The Sunshine Gang
The Sunshine Gang is an improv group with a distinct 1930s Depression-era theme. The show was the brainchild of Billy Merritt, and was originally known as the WPA Theater project. It was first performed at the Irish Rep Theater on 22nd Street in preparation for a run at the 161 West 22nd UCB space. When that theater unexpectedly closed, Billy Merritt organized shows at Rififi, and the Sunshine Gang became one of the anchors of the community during this time. The group truly hit its stride when the UCB was temporarily housed at the Chelsea Playhouse, where they performed a series of well regarded shows that moved quickly, relied on a seamless group mind, and transcended the silliness inherent in a show where everyone is dressed up in old timey clothes and making poorly researched references to the Great Depression. The group was one of the first to perform at the 26th Street UCB, where their run of good shows continued. This run culminated in a loosely scripted show that was in consideration for the Aspen Comedy Festival, which is pretty crazy since, again, it is a bunch of weirdos in old timey clothes.
These days, the group only performs at the Del Close Marathon, where they are a late night staple.
The early performances of the WPA shows were awkward and self-conscious at best. The group truly hit its stride after bringing in Bobby Curious, who played music during the shows while portraying Indian Bob, a drunken musician who disrupted the flow of the shows. In reality, Curious was a guiding force backstage who served as a defacto director and helped the group coalesce into a true team. He also led them in warmups that were beyond bizarre and often included group chants about stuffing small children into duffel bags.