Like a book of Nietzsche's aphorisms, the comedy of the Cody Rivers Show should leave you laughing, confused, enlightened and unable to explain what it was actually about.
"You can put me down on the list of people who find [our act] difficult to describe," says Andrew Connor, one half of the Washington-based comedy duo. "It's a little bit of a hybrid between a sketch show and a really strange play."
Their latest, Meanwhile, Everywhere, at the Manitou Art Theatre this weekend, brings high-concept comedy and break-neck physical performance.
"We sing a little bit, we dance, we use puppets, and try to have as much theatrical variety in the show as possible," says Connor.
Connor and Mike Mathieu became friends while attending Ohio Wesleyan University. There, they studied theater and dance, and were members of the Babbling Bishops improvisational comedy troupe. In 2004, the two moved to Bellingham, Wash., where they earned a late-night comedy spot at the iDiOM Theater, a venue devoted to original works.
Behind a name assigned to a "country music superstar who Mike created to parody commercial country music," it didn't take long before the Cody Rivers Show earned a reputation for baffling audiences with the unexpected.
"We're really trying hard not to imitate other comedy that we've seen," says Connor. "It's something we really have placed a high priority on."
The main reason for this, Connor says, is simply that "it would bore us. And it wouldn't be worthwhile to the audience if we [performed] something that had already been done before."
And in a society where humor so often relies upon regurgitated quotes from The Office, or the latest YouTube imitation, performers like Connor and Mathieu impress by striving to challenge themselves and their audience.
Meanwhile, Everywhere is comprised of roughly a dozen sketches, which, as Connor explains, "are all their own kind of worlds." Running throughout the performance, however, are interwoven storylines and recurring themes that seamlessly unite the piece.
In one of the scenes, desperate mechanics conspire to commit a crime in order to cover up some unforeseen expenses. In another, Connor takes a moment to thank his brain for its ability to remember, by writing a letter to it on an imaginary notepad. Characters exhibit an occult-like fascination with mathematics while the work of an ambiguous religious group permeates every sketch.
"We give ourselves a lot of free license to put whatever we want in the show, as long as it's kind of funny," says Connor. "We never make something up, and then say, 'Oh wait that's not sketch comedy.'"