Archive for the 'Video' Category

Video Review: Rodney & Zak (0 stars)

Warning: The video isn’t particurlarly funny. Zero stars.

So YouTube had a sketch contest, and awkwardpictures won.  This was the sketch that they submitted in the final round, and it beat out the other 4 finalists.  So, this is not necessarily the best sketch submitted in the contest, just the best sketch in the final round, according to the voters (and we know voters can be stupid).

Uhhh…It’s not funny.  I laughed a little, but not through most of the sketch.  I expect more sustained laughter in sketch comedy.  The ending was weak.  Besides the first twist (the dog “talks” and can be violent), there weren’t really any good surprises.  Payman Benz and Sean Becker seem to be more short filmmakers than sketch comedians.  This has more of an “entertaining comedic short film” feel than a sketch feel.  I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t like it.  If this were a part of a larger sketch show, I wouldn’t mind having had to watch it.

This is one of those “sketches” where the audience has to love the premise enough to continue laughing throughout the rest of the sketch to enjoy it.  The writing isn’t clever.  Zero stars.

Video Review: Dudley Moore Beethoven Parody (3 stars)

Here’s another musical short review.
The basic musical phrase is familiar from the movie _The Bridge on the River Kwai_ (whistled there, here in a minor key). The name of the phrase (according to wikipedia) is Colonel Bogey March. Anyway, a very familiar few notes taken to an extreme to parody Beethoven’s sonata style.  I’m not an expert in classical music, but I am a fan and so am familiar with Beethoven’s work and I had a great sense of familiarity when listening to this piece.

Since Dudley Moore wrote this parody piece, you can see elements of writing within.  First off, he uses familiar classical music structure to introduce the piece and have it progress, inserting familiar “quotes” from Beethoven within.  You hear other elements of writing (musical and comedy) there as well.  There’s the familiar theme, repetition, variation in tone, variations in speed, and finally the resolution (that changes but continues longer than it “should”, getting a good laugh).  Dudley Moore also shows of his excellent piano playing.  Unusual skill always helps out a sketch.

I am extremely fond of good musicians who do sketch comedy.  Why?  Because good musicians know the value of practice and craftsmanship, and that is often lacking in fringe level sketch comedians.  Audiences are much more forgiving of a sloppy sketch comedian than a sloppy instrumentalist.  Take someone who has never done sketch comedy and give him two weeks to put something up on stage and he’ll get laughs.  Take someone who has never played the piano and give him two weeks to perfom and the best he can do is get some laughs by not taking it seriously (and the audience will agree the playing is crap).  It takes effort to get to an acceptable level with an instrument, and it takes far less effort to get laughs on stage.  Unfortunately, some people think that means it takes almost no effort at all to be good at sketch, and they’re wrong 99.9% of the time.

Three stars!

Bonus Video! A snippet from Dudley Moore’s appearance on The Muppet Show!  I would LOVE to see something like this in a live sketch show.  It is funny, shows great skill, and is short (26 seconds).

Video Review: Argument to Beethoven 5 (3 stars)

Let’s take a look at some musical “sketches” (this post and the post on Thursday).  These aren’t sketches in the commonly used sense, but they have many of the same elements.

I am told this is from “Your Show of Shows” and the performer with Sid Caesar is Nanette Fabray.  This appears to be one of those “classic” sketches I’d never seen before recently.


This is wonderfully brilliant.    This kind of high concept sketch can easily be crap (when people other than Sid Caesar do it).  Mime to a piece of music.  While this is not an example of fine “sketchwriting” (my foucs on Sketchwright), you can see many of the same elements.  First off, the music is the most recognizable piece around, and we all know it because it is so good.  It follows a great structure of highs-and-lows/ebb-and-flow/conflict-and-resolution, and the actor performances brilliantly follow the brilliant music.  Secondly, the camerawork is actually quite good, also switching angles up to match the music.  Of course, the treasure in this piece is in the mime.  The argument follows the tone of the music, and progresses to a resolution at the end.  Like a good sketch should be, this narrative is familiar and yet changes and twists to keep us interested, telling a story of an argument from the beginning through the exploration of the argument and finally to the resolution.  This kind of reminds me of one of my favorite Drop Six sketches, where one of the performers (I *think* Rodney Umble) lip synchs Largo al factotum (from Barber of Seville – you’d recognize it) in preparation for, and while taking a bath.  As I said, it was lip synched, so it wasn’t quite the same, but it was in Italian, and so the scene followed the emotion of the singing in a familiar situation (bathing), so was otherwise very similar.  Also brilliant.

