Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ye Olde Sketch Show

Ye Olde Sketch Show 

For my millions of readers (give or take a few million), you know that I stick primarily with reviewing movies that I watch on DVD for this blog.  However, a few months back a colleague, fellow stand-up comedian and friend asked me if I would come out and see his show he created and produced for the famous Donny's Skybox stage at The Second City theater in Chicago, Illinois and do a little review of the performance.  Naturally, I said "yes" and immediately went to the theater only to realize that the show wasn't until November.  So, I went home and patiently waited for my day to see his vision in action.

This is my excited face...this face is also the reason I'm
no longer allowed at public beaches.

It should be noted that this won't be my "run-of-the-mill" reviewBeing a live-action skit show, I can't talk about the camera work or DVD extras and judging live performances on anything is difficult because as an audience member there in front of the stage I have an impact on the performance.  Whether it's just being there viewing or being a distraction in the form of a heckler, live shows are rarely ever the same the second, third, fourth and beyond viewing.  It's this reason I am leaving out my normal score system and will focus entirely on discussing the performance and the experience itself.

The show had a clone of The Offspring's Dexter Holland on its roster.

There, now that my boring explanation stuff is out of the way, let's get down to the action.  Ye Olde Sketch Show (putting the "e" on "old" means it's vintage and it gets the hipsters to put down their iPhones and come out!) is a product of Chicago comedian Bryan Berrey.  The show centers around a series of skits that take place during the time when the bubonic plague was all the rage and people said things like "Eh gads!" (or I think they said "eh gads."  Anyway, "eh gads" needs to make a come back).  The skits are a melting pot of modern day issues thrown into elder times, satirical send-ups of the troubles they faced and witty interludes that exist outside in their own creative realm.

Creator Bryan Berrey.  And even though the check didn't clear,
I will STILL say all the nice things I was going to say about his show!

The show opens and provides a perfect setup for the tone of the show as it is a comical dance of foul language, inappropriate and slightly offensive jokes and a tone of grandeur that fits perfectly with the era it's lampooning.  Right off the bat, the show begins in a "Who's on First" style interaction between a humble, simple farmer learning of the new invention of the monetary system as a man wishes to buy his goat.  This simple premise results in a fast pace, word play battle between the two cast members and acts as your guide to what you are about to see.  (See this skit in script form here.)

See a still of this skit right above this caption.

A majority of the skits meld the parallels of our modern era with the time when if you made it to your 30s, you were probably considered a witch.  We see a woman of nobility fretting about if she is "fat enough" to please her king or a medieval-style board meeting where they are trying to sell products in a troubling economy.  These skits showing a simpler time having to deal with the advancing times and seeing them mirror our society's woes places within them is an instant formula for creative, witty and intelligent humor that is only emphasized thanks to Berrey's strong dialogue in the script and a cast of players that made the script dance on stage.  Each of the actors were able to find the perfect balance of being "over-the-top" when they needed to be and grounded when it was required to hit the joke home...also there's a gag right away about killing a baby and that's just Comedy 101.

And the cast members all glow like angels...or that may have to do with my camera.

To my surprise, I ended up seeing this show opening night.  When I arrived at the theater, I, for some reason, was under the impression that I was there the 2nd week of its run.  I was under that impression because I don't read my emails closely enough--you think I would have learned to read them more closely after the 3rd Nigerian Prince scam that came my way.  However, despite it being opening night, I never would have guessed it from the actors involved and the stage production.  All the cues seemed to go off when needed and the actors rarely missed a beat.  There were a few minor hiccups that are expected with live performances but, for the most part, it played like it was in the middle of its run rather than opening night.

Is that a wizard on stage?  I don't know, pay the money and see the show to find out!
(I'll take my check for that endorsement now.)

Throughout the show's performance British accents were utilized by the actors and I found that both the performances and the skits themselves have a very Monty Python feel to them.  Not that Berrey was channeling the Pythons through his quill pen or typewriter (I don't know what he was using to write this show) but the fact is these skits often lacked a punchline (a trait often too common with skit comedy) or had a punchline that went against the grain of what was expected--something that the Monty Python crew worked hard to provide in their skits.  The reality is Berrey stayed away from traditional skit fodder and improv familiarity to provide a series of skits that were truly fresh but felt familiar due to the content held within their premise.

With all those silhouetted heads it looks like an MST3K convention.

For its opening night, Ye Olde Sketch Show proved that it had something going for it.  The show was terrifically put together and the cast showed an enthusiasm and a hungry unmatched for the era they were set in (seriously, a lot of people died of starvation during that dark time but even this fact was fodder for this show and that is a good thing!).  The turn out to see the show was fantastic for a opening night and the crowd's excitement was palpable and they all were very receptive (albeit they enjoyed the naughty words the most).  Their enjoyment was so abundant that I can forgive the female audience member who turned around and gave me the "stink eye" when I laughed too hard at a joke about a rooster being used as an alarm clock.  It seemed like such a good idea, lady!

The audience didn't bother to question why an overweight awkward nerd was taking
pictures of them.

Okay, so the show doesn't offer up sex but here is two
people in bed.  That's like sex, right?  Seriously, I'm asking.
I have no idea what sex is.
Ye Olde Sketch Show has much potential going for it.  From beginning to end, the show gives you wit (a re-occurring skit--and one that become my personal favorite--is one introduced as "Spoken Word Art" where one of the players comes out and physically describes works of art.  Get it?) and mixed in with this wit is a dash of vulgarity and a healthy portion of silly and offensive humor.  It offers up complicated dialogue that made me sit back and admire the performers for their ability to memorize their lines because I can barely remember the words to The Edgar Winter's Group song "Frankenstein" and that song doesn't even have lyrics!!!  When all is said and done, Ye Olde Sketch Show is just plain great entertainment set upon a simple, but insanely creative idea that flows at a perfect pace that, by the end, is just a barrage of rapid-fire skits that provides a perfect wrap up but, most importantly, is fucking hilarious!

I used an f-bomb there so you know how serious I am about how funny this show was.

For more information on Ye Olde Sketch Show just check out the link.        

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