Keep Feelin’ Fascination
UCB East panel show captures absurdities in the news with lively, young performers
Host Katey Healy-Wurzburg (photo by Benjamin Ragheb)
By Michael Shashoua / Jester editor-in-chief
“The Fascinator,” a monthly conversational show seen March 10 at the UCB East theater, is fueled by its host, Katey Healy-Wurzburg, who brings to the stage a prepared list of obscure facts, topics and news items to spark conversation, all within a nominal quiz-show format that is mostly besides the point.
Healy-Wurzburg had her four panelists, all also UCB performers on this night, “buzz” in with answers to her questions. The flow of the show, and the conversation, plays more like a podcast than a quiz show, and that’s probably a good thing. Just a few of the topics that she raised, to give you an idea of the eclectic choices, included the meaning of “Russian service” or “a la Rus” at a formal dinner, the origins of the novel “Frankenstein,” the oddities made law by the former dictator of Turkmenistan, and Japanese conversational hand signals. Chances are if one used material like this in a real quiz show, no one would be able to answer any of the questions.
The interplay between panelists Sasheer Zamata, Taylor Moore, Halle Kiefer and Phil Weintraub did have its rough edges and sometimes Healy-Wurzburg had to shout through dueling voices to regain control of the show. Kiefer, in particular, was very funny, but had a bad habit of shouting while holding her microphone too close, which was a little distracting to the conversation. Moore did the same thing occasionally but not as often or as badly, and was probably the sharpest wit on the stage, getting a couple funny childhood stories into the mix and calling back items from earlier in an amusing way at times. This left Zamata, at times, to have to interrupt her way back into the mix, and Weintraub overshadowed and crowded out for large portions of the show.
In talking about the Turkmeni ruler’s edicts, which included renaming days of the week, making one of them actually “Justice Day” (Moore intoned this like the name of a bad action movie), and not only cutting pensions but requiring pensioners to pay back some of what they already had received, Healy-Wurzburg relayed a lot of this with the right amount of incredulity, sense of absurdity and even admiration for the man’s nerve, all in the tone of her delivery. Heightening the discussion of this topic, Moore also connected two threads together, asking why when the dictator died in 2007, they didn’t throw his body into the coutry’s hellmouth, a burning natural gas pit that began flaming in an accident back in 1971, and was the subject of another question in the show.
“The Fascinator” is scheduled to return on April 14, and its nature as a concise conversational show that lets young comic minds (most of the comics are late 20s-somethings) play with news and historical oddities, in an age of addictive podcasts, is another good one to follow.
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