Music Director: Jen Kwok
Reviewer: Carrie Lee O’Dell
Caveat, a relatively new performance venue on the Lower East Side, bills itself as a “home for intelligent nightlife,” offering comedy, storytelling, and music in a basement space decorated with academic artifacts. Earth’s Greatest (a comedy game show in which reanimated historical figures compete to stay in their reanimated forms while losers suffer a dreaded “second death” offstage) is a recent addition to their lineup. It’s the latest offering from comedy writing team KAZM (Keisha Zollar, Andrew Kimler, Zoe Samuel, and Mark Lichtenstein).
The premise of Earth’s Greatest is that it’s the year 2167 and aliens from the planet Plutar have overtaken the Earth. Everything earthlings do is in service to the Plutars, who choose figures from Earth’s history to compete in a game show with categories ranging from historical trivia to advice to slam poetry. The first installment of Earth’s Greatest is devoted to conquerors, with Alexander the Great (Joel Perez), Hernán Cortés (Chelsea Davison), Genghis Khan (Nick Jack Pappas), and Grace O’Malley (Megan Sass) competing and Keisha Zollar and Andrew Kimler hosting. Jen Kwok provides musical accompaniment.
The premise of Earth’s Greatest is fun, if a bit dark—it certainly doesn’t shy away from the bloody pasts of its contestants but manages to punch up with its jokes about Cortes’s slaughter of the Aztecs and Grace O’Malley’s matter-of-fact points about the anti-Semitism of Elizabethan England. All of the contestants for the June 23 premiere of the series are skilled improvisers and the show’s categories allowed them a chance to shine. The sections asking for audience suggestions are particularly funny; contestants perform slam poetry that incorporates lines provided by the audience and later give TED talk style lectures prompted by requests from the house. That said, the audience was sometimes slow to participate, which affected the energy of the room; it felt like the hosts were prepared for a much bigger response when they asked the audience for suggestions.
Hosts Keisha Zollar and Andrew Kimler have chemistry onstage; it feels like they are still hitting their stride with this project, but the ideas are solid. For folks familiar with her work (Date an Asian, Take You Home, Shittier) the incredibly talented and funny accompanist Jen Kwok feels woefully underused, but this might be part of the show finding its footing as a series. On the whole, Earth’s Greatest makes for a fun evening out—a sort of science fiction influenced Drunk History game show. It’s definitely worth checking out, especially for history buffs and improv/sketch comedy fans.
Reviewed on 23 June 2018