Out ‘da Box’ wins audiences with cleaner humor

Rani Gupta

Rapper-turned-preacher M.C. Hammer made an appearance in Shanley Pavilion this weekend.

Audiences bellowed with laughter as Hammer – played by Speech senior Kristian Aloma – tried to swindle money from his congregation, who avoided handing over their donations by singing and dancing to a version of “U Can’t Touch This.”

Skits skewering everything from popular culture to everyday life filled African-American Theater Ensemble’s annual Out ‘da Box show, which drew about 350 people to three performances on Thursday and Friday nights.

Cast members said they decided to tone down the show’s traditional sexual humor.

“This year the show had one or two skits that were raunchy, or that had humor to do with race or sex, but we wanted to steer away from that because it was offensive,” said Ed Brown, a Weinberg senior and three-time cast member. “It is a comedy show and there are certain things people don’t want to hear about.”

The sexual nature of the comedy revue led AATE to cancel Out ‘da Box in 1994, only to bring it back in 1999.

Several of this year’s skits took a humorous view of culture, including a talk show spoof in which people confronted childhood tormentors.

“You used to throw me dog treats and sometimes I would eat them, but I am too cute for you now,” said co-director Fatimah Simmons, a Speech junior, in the skit.

In “WB’s Lineup,” a Warner Bros. executive proposed outrageous shows to draw black audiences, including a sitcom featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg and “BET Boomshake.”

“It’s going to be an hour of black women shaking what their mommas gave them,” said Aloma, the show’s other co-director.

Although tamer than in previous years, the show sometimes strayed from clean humor. In an advertisement for “Rydagain,” a woman sought treatment from a gynecologist for an embarrassing stink.

“Yeah, I’m starting to smell it,” said Speech sophomore Elise Jones, playing the gynecologist. “I think I know what you can do: Get the hell out of my office! You need to burn that thing off and start again!”

In the skit “BiGot’s Ice Cream Shoppe,” store employees offended customers with their dual names for all orders, dubbing rainbow sherbet a “gay pride parade” and rose-petal ice cream “lesbians.”

Participants said the cast was especially close this year.

“We didn’t enjoy the show as much last year because there was tension,” Brown said. “This year the directors were a lot more open. It was a much more enjoyable experience.”

More than 350 turn out for African-American Theater Ensemble’s show