Archive for the 'Personal' Category

The Pork Filled Players

When I decided I was going to Chicago Sketchfest this year, I wrote my plans up as an entry on this blog.  And one person found it as a result.  And then found me at Sketchfest (more on this later).  Because he used an online search to find me, I decided to bing and google myself.  And I cringed when I saw the first Pork Filled Players (PFP) videos that popped up.  For whatever reasons, what I consider to be my best work in PFP is grossly underrepresented in the PFP online presence.  Not a big deal, since I’m no longer with PFP, and it serves as a bit of motivation to start my own troupe, to get some material I like out there.

But others may also find the online examples of my PFP work, especially (since it’s been a few years) people who didn’t actually see my PFP work live.  Anyway, it got me to thinking that it was time I wrote up an entry about my work with the Pork Filled Players.

I was with the Pork Filled Players for seven years, and during that time I was very happy to explore my love of sketch comedy.  I made many friends as PFP became one of my primary social circles.  As I worked more with PFP, I earned greater responsibility, and got better (especially as a writer).  I also became more of a sketch comedy critic, seeing much more sketch than normal people and becoming more dissatisfied with overused sketch elements (premises, formats, concepts).  My focus was and is on the writing, because that’s just what I pay attention to most in sketches.

I love “good” sketch comedy, and hate “bad” sketch comedy, and my definitions of “good” and “bad” were shifting because of my increased experience, shifting in a way that made it difficult for PFP to keep up.    Some individual sketches were good, some were mediocre, and some were just bad.  And I felt more annoyed with mediocre and bad as time passed.

I always thought PFP was an average sketch troupe for Seattle.  There were always a few better, and there were always a few worse (much worse).  Average wasn’t bad, at first, but as my tastes changed average lost its appeal to me.  That also meant I became more dissatisfied with some of the other Seattle troupes as well, but there always seemed to be at least one good troupe that I really liked.  (And a few other people seemed to like but I thought were fairly crappy)

I was tired of working on sketches I really didn’t like, and I felt like I needed a new start.  Also, I didn’t want to be a part of a group that wasn’t focused on doing sketch comedy.  PFP was starting to produce more comedic plays, and I didn’t want the group’s identity to be part sketch and part play, especially since I didn’t want to be a part of the comedic plays and didn’t want to be associated with the group if the plays selected were lame.  I didn’t want my sketch comedy work to contribute to the marketing of plays I didn’t believe in.  I didn’t want PFP’s reputation affected by work I had no part in.  When I couldn’t get PFP to be just a sketch comedy troupe, and when I could get a solid wall built between PFP’s sketch and plays, I left, thinking I would just start another troupe.  I also started this blog.

Three and a half years later, I haven’t formed another troupe, and I haven’t written many sketches except the ones for some classes I’ve taken.  I seem to be undecided about whether or not I really want to do sketch again.  Really, I don’t think I’ve decided either way.  I’ve basically procrastinated any real decision.

I haven’t decided to give up sketch – I’ve seen other sketch comedians leave, and they rarely go to shows.  I still go to the sketch shows, have taken some sketch writing classes, took improv for over a year, joined the SketchFest Seattle board (that was because I still hung around SketchFest and volunteered, not because I did anything to try to join the board), and took a trip solely to see shows at Chicago Sketchfest.

I haven’t decided to come back to sketch – I barely update the blog and don’t write sketches except for in the few classes I’ve taken (and even then I haven’t done all the sketch writing homework for the classes).  It’s been over three years since I quit PFP and over four years since my last show, and I don’t have anything that shows me actually working to put up another show.

So I’m still procrastinating.  I love sketch comedy, but I might not love performing it enough to commit to doing another show.

Sketchwright First Draft!

Here’s the problem:  I’m lazy and unfocused, and I don’t know what I actually want.

I bought this domain a few days after I quit the Pork Filled Players, thinking I wanted a place to talk about sketchwriting.  Then, I decided I wanted to disseminate information about sketchwriting, and I could do so in a format that would allow me to sorta create a “manual” for my future sketchwriting partners.

Oh, did I mention that I intend to do sketch again one day?  Yeah, maybe I’ll get around to that sometime.  No promises.

Anyway, I had all these ideas about what I wanted to do.  I wanted to be the codinghorror of sketchwriting.  I planned on a post per week, starting with an informative post on “what iffing”, a lesson I really learned at the sketchwriting intensive I took at Second City last year.  I even had a large enough list of topics that I figured I could easily come up with enough material for two months.

Then I got lazy.

