UCB’s Sketchfest 2011

Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre: venue for Sketchfest 2011

Sketchfest Logo

Since its inception in 1996, The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (UCBT) has become the mecca for great, cutting-edge, comedy in the city. The former home of the New Harmony Strip Club has spruced itself up (well… sort of), and now offers affordable and innovative comedy shows seven days a week. On June 8th, UCBT saw a packed house for opening night of Sketchfest NYC.

Though only 7 years old, Sketchfest has become a nationwide phenomenon, boasting some of the best underground sketch comedy in the world North America! For those unfamiliar with the genre, the always reliable Wikipedia provides the following definition:

Sketch comedy consists of a series of short comedic scenes or vignettes, called “sketches,” commonly between one and ten minutes long. Such sketches are performed by a group of comic actors, either on stage or through an audio and/or visual medium such as broadcasting.

Be warned: these shows are not for the chaste or closed minded. If you’re too much of an intellectual, stick to reruns of Fraiser. Seriously.

Sketchfest’s opening night line up showcased a variety of whacky, inventive characters who interspersed their sketches with elements of improv, stand up and musical performance. I sat in on two of the shows: Kurt and Kristen and “Sketch Rocks” presented by 101.9RXP.

Sketchfest veterans Kurt Braunohler (Aspen Comedy Festival, Edinburgh Fringe) & Kristen Schaal (Flight of the Conchords) thrilled the audience with a series of drunken ramblings and wildly inappropriate gags. After performing origami and attacking each other with a pistol and hangman’s noose, Kurt and Kristen provided a taste of old Hollywood by broadcasting their own DVD commentary to His Silent Racket. They then closed their act with the epic game show: “Win a Date With Kristen Schaal” where two suckers fun loving patrons were coerced happily agreed to compete for undeniably creepy dear Kristen’s affection. The winning gentleman received a romantic date which ended abruptly when he gave the wrong answer to the essential question: “Do you prefer dogs or cats?”

“Sketch Rocks” proved to be just as entertaining. MC and part time Radio DJ Dave Greek served up a bowl full of laughs with his quick wit and self- depreciating humor before passing the torch to a group of stoned maniacs true artistes. First up was Snakes, a duo of self proclaimed “rap-ists” who paid homage to The Lonely Island with a series of disastrously unfunny catchy hip hop tracks. “My Dad’s a Proctologist” and “Tip your Deli Man” could only be topped by “Crazy Monster”,  an ode  to attention starved hip hop hype men.  These useless creatures unsung heroes prance around on stage and accentuate our favorite hooks by chiming in on every other word.  “Crazy Monster”, with its lyric deficient mass of silent mumblings certainly affords them the credit they deserve. That said, it bears a striking resemblance to the Shy Ronnie sketches by The Lonely Island. Flattering imitation or a sign of creative deficiency? Only time will tell if this group has what it takes.

Snakes may have left the audience cold but songstress Shayna Ferm certainly brought the heat! This flat-chested diva flaunted her sexuality through carefully crafted and hilariously lewd lyrics proving that dirty jokes reign supreme. After declaring her love for lube and peeing in the shower she ended the night with a toast to her husband in the heart warming ballad “Thanks for Sticking It In Me”. Talk about going out with a bang! Yes, pun intended.

Adira Avram and the Experience

Final on the docket was  Adira Amram and the Experience, and what and experience it was. Compared to the other acts, Adira’s eighties revival  theme and silly lyrics proved tame and uninspiring but she still managed to impress with a painful spectacle of flashing lights, neon bodysuits, glitter and over the top choreography. In the end, her back up dancers stole the show proving that nothing saves a luke-warm act like a good distraction!

The acid trip that is Sketchfest ended on June 11, 2011 with the likes of Whitest Kids U’Know and The Puterbaugh Sisters gracing the stage. Though it lacked the polish of elaborate productions like SNL and MAD TV, it possessed a distinct grassroots flair that I, for one, found charming. Definitely looking forward to next year!

Aisha Porter-Christie
SOA (Film) ’14
Arts Initiative Student Associate

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