Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

SketchFest Seattle 2010

The 2010 edition of SketchFest Seattle ended yesterday, so I thought it might be a good time to try to revive this blog.  Plus, I’ve been thinking hard about getting back into sketch comedy, so the subject has been on my mind a bit lately.  Don’t know if I’ll have anything to say a month or two from now, but for the time being I’m full of opinions!

The Cody Rivers Show is something you ought to experience as soon as possible.  They’ll be in Seattle in November and December, and tickets are available at brown paper tickets.

Last Call Cleveland put on an awesome show.

Hey You Millionaires were great, as expected.

The quality of the rest of the groups was a mixture ranging from “good” to “so bad I wished I had the balls to just walk out of the theater”.

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 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, 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.

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).

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