By Meagan Snyder
June 18: Finals
Sketch Com-Ageddon had its final rose ceremony tonight, featuring the four sketch troupes that made it through Friday’s semi-finals – Fratwurst, Jape, The Hooligans, and The Local Drysdales. Each troupe performed their best 15 minutes, whether that meant many small sketches, or fewer longer ones. This time around there was no security blanket in the possibility of a judges’ pick – the audience alone was responsible for awarding one troupe $450 and a guaranteed spot in November’s Toronto Sketchfest. All jokes ironically aside, it was a great night for sketch comedy. The troupes were all at the top of their games, and the house was packed (courtesy of The Hooligans, for the most part, based on audience reaction to the mere mention of their name. Spoiler alert.). Let’s take a look at each troupe’s contributions:
Fratwurst – Fratwurst’s 3-man sketches were very tight, well-acted, and well-written. Fratwurst is a troupe that values polished sketches with varying simple premises, and carefully-crafted and dispersed jokes. Their sketch about a TTC rider lamenting his love life entirely in subway station puns was a highlight of the preliminary rounds for me, and was a highlight tonight as well. It’s a sketch that heightens beyond its pun-based premise and is a joy to watch. Their other sketches proved to be just as funny and interesting, with unraveling jokes and familiar situations taken to their previously unseen conclusions – an oompa-loompa tells his wife the sad tale of what happened that fateful day at the chocolate factory (“he forced us to dance and sing as that boy was sucked into the filter!”), The Wizard of Oz’s tin man, scarecrow, and cowardly lion discuss the physical appeal of all the babes of Oz (“What about the Wicked Witch of the West?” “You can never get her wet”), and, in a very engaging dialogue-free sketch set to Enya’s “Only Time,” a well-coiffed man helps a bald man discover the joy of static electricity balloon tricks (with sexy results).
Jape – Jape’s set was fast-paced, funny, and highly energetic. Also comprised of three men, Jape mixed longer and briefer single-joke-based sketches resulting in a dynamic and well-acted 15 minutes. Jape seems to be inspired by placing pop culture icons in unfamiliar situations and taking ideas to their extreme – a goofy uncle’s ‘nickel behind the ear’ gag is a means of disease diagnosis when the nickels keep on coming (“Doctor, hasn’t my condition changed?” “Your condition IS change!”); the Terminator’s tough-as-steel (literally) persona is jeopardized when he comes across a meek, caring father instead of John Connor (I hope I understood this correctly – I don’t know about the Terminator because I’m very, very cool); Orson Welles seriously jeopardizes a stage performance of Romeo and Juliet with his egomaniacal revisions (“Shut thy piehole, Prince! Your attempts to strike me down have rendered me more powerful! … I am Orson Welles and I will never die! Rosebud, mother fuckers! And THAT is classic Shakespeare”).
The Hooligans – As mentioned above, the crowd’s eruption when The Hooligans were not even named but merely alluded to (Paul Snepsts cracked a joke about the members of the upcoming troupe being underage – it’s true; some members barely appear to be past puberty) gave a fairly good indication of how the competition would play out. The nine-member troupe (the only one tonight that included female players) delivered a very energetic, fast-paced set of longer sketches interspersed with recurring short sketches based on ridiculous 911 calls. Their sketch about Stalin’s iron fist, very popular in their preliminary round performance, proved just as popular tonight as their big closer. Other sketches played with more everyday human quirks – a man on a double date can’t stop telling ridiculous stories of his youtube captures; a local commercial for a genuine Italian eatery features a less-than-genuinely Italian man (a highlight of their set); a woman is caught speeding after discovering her boyfriend is cheating on her (“carry on”).
The Local Drysdales – While I enjoyed their preliminary round sketch, these reconstituted PunchDRYSDALE members won me over in a much bigger way with their three sketches tonight, all of which were layered, physical, and as much fun to watch as they clearly were to perform. They were by far the goofiest sketches of the night, and I don’t type that with any trace of derision. My favourite was their first sketch, based around the inevitable verbal gymnastics when we traverse conversational minefields – in this case between a writer and his editor. A premise so simple but original, and taken to the point of absurdity – a Drysdale theme. Another commonality for The Local Drysdales is going meta, but in a very balanced way. I was pleasantly surprised to find that their references to the sketches themselves (“this took place at a wedding, we were at a wedding” at the end of one sketch, referencing “feeling good about ourselves and sketch comedy in general” in another) heightened the sketches rather than distracting from them. The audience favourite was a highly physical ‘Bad Body Competition’ beauty pageant-style sketch that gave members Norm Sousa and Brendan Halloran room to improvise in their roles as commentators; their genuine reactions to the performances from the bad bodies on the pageant stage were very fun to watch.
My Pick: Fratwurst (Please note that this was a tough one – The Local Drysdales were a very close second. In the end, Fratwurst won me over with their writing.)
Audience Pick and Sketch Com-Ageddon Winner: The Hooligans
Well, the riot outside Comedy Bar after the winners were announced was pretty disgusting. So many bicycles set on fire, looted Ethiopian food flying everywhere, and hipsters ripping off their plaid and making out in the streets. Just kidding, everyone was very happy for The Hooligans. Don’t despair for the other three troupes – I have a funny feeling we’ll be seeing them in November’s TO Sketchfest regardless of their losses tonight. Come out and enjoy.