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Improv Peep Show Comes Home

I always thought of peep shows as those unsavory displays of half-covered female flesh on view for a few dollars at low-rent carnivals. So when an announcement for the upcoming Cerritos College Generic Improvisational Peep Show came across the desk, I wondered if it was really necessary for the fiscally strapped state schools to stoop this low to raise money.

“Oh no, it’s nothing like that,” assured Joseph Harris, 24, a founding member of the Peep Show, which has a long-awaited return engagement beginning Friday at the Burnight Studio Theatre on campus. “We pride ourselves on being clean and wholesome.”

The Peep Show, a touring company of aspiring comedians, started at Cerritos College six years ago as a group of students interested in improvisational comedy. Since then, they have played hundreds of engagements throughout Southern California, including touring local elementary and high schools. Several members have graduated and gone on to professional careers with such comedy troupes as Second City, L.A. Theater Sports and L.A. Connection, along with landing roles on television shows and commercials.

During the Peep Show, willing audience members participate in spoofs, which has provided a few surprising moments for Harris and company.

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Harris said that one of his standard bits is asking audience members, “What drives you crazy?”

“Usually we get ‘Not having enough money,’ or ‘irate drivers,’ but this one church group had a thing for Dianne Feinstein,” Harris said. “Everything was ‘We hate Dianne Feinstein.’ We finally had to do something we never do: Stop and say, ‘Let’s pick on somebody else for a while.’ ”

Another shocker came in an Irvine elementary school, during a bit where Harris asks the kids to name a setting for a skit. “Irvine was the most plastic, perfect community I’ve ever seen,” he said. “When I asked the kids, ‘Where would you like me to act something out?’ a 6-year-old girl said, ‘How about a psychoanalyst’s office?’ ”

In the old days, the Peep Show rarely accepted monetary remuneration for performances, but lately, thanks to state budget cutbacks--which caused the improv class to be canceled--they have been requesting small donations. The troupe has been directed the past five years by Kevin Hoggard, professor of theater arts.

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Next weekend’s show marks the first time in four years the troupe has performed on its home campus. Performances run at 8 p.m. nightly Friday to Sept. 15, and Sept. 19 and 21, with a matinee at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 15, in the Burnight Studio Theatre, Cerritos College, 11110 Alondra Blvd., Norwalk. After the original dates were set, the troupe added midnight shows on Friday and Sept. 20.

Tickets cost $7.50 for general admission and $6 for students and senior citizens. The two midnight shows are free. For ticket information and a calendar of college arts events, call 924-2100 or 860-2451, Ext. 343.


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