Odd Lot Improv have been making Savannah audiences laugh since 2010, earning “Best Comedy Team” accolades for the last six years in a row. With this year being their 10th anniversary, the cast deserve a victory lap, but COVID-19 has prevented them from putting on a big celebratory live show.
Quarantine may have chased the Odd Lot crew off the stage, but co-founders Chris Soucy and Justin Kent haven’t missed a beat, taking their regular routine of performing several shows a week to the web.
“It is not natural, but it scratches the itch,” said Soucy. “We are performers who love to perform and we love the engagement. It is one of those things where you feel that you do out of love for it, and knowing that so many people are kind of down in the dumps and having a hard time of it—this is not the ideal situation at all. We kind of live in this world where it’s like, ‘What can you do? Can you do something?’ And that’s kind of what what we did — we answered the call.”
Odd Lot grew out of an improv show Soucy and Kent had founded in which the cast would improvise their way through literary classics like “Moby Dick,” “Treasure Island,” and “A Christmas Carol,” hilariously trying to recreate the stories from their vague recollections.
With the creation of Odd Lot Improv, the cast performed shows every Monday (and many Fridays) at Muse Arts Warehouse. Eventually, Odd Lot found their own dedicated space at Savannah Coffee Roasters where, with a regular rotating cast of around twenty players, they have been performing three shows a week ever since.
During this pandemic, Odd Lot are using the streaming service StreamYard to put on shows every Monday and Friday at 7:30 p.m. on Facebook Live. The platform allows Odd Lot to include their audience and let them interact much like they would in a live show setting.
“We can take direct interaction from the audience and we can actually put their interactions up on screen so that the audience at large can see what we’re using for inspiration,” said Soucy.
The new setting and format has allowed for some experimentation, as well. The cast have put on a murder mystery show where they engaged with the audience to help develop the characters and story. Other shows have involved creating bizarre characters who interview each other.
Besides the Monday and Friday shows, Soucy and Kent have been continuing their series, “Pitch Slapping,” every Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. The show involves throwing each other a celebrity and genre and creating a movie pitch out of it.
“I’m a writer and what I’ve been doing this year — this started before the quarantine — is I’ve been writing a feature length screenplay a week,” explained Soucy. “When we started doing ‘Pitch Slapping’ I thought I ought to write the screenplay that we’re pitching, the screenplay everyone sees us creating live in front of them. We explore things like story telling elements and using ‘The Hero’s Journey,’ Aristotle’s ‘Poetics,’ or anything like that, to create the structure of a story and then we create live with an audience and the audience chimes in with celebrities or plot twists and it’s a lot of fun, actually. We have a great time with it.”
“We basically invite people to see what we do in our living room.”
The cast of Odd Lot are all regularly employed so there hasn’t been an effort to monetize their streaming shows, yet.
“That’s not at the forefront of what we’re trying to achieve now,” said Soucy. “We’ve been thinking about taking a streaming camera into the space and doing shows on our stage and that may be something that we charge minimally to access, but right now, the way we see it is we’re at home, we’re all in this together and so whatever we can do to make it a little more bearable.”
Eventually, Odd Lot will be able to get back onto their stage and put on that big anniversary show they had to postpone, but in the meantime they are happy to continue entertaining people anyway they can.
“We’re not in any rush to come back to performing live if it is in any way a threat,” said Soucy. “We are definitely safety first. We love our audience and we love Savannah. We’d love to be back on stage, but we’re prepared to do whatever is best for the community at large.”