First impressions, New Faces Characters at Montreal’s Just For Laughs 2014

I’ve been writing so much about members of The Reckoning, that I should have reckoned that another of the iO West’s improv collective would be the breakout star of the New Faces Characters showcases this summer in Montreal.

This year’s showcase had a high standard to meet, with UCB co-founder Matt Besser hosting and setting the stage by claiming to set a new world record for most characters portrayed within five minutes. “The faster you can do your characters, the funnier they are!” He still left some room in the character playground for everyone else, thankfully. It’s always amusing to be reminded that the host doesn’t introduce any of our featured players; rather, they bound onstage in character. Some performers make bold use of black-outs and sound cues to transition from one character to the next, while others, well, don’t, which in the less-effective cases, forces the audience to figure out that the character has changed.

Chelsea Davison
Davison, a New Yorker, participated this year in NBC’s Late Night Writers Workshop. She immediately made everyone rethink the choice of Ben Affleck when Davison showed us Lena Dunham’s audition for Batman. Her other high-profile impersonations included Adele, as a flight attendant; and Meryl Streep, accepting Pad Thai delivery. Davison’s other characters included Mary Yoder, an Amish bachelor party entertainer, and an 11th grade English teacher enraged at her students.

This is Chelsea Davison’s 2014 reel:

Michael Antonucci
Antonucci is a sketch player out of New York City’s UCB Theatre, where he’s on a Maude Team (Bellevue) and a current two-man sketch show, “License to Chill.” He also makes videos with Captain Hippo that you may have seen on the Above Average YouTube channel. For his Montreal showcase, Antonucci marched onstage first as a drill sergeant for the Marines who despite his awkward delivery, just wants to be shown respect like a mother. His other characters included a short guy named Tony who’s auditioning for the Mafia; Bear Grylls in the wild, finding bagels behind a rock; Al Pacino getting a massage; Geege, a street-fighting teacher; and Hans Richter, the world’s most dangerous terrorist?

Here’s a look at Antonucci’s “Hans Richter” from the Above Average webseries, “I Expect You to Die.”

Mary Holland
Holland, an improvisor and actress from Virginia who studied at Northern Illinois University and iO Chicago before going Hollywood and to the UCB in LA, won me over with her final set-piece, a wonderfully absurd choreographic clowning number that plays off the irony that her character has very poor arm control. Her other characters included a 911 dispatcher excited by the doctor who calls her; an FBI agent who doesn’t know how guns work; a background actress with lots of questions; and an excited dance aerobics teacher.

Here is her 2013 reel:

Greg Tuculescu
Tuculescu is an improviser in Los Angeles, where you can see him at the UCB. He co-wrote and directed the webseries Fast Food Heights for MTV. His characters for Montreal included an English deconstruction of the lyrics of Drake and Pitbull, a member of the “green grass collective” selling unique pot strains like Ronald Reagan, a 14-year-old whose orgy is interrupted by his mother, and most notably, perhaps, Werner Herzog singing karaoke.

This is the trailer to the upcoming second season of his “Fast Food Heights” online at MTV:

Holly Laurent
Laurent, a member of iOWest collective The Reckoning, also is a veteran of Chicago’s Second City mainstage and a consulting writer for The Onion News Network. Her characters included: Sherry, outside waiting for guy to fix her zapper. “I figure if I was any better looking I’d have aids by now.” Verde Rojas, looking for Richardo to find her father; office worker who breaks into Christian music; and Regina, who sports an awkward eye patch whilst scratching her crotch and bursting into song. I wrote one word after she got offstage: “Strong!” In parenthetical thought: “Someone get her on a TV show, stat!”

Here’s Holly in a Hanes commercial:

And as Lana Del Ray doing “Hunger Games.”

John Reynolds
Reynolds is a Chicago performer out of Madison, Wisc. Maybe you know him better as J-Ball Pizzaface, though? His other characters included a guy named Tommy out to stop Jessica’s wedding, even if she doesn’t know why this is so important; a Gap customer named Doug who bought pants with his wife a bit too hastily; a guy at a funeral who cannot say “pssst”; and Kevin’s dad at career day who is literally too cool for school.

Here’s a playlist of his videos:

Beth Hoyt
Hoyt has appeared in Inside Amy Schumer and online as the video host for My Damn Channel LIVE. For her Montreal showcase, Hoyt let us into the mind of Tilda Swinton, behind the scenes of Hunger Games with Jennifer Lawrence, being her most weird yet accessible self, and most memorably as Claire Danes in Homeland crazy chic! Her other characters included lady bloggers and Midwestern phone recipe callers.

Here’s her 2014 reel:

Michael Lehrer
Lehrer just left Chicago, but he’s been on the road and then some, and he’s got some “Million Dollar Ideas” to sell you. Lehrer presented several quick-hit impressions and characters, including Ray Donovan.

This is from his New York Television Festival pilot, “Paid Programming.”

LaKendra Tookes
Tookes is based in Los Angeles, and you may have noticed her name surface in the past year when Saturday Night Live went searching for more diverse cast members (Tookes was hired as an SNL staff writer earlier this year). For Montreal, Tookes showcased a singing AME Church lady; a “weave ’em and weep” YouTube show out of Atlanta; Whoopi Goldberg for Blacktivia yogurt; Michael MacDonald “Baking It To The Streets”; and Rhonda, an Atlanta TSA agent.

Here is her character showcase from 2013:

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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