Then I went to LA and saw the Groundlings!  I actually wrote up a nice little post about how disappointed I was in the show.

Then I went to Chicago and saw the Second City!  I wrote up another nice little post about how I was happy to see an actually good, smart sketch revue.

But I didn’t want to “launch” until I had at least one good informative (instructional) sketchwriting post, and I never quite got around to writing it, and I haven’t yet (“Then I got lazy.”).

Another thing:  I have more to say about sketchwriting than I initially intended to post here.  Mostly, I didn’t want to be too negative in general about sketch comedy.  After spending 7 years performing and writing sketch comedy, and almost that long REALLY analyzing it, I have a very negative view of the state of sketch comedy today (and of most of the sketches I see).  I didn’t think it made for good blogging.

And I’ve been missing sketch comedy.  The Pork Filled Players will be performing at Seattle’s Sketchfest, and I’ll miss being up there with them.  And SNL opened its new season with a good policial opener, and I’m hoping they will not disappoint me this very political season.  And I am inspired today by the newly launched stackoverflow.com, which you shouldn’t really care much about unless you are a tech person.

So I am declaring that Sketchwright is going ALPHA!

Actually, this is more of a rapid prototype of what Sketchwright will someday be (if it lasts).  I’ll start with everything, and then refine it.  Wait, there’s actually a term used in writing that describes what I”m doing:  A DRAFT!  Okay, this is the first draft of Sketchwright.

So right now, Sketchwright doesn’t have a mission statement or a clear agenda.  It is whatever I think about sketch right now.  Once I figure out what I actually want to do, I’ll clean out the old stuff that doesn’t agree with Sketchwright’s (eventual) mission.

Warning:  I think I’m going to be harsh about sketch comedy, especially sketch comedy in Seattle.  I’ll probably be especially hard on the Pork Filled Players, but that’s because I know them so well and because I can easily imagine what they’d be like (or how I’d be pushing for them to be like) were I still with them.  After I get a bit more distance, that’ll probably stop, because they’re actually a much better group than most I’ve seen.

I’m going to try to not censor myself here.  I’ll try.  Self-censoring is bad for writing drafts.  I can refine later, and y’all can watch the process if you want.  I will edit my posts for various reasons.  I can do so at any time.  I probably edited this post before you even read it!  I can do what I want!  This is my blog!

Yes, this is a first draft.  If I consider this to be a draft, I can probably write more freely.  Remember that this is just a draft as you read.

About Me

I’m Edward Tonai, and I live in Seattle, Washington. I’ve been a fan of sketch comedy (on television) for as long as I can remember (SNL, SCTV, Carol Burnett), but didn’t encounter live sketch comedy until I moved to Seattle in 2000, where the local sketch scene was really buzzing. I quickly became a fan. In 2001, after receiving an email calling for new writers from The Pork Filled Players (PFP), I wrote and submitted my first sketch. They accepted me into the troupe first as a writer, but quickly put me on stage. I performed in my first full-run show in December 2001. Eventually I became a producer for PFP, and the head writer. With PFP, I perfomed in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia.  I also performed at Bumbershoot and Seattle SketchFest .  I left the group in June 2008.

I’m still a big fan of sketch comedy, and I love writing it. I’m also big on studying the craft. I’ve taken one-day sketchwriting workshops organized by Seattle SketchFest (taught in 2006 by Elephant Larry’s Alexander Zalben, and in 2007 by Joe Flaherty), and in 2007 I took a one-week sketchwriting immersion at the Second City Training Center in Los Angeles, taught by sketchwriting instructor extraordinaire Amy Seeley. I’ve also read a number of books on the subject, and taken improvisation classes at Unexpected Productions.

Of course, I’m also a fan of comedy other than sketch. I love “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report”, but my favorite show is “30 Rock” (not much of a surprise, being the show about the people doing a sketch comedy show).

Why did I start this blog? To join the online sketchwriting community? To just talk through my sketchwriting ideas? To make it easier for people to find me, so I don’t have to go searching for them? To gather up some people so that when I have sketch comedy to advertise, I already have something of an audience? To provide a base of knowledge for my future co-sketchwriters? To get better at writing sketches? Lookit me, I’m so great, I do sketch, and I write it, and I’m so great!? Yeah, a bit of all that.

I am not currently in a sketch troupe, but I am in the early stages of trying to figure out how to develop a new one. If/when it happens, there’ll be an announcement here.

I recently joined SketchFest Seattle’s Board of Directors.  The opinons presented here are mine, and do not reflect the opinions of SketchFest Seattle, the other board members, or its staff.