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But Seriously...

Sketchfest performers display different degrees of command over their material in this year's edition.

Pictured: Ben Masten and Sam Dingman

By Cristina Merrill/Jester Correspondent

Sketchfest 2010 came to New York City over the weekend, bringing a variety of comedy acts that offered a little something for everyone. On Thursday, June 10, festgoers took in Audience of Two and Sidecar at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, two comedy acts with different approaches to the craft. Audience of Two poked fun at the economy, New York City taxi cab drivers and famous authors, while Sidecar decided to act out the end of the world and the near-obliteration of humankind. Both made the audience laugh throughout, but the pell mell nature of Sidecar makes one wonder which troupe is actually serious about comedy.

Audience of Two consists of Sam Dingman and Ben Masten, two handsome and charismatic men with a knack for subtle humor. They came out looking relaxed and in their element, speaking directly to the audience and asking if they were okay. “We just want to make you feel nice,” Masten said.

They launched into their first skit, explaining that there were two cabs: Fantasy Cab and Reality Cab. Dingman, a former cab driver, went behind the wheel while Masten acted as various passengers. They poked fun at aspiring actors and comedians, such as themselves, who are forced to take demeaning day jobs in order to make ends meet. At one point in Fantasy Cab, Masten plays a powerful agent with “famous papers” for Dingman to sign. In Reality Cab, Masten is an off-Broadway producer who could not care less about Dingman’s acting abilities.  Rather than offer Dingman an audition, he tells him to “use the Google” to find out more information about his show.

Masten, who looks and sounds like a cross between Ray Romano and Clark Kent, turned the tables on himself when he introduced the next skit. He explained his own unemployment situation, and proceeded to make fun of a job search in which he skewed his own resume.  Dingman is his reference, something that backfires as Dingman only mentions Masten’s abilities in the video game “Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” to the employment officer.

The best piece by Audience of Two was their last skit. Dingman and Masten tell the audience that adulthood is about realizing “you’ve been fed a lot of bullshit.” With Dingman on guitar, the two sang about famous authors and the things people never learned about them in school. One is Leo Tolstoy, who they allege murdered his whole town because someone stole his cat. They had advice for the angry author. “Have another vodka and get another cat,” they sang.         

Audience of Two was followed by Sidecar, a trio who combine sketch and improv by incorporating the audience into their pieces. Sidecar consists of Matt Fisher, Alden Ford and Justin Tyler. They set the scene as occurring after an asteroid has hit Earth ­— making panicking sounds while the theater lights are turned off. The trio then realize that they and the audience members are all that is left of humankind and the only music that survived was the soundtrack to the movie Forrest Gump.

“This person was obliterated,” Fisher said, pointing to an empty chair. The trio mourned over things they will never get to do — like watch the rest of “24”— and pondered what they must do in order to survive — like call dibs on women in the audience. “I mean, we’re all gonna fuck each other in some way,” one Sidecar member reasons.

The entire act proceeded at a rapid, sometimes chaotic pace. The trio attempted to elect a new leader (“Does anyone have a career of any kind?” Fisher asked), come up with ways to find food and even invented an idol to worship. The idol, an invention of Tyler’s named “Cat Beer,” was composed of the head of a cat and a body of empty Heineken boxes, and prompted Tyler to call himself a “born-again kegger.”

The Sidecar men work well enough together. They certainly accomplished every comedian’s goal of making people laugh, but they lacked chemistry, perhaps because the scattershot material didn’t foster that. Rather than complement each other, they seemed to compete for stage presence and laughs. Ford, as funny as he is, tends to get lost. This was very different from Dingman and Masten, who took the time to introduce each other and stuck to their parts and played them well. Audience of Two’s more thought-out structure not only gave the audience something to laugh about, it also showed that Dingman and Masten have honed their craft. It proved that they are, in fact, serious about comedy.




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