Archive for the 'Video' Category

Video Review: Inside Joke Films (2.5 stars)

Two and a half stars – Recommended+.
I watched this video when deciding which shows to see at Chicago Sketchfest 2012. Because I had 16 slots to fill, each with four choices of shows, I didn’t want to spend much time investigating any one group.

Based on just this video, I chose them over other troupes that didn’t show me anything funny on their websites (if they had any). I was not disappointed. I was pleased that, despite their website and name presenting them as video-focused, they put on a good live show.

What I liked:
The cleverness.
The exaggeration.
The mundane situation, treated with an intensity seen in high-pressure interrogation sequences in action movies/shows. Imagine Jack Bauer as your roommate.
Quick paced dialogue, without extraneous lines that should have been cut.
High production quality, music, lighting, camera work…

Really well produced video compared to the videos I’ve seen from other Sketchfest performers, plus it was well-written. I liked it, but not as much as my 3-star videos, so this is more of a 2.5 star video. It just didn’t quite tickle me like the other 3-star videos have. But I liked it, and would recommend you go see Inside Joke Films if given the chance.

Video Review: Fry & Laurie – 3 Stars!

So this is a sketch from “A Bit of Fry and Laurie”, a BBC show I’ve never seen but have heard of. I’ll probably be watching more of it based on this sketch.

(To the best of my ability to conceptualize and explain) This is why I like it:

The premise is really good and original. Many sketch premises are, but having a good premise is not quite enough. Many sketches take the premise, don’t do much with it, and then don’t reach the potential offered by the premise. What Fry and Laurie do with the premise makes this a three-star sketch!

The officer (Fry) accepts the situation. Mr. Nippl-e (Laurie) is eccentric, but apparently honest. The officer reacts as if this very weird situation is merely unusual, and accepts Nippl-e’s offer as sincere, after Nippl-e defends his position.

The sketch heightens well. The heightenings are surprises couched in the logic of the world they’ve created. They are exaggerations of the previous eccentric offers.

The straight man is eccentric. The straight man officer accepts the situation (as I mentioned earlier), and essentially becomes as eccentric as the eccentric character. I like that the straight man “wins” the conflict by beating the eccentric character at his own game, but not in an underhanded way (not by trying to “win”), but rather by just heightening the eccentricity while remaining apparently sincere. The officer just happens to “win”.

Also I like that, though characters were annoyed, their annoyance didn’t get too loud. I think getting loud is too common in sketch comedy conflicts (not necessarily bad any time it happens, but it happens a lot so when it doesn’t it is nice). Perhaps it’s a British thing.
Three stars – Highly recommended!

Video Review: Self-Defense (Derrick Comedy) – 3 Stars!

Excellent sketch. It starts as a quirky parody of a self-defense instruction video. The humorous cuts helped to entertain before the meat of the sketch, the demonstrations. In the first demonstration, I liked the detail in the instructor’s demonstration of gaining control of the wrist. Then, BAM, the first major surprising twist. Unexpected, yet logical. After that, each demonstration increases the craziness. Loved it, wish I had written it. Three stars.

Elements I’d like writers to take from this sketch:
Surprise is a key element of comedy, so I’ll mention the surprise in this sketch again. Pulling the gun was a surprise because this a parody of an (unarmed) self-defense video, yet was logical because gun trumps fist. In the Second City workshop I took, instructor Amy Seeley told us to go for surprise.

This sketch could have been ok with just the surprise of pulling the gun. Many sketch writers go only that far when creating a sketch based on a clever idea. I wish sketch writers would more often ask themselves “Where can the sketch go from here?” In this case, the instructor put himself in crazier and crazier situations, maintaining his sincerity but making his muggers more and more unmugger-like. To a very exaggerated extent. So learn from this sketch and keep on heightening and exaggerating.

Video Review: Groundlings & Michaela Watkins (3 stars)

Pete & Paula: Groundlings Ep3 – Three Stars!

