The dissident style of “Swear Jar” is a breath of fresh air in a comedic world filled with stale political and healthcare jokes. Imagine an uncensored Second City-style revue with the added bonus of a beer bar only a few feet away from your seat. That’s what you get with this show. To put it simply, it’s crude and experimental comedy at its finest and frankly you’re not going to find a funnier bang for your buck.
Mick Napier, founder and Artistic Director of the The Annoyance Theatre, birthed this unrestricted tour de force which happens to also mark the first sketch show he has directed for his own company in its 22 year history. Napier’s resume is impressive and includes highlights like directing David Sedaris’ “One Woman Shoe” and Chicago’s longest running musical “Co-Ed Prison Sluts.” With a man of his caliber in the director’s seat, you know you’re in for a satisfying evening.
For the last week I have been trying to find the right words to express my love for Napier’s “Swear Jar.” It’s a delightfully filthy experience thanks to its talented screwball cast and Lisa McQueen’s ever so witty musical numbers that included homage to the sheer joy only bulimia can bring and the nostalgia of early 90’s mall culture. As a whole, the show is raunchy, dark and pleasantly demoralizing. It opens with a quick jab at the snootiness of Trader Joe’s before travelling down a classless rabbit hole. Along the way, the audience is graced with explicit yet hilarious sketches about menstruation, cunnilingus and even being able to find clarity with a plunger or an impromptu gearshift stuck up your ass. This is the type of show that pushes the envelope and delivers laugh after laugh through deviant perversion.
The cast (Vanessa Bayer, Aidy Bryant. Angela Dawe, Colleen Murray, Andrew Peyton, Connor O’Malley, Brian Wilson and Chris Witaske) creates a dynamic powerhouse with undeniable standout performances from Vanessa Bayer, Aidy Bryant, Andrew Peyton and Chris Witaske. It is hard to pick a favorite but I have a feeling Mr. Witaske will become a big name in the sketch comedy world. His stage presence is captivating which makes him a standout even when he’s isn’t center stage.
The only criticism I can give can also be applied to most sketch comedy shows. “Swear Jar,” at times, suffers from its lack of continuity. The performance can seem a little choppy as they bounce from one sketch to the next. This might be alleviated if they end some of the sketches before they run out of steam and hit an ill at ease conclusion. One might accuse “Swear Jar” of using shock value to stimulate the audience rather than garnering actual laughter. That wasn’t the case for me but be forewarned the content of the show is rather vulgar. Overall, I found it to be a riot and as my friend put it, “funnier than anything I’ve seen on SNL in years.”
“Swear Jar” runs every Saturday night at 10:00pm through May 1st. Tickets are a steal at $15 and can be purchased at The Annoyance Theatre website, theannoyance.com, or by calling the box office at (773) 561-HONK.