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The Zim Zam Kök Show | 08.20.04

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The show, largely written by Kahler and fellow cast member Jim Caskanette, was entitled "Social Disease," and that underlying theme came to the forefront on several occasions throughout the evening. The show started off with a deconstructive type of sketch, where the actors come on stage, playing themselves, and start complaining about the fact that director Kahler is late for the show again.

The Zim Zam Kök Show
MadArt Gallery
August 20, 2004


Sketch comedy in St Louis has seen many forms over the years. From Mama’s Pot Roast and Parliament Cheeze to Left at the Light and the NonProphets, no one can accuse the Gateway City of not supplying ample amounts of guffaws and chuckles for its citizens. The newest kid on the block, The Zim Zam Kök Show, is poised to add another voice to the mix.

The Zim Zams, founded by local thespian and NonProphet Theater Company alumnus Matt Kahler, performed their second show at the MadArt Gallery at 2727 S. 12th Street on Friday, August 20, to a near sold-out crowd. Their first show in July at The Way Out Club set the stage for what we can expect from this new group. Rather than presenting a string of sketches that have no connection or central theme, Zim Zam presents a more linear-format type of show. Similar to the style that made HBO’s Mr. Show With Bob & David (which based its style off of Monty Python’s Flying Circus) such a huge underground success, the Zim Zams follow a stream-of-consciousness with their shows by which one sketch segues into the next. This is a unique format to the St. Louis sketch comedy scene, and a welcome breath of fresh air for comedy in general.

The show, largely written by Kahler and fellow cast member Jim Caskanette, was entitled “Social Disease,” and that underlying theme came to the forefront on several occasions throughout the evening. The show started off with a deconstructive type of sketch, where the actors come on stage, playing themselves, and start complaining about the fact that director Kahler is late for the show again. They immediately want you to be comfortable with them, to pretend that they’re your friends, and that you care about them. The cast—which includes Jared Sanz-Agero (fresh off of his tour-de-force as Mozart in St. Louis Shakespeare’s Amadeus), Chris Laurence, Scott Bradley, Caskanette, and Kahler—start to complain that Matt is always late, and that he’s a pathetic little dictator because he’s looking to serve his own interests instead of the group’s. The rumor among the actors is that Kahler is looking to replace Sanz-Agero with two new Uzbekistani actors because they work cheaper. Sanz-Agero gets upset, and in a beautifully self-mocking tone declares, “He can’t replace me! I was Amadeus! I was Amadeus!!” This sets the tone for the show by indicating that we are supposed to take them seriously, but not too seriously.

The two actors Kahler brings into the group through his Uzbekistani connection are, in actuality, newcomers to the group—Lars Cole and Tanya Darabczeck—brought in to replace original Zim Zam cast member Josh Rowan; Rowan moved to Florida in July to join a theater conservatory. Being fortunate enough to see the troupe’s first two shows, I have to say that the two new cast members fit in nicely and really hold their own when it comes to the type of comedy the Zim Zams present.

Throughout the evening, the group presented a smart collection of sketches that hit nearly every social issue facing the nation today. From the first sketch’s skewering of immigrant workers, on through to the sketch “Presidential Stroll” wherein George W. Bush is seen shrugging off the concerns of citizens, the writing was sharp and very funny. Probably the funniest sketch was the hilarious “Allah in the Family,” a very pointed look at what would happen if the classic TV show All in the Family were set in Iraq, with Saddam Hussein as the family patriarch.

Very few, if any, sketches failed to meet their goals. The only ones that stand out negatively are “Graham’s Porn Shack” and “Oh, That Ted! Episodes I & II.” The sketches themselves were funny enough, but they didn’t seem to flow as nicely in the mix as the other pieces. Overall, however, the production was well done and extremely funny. Even though this was a scripted show, some of the actors were given to fits of improv, which, while evident, were also right on the money. The material and dialogue itself is borderline taboo, and wickedly so. At one point during the show, I witnessed two patrons (who looked like they just stepped out of a Promise Keepers convention) get up and leave. So be warned that if you can’t take a joke or strong language, you might want to skip a performance by this group.

The show even more amazing given the fact that the actors produced it themselves on a shoestring budget. Costumes, props, and technical equipment had been purchased and supplied by the actors and their friends and family.

The only criticisms of this production are minor. The sound system in the Mad Art Gallery leaves something to be desired, as the original sound effects and music by John Schulz were muffled and hard to hear over the Gallery’s PA. Also, two of the actors really need to show more gusto on stage. Laurence was good, but at times you could feel his nervousness coming through. He has a great stage presence, and I’d like to see him really dive into the show without appearing so anxious. And Bradley, while showing bucket-loads of confidence and talent, was hard to hear unless he was shouting at the top of his lungs; and even then he was barely audible.

The Zim Zam Kök Show is a project near and dear to Kahler’s heart. While honing his writing skills with the NonProphets for almost a year, he developed a love for the format in which he now works. He plans to present a new and original show once a month at The Way Out Club, while also searching for a more permanent home for his group. His goal is to have a completely different show each and every time they do a production. With the chemistry of his cast, coupled with the group’s fresh and witty writing, don’t be surprised if one day you see that the Zim Zams have their own TV show on Comedy Central (probably minus the Kök, of course). And frankly, their material is better than most TV shows to come along in the last five years. Their show proves that comedy is best when witnessed live. Atta-boy, Kök! | Tyson Blanquart

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