They Don't Look the Part

Improvisational sketch comedy is supposed to be about the unexpected, the unscripted. Yet there are certain things that an audience does, in fact, expect from an improv theater crew: youth, a somewhat manic approach, and clothes that can kindly be described as “versatile.” Those all go out the window the minute you see 3 for All. They look more like jazz musicians or characters from a Raymond Chandler story than comedians, wearing vests, wide shiny ties, and hair gel or pomade (well, two of them, anyway). Their approach is much more measured than manic, and their subject matter is as diverse as the words and phrases from audience members that shape their skits. One is called “Jesus,” and it starts with the Prince of Light asking Peter why he took him down from the cross. “You looked so unhappy!” Peter replies. “Well, I wanted to leave you up there!” says John. In “Polio Fable,” a youngster asks his granddad whether he'll read him “that Polio Noir story.” Most laughs come from that line alone and the gestures of the youngster and the third man acting out the parts of a lizard — who's the one with polio in the fable. Another skit is based not on words, but on a viewer's two-handed gesture denoting size. And they pull it off. This is because Tim Orr, Stephen Hearin, and Rafe Chase have been doing this together since 1996, and their experience beyond that reaches back to the late 1970s. They say they've sold out venues not only San Francisco but also Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Atlanta as well as several European cities. That a trio has been together this long is also unexpected, but not unwelcome in this case.
April 1-2, 8 p.m., 2011

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