Monday, January 12, 2009

Sketchfest Week#1 Review/Thoughts/Impressions

This is my third year participating in sketchfest and I am historically bad at seeing the other peoples' shows, which is a shame because one of the few perks of performing at sketchfest is seeing other shows for free. This year, I resolved that I am at least going to try to see some other shows. So far, I've seen five which, I believe, is more than I saw last year so this is a good thing.

This exercise won't be particularly helpful for anyone wanting suggestions for shows to see, as all of these shows are done and gone, but I thought I'd share some impressions anyway. The groups may be back for next year so, who knows.


Came directly to the Theatre Building after a rehearsal, so the earliest I got to see was...

10:00 PM - Ten West
A two person group out of Los Angeles. It basically amounted to a two person clown performance based loosely around a nondescript funeral with the clowns playing the pallbearers. The performances themselves were reminiscent of Chaplin, Keaton and the Marx Brothers: very physical, very chaotic, classic comedic relationships between the two. It was fun to watch the two performers navigate between scenes - more like 'bits' than short narratives - and engage the audience. All in all, a very solid show. If you get the chance next year, I would recommend seeing them.

11:00 PM - Team Submarine
Another two person show, this time two guys originally from Chicago who have since moved to New York. They began their show by showering the audience with candy as "I Want Candy" blared over the loud speakers. As they went along, they passed out more and more ridiculous stuff - wheat bread, potatoes, microwaves - before long they were passing a folding table and a bike into the audience. Once the orgy of stuff was finished, the guys stopped and said, "great, now we'll need everything back" and had the audience pass everything back up to the front. It was a fun and novel way to get the show started.

The remainder of the show was more or less about these two guys trying to perform the show on stage, sort of a meta-sketch show. I have often thought of trying to do a similar type of show, but I see why it would be hard to do as it relies on the audience connecting with the performer's personality immediately, and I think it's a lot harder to do that than get them to connect with a character. I'm not completely sure why I feel that way, but it's the impression I formed from watching this show. That said, Team Submarine still had some very fun moments and I would likely see them again.


I saw three of these before heading off to a staged reading. The first show was at...

3:00 PM - Best Church of God
...which featured my friend and cast mate Trish. Basically, it's a send up of fundamentalist Christianity, and includes everything from songs the audience sings along to out of a missal all the way to fake Eucharist at the end of the show. This show is not intended for the religiously conservative, and I saw one or two shaking their heads in the audience (for a Chicago sketch comedy group, always a welcome site). While the show lampoons the blind adherence of many Christians, I never felt like it was particularly insulting to spirituality in general. Being the irreverent type myself, I enjoyed it and was perfectly happy following along with the crazy. For those of you interested in the group, they have a website.

4:00 PM was a double bill. First was Okibono
A new sketch group featuring a friend of my friend Geoff. Okibono is a new group - I think Geoff said this may have been their first performance - but they had a lot of good moments. I felt some of the sketches could have used some judicious pruning, though. This will come with time as they get more experience working as a group.

Second was the 20th Generation of Off-Off Campus
This is a college sketch group from the University of Chicago. It was, as is to be expected, a college sketch show. Having done a couple of these - although we called them Evening of Scenes back where I come from - I know that they can be very hit or miss and this was exactly the case here. They had a couple of good ideas (their last sketch was a Nazi take off of a classic Superman scene) but they could have used some refinement. Some of the sketches felt like they were trying to flex their smart muscle, and some of them felt like they were trying to be Monty Python. Regardless, there's definitely some good young talent in the group.

So there you go. Robot Vs Dinosaur is on Thursday night this week. For those of you interested, see the info in the left hand column. I'm sure I'll be around this weekend trying to cram in a couple more shows.

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