Not your grandma’s game of ‘pHlip Cup’

By Sophia Coleman

The classic frat-house party game “Flip- Cup” just got a little more interesting.

Now, thanks to comedy club pH Productions, every Friday at 10 p.m. audiences can compete with anyone—from a group of young-minded senior citizens to a team of horny cougars—in the quest to be

“Flip-Cup” champion.

Each Friday at Studio BE Theatre, 3110 N. Sheffield Ave., a fictional cast of characters tackles a host of obstacles and overcomes adversity, which eventually leads to the “Flip-Cup” finale.

The new improvisation skit, properly titled “pHlip Cup,” was originally thought up during years of playing the competitive game of speed and skill at Fourth of July company picnics.

“We were playing ‘Flip-Cup’ for [around] eight hours,” said Brian Henning, pH cast member. “It became such a tradition that the company decided to come up with ideas to base a show on.”

Like many of their other shows, such as the improvised one-act musical “pHamily the Musical” and “pHrenzy pHucked,” the company decided that incorporating the audience into the storyline would be a key element.

“We really like you to feel like you had a hand in creating the show,” said Jason Geis, co-director and founder of pH. “It’s kind of your fault if it doesn’t go well.”

The Sept. 2 show ended with an intense “Flip-Cup” battle between the elderly retirement-community residents of “Falling Leaves” and their rivals, who were the audience members.

Before the game began, the elderly group known as “The Maltzheimers,” entertained audience members with scenarios that they could only imagine to find their own grandparents in, such as making a painful, feeble attempt to have sex or gossiping about the “good ol’ days” in the janitor’s closet in high school.

Much to the audience’s surprise, “The Maltzheimers” won each game against the audience, even while staying in character.

“They embody what I hope old people are in the future,” said cast member Austin Roman Campion. “They remain hip to a certain extent. Yeah, they’re old and they fall and they hurt themselves, but at the same time they maintain a feeling of youth.”

In addition to putting on a number of audience-interactive shows since 2003, pH Productions has given back to the community through their pHarm team, which consists of improv workshops in colleges and helping the disabled with outreach programs.

The comedy coaching program has garnered much success at Columbia and DePaul University through their newly formed improv teams, Columbia’s “Droppin’ Science” and DePaul’s “The Cosby Sweaters.” “Droppin’ Science” placed third in the nation during this past year’s National College Improv Tournament.

A huge focus of pH productions has been with disadvantaged groups across the nation. Two pH members recently got back from a camp in New York for kids with HIV.

“We look for opportunities whenever we can,” Geis said. “We’ve played for homeless shelters too. We try to get as many people as we can to love the arts.”

This year is pH’s 10-year anniversary, which Geis said he hopes to celebrate by finding a permanent home that will house the comedy group’s nightly shows and become a base for their outreach programs.

For now, the members of pH have been working hard on “pHlip Cup” and hope to refine it with every show. They feel so confident in their abilities as a “Flip-Cup” team that Campion would even wager a battle with fraternity house members.

“I challenge any ‘Flip-Cup’ team in the nation to come and challenge us—because we will definitely win,” Campion said.