Why Sketch Comedy? Here’s 10 reasons to write, act or watch sketch comedy

image source: http://www.avclub.com/article/open-america-bob-and-david-here-save-sketch-comedy-228248

At Sketchpad Comedy it’s no surprise that we love sketch comedy. It’s in our name after all. But, we want others to love sketch comedy too. So, I thought it appropriate to write an article called Why Sketch Comedy? and I’m going to give you 10 reasons.

Real quick, if you don’t know what sketch comedy is… Sketch comedy is a series of short comedy scenes or vignettes, called sketches. They are usually just a few minutes long. They are performed by a group of actors and they are usually (at least for the most part) written in advance of performance.

According to Wiki: Sketch comedy has its origins in vaudeville and music hall, where a large number of brief, but humorous, acts were strung together to form a larger programme. 

Let’s get to the list!

10 – Look at all the people who have done it

From everyone who has ever been on SNL to the guys in Workaholics. If you’ve been a professional comedian chances are you’ve been on a sketch comedy team or two. Stephen Colbert was an understudy to Steve Carell at Second City. He was a part of a sketch comedy series called Exit 57 with Amy Sedaris and wrote on the Dana Carvey Show.

Just look at this list of popular sketch comedy groups in the US alone:

Sketch comedy groups US

(source)

So many great names are involved in so many of those groups; Dave Chapelle, Carol Burnett, The Wayans Bros, Jim Carrey, Kel from Kenan and Kel, and so many more.

9 – It’s fun

Okay, this is subjective. I’m sure there are people out there who hate sketch comedy. Well, they’re idiots so we’ll ignore their opinion.

The flexibility of sketch comedy is fun. You can literally do whatever you want. Also, if it’s terrible, at least it’s over fairly quickly. Unlike a terrible movie (like almost all of Transformers), unless you want to leave early, takes two hours out of your life that you’ll never get back.

8 – It’s social commentary or at least it can be

Not all sketch comedy has to be social commentary about the world around us. But, some of the best is. The Kids in the Hall were great at putting social commentary in their segments. In particular, this Buddy Cole Gay Bar Monologue Sketch:

Inside Amy Schumer is a great example right now of bringing the funny out of the effed up things happening in the world. Look up her Bill Cosby sketch – it’s fantastic.

7 – It’s easy to be topical

Because sketch comedy is over quickly and it can be performed soon after writing it, it’s very easy to remain topical and keep things fresh. You can even take old sketches and revise them to bring up-to-date. Audiences love when you talk about things that are on top of their mind and that’s easy to do in sketch comedy. This is why SNL does such great political sketches. It’s a lot easier to write and record when it’s only 3-4 pages of a script you have to create.

6 – You can be whomever you want – no type casting here!

If you’re a 30 year old male, you can play a 60 year old woman. If you’re a 92 year old woman you can play a 23 year old man-child. It doesn’t matter. There are very few art forms where you can get away with this. If you are trying out for a play at a theater they want you to look the part. The same goes for TV or movies. If you are a 30 year veteran of art but you paint like a 2 year old, you’re going to be banished by the art gods.

But in sketch (and improv) you can be who and what ever you want. It’s a great way to flex your creative and acting muscles.

5 – Men in wigs

As long as their has been sketch comedy, there have been men in wigs.

Kids in the HallThe State

Damon Wayans

Who doesn’t love a guy in a wig? Hilarious.

Okay, to be fair that last one isn’t a wig. It’s a tiny hat. Hey! You can totally wear a tiny hat… and a handkerchief. It’s all good.

4 – Audiences love it

Again, this is subjective. But, again… they’re idiots if they don’t!

Audiences love sketch comedy because a) it’s short and we all know our attention spans are dying and b) Most sketch comedy pieces revolve around a game or pattern of some sort. People LOVE patterns. Why do you think people watch synchronized swimming, find shapes in stars or contract diabetes because they can’t stay out of the cookie jar?

One of the best reactions we’ve ever received at STL Sketchpad shows from a sketch was this one about How to Fold a Fitted Sheet. Apparently, the audience really appreciated the help.

3 – It’s over quickly

I know I’ve hit this one already. But, it’s true. The worst that can happen with a sketch comedy piece is that you hate it or it makes you uncomfortable. Luckily, in those cases it’s over quickly and you’re already on to the next one and that one can help you forget about the previous one. This is unlike a terrible TV show (like Two and a Half Men) which seems to never end. (Seriously, who the F- keeps watching that show?!)

2 – It’s great for actors, improvisers, and everyone else on the planet

If you want to learn how to act quickly. Sketch comedy is a great way to go. You only have to memorize a few lines at a time and you get to play a multitude of characters. If you are in a play, you are one character throughout and depending upon your role, you may have pages of dialogue to memorize. Or you have zero lines to memorize in which case, why are you even trying to learn how to act through plays?

Improvisation allows people to start to act, but without a dedicated motivation or the built in “this scene could go anywhere” it’s hard to really settle in a roll for too long. In sketch comedy, you have a direction, motivation and you can really use the scripted lines to focus on your acting. Some really great actors have come out of sketch comedy; Bob Odenkirk, Rachel Bloom, Tina Fey, Billy Crystal and Mel Brooks to name a few.

As far as “everyone else on the planet” that just sounded like a good headline. But, it probably is great for them too.

1 – Because it lends itself to all forms of writing

One of my favorite articles about how sketch comedy can jumpstart a career in movies and TV is this one “How Workalics Star Anders Holm Got Busy Writing TV Shows And Movies” where ‘Ders (as he goes by in the show) says,

“A TV show or movie is kind of a series of sketches,” Holm says. “Each scene should have a point or a game to it that carries you through if you do it well. So if you can come up with nine good sketches in a row, all of a sudden you’ve got an episode of television and you just need to find, like, a throughline for these sketches. After that, you just lean on your characters and think, ‘Okay, so since this guy is this person, he’s definitely gonna act this way in this situation, which will cause that to happen. And since he’s that guy, he’ll now do this in that new situation, and then… whatever the ending is.’ Writing a movie is the same sort of process, but on a larger scale.”

Makes sense to me.

So, if you want to write movies, TV shows or whatever else you should consider writing sketch comedy. If you’re in St. Louis, come write with us. We have openings every month. Just read this >>Write With us<< and see if it’s something you’d like to give a go.

Keep creating, keep writing.

-Jason

Sketchpad Comedy

If you like sketch comedy, check out our Sketch comedy podcast; Welcome Thru Effingham

Featured image c/o http://www.avclub.com/article/open-america-bob-and-david-here-save-sketch-comedy-228248

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