Normally, the concept of rapping comedians turns my hack sensors on stun with an urge to bolt. So when a friend asked me to join her for a show with Freestyle Love Supreme, I accepted her offer with caution. I mean, they’re from Wesleyan — Gawker’s choice for most annoying liberal arts school. But this isn’t a post about annoying young white stand-up comedians pretending they’re funny because they rap.
This is about Freestyle Love Supreme, musically gifted people who put on an improvised hip-hop celebration. Shockwave (aka Chris Sullivan) makes you laugh at Blake Lewis, while Lin-Man (Lin-Manuel Miranda) has a way with freestyle that’s just jaw-droppingly smooth and awesome (as in, full of awe, not as in, 1980s slang). The show I saw last week at Ars Nova was a rarity, as co-creator Thomas Kail explained afterward that this was the first time all of the old and new cast members were onstage together. Lin-Man and some of the FLS crew had just wrapped their off-Broadway musical, In the Heights. So I saw even more MCs than the usual show. But their high-energy performance, albeit rawer than Kail would’ve preferred, managed to quickly riff off audience suggestions and make deliciously funny work of the day in the life of an audience member. And the audience loved it. FLS has some loyal fans — Marina, the gal I sat next to and offered to be my girlfriend for the hour, sang along to their theme song. You don’t need to sit next to Marina to enjoy the show. But it certainly doesn’t hurt.