Archive for the 'Best Videos' Category

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: 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.

Wow.

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.

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