Archive for January, 2012

Ed Toolis, Writer

While I was at Chicago Sketchfest, I met Ed Toolis.  I noticed him quickly.  He was one of the few people to show up alone to Sketchfest early, like me, just hanging around the lobby.  And he had a laminated festival pass on a lanyard around his neck (my pass was just a printout).

Well, he spoke to me on the last day.  He asked if I was a reviewer.  I guess he’d noticed that I’d been around for the entire weekend, too.  And I was alone.  Anyway, we got to talking and afterwards he sent me a link to his blog:

http://web.mac.com/edtoolis/TheHumorOfEdToolis/On_Humor/On_Humor.html

I suggest y’all take a look at it.  Many of his posts relate to the kinds of things I’d like to put on this blog, if I weren’t so lazy.  And if I had a better grasp of my thoughts.

It is another blog written from the perspective of someone, like me, who likes some sketch comedy but doesn’t like all sketch comedy, and is exploring why he doesn’t like what he doesn’t like.  And he’s sharing his thoughts on how to be better at sketch, particularly writing.

Even though I’m somewhat active in the Seattle sketch community, I haven’t met many people who seem to have given a lot of thought as to what some sketches (or troupes) lack.  Do they not detect the poor quality of some of the work around here?  Do they not care?  Are they just trying to be nice by not saying anything negative?  Are they of the (mistaken) belief that you shouldn’t analyze comedy?  Do they just not want to talk to me about it?

So it’s refreshing to meet someone who also would like to try to make things better.  For himself.  And by sharing, for others.

This is not the last you’ll hear me mention Ed Toolis’s blog.  I intend to comment here on some of his posts.  Stay tuned!

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.