I just heard the news:  Michaela Watkins has joined Saturday Night Live, and is debuting tomorrow night (11/15)!  I saw her perform in July with the Groundlings, and I really liked her Arianna Huffington.  So I decided I needed to rush out a review a video (featuring Michaela) I’d had on the backburner for a while.

I’ve recently become a big fan of Julia Nunes (not a sketch comedian), and the following video is listed as one of Julia’s favorites (watch!):

Like I said, three stars.

Effective framework.  Effective use of the rule of threes.  Effective use of escallation in the overall plot of the sketch.  Very effective use of surprise, especially in the third part of the sketch.  Effective use of contrast between the “on-camera” and “off-camera” energies.

The first take is a great food show restaurant review parody, with only a relatively slight exaggeration of reality (perhaps no exaggeration of some of the worst shows).  In the second take, they increase the energy and weirdness, and top it off with an inappropriate suprise that naturally comes off of Pete’s “kill” comment.  I want to emphasize how it arises naturally.  Too many bad sketches force surprises that come from nowhere.  In the third take, where Paula says they are going to “be more ourselves”, they increase the energy even more, and take the theme of “in love” (with the restaurant), and let Pete take that theme in a romantic context and really exaggerate a reaction.  Not only that, but they add details and take it to additional levels!  (Another problem with bad sketches is how they often only exaggerate to the next level, and don’t tke it any further)  OMG, violence against women CAN be funny!  And while their characters bring in the violence, they never forget that it is a restaurant review.  The entire sketch is an effective marriage between a normal food review show, increased energy, and surprise.

The end is very natural (and I liked the very last line).

Hmmm…  Maybe I’ll take this entry and redo it as an example of surprise and exaggeration.  But for now, it is just a video review to celebrate Michaela Watkins on SNL.  (Abby Elliott, Chris Elliott’s daughter, is also joining)

Note:  After my first review of a Groundlings video (and watching the second), I didn’t plan on watching any more.  Thanks to Julia Nunes, I gave this one a try, and I was quite happy with it.  The Groundlings ARE able to put on a well-crafted, funny sketch.  I’ve decided to use the youtube version, though, because I don’t like how Crackle.com immediately starts playing the following (possibly craptastic) “episode” of a video.  If you want to watch other Groundlings videos you can do it yourself.

Note 2: This is one of my favorite Julia Nunes videos, in case you care.

Pete & Paula: Groundlings Ep3 – Three Stars!

Video Review: Gorgeous Tiny Chicken Machine Show (2 stars)

From Crackle: G.T.C.M.S. Season 1 Episode 1

This isn’t classified as sketch comedy on crackle.com, but this is very much a sketch. It’s a satire on weird Japanese tv shows (or the perception of them in the US). Plus, I know Kim Evey is a sketch comedian. She’s performed with Acme Comedy Theatre, and was on Seattle’s “Almost Live!”.

The sketch involves the general wackiness of a foreign show (with some familiarity because the US sometimes shows the wackiness of the weird Japanese tv shows), and interplay between the “eccentric” show (mostly Kiko, the host) and the grounded guest (Rick Pope in this episode).  Kiko keeps the energy of the show going by switching things up before the audience (actually, before Kiko) gets bored of the current bit.

Kiko is very appealing.  She is cute, friendly, confident, and enthusiastic about what she is doing.  She’s clueless, but in a culture clash sort of way (which makes it appear that the guest and we, the audience, are the ones who are clueless).  She’s also honest.  She’s not trying to make people look stupid and she’s not trying to be funny.  She’s trying to have a fun time with her show.  And she’s always upbeat and friendly no matter how her guest reacts to her antics.  Go watch the first episode, it’s worth a look.  Two stars.
The series, however, gets repetitive. The shows are kinda formulaic, putting different “normal” characters in Kiko’s show’s world. The first one was great, and the rest are usually good, but don’t watch them all in a row or you’ll really notice the sameness.

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