As Saturday segued to Sunday, insomniacs broke from their Norm's nosh to gather at the Steve Allen Theater where a cult milestone took place: The sixth anniversary of Tomorrow! — a live variety revue that has challenged the definitions of hysteria and carnivalesque for sleepwalkers and drunkards.
Comedians Craig Anton, Ron Lynch and Brendon Small hatched Tomorrow! in 2005 with the intention of going where no other comedy show had gone before — blurring the lines between sketch, stand-up and circus. “At some point beyond primetime, shit just becomes so funny, it turns into a really stupid sleepover where you get the giggles uncontrollably,” says Small, who along with Anton, left the show as co-host three years ago to catch up on winks.
During its run, Tomorrow! has touted celebrity co-hosts like John C. Reilly, launched hip jazz R&B bands like Magnolia Memoir and spotlighted magicians who've lost control of their butterflies. This past Saturday's anniversary show, which lasted until 3:30 a.m., featured the usual mix of klutzy puppeteers and streakers, along with the reunion of Tomorrow!'s current architect Lynch with Anton and Small.
“Ron Lynch has this pool of carnies,” says Small about the lineup. “I don't know where he met them or if he owes people money, but they find a place on this show.”
A look at the six most outrageous acts that took place at Tomorrow! during its history:
6. Ron Lynch nearly gets killed by knife thrower Jack Dagger
At the tail end of Dagger's act, the marksman asked Lynch to retrieve a lost balloon and place it in his mouth. “'Go to the board. Stand still' he said,” explains Lynch, “A hush fell over the audience. He threw two axes, the first of which shook the balloon in my mouth before it finally popped. I opened my eyes to see the axe six inches from my face — it was the scariest thing I ever did.” Dagger returned Saturday, this time choosing an audience member who got off easy.
5. Long noises that are neither an alarm nor mating call.
“As a jumping off point, there would be these odd, elongated pauses between Ron, Brendon and I,” explains Anton, “We would then break out in a long 'aawwwwww' sound, tightening our harmony for three to six minutes. It was a jazzy sound sculpture that always triggered a great response from the audience.” On Saturday, the trio decided to go with horrible impersonations instead (see clip below).
4. The Discovery of Kate Micucci
Micucci fully credits Tomorrow! as the catalyst to her comedy career; a platform that rapidly showcased her offbeat charms within L.A.'s alter-lounge scene before her folk duo Garfunkel & Oates and her role on the Fox sitcom Raising Hope became realities. Anton discovered Micucci singing at a Silver Lake poetry reading and encouraged her to take the stage at Tomorrow! Performing live was “something I never thought I would be doing,” says Micucci who swooned theatergoers on her first night with such silly ditties as “The Nun Song,” “Dear Dear” and “The Nap Song.” Soon after her first set, Micucci was invited by Steve Allen artistic director Amit Itelman to be a regular house performer. (See clip of Micucci below.)
3. The Doorknockers
In the wake of Small and Anton's departure, Randy Liedtke and Davey Johnson have risen as the house pranksters interrupting weekly shows with their Dean Martin routine: They knock on the theater's emergency door and invite some whirlwind inside. Sometimes, it's a screaming bag lady or a random fellow passing by. It's often one of their alter egos. A riotous bit, seen Saturday, entailed Liedtke as a security guard, harassing the audience until he discovered Johnson in his underwear. A chase ensued with Johnson's full moon bobbling across the stage. It's vaudeville at gross-out extremes.
2. Kissing lessons with Laura Kightlinger
Fulfilling the wet dreams of the Doorknockers and those young men present, Kightlinger, in female Fonzi fashion, demonstrated various positions of locking lips during a special Tomorrow! Valentine's Day show. The stakes rose when the Doorknockers introduced a hamburger into their threesome, mixing meat and tongue. Kightlinger eventually dropped out, leaving Liedtke and Johnson necking.
1. Vaginal Pyrotechnics
Like the Bible, there are various accounts to this onstage incident. “Once, a lady set her vagina on fire,” begins Small. “There was this bulb thing that she lit. I didn't have a good vantage point — it could have been coming out of her butt. I thought we should have brought her back, but she was a fire hazard. Any good show should have some form of nudity.” Per Anton: “She was doing a striptease and she was blowing a Roman candle out of her vagina. The theater director, Amit, was livid: 'We can't have fire onstage!'” Adds Lynch, “It was actually hard to watch.”
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