The numerous lights of the Anthem marquee — a word my mother seemed to enjoy saying — glowed as the names of pop superstars flickered across the screen indicating their tour dates, with “Ben Schwartz and Friends” next to “Nicki Minaj.”
Ben Schwartz, best known for his role as Jean-Ralphio Saperstein in “Parks and Recreation,” but also as the less controversial half to the improv duo “Middleditch and Schwartz,” sprinted onstage at the Sept. 21 show, immediately raising the energy in the theater. While his tour has faced some turnover in who gets to be called his “friend,” the cast was never underqualified, only unrecognized.
First onto the stage was Colton Dunn, known for his role as Garrett McNeil on the NBC sitcom “Superstore,” who added a little dance to his entrance. Following Dunn was Andrew Tarver, another sitcom breakout star known for his work on “The Other Two” where he plays the struggling, unaccomplished adult brother of a child popstar. Tarver took his time getting to the front of the stage, seemingly mocking the others’ sudden rush. Last but not least was Jessica McKenna, who came up in the comedy world through The Groundlings and the Upright Citizens Brigade, troupes where Schwartz and his friends trained to refine their art of improvisation.
After the introductions, Schwartz began a set of long-form improv, asking an audience member to tell him something they are scared or excited for in the near future. Georgetown University’s own Sophie Maretz (CAS ’26) raised her hand, and Schwartz chose her out of the 3,200-person crowd.
Maretz explained to Schwartz how she was excited for Georgetown Improv Association’s parties to start up (she is a member) but dreaded interacting with one particular guy on campus. When Maretz said she went to Georgetown, half the crowd booed, causing Schwartz to ask who Georgetown’s rival is. From the crowd, a proud Revolutionary stood up and named George Washington University (GW), to which Maretz, along with the rest of the crowd replied with a “mehhh,” reflecting our slight superiority complex over our neighbors in Foggy Bottom.
Maretz mentioned a party at the Chimes house, a common campus haunt, when recounting a previous experience with the aforementioned creepy guy. At this, a woman in the back named Maddie, a recent Georgetown graduate, started cheering. Schwartz asked if she knew the Chimes, and she said she was a Chimes groupie.
Schwartz, Dunn, Tarver and McKenna all were in disbelief at the perfection of this setup. They began the show eagerly, running through sketches with a recurring bit of Maddie’s obsession with the Chimes, which manifested into her becoming a serial killer who would do anything for the a cappella group.
The comedians made a crack at the GW-Georgetown rivalry, saying: “We don’t even talk about them,” right after they portrayed GW students who were planning to throw bricks at Georgetown for fun, mocking the superiority complex of Georgetown and its rival.
Later, Dunn entered the stage as Dr. Anthony Fauci (H ’90), distinguished professor at the School of Medicine and the McCourt School of Public Policy and former White House chief medical advisor and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in a nod to Maretz mentioning that she wanted to be the next Fauci. McKenna played Maretz nervously meeting her hero while the creepy guy and Chimes members watched. Dunn then pretended to unzip himself from his Fauci skin suit and reveal that he was Maddie, then acted out chasing and killing Maretz’s Chimes house creep.
The audience could not stop laughing at the twists, turns and effortless callbacks throughout the show. The quartet’s ability to call upon every little detail of Maretz’s interview made the scenes feel personal to Maretz and the Hoyas in the crowd and created a storyline unique to the audience.
When Schwartz introduced what the show would look like in the beginning, he said that “this show will only exist in this space at this time and only for you.” Somehow the group made the Anthem feel like an intimate, interconnected community for a few short hours.