NOW THAT two different satirical revues are vying for the smug little laughs of Harvard audiences, the for the smug little laughs of Harvard audiences, the Proposition and the Light Company are frequently mentioned together in reviews. They shouldn't be. Celebrating its first birthday last Thursday night with the unveiling of a new line of topical sketches, the Proposition has proved that political jokes are built on delivery--and the Proposition's delivery is the best around.
The new Proposition has developed slowly into an unassuming vaudevillle for heads. Still an hour-and-a-half-long race to catch the audience unprepared, the revue thrives on its radio talk show and style-change improvisations. No matter what you throw out, the cast will never be at a loss for its zinger. The best of the prepared sketches are without a doubt the Bob Dylan song and Nixon's Inaugural--both old jokes, both very funny.
If you have already hit the Proposition once, you will see that the format hasn't changed. Judging by last Thursday night's reopening, though, the list of sketches and black-outs has become more sophisticated with time.
Last fall, the show drew crowds with two people together in the Bic or the Square or Joe's Bar--a single theme, clever dialogue, and an intellectual's slap-stick. Borrowing heavily now from the Mort Sahl throw-away lines and the California humor of the Fireside Theater, the new sketches weave in third and fourth parts for stage interlopers, creating a more expansive humor. Dropping in an outsider's irrelevancies make a situation comedy less staged.
The spoof, the situation, whatever comes out is a collage of jokes, not simply a collection. Lines fall disjointedly and still very much in unison; and the composite result is the Proposition's own Sgt. Pepper's Band. Like the Beatles, there are the songs and then there are the Beatles. While you hum the songs, you love the Beatles.
The seven member cast of the Proposition still gets away with its simple stock of Nixon, Agnew, pot, morality, and sex (especially sex) jokes because the little garage-theater they occupy in Inman Square is their own unreal world. They have their own Nixon--Ken Tigar--who can bring back our Nixon with only a malaprop, a putty jaw, and seven inflections on the word communist. They have Ted Drachman, a sloop-shouldered broomstick who can't sing and can't dance--and does both well. And finally the Proposition has Judy Kahan and Fred Grandy, two very talented people who can do anything.
The Proposition will not challenge your well-insulated intellectualism. Admittedly, it is escapist; but that does not exclude the possibility of its being funny. When Fred Grandy comes on and looks like Bob Dylan and eats his harmonica like Dylan and sings like you've always secretly thought Bob Dylan did sing, you can guffaw if you want; you can even roll around a little on the kindergarten-colored wood benches (at least I did, much to the discomfort of another reviewer's wife who was snickering beside me.)
Without troubling thought, the Proposition is funny. To be sure, it is not consistently funny. The banal Lester Maddox, Leave It to Beaver, and cigarette clinic jokes are only touched up leftovers from before, and the Nixon Messiah is a disappointing adventure beyond the range of the actors' voices. But you don't notice until you've left and your chuckles turn to resonant Harvard sighs. Ken Tigar, Judy Kahan, and Fred Grandy are funny. And I'm an escapist at heart anyhow. SCOTT W. JACOBS