Archive for October, 2010

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.

Context matters, and Last Call Cleveland is awesome

If you had asked me two days ago whether it was a good idea for a sketch show to include a 30-second video of a kitten riding on a roomba, I would have thought you were an idiot.  Of course not.  That’s stupid!

On Saturday, I saw Last Call Cleveland show a video of a kitten riding a roomba.  I loved it, and I loved them for putting it on.

The video is what it sounds like.  Kitten rides a roomba.  Sounds like one of the more boring vids from America’s Funniest Home Videos.  There is no writing.  There is no twist.  It is just cute.  In lesser hands, it is a video that DOES NOT BELONG ANYWHERE NEAR SKETCH COMEDY.

It worked.  It was brilliant.

I don’t want any other sketch troupe to look at that wildly successful bit and learn the wrong lessons from it.

Sketches do not exist in a vacuum.  What comes before affects a sketch, and what comes after is affected by a sketch.

In 2001 I performed at Seattle SketchFest as a part of the Pork Filled Players.  I performed a sketch that was mostly a monologue, where I told some disaster Christmas story.  I think it was written by Dave Kobayashi.  At SketchFest, it did pretty well.  Far better than average laughs.  I was pretty happy about that.

A week later, the Pork Filled Players opened the show Crouching Elves, Hidden Packages.  Many of the same sketches we’d used at SketchFest were in our show.  The laughs on this particular sketch largely disappeared!  What happened?  Where were my laughs?

The problem was our order had changed.  At SketchFest, this sketch followed what is probably the best sketch PFP has ever done, Emerald City Clinic.  It was definitely the highlight of our late 2001 performances.  Our reviewer from either the Stranger or Seattle Weekly hated our show except for that sketch.  My little monologue got to ride the clinic’s coattails.  The huge laughs from Emerald City Clinic put the audience into a good mood.  We won them over.  And so my monologue got a lot more laughs than it deserved.  And because of that, I was kind of unprepared for the lack of laughs in our final order.

Last night, I also saw a set from Seattle troupe Killer Donut.  I did not like their first sketch.  It was a sketch where the first two performers broke the fourth wall and told the audience they were doing something different, and established some rules.  Then, after a short start, a third performer entered and broke the previously established rules.  Then the first two performers pretended to break character, expressing mock outrage.  I hate it when sketch comedians pretend to break character to “argue” in a sketch, and perhaps many others disagree.  But it turned me off.  I did not laugh at their second sketch.  I started to laugh a little during their third sketch.  And when their set was over, I realized their second and third sketches weren’t bad.  They were actually pretty good.  But because they lost me with their first sketch, I was thinking “Pretending to break character is lame.  This group is lame.” And so it took two good sketches before I was at a point where I was ready to laugh at them.

Context matters.  Keeping an audience laughing is easier than getting the audience to laugh in the first place, and getting a hostile audience to laugh is quite difficult.  Obvious, right?

What makes Last Call Cleveland sketch comedy gods is that they blatantly put in something different, something that would be weak if taken out of context, and knew that it would work because what came before was so strong.  PFP accidentally had a weak sketch appear to be strong because of the greatness of Emerald City Clinic before it.

Maybe we could have put a 30-second video of a kitty riding a roomba after Emerald City Clinic.

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”.