Archive for October, 2008

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.

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.

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.