BATSU! Is a Fresh Take On An Old-Town Favorite

By: Stacey Crawley

Highly Recommended

Even with its impressive theatre shows, world-renowned museums and restaurants, Chicago has always been, at its core, an improv town.  Maybe you’ve been to Second City or Improv Olympic, or perhaps you’ve attended your roomies’ free show even though it wasn’t exactly Shakespeare. All in all, you feel that you’ve experienced all of the sights and sounds that the improv world has to offer. But you’d be wrong.

Face Off Unlimited’s BATSU! is improv sushi-rolled into a Japanese game show. Japanese forpunishment,” BATSU! pits four improv warriors against each other for the honor of ringing the sacred gong, sending the evil spirit back from whence it came. The variety of games and challenges are both embarrassing and original, where the painful price for losing includes shocks from an electric collar, getting hit with a paintball, being egged by a giant chicken and, my favorite gross out of the night, eating sushi off of a rather hairy individual, belly-button soy sauce dipping included.  

Opening the show with a killer dance routine to pump up the audience is dancer/ballerina Samantha Garcia. Your guide through the evening is Jin Kim, a saucy and stylish game show host that eases the crowd into each challenge with comedic quips and crowd work. A DJ helps Kim bring the show together through well-timed sound effects and music.  Then you’ve got the warriors – committed, brave and hilarious – Eric Robinson, Tom Farley, Donovan Mullings and Jessica Rogers, who have to bring the funny or they will feel the pain and get BATSU! Chris Rivas and Paul Whitehouse round out the cast nicely, playing various characters that deliver the punishments. And that’s what makes this improv show so special – laughing at the sharp off-the-cuff routines and jokes they’re creating in the moment, and then laughing even harder at the losing warriors receiving somewhat harmless abuse while the crowd chants “BATSU! BATSU!” All it takes is a line fumbled or even a slight hesitation and wham! It’s BATSU!  

And as if this show couldn’t get any sweeter, the performance space is located upstairs at one of my favorite sushi spots, Kamehachi (1531 N. Wells). You have the option of ordering delicious sushi and drinks during the show, or even go VIP. Be aware, in VIP you will be served sake in the coolest possible way– by a “sake ninja” who lurks in the shadows, appearing briefly to fill up your empty sake cup, only to dash off as quickly as he appeared. The only way I want to be served sake from now on.

BATSU! is a ripping good time, coming up on their 100th Chicago show after performing in New York for almost 7 years. I highly recommend you see this fantastic comedy troupe perform one of the most original shows out there.

BATSU! Performances start at 8 p.m. Friday evenings and 10pm Saturdays at Kamehachi (1531 N. Wells). Tickets start at $25.50 and can be purchased at 347-985-0358 or http://batsulive.com/chicago/ Food/Alcohol not included*

* VIP – Best seats in the house! Each VIP ticket comes with 1 free carafe of premium sake and 1 Hachimaki headband!
* General Admission – Entry into BATSU!