This weekend, I’ll be seeing 17 SketchFest shows in four days. Will it be worth the trudge down stupid Belmont Avenue to Stage 773 in zero degrees Kelvin? Let's hope. After spending the past two days failing to mine any comedic potential from the name Boehner, I could use the inspiration.
On Thursday night, I checked out performances by four sketch groups, starting with the maniacally adolescent Inside Joke Films. The physical comedy of uber-youthful Jon Braylock and Ramy Youssef is as cartoonish as a day in the life of Ren and Stimpy compressed down to 45 minutes—if Ren and Stimpy were an African/Arab-American duo making the most of their backgrounds. The show follows a day in their high-school-level life, from waking up to going to bed: dancing, rapping, brushing teeth and combing hair (their own and each other’s), pretending to snort or shoot up during detention. They make dizzying character shifts, playing parent and teen at the dinner table, and engage in bedtime talk of love and sex based on knowledge drawn solely from pop music. It ain’t exactly dry or sophisticated, but energy carries it through. They'll be back Sunday, 4 PM, sharing the bill with Sausage.
Inside Joke was followed to the stage by Happily Ever Laughter, a group of Vassar collegians who pose questions like, “What if [Twilight author] Stephenie Meyer met the Algonquin Roundtable?” “What if Cash Cab was Cash Hearse?” “What if Mark Twain was a babysitter who shared his bourbon with the baby?” Some of these premises worked better than others, but HEL did have the most hilarious quick take of the night when one member sat behind a sign reading “Snake Oil: 75 cents” and another showed up just long enough to say, “I don’t trust you.” HEL performs again, after the Stuntmen, Sunday, 2:30 PM.
Spending the break between shows at the bar, hemmed in on all sides by actors and/or Groupon funployees, I felt the profound sense of urban isolation I always feel on the north side—adrift (yeah, adrift) in a sea of Big Ten alums pursuing their dreams of equity on a condo, gay sex, drunken Cubs sex, drunken Cubs gay sex, an acting career, a comedy career, a writing career, a comedy actor writer career. And yet, everybody packed into the lobby seemed nice enough. Too bad this was the week I swore off the sauce.
Chicago-based Creepy Hug kicked off their show by going into the audience and giving, you know, creepy hugs. Sketches dealt with people on a Segway tour, offering contrasting interpretations of the Picasso sculpture; a dad standing outside the United Center, giving his son a hilariously accurate description of Scottie Pippen; diners waiting on a friend who's become monomaniacal about his recently purchased bike. With a bit about The Phil Late Show, Creepy Hug managed to break the record for Most Oral Sex Jokes Told in Under Five Minutes, set by Jay Leno at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Overall, they struck a fine balance between silly and dry.
The final set of the night was my favorite. Fool for Thought (featuring two members of Creepy Hug) came out in matching black tank tops, shorts, calf-length socks pulled up tight, and gym shoes. Performing excerpts from last summer's Bloodrush, they delivered inventive, mischievous, thoroughly enjoyable physical comedy from beginning to end. The highlight of their amazing show was a sketch in which a beloved character named Pratfall Andy is told by his doctor he can no longer entertain friends with his pratfalls because he's been diagnosed with something like “osteogenesisboniva.” Other sketches concerned the Pounders, who only speak when someone is rhythmically pounding their backs; former lovers who talk simultaneously about running into each other on the bus; and the hilarious adventures of Hawk Savage, Zombie Hunter. Fool for Thought will perform their new show, Planet Karate, at Donny’s Skybox, Fridays in February, 7:30 PM.
After that it was karaoke until closing.