Tuesday, June 13, 2000

Comedy team provokes thought along with laughs

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT MITCHELL — This dude wakes up one morning with a thing on his back. It drools and screams. Naturally, the dude freaks.

        “How am I ever going to get girls this way?” he says.

        Thus begins “The Thing on His Back,” a comedy skit by three teen-agers from Fort Mitchell. Remember their names. Someday, they may be famous. Right now they're just hysterically funny.

        “The Thing” stars Eric Lutz as the afflicted teen-ager, with Peter Raber as his affliction. Kevin Groob plays the straight man.

        Mr. Lutz calls the skit “our runaway hit,” which means about 20 people saw it on public-access cable in Northern Kentucky.

        No matter. Having any-sized audience is a bonus.

        “We laugh at ourselves a lot,” says Ben Adkisson, the fourth member of the team.

        “We definitely think we're funny,” Mr. Lutz agrees.

        The four just graduated from Beechwood High School. They call themselves “Project Falcon,” which began as a school assignment.

        For drama class, they had to create a show about four Greek playwrights. To make it funny, they spoofed MTV's Real World and threw the four into a house, where they had to write a play together.

        To keep classmates from stealing the idea, they called it “Falcon.” It became part of their first show on cable. A second episode of comedy sketches is still airing on channel 21.

        Friends since eighth grade, the guys have been goofing around with video cameras for years.

        Much of their humor comes from observation. Once, they were leaving a Steak N' Shake when they saw a man get out of his truck and promptly fall down.

        “Did that just happen?” they asked each other, which led to a skit incorporating the same line.

        Mr. Groob is an amateur actor, so another piece exag gerates his memory of a miserable audition. In it, an actor's monologue keeps getting interrupted — by people delivering sodas, carrying boom boxes and even playing bagpipes.

        The musician was Kyle Driscoll, also a Beechwood graduate. Others who helped with skits: Josh Kaiser, Erin Eilerman, Vanessa Casey, Kristin Richter and Andrea Haup.

        For all the jokes, Project Falcon is a clean operation. The guys are involved in Young Life, a Christian youth program, so they try to be edgy without taking cheap shots.

        Once they did a parody song about MTV's Carson Daly, then decided it was too mean for cable.

        They created “The Thing on His Back” to entertain themselves on a boring day.

        “We were like, "Eric, come up with something,'” says Mr. Raber.

        “I was like, "I got it. Pete, get on my back,'” recalls Mr. Lutz.

        The piece pokes fun at teen-age obsessions with ap pearance.

        Mr. Lutz's character thinks he'll never get a date because of his bizarre appendage. Mr. Groob compares the problem to acne.

        “If you forget about it, she'll forget about it,” he says.

        “Aaaargh!!” screams the thing.

        All the dialogue was improvised. When Mr. Groob managed to stop cracking up, they reshot it for cable.

        “It was like, "Let's quit goofing off and goof off big time,'” Mr. Lutz says.

        That could be the motto for Project Falcon.

        This fall, the group is splitting up for college — Mr. Groob will study acting, Mr. Adkisson film direction and Mr. Lutz theology. Mr. Raber is taking time off to be a Young Life counselor.

        I hope they never stop goofing around. These guys make comedy look easy, which is tough. Carson Daly should be so blessed.

        Karen Samples can be reached at 578-5584 or ksamples@enquirer.com.