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Sweethearts of the Sketch Show

People’s Improv Theater players Kathy Salerno and Emily Altman find their way through the risqué and less so in collection of pieces.

By Marshall Stratton /Jester Correspondent

Sketch players Kathy Salerno and Emily Altman don’t shy away from raunch in their People’s Improv Theater show “Total Sweethearts,” seen recently. They begin the show with sexy music filling the house as they act out having sex with chocolate. Moans and groans ensue as the duo sensually drape themselves in brown blankets, as Salerno belts out, “We can fuck chocolate!” The sketch ends appropriately with them feining masturbation with Dove bars.

But Salerno and Altman do reveal character range as well, in other pieces such as one where they play two dudes in a bar talking about getting wasted and getting in touch with themselves again. Salerno proclaims wanting to be a sculptor again. Altman responds to every discovery by screaming in disbelief, harnessing her inner frat guy. She tries to join in the game, but her pronouncement that she will return to counseling is designed to fall flat and Salerno calls her names for it.

Other pieces in the show are built around an older set of pop culture references, namely songs from Pearl Jam’s first couple albums from nearly 20 years ago. In one, Salerno and Altman appear in a simple dinner table scene. They are quiet, building tension until Altman says, deadpan, “Jeremy spoke in class today.” A wave of laughter builds across the theatre as the joke settles in, and the sketch is immediately blacked out.

They then employ the same method of throwing in a well-known Pearl Jam lyric line in two other pieces, from the songs “Daughter” and “Alive,” as callbacks. “Daughter” is used more for mood in a piece where Salerno played a mom grateful to police for finding her son, although there is some question as to whether the boy in question is indeed her son. Salerno yells at him to stay away from the door, so the cops don’t see him to reveal he isn’t her son. Later in the show, “Alive” appears with Salerno posed as though in a coffin, in a bit more cartoonish type of reference.

Anyhow, sometimes the show’s raunch went over better than others. Salerno plays a character asked by Altman, playing her mom, if she snuggles with her boyfriend after sex. Salerno says, “No, he just pulls out, then he cleans off his dick, and I go pee,” which got a big audience laugh. But another piece, in which the duo played two older women debating whether to take off their sweaters due to the heat, and Altman is trying too hard to convince Salerno to undress, revealing she wants to be more than just friends, came off as predictable, judging by the audience reaction. Also, in another sketch where Altman played a Yankee Candle call center worker taking a call from the singer Alicia Keys (a characterization), who tries to seduce her over the phone with a low voice, Altman plays her character as just oblivious, so there isn’t very many places the comic premise can go.

Though their show has some ups and downs, Salerno and Altman do make some connections with audiences with some of their material, and certainly aren’t afraid to take bold risks with crude humor. That does pay off for them at times, and they have moments where their emotional investment in scenes seems to match that exuberance.

“Kathy and Emily are Total Sweethearts” returns to The PIT at 7 p.m. Saturdays, July 23 and 30.




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