Opening Nights: The Habit

If '90s rock bands can reunite, why not '90s sketch-comedy troupes?

There's the kind of laughter at a comedy club where you've gone "to have fun," as if it's the blue-plate special. Then there's the kind that comes with no expectations at a whack attack like The Habit. Its five male performers ooze cleverness and timing in some 30 short vignettes (some linked, some freestanding). The sketches' premises are only casually funny, but like sprinting downhill, the keenest fun is the sheer tumble of it—how rapidly the comedic constellations form, collapse, and re-form. There's seldom a nanosecond to ponder what just happened before hurtling off to some new realm of the ridiculous.

Jeff Schell and a cabal of fellow UW grads founded the local troupe in the mid-'90s. After forays in L.A. and New York and auditions for HBO and Comedy Central, the group disbanded until last year's Seattle reunion show—which now looks to be an annual holiday tradition.

Courtroom: Prosecutor expounds, defender objects, stenographer "Judy" (Luke Thayer in red track suit and long wig) reads aloud . . . and somehow the scene kills. Later, a nearly identical setup in a hospital . . . again, it kills, building on its earlier rhythm. The script cuts straight to the absurd "templatization" of modern life. Rinse. Repeat. FAST! The world's worst joke-teller (again, Thayer) periodically tells the same terrible joke, which vaults him to the height of stardom. His apotheosis is kitschy hilarity, as long as you don't overcontemplate. Wisely, the team doesn't let you. (John Osebold, Mark Siano, and David Swidler complete the quintet.) The Habit branches out to battlefields, game shows, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, terrorists, Einstein, and cell-phone patty-cake. It's the closest thing in Seattle to Second City, and we're already looking forward to The Habit's 2013 return engagement.

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