Raiding the warehouse 


Back so soon, guys? A mere two months after promising to adhere to a quarterly performance schedule at its adopted home of Zoe & Company, Discount Comedy Outlet has jumped the gun with a fresh collection of sketches that arrives hot on the heels of its "Catastrophe on Disaster Island." Sensibly, the quartet (again with "special guest" Todd Schuck in tow) doesn't attempt to stretch too far too quickly in "Taking Gandhi From a Baby," instead relying on surefire, closer-to-the-heart bits that play to the troupe's considerable comic strengths.

Longtime DCO fans will be happy to mark the return of Derrick, Kurt and Myrna, the speech-impaired "Star Trek" devotees who are this time thrown onto the set of a TV talk show to work out the kinks in their surprisingly phaser-hot love lives. DCO main man Brian Bradley does some sterling character work as a whiny Picard wannabe who can't accept his girlfriend's defection to the ranks of Xena worship. It's interesting to note that Bradley and Peter Hurtgen Jr. easily outpace Audrey Kearns and Anitra Pritchard in the segment; one suspects that -- in real life as in the skit -- the subject matter holds greater sway with the guys than with the ladies.

Bradley is back on familiar turf as Kip Valentine, a theme-park tour guide who's burdened with the care of an insane Saudi couple. A textbook wuss working at an unnamed attraction, Valentine is DCO's proxy as they tear into pet issues with obvious relish (three of the five are employees at Universal Studios Escape). The performance we witnessed even included an ad lib that poked fun at the light-rail controversy. Orlando comedy doesn't come more tailor-made.

The cultivation of individual personalities remains a key element of the DCO agenda, and each performer is given a turn in the spotlight in a sketch that profiles a legendarily inadequate amateur athlete. Four separate monologues paint a "Citizen Kane"-style group portrait of blind ambition, as testimony from friends, lovers and medical professionals foretells the doomed Jim's ill-advised swim to Cuba. The standout is Audrey Kearns, whose portrayal of a dissipated Chardonnay addict invites favorable comparison to Wendie Malick of TV's "Just Shoot Me."

There are weak moments, to be sure. A segment in which Nostradamus and his wife visit a marriage counselor replays exactly one joke from beginning to end. ("He's always right!" Pritchard screeches in its best incarnation. "It's fuckin' annoying!") And in one instance, the material is not only close to the vest, but recycled: A taped ad for a Stephen Hawking "Greatest Hits" CD gets big laughs from anyone who wasn't exposed to it as part of the very recent "Catastrophe."

Such momentary dips aside, "Gandhi" inspires as many genuine guffaws as you're likely to encounter in any other 60 minutes of entertainment. The cast members certainly seem to agree, frequently busting up in mid-gag at their own audacity. Whether you find this habit endearing or distracting will largely reflect what you thought of Harvey Korman and Tim Conway as a duo, but it's a sure sign that Bradley and his pals won't ever be accused of phoning it in.


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