The Texas Legislature and musical sketch comedy might seem as likely a pair as a wool sweater this September, but the improbable fusion — improv and politics — is the bread and butter of Austin-based sketch show, “Over the Lege.”
Centered around the foibles and failings of the state’s Legislature, “Over the Lege” performed their latest installment “Over the Lege Part 4: The House Awakens” at the Rollins Theater on Sept. 27. Despite some of the sketches lacking pace and failing to draw laughs, the majority of the show excels in its embrace of a flagrant disregard for subtlety.
The brainchild of UT alumna Stephanie Chiarello, “Over the Lege” began production in 2015. Self-described as “a little SNL meets The Colbert Report,” the show is comprised of two acts. It begins with a patchwork of sketches satirizing issues such as voter suppression, gun control and marijuana legalization. In the second act, Chiarello sits down to interview a celebrity guest associated with Texas politics.
If you’re looking for nuanced humor, you won’t find it here. Throughout the night, cast members donned human-sized onesies made to look like chickens, touted terribly misplaced wigs and performed multiple choreographed dance routines reminiscent of 1920s chorus lines. It’s over the top, and they revel in it — this unapologetic approach to the absurdity of politics is what makes it work.
A standout moment was the opening visual short. Parodying popular fast food chain Chick-fil-A’s anti-LGBTQ stance, they spliced together scenes of happy customers chowing down on chicken bits, with black-and-white footage of people undergoing electroshock “conversion” therapy. Over it all a cheerful voice quips: “We’ve gone from frying chicken to frying brains. Chick-fil-A: Fry Away the Gay.”
Evidently, the cast of “Over the Lege” aren’t afraid to dive headfirst into contentious political talking points.
The show oozes with Texas signifiers. Another sketch, titled “So You Think You Can Vote,” is hosted by the Buc-ee’s beaver, who sounds as goofy as expected, given the mascot’s ridiculous headshot. The sketch features various citizens attempting to jump through numerous hoops to register to vote Spoiler: only the white guy succeeds, and he’s not even of voting age.
Much like SNL, however, not all the sketches hit their mark. Some dragged on longer than they should have and lacked a climactic moment, instead dwindling in energy before fizzling out.
Hitting its stride after intermission, host Chiarello sat down to interview that night’s political guest, Sarah Davis. A Republican state representative from Houston, Davis may well have felt out of place given the show’s Democrat-centric approach. However, Chiarello’s comic timing and quick wit carried them through, and it was refreshing to watch the two women banter in good faith.
When asked to do her best rendition of a Democrat, Davis played along: Jazz hands waving, she mocked “Free stuff for everybody!” Housed in the realm of comedy, these two women from opposite sides of what feels like an ever-growing political aisle, shared the stage with composure and good humor.
Although a little rough around the edges, the show still impressively fills a niche not many people likely knew existed in Austin. The result is a distinctly Texan and unique 90 minutes, which concludes with a call to civic duty: No matter your party, get out there and vote.