Quote of the Day: Research conducted by Vanderbilt University Medical Center revealed that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes burns between 10 and 40 calories. from an article in LiveStrongLaughing burns calories by causing your heart rate to rise 10 to 20 percent. As your heart rate rises, your metabolism increases as well, which means you’ll continue to burn calories once you stop laughing.

I’ve been to the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres many times for shows upstairs, most recently Mamma Mia! which is a wonderful celebration of life (they even quoted me, quoting them on that)! I’d see the ads for Stevie Ray’s Comedy Cabaret and think, hmm, I’d like to check that out someday. Well, that day arrived via a media invite to come check it out last Friday night. 

Stevie Ray

Stevie Ray and his improv troupe offer up high energy sketches that get the whole audience going. It’s similar to the show Who’s line is it anyway? He asks for suggestions from the audience, like “What do you do for a living?” (It can be real or made up.) “Give us categories for Jeopardy.” We shouted out Dog breeds, Musicals, Minnesota Sports, and Teachers. On the spot, Steve comes up with an “answer,” and one of the contestants (improv players) buzzes in with the question. The more off the wall, the better. It’s fascinating to watch. Their minds have to work so fast! 

Improv can be very physical. Another sketch they did had four players in a square. They did one-on-one bits, then pivoted right, or left, and the next two up front did a bit. It was constantly changing, but when you got back to your original partner, you needed to take back up that story line/relationship. 

Another one was “Freeze!” The audience had control over this one. Two actors started out. We gave them “something to fix.” Someone shouted out, “Your marriage.” So, they began. When an audience member yelled, “Freeze!” the two actors would freeze, then another actor would tap one of them on the shoulder, take over the position they were in (like if they were miming chopping vegetables, or picking up trash, whatever), then switch the scene. 

Matt Dorland, Music Director for Stevie Ray’s Comedy Cabaret at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres. (CDT promo photos)

They also did several bits using music. Matt Dorland is their music director/pianist. For one sketch, we called out different styles of music. Two of the actors, Ellie and Rex, sang lyrics, made up on the spot! They had rhyme, rhythm, told a story, all the while keeping to the tune of the song in whatever style Matt played. They went from pop to jazz to polka. I was blown away. Plus, their voices are amazing.

Improv is fast-paced, quick-thinking, high-energy entertainment. We wondered if they all felt exhausted by the end of the night. It’s exhilarating, and then you crash. The players really know how to keep things moving. Their tech guy, Joe Harstad, kills the lights when he feels the bit has hit its peak, leaving us with a good line or an extra hard belly laugh. 

Don’t be intimidated by the “audience participation” part of the night. It’s all voluntary, and most of it is simply asking us to shout out suggestions. We also wrote down lines from movies that they used in a bit that involved an argument. They asked a couple people to come up on stage, but they were nice to them, and again, voluntary.

Stevie Ray’s Comedy Cabaret plays every Friday and Saturday evening, downstairs at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres in the Playhouse Theatre. Tickets are only $28. Dinner is optional for $15. You can also order appetizers and/or dessert and cocktail service continues throughout the show. They also do a free Improv in the Park show on Sundays at City Center Park Plaza in Chanhassen, MN starting at 7:00, June 2 – August 25. Family Friendly. Their regular show is also for everyone. I’d give it a PG-13 rating.

My friend Joanna and I had a great time. The meal was delicious. The drinks went down smooth. The dessert was to die for, and all those belly laughs helped burn the calories. I’ll never think of string cheese the same way again, and apologies to Stevie Ray for calling you “arrogant.” I didn’t really mean it. It was the first word that popped into my head. And, you know, there is a fine line between arrogant and self-confident. As Johnny Carson said, “I have to believe every night that I’m the best there is in order to do what I do.” You all do it well at the Comedy Cabaret in Chanhassen. I plan to return soon. It would be a fun thing to do with my young adult sons. It’s a different show every night. The performers switch up, and of course, the audience offers the suggestions, and who knows where your mind and the story line will go?!

You can learn more about his comedy, performances, classes, and parties at Stevie Ray’s website. Pamela Mayne is the Artistic Director. Joseph Mayne is Assistant Artistic Director. The performers we saw on Friday night, May 31, were Joden Kohls, Ellie Walton, Brett Williams, Rex Isom, Jr. and Kip Hathaway. They were all fantastic! 

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: Have you ever tried improv? What’s holding you back if you haven’t? Did you know that improv originated as a way to improve communications in the work force?