up doing another Swayze film this year.
“The response from the…audience blew us away,” said Vitrano. “People were singing along with the songs, they were booing the bad guy…We didn’t know what we were getting in to.”
The group says this is what they try to get out of the audience. Their goal is to bring people together to laugh and feel a certain level of connection, even if it is at the expense of a certain movie.
“Whenever we first tried it, we thought maybe it would just be people making fun of movies,” said Robert Rau, a member of the comedy group, “and we realized that it’s not just making fun of the movies, it’s a celebration of the film…It’s the interaction with not just seeing a movie, but having people make fun of it with you.”
Rau says the interaction–being together in a theater full of people ready to laugh–makes the experience more interpersonal and entertaining. Vitrano added that the group tries to bring out the moments in movies where people will say “Oh, that’s the joke I make with my friends,” or, “That’s why I love that movie,” so that the audience can find humor in those things that they relate to.
Creating a community through humor is, after all, something the Family Dinner group knows a lot about. Ten-plus years in the making, the group is made up of a corrections officer, hospital workers, doctors, pharmacy techs, and others who found a common interest in comedy and improv.
For those that can’t make it to the Spoof Night, the group is also holding practice sessions for improv every Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Manship Theater, and they invite anyone to come give it a shot. Otherwise, call the Manship Theater at 225-344-0334 for more information about tickets and contact the Family Dinner at 225-773-4757.