There must be something for everyone at the Seattle Fringe Festival, which is dedicated to presenting 22 different independent and locally sourced live performances during just two weekends. These productions can range from musical theatre to circus arts, are very affordable (tickets for all shows are just $10) and offer great opportunities for local artists to self-promote and develop audiences for their work.
This year, Phil Schallberger and his “Full Showberger” bring hyper-absurd comedy to the festival in a show that attempts to mix both stand-up and solo sketches. How well he achieves this combination is, however, up for debate.
It’s not hard to tell that Schallberger’s background is in sketch comedy, his sketches being the most developed part of the show. These sketches consistently include PowerPoint presentations, fast-talking and absurd humor that is heavier on the absurdity than on any comedic relief. Schallberger’s impersonation of Burt Canerby, a British chimneysweep, will have you chuckling at times as he teaches you “What’s What” in England; but his Hobo Tom lacks both context and content. And as for the ventriloquism of the semi-Russian pizza boxes, it’s hard to know what to say.
Despite the questionable success of the sketches, they are far more confident productions than the stand-up that ties them together. Even if it is part of the persona that he is trying to create, we get the sense that Schallberger is simply uncomfortable being himself on stage: When he is finally done acting a character, he’s still not alone up there, but is conversing with a bodiless voice projected over speakers. In that sense, more than half of his stand-up is pre-recorded.
Still, “Full Showberger” has its moments—ones so irrational they become humorous—and a potential to develop them further. Schallberger will be back at the Annex Theatre next weekend with new material.
“Full Showberger” by Phil Schallberger. Annex Theatre, 1100 E. Pike St. (11th Ave. at E. Pike St.), Capitol Hill, Seattle, WA 98122. Friday, March 4th at 7:30pm and Saturday, March 5th at 9pm.