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Does Video Kill The Sketch Comedy Stars?

A sampling of Sketchfest NYC shows finds that sketch works best when it has confidence in the format rather than leaning heavily on video interludes.

Of three groups seen during this year’s Sketchfest NYC, the strongest show came from The Animal Club on June 9, with the highlight of a truly classic video sketch about a champion bunter in an alternate history of baseball in the 1920s.

The Animal Club had the most consistently inventive and unique material, all played to a tee, and they balanced the mix of live sketches with video material, without relying too heavily on the video pieces. The group used the video bits only where it was necessary to get the idea across, as in the baseball sketch.

Another highlight of The Animal Club’s show did involve photos, but just sparingly, as a characterization of Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin laments that people are more familiar with Star Trek captains than him.

Free Love Forum, a group with talent likely equal to that of The Animal Club, undermined themselves a little with overuse of video in their Sketchfest show on June 8. A recurring video of people being forced to dance and look happy doing so wore thin pretty fast, as did a recurring video bit on wordplay.

The overuse of video became particularly evident in the group’s take on the Birthright Israel program that funds young adults’ first visits to the country -- a spoof called the Gay Birthright Cruise about giving gay people the opportunity to have their first “fabulous” cruise experience. The sketch relied too much on video and photos, with just one group member narrating and speaking. This could have gotten across with a lot more energy had the other group members performed in lieu of the photos.

Lastly, the all-female sketch group Meat, which performed in Sketchfest on June 10, had a couple sketches that worked, but far too much material that was unintelligible, except if it were perhaps inside jokes within the group or its most devoted fans. Meat’s most inspired bit was its opener, in which a woman dies in a car crash, arrives at the pearly gates and finds that St. Peter is just as much of a chauvinist pig as anyone on earth.



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