"Whoever said pimpin' ain't easy don't know what the hell they doin'," announces a pimp as he adjusts his fur stole at the beginning of his scene. It's a highly relevant point that touches on the broad images of pimps that fill popular culture. This statement also sums up the experience of "Pimprov," the ridiculously absurd improv show that skewers dumb media caricatures with merciless wit. If you want gratuitous humor laced with sharp social-political observations, this is the show.If you want silly portraits of pimps in polyester pants and bling-covered chests, this is the show. If you want to see keenly executed improv, this is the show. Pimprov offers all of these elements because the show's actors really know what the hell they're doing.
The show's premise involves four pimps who decide to take improv classes at Second City. Improvisational theater boasts strong Chicago roots, with local troupes the Compass Players and then Second City helping to popularize the form. However, with Chicago roots also comes the tendency for racial segregation; improv in general and Second City in particular are known as white male bastions. So the show's premise, as well as the fact that all of the African-American performers have improv training, lends itself to tons of comic and political possibilities.
Stomping through clouds of smoke with hip-hop pumping and synthetic fabric blazing, the guys of Pimprov do not disappoint. The sight gags alone are worth the price of admission. There's the Internet Pimp (Skippa Hickson) or IP for short, in crushed red velvet PJs, a white bathrobe and a Blackberry that quickly loses power. Ho Lease (Mark Bratton) sports plaid wool knickers with matching vest and newsboy hat. Pimpin' Poochie (Keith Smitherman) wears ankle-skimming white polyester pants, a ratty afro wig and tattered fur coat and Grand Finale (Marz Timms) dons a rakishly tipped white fur hat with a sparkling black-and-silver shirt that's open to reveal a diamond-encrusted chain. Fortunately, that's just the beginning. The actors quickly move into a dizzying array of improv sketches, including a Chinese delivery man who insults them by asking about the Cubs, to a white man who demands white eggs for breakfast because, well, he is white.
The finale involves the cast pulling an audience member onto the stage and re-enacting his or her day. At this particular show, the audience member happened to be a Brazilian woman who got lost in Mundelein and brought along her boyfriend, who just happened to resemble a serial killer. The details for this scene are fuzzy because the howls of laughter obscured most of the lines and streaming tears blurred a lot of the action. Suffice it to say, it was funny.
Pimprov is a must-see show. The tiny storefront literally shakes with laughter. Each performance gives proceeds to a battered woman's shelter and the level of improv skill makes the show a significant addition to a Chicago tradition.