The stage is set for dinner theater at the Main Street Grille where Humor Me, the Rim Country's improvisational comedy troupe gave their first public performance May 1.
Humor Me has had laughing starts and fits over the past three years, but Kathleen Kelly, Humor Me's leader of slapstick, finally has a group of seven dependable players.
"Laughter takes your troubles away and cheers you up," said Pam Barne who has tried with Kelly and company to tickle audience members' funny bones since the beginning.
Barne used to get her friends together to put on neighborhood plays and variety shows when she was a teen growing up in Mountain View, Calif.
"I truly believe laughter is the best medicine," Barne said.
People who came to the Zane Grey Mystery Theatre during Payson's 125th Anniversary celebration may be familiar with Kelly, Jim West and Wes Still's comedic talent.
Improv has challenged Still, who is a re-enactment performer with the Arizona Gunslingers, to stretch himself in new ways without feeling intimidated.
Still is a master of goofy looks and can tell by the audience's "oohs and ahhs," their "giggles and laughs," whether a routine is working.
"Sometimes you go for the groans, but usually, if the audience is groaning, something is just not working right," Still said.
During one of the many rehearsals over the past two months, Still has played the part of an ice-cream machine in an inventor skit and a sharpshooter tasked with interacting with a lawyer (Pam Barne) and a trapeze artist (Dani Woods) in Maui.
Each improv skit or game lasts just a few minutes.
For example, in the game "Freeze" an umpire and a ball player might start the scene, then when another actor sees a place where they can change the action with a new character, they shout "freeze." The first two actors stop and the new kidder taps the actor he will replace on the shoulder.
The changes and gags can be lightning fast.
"The fun is seeing what you can come up with and hope it gets lots of laughs out of the audience," Don Dozier said.
Freeze is his favorite skit. A skit Kelly calls "100 Years Ago in Payson" is the one he finds the most challenging.
The troupe starts with a question about job hunting and must answer it in the character of an imaginary person who lived in Payson in the early 1900s.
The Great Oracle, with her dancing arms and ludicrous answers to the meaning of life or simply what's for dinner is another troupe specialty.
"Community theater brings people together to have fun and enjoy each other's company," Still said.
The Thursday evening improv dinner theater will happen at the Main Street Grille in Payson at 6:30 p.m. every Thursday in May.
The cost is $20 total, $5 for the show and $15 for dinner from a special menu. Patrons may choose a chicken or beef entrée with a salad, non-alcoholic beverage and dessert.
Reservations are not required, but are appreciated, (928) 472-6246.
"If you do a script, by a few performances everyone in town knows the show. That's why we're doing improv," said Kelly.
"We hope people come out, then tell their friends good things about us," Dozier said.