UMBC student improv group Dog Collar Comedy held its first show of the semester, “Joe’s Dog’s Birthday.” The performance consisted of several improvised scenes, or “games,” as they are referred to, involving all members of Dog Collar being put in humorous scenarios with audience input constantly requiring performers to think fast as they are given new context to work around.
The title was chosen not only to celebrate the twelfth birthday of sophomore performer Joe Bernstein’s own dog, but also to celebrate the anniversary of Dog Collar as a group.
The birthday celebration was attended by what appeared to be several hundred students, alumni, and student’s parents alike, with all seats in the ITE lecture hall being quickly filled up. Dog Collar member, sophomore Kieran Hansen, commented on the full-house, saying “We had one show last semester, so I’m glad this many people actually showed up.”
The need to be quick-witted was a task dutifully taken on by all members of Dog Collar, with their jokes and acting all well-suited for the lighthearted atmosphere presented by the show’s colorful birthday decorations and inclusion of the “Shrek 2” soundtrack. Banter was definitely a strong-point for the night, with performers all snapping at each other with genuine surprise, frustration, and confusion played out through their quips.
The games played throughout the evening were for the most-part fun to watch, with individual talent and creativity often shining when performers were able to seize moments for stellar jokes. The constant interaction between performers definitely contributed to the playful, friendly nature of the show, with many of the insults thrown out getting the largest reactions from the audience.
Several of the audience suggestions were either ignored or shot-down, which is understandable given how many suggestions seemed to be more focused on getting a laugh from the audience than giving anything for Dog Collar to work with.
While there didn’t seem to be any appreciation for the constant Monty Python or obscure 1990s literature ideas being thrown at the stage, it must be applauded how several of the group members were willing to take on a similar vein or referential humor later into the show.
This certainly shows how familiar Dog Collar is with its own audience, as while unwilling to play games revolving around the Bee Movie, Jerry Seinfeld himself was within the realm of what could be worked with.
Sophomore audience member, Nate Moziek, summed up the performance quite efficiently, stating “It’s all fun so long as you remember they’re all college kids.”
Moziek’s words speak to how the show was at times low-brow and inconsistent, but how irrelevant that is when analyzing a comedy show by a group of college students who just want everyone in the audience to have a good time.
In many ways it is not fair to analyze a team of unscripted university students as one would a television stand-up routine, so what Joe’s Dog’s Birthday should really be judged by is how much fun it is, and with that as the metric, the show was great. Bernstein himself commented on how “Everyone did a great job, everyone had a lot of fun,” a description of the show accurate in its own right.