January 23, 2006
By Jon Shurkin
The idea of seeing Naked Babies, a random improv group that cut its teeth years ago in New York might not seem like that big of a thing at first, but it is considering that one of the members grew up to be Rob Corddry of the “Daily Show.” At this point, seeing Corddry live on-stage with the group he got his start with is like seeing a rock star get on stage with the group he got his start with. Well, more like the rock stars’ lead guitarist.
It turns out Corddry isn’t the only famous or semi-famous member of Naked Babies. Also part of the group is Brian Huskey, one of the Snarking Heads on VH-1’s “Best Week Ever.” Another guy, John Ross Bowie, is one of those guys who appears randomly enough in TV shows and commercials to look familiar, and the last member of the comedy quartet, Seth Morris, looked enough like Luke Perry circa “Oz” to bring a smile to our face.
The Babies were in a pretty tight groove, doing over an hour of improv and seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely. In fact, other than starting off with an audience suggestion, they did the entire performance without any direction or guidance whatsoever. Sometimes there was the little lull you run into when you see improv as they got themselves in a rut and couldn’t figure out where to go, but once they figured out a direction, they hopped right into it, building multiple character and even multiple scenes out of nothing. So a skit about recess turned into a skit about an exorcism and a mother right out of “Rosemary’s Baby” and a surprise party turned into a double homicide (the person being surprised was so surprised he shot his friends), which turned into a visit the local neighborhood drug dealer.
Not every joke or bit worked, but there were way more hits than misses and some genuine inspired moments. Our favorite bit was Corddry and Morris playing a pair of French ambulance drivers (they smoked while driving around and the first thing they did when seeing somebody to rescue was whip up an espresso). The patient who they rescued (Bowie) wasn’t really injured, was instead having an emergency existential crisis, for which Corddry’s character healed the patient by injecting the patient with a shot of Camus.
Jokes about the French and existentialism? Always funny.
For all of Corddry’s star status, he wasn’t the driving force in the skits– it was Morris. Morris not only appeared in every bit, but was also usually the one who came up with the ideas that everyone fed off (he was the one who had his character shoot all of his party goers, for instance). Corddry, who was beaming throughout because it looked like he was having so much fun (or maybe because he’s about to become a dad), never came up with the big ideas, but did some fine character work to help flesh everything out. The others in the group early on good-naturedly joked about the exalted status of one of their members, playing around with the idea that Corddry’s main status in the group was really to be the roadie guy who picks up all the props.
The opening act was the female comedic duo, Somebody’s in the Doghouse, a duo who apparently doesn’t live in the same city but still manages to perform throughout the country. Most of their comedy played off the old trope of having people say and do things you don’t expect them to say or do (nuns talking about sex, two old women from New England talking about sex, Koko the gorilla making hand gestures about sex), which, fortunately, is one of the three or five sure-fire comedy staples (probably right after fart jokes and white people are so unhip jokes). Most of their stuff was more smile funny than laugh-out-loud funny, but they did have some pretty good ideas and brought a lot of energy to their performances. Our favorite was a bit was where a nurse comes in to tell a new mother that according to all the tests they’ve run, her newborn infant will one day grow up to be a douchebag. To help prepare the mother, the nurse even brings surgical charts and a self help book, then later tells her that most douchebags actually grow up to be captains of industry or politicians. A video taped commercial parody about a skin cream that’s good for both the face and the penis was also pretty inspired, as good as anything on SNL over the years and we don’t mean it as a back-handed compliment– it was really good.