Nothing sketchy about these comics: National troupes strut their stuff 

Elephant Larry

Elephant Larry

Fans of comedy groups like Monty Python, Kids in the Hall, Human Giant and the Whitest Kids U Know can rejoice this weekend, because starting Thursday, June 7, 21 different sketch comedy groups from around North America have converged on the East 13th Street Theatre for the third annual SketchFest NYC, promising three nights of the funniest sketch comedy from the U.S. and Canada.

“The goal was always to show New Yorkers not just the best sketch comedy in New York,” said SketchFest NYC producer Alex Zalben, “but the best sketch comedy in the nation.”

Sketch comedy, which is different from improv or stand-up, consists of short written scenes, rehearsed beforehand and usually presented by a group of people that can range in size from two to 20.

Highlights at this year’s SketchFest NYC include Karla, a female duo from LA; KevINda, a Chicago duo that presents smart, racially charged political satire; Dance Party of Newfoundland, SketchFest NYC’s first Canadian group; and the NYC sketch groups Troop! and Fearsome.

Since 1999, SketchFests have been popping up all over the country. Along with the original festival in Seattle, annual SketchFests are also held in Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Toronto.

“One of the ideas at the beginning was to handpick the things we liked about all the other festivals,” Zalben said. “And one constant that we found in all of the other SketchFests is that it’s this great supportive atmosphere of sketch nerds watching other sketch people perform. So we decided we need to create that atmosphere. We need to create a place where people can have fun, and have fun performing.”

What makes this year’s SketchFest different from its past incarnations? In addition to its first Canadian act, “We have a higher percentage this year of New York groups, which I’m really proud of and very excited about,” Zalben said. “And we have tons of new groups from across the country.”

In order to make room for those new groups, though, some past SketchFest participants couldn’t fit into the schedule. But don’t worry — every performance is guaranteed to have you rolling in the aisles.

“We’ve been really happy with all the performances,” Zalben said. “We’re very careful who we take, because I want to be able to confidently say, ‘Hey, you’ve got to check out all these acts.'”

Harvard Sailing Team

Harvard Sailing Team

For the second year in a row, SketchFest NYC will close on Saturday night with a midnight presentation of the “SketchFest NYC Closing Night Craptacular,” in which groups perform the worst, most offensive sketches they just couldn¹t fit into their regular shows.

“Everybody is drunk and loud and shouting at the stage, doing their dirtiest stuff,” Zalben said with a grin. “It’s like a party for the sketch comedians, except it’s open to the public. Last year we did it for the first time, and it was such a resounding success that it was closed down by the police.”

SketchFest NYC 2007
June 7th, 8th & 9th, with shows at 7pm, 8pm, 9pm, 10pm, 11pm and midnight The East 13th Street Theatre, 136 E. 13th Street, between Third & Fourth Aves.
Individual Tickets: $10, Nightly Passes: $40, Full Festival Pass: $100

This article was published in the June 8-10, 2007 weekend issue of amNewYork.