A comedy improv show, for mothers and by mothers

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For an upcoming Mother’s Day improv show, Eno Okung’s mom says she wants walk-on music.

“Yeah, I think she thinks it’s some kind of wrestling match or something. You know, where everyone comes out and they all have their own hype music,” Okung says.

“When I asked her, ‘Would you be down for this?’, ‘Chaa cha!’ was the literal text message that she sent me. So, if that’s any indication of how this show is gonna go…” continues Okung, trailing off and shrugging with a bemused smile.

Tomorrow, Okung, along with Elijah Crocker and Austin Scott, the other members of Rochester’s all-Black long-form improv comedy trio, Ants to Gods, will be joined at Focus Theater by their mothers in a show entitled: Momfestation. The performance is intended to be a celebration of mothers while also a chance for some friendly banter.

“My parents also think they’re funnier than me, so that’s also part of it. My dad is always trying to give me advice on how to be a comedian. And my mom is so hungry to be on the stage,” says Okung.

“So, this is the opportunity to put them to the test and say, ‘Alright, you were talking a lot before now. Let’s see what you got when you’re actually up on stage,’” adds Crocker.

 From left to right, Elijah Crocker, Eno Okung and Austin Scott with their mothers.

While each of the members’ mothers is theatrical and entertaining in their own way, none has had training in improv. In addition, while they know their own children very well, they have less crossover and less familiarity with each other.

Since improv is a performance art that requires active listening, spur-of-the-moment decision making, and flexibility to guide a scene, Ants to Gods fully expects there to be some bumps along the road. While Crocker was supportive of giving their mothers a crash course on the basics, Scott was against the idea and wanted to go in completely blind.

“I wouldn’t even say he’s the purist (of the group), it’s more something like, this is improv. Let’s get some people who have no idea what’s happening and that’s what will touch the feet of the improv gods,” Okung says.

The members also are divided on how they intend to treat their mothers onstage–whether to give the improv newcomers lifelines if they are floundering or not.

“I’m going to be brutal. My mom has given me 30 years of hell and I’m giving it right back,” Okung says, considering that to be a compliment rather than a challenge. “She is absolutely funnier than me. Genuinely part of the reason I became a performer was because I had no choice but to think on my feet around her. She’s so fast, she’s so witty, she’s so sharp. We’re pals, but we’ll definitely rib each other.”

In contrast, Crocker says of his mother: “I’m going to be very nice to her. We butt heads, but more than anything, we’re a really supportive household.

“And I don’t want to ruin that because I wanted to show off for a show,” he quickly adds with a laugh. “Love you, mom.”

Collectively, Ants to Gods is happy their mothers were enthusiastic and willing to put themselves out there with a live performance. While they are going out with little experience or planning, it’s just the way the improv group wants it to be, no anxiety added.

“I don’t think that it’s like we’re nervous that the show will be bad or people won’t enjoy it. I think it’s like, (our moms) will probably embarrass us one way or another,” Crocker concludes. “Because they’ll be trying to.”

Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer.The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

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