The Groundlings' pipeline to SNL has much to do with their predilection for supersized characters butting heads with the normals in skits with inspired origins and predictable punch lines. This latest rapid-fire barrage serves up unhinged ex-football jocks, sashaying “house whisperers,” and hopelessly square dads begging their sons to define the etymology of phrases like “That's so Raven!” Under Karen Maruyama's fast-clipping direction, it's all amusing (except for a tone-deaf pro-Iraq-war musical propagandized by Halliburton), but the best skits shake off the formula and find sublime idiocy, absurdity, and awkwardness. In “Mixed Messages,” two freshman roommates (Kevin Kirkpatrick and Ben Falcone) pretend a more macho answering machine will preclude them from having to come out of the closet to each other (and themselves). “Invasion” invents a sociopathic arcade game that forces its players (Mikey Day and Jim Cashman) to mow down adorable toddlers, while Cashman, Michaela Watkins and Tim Brennen goof around as rabid Food Network hosts whose taping of a segment intro for Osteria la Buca melts down into Jerry Springer antics. The evening's biggest surprise came during the fourth improv segment when, seconds after the solidly built Brennan was ordered to dance the metamorphosis of a caterpillar, he was 10 feet in the air slithering nimbly along a pole.
Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m. Starts: Dec. 14. Continues through Jan. 26, 2007

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