This is more of a entertaining eye-widening impressive piece than a LOL piece, and there was little (sketch) writing craft involved, but it is a fine example of the type of short comedy all sketchwrights should strive towards.  Three stars.

Video Review: The Groundlings (1 star)

From Crackle: Groundlings: Tapped Episode 1

Originally, I gave this sketch zero stars.  Then I looked at it again, and upgraded it to one.

Original Look:

Awww, c’mon!  The Groundlings are supposed to be one of the best!  They are famous, have a long history, have a great list of alumni (Will Ferrell, Phil Hartman, Lisa Kudrow, Julia Sweeney, etc), and THIS is what they release as their first sketch on

On the other hand, I was recently disappointed by their live show, so perhaps I shouldn’t expect much from them.

Too long, very boring.  The premise is okay, I guess.  The twists are weak.  The ending is actually by-the-numbers decent, but not funny (perhaps only because the sketch isn’t funny).  Zero stars.


Second Look:

Okay, I took another look at this sketch.  The sketch has good structure and a good premise, but I still don’t like it.  I don’t know what to say about it except I don’t like it.  Maybe I don’t think the joke lines are particularly funny.  Maybe I don’t like that the kids on the phone buy into the reality of wiretaps too quickly (they don’t care enough, or at all, about their privacy).  I think one way I would have enjoyed it more is if someone (either the NSA guys or one of the kids to the other one) gave them a somewhat plausible reason why they should accept the wiretap.  I would have liked to have seen a stronger conflict between the NSA guys and the kids.  I would have liked to have seen a resolution that better reflected the conflict of the sketch, rather than the kids just hanging up.

What if, instead of the girl just hearing the NSA guys breathing, the kids suspected the NSA guys were still listening and tricked them into revealing themselves?
What if, in the end, the two kids somehow communicate that they should hang up (like a bad acting obvious “Oh, we should hang up!”), and don’t, and after they fake hang-up, the NSA guys start to talk, and “Ah-HA!”.
What if one of the characters (any of them) were especially smart, and tricked the opposing group into accepting their view?
Also, the description of the sketch when you mouse over the window is misleading. I think it would have been interesting to explore more the idea that the NSA guys are lonely and just want someone to talk to.
What if, instead of just trying to participate in the conversation, the NSA guys tried to take over the conversation more, complaining about their own lives (not the job part) as if they were lame college kids too? That could be a way they are drawn back into the conversation.
“I had like four long island iced teas” “Wow” did not make me laugh, and I don’t think that 4 drinks is a compelling enough reason to interject with “Wow” for the NSA guys. I would have suggested the girl say something way more outrageous to ellicit the “Wow” or maybe even “Oh my God!” from the NSA guys. I would have liked to have seen the NSA guys break their tone near the end of the sketch, even for a moment.
What if the NSA guys aren’t both essentially exactly the same? What if one were dumber than the other, or more willing to talk about gossip or girltalk? What if they had to argue about a certain point?
I’m not saying that my ideas are any good, just that this sketch is lacking, and I was searching for some ideas that might improve it. If I were giving notes on this sketch, I would look at the script to see where it could be tightened. I think there’s a portion in the middle where they don’t heighten enough, but I’m not sure.
Anyway, it does have a good premise, production value, and structure.  I’ll upgrade my review and give it ONE STAR.

Video Review: The Whitest Kids U Know (3 stars)

Warning: May be a little obscene

Two of my friends independently recommended to me “The Whitest Kids U Know”, so I decided to look them up.  This was the first video I randomly selected from YouTube, so this is the one I chose to review.

This is a good, funny sketch.  It’s a bit potty humor, but intelligently done potty humor (my absolute favorite kind).  Smart, even though it handles a topic that is usually only used in really stupid humor.

It has a fairly standard sketch structure, which I like.  The set up is good, the first turning point (the slow mime) is good, and even after the twist is introduced, they really push it well.  Great hightening throughout to the… climax.  This sketch also plays with the line of being too “adult”.  Lots of bad comedy just sees how far it can jump across the line, while this one takes something that is decently common (if NSWF), the miming of jacking off, and makes it much worse by modifying the action in a way that should be harmless, but isn’t.  An enthusiastic three stars!

Unfortunately, I watched more sketches from “The Whitest Kids U Know” and wasn’t impressed.  Lots of their sketches seem to suck, though some others are good.  I got lucky picking this one first.

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