Knowledge is power, right? But what if your brand of knowledge is actually bullshit? Glynnis O'Donoghue and Tina Ollenburg take this serious query and spin it into comic gold. As the improv duo The Know It Alls, they are a font of misinformation, taking suggestions from their audiences to craft fact-free lectures on any given topic.
Kellyanne Conway, watch your back!
O'Donoghue, a Charlotte theater veteran who has worked with Actors Theater, Theater Charlotte and Donna Scott Productions, and Ollenburg, a stand-up comic who jumped into the improv scene while living in Los Angeles, met while doing a show for Improv Charlotte. The duo decided their generation's reliance on dubious social media for information was ripe for parody.
"The concept is that we're two highly educated millennials who think we know everything," O'Donoghue says. "The audience catches on pretty quickly that we're bluffing."
The Know It Alls have been staging Sunday Fundays at co-working spaces around Charlotte, with the next show slated for June. Look for details on — where else? — social media.
- Photo courtesy of The Know It Alls.
Creative Loafing: If I understand your objective correctly, you're basically bullshitting, right? And the conceit is that you never let on that you're bullshitting.
O'Donoghue: Right. We believe we know everything.
How do you stay ahead of real-world bullshit from Trump or Sean Spicer?
O'Donoghue: We lean into it. We hope that part of our performance is underlining that reality. As much as we wish it were a total joke, I think it's a not-so-ridiculous parody of what our news looks like right now.
Ollenburg: It's interesting because we came up with this idea before alternative facts became such a huge thing. The timing synched up with what is happening in the world. We're saying, "Look how ridiculous it is in real life."
O'Donoghue: Real world stuff gets worked into the show. We did (a lecture on) vampires last time, and health care was the common thread that kept coming up. We give people a chance to laugh at how crazy it is now, but the show is also a grotesque reflection of the news.
So this fun and silly show has taken on unexpected gravitas?
O'Donoghue: Comedy is an opportunity to reflect our situation and let people laugh at it. Hopefully we're giving people a pressure release while they laugh about these things, but later they might examine what we were joking about.
I'd like to get a sample of your act.
O'Donoghue: You want to do our Little Known Facts segment? Tell us something you always wanted to know more about.
O'Donoghue: Oh, good. Tina actually minored in Space as an undergrad. She's got a really good fact for this one.
Ollenburg: Yes. A little known fact is that space exploration actually started with contractors because they were exploring the best shape structure for a house when they were trying to build a house, whether it was a dome structure, a teepee structure or a square structure. So this was the original space exploration.
O'Donoghue: Right, and after they did that they came out of the house and looked up and said, "What else is there?"
O'Donoghue: Oh, yoga. It's a little know fact, but yoga was actually accidentally invented. It was 5,000 years ago. The first practitioner fell while picking apples and got stuck in downward facing dog. Instead of admitting he was stuck, he told all his friends that he was practicing.
Ollenburg: And his name was Yoga.
O'Donoghue: Yoga Berri. That's a little-known fact. Accidents create a lot of the things we know and love these days.
One more. Craft beer.
Ollenburg: All right, a little know fact about craft beer is that technically, a beer can only be a craft beer if you make less than one gallon of it. Really, no beer right now is a craft beer. The breweries that we think — those would be wholesalers.
O'Donoghue: Also, the worse your beer tastes, the more craft it is.
Ollenburg: Actually, craft beer tastes just like grass and dirt.