Sketchfest NYC 2010Sketchfest NYC — which wrapped up its sixth annual festival last night, after three straight days of sketch comedy at the UCB Theatre — continues to showcase the wide variety of comedy and performance styles that makes sketch comedy such a vibrant and vital art. We were there for every single blackout, costume change, and musical cue at Sketchfest NYC 2010. Read about the entire weekend, below (and read more about the first night of the festival here):

Two of the annual highlights of the festival, Elephant Larry and Pangea 3000, each combine childlike wonder — or, more accurately, the awkward feelings of 13-year-old kids — with visions of an alternate reality in their sharply-written and energetically performed sketches. The boys of Pangea 3000 remind you of somebody’s goofy younger brothers as they played baseball in the future, shouted about whispering, conjugated verbs, won a fart noise spelling bee, and didn’t forget to thank anyone (especially Jessica Hess). Elephant Larry, meanwhile, would be our troublemaking yet deceptively wise older cousins, pointing out the ridiculousness in things we take for granted such as how to wear clothes, why “that’s not what your mom said last night,” if someone could be attracted to a circle, and how relish is really made.

Rue Brutalia

From left: Murderfist's Henry Zebrowski and John Moreno help Rue Brutalia (Jason Kalter and Jon Pack) chase pedophiles.

In other Sketchfest NYC shows, Team Submarine was frustrated by affirmative action for Klingons, but found art in a student’s insulting drawings. Last Call Cleveland brilliantly deconstructed cliche stand-up routines at the “Giggle Boner” comedy club, took a seizure break, then serenaded us with “The One-Semester-of-Spanish Spanish Love Song.” Rue Brutalia  tried and failed to advertise orange juice from Betsy Ross Farms, taught valuable self-defense lessons, and confronted a child molester. Free Love Forum introduced us to the Bilk brothers and regretted ever saying “See you, wouldn’t want to be you.” Long Pork got cartoonishly violent, performed magic, and shocked a gentleman repeatedly with a dog collar in the name of improv.

Kimmy Gatewood and Dirty Jeans and Thunderchief

"Kimmy Gatewood: 3000 Miles to Figure It Out" (left) and Dirty Jeans and Thunderchief

Kimmy Gatewood took her audience on a 3,000-mile road trip with the boyfriend she just broke up with, and taught us that “Cheeseburgers are nice” is the new “I love you.” Livia Scott and Elizabeth Lawrence were Dirty Jeans and Thunderchief, two ’70s housewives who drink all day and want to have sex with each other’s sons.

2-Man No-Show were exuberant in helping each other find dates and remember the entire plot of Jurassic ParkDave and Ethan got intimate with their audience — and themselves. Having failed to find love after two years of YouTube-facilitated double dates, they’ve turned their quest into “Dave and Ethan: Double Dates Us,” a live show offering helpful dating advice through kissing, touching, singing, and dancing. Not guaranteed to work for everyone.

Germans, a Chicago-based sketch troupe in its Sketchfest NYC debut, built each sketch towards a punchline it didn’t deliver — because they’d already blown by it on their way to next sweetly insane idea. New Exc!tement talked to the stars, took a trip into space, and taught us what a “spider” really is. And FUCT created the most twisted and cannibalistic kids’ show ever, held a sing-along with Osama bin Laden, married a premature baby, told guys it’s cool to be gay, wowed us with illusion, and got naked and dirty with the audience.

In addition to being witness to such an incredible range of performances and points of view, attending every show in the 2010 festival illuminated a growing trend among the performers’ varied inspirations: nearly every group at Sketchfest NYC this year incorporated some form of song or dance routine, a noticeable increase from years past. “Sketch Rocks” highlighted the musical side of sketch on Thursday night, in addition to groups like Audience of Two, Harvard Sailing Team, Two Fun Men, 2-Man No-Show, Pangea 3000, Last Call Cleveland, and Dave & Ethan, who all had at least one song — and in most cases a dance, too — in their sets.

Fearsome, the veteran sketch group composed of Katherine Bryant Flaherty, Shayna Ferm, Alex Goldberg, Jaime Hayes, and Chris O’Connor, even debuted “Grease 3: Threase,” their first-ever musical comedy, at Sketchfest on Friday night. “Threase” was written by Flaherty and Ferm.

The Pink Labias of "Grease 3: Threase"

The Pink Labias of "Grease 3: Threase"

But why a parody of Grease at Sketchfest NYC 2010?

“Well, it’s been 28 years since Grease 2,” Flaherty says. “It only took nine years to make five Shreks. You do the math. Shayna and I kicked around the idea of a Grease sequel comedy show for a while. She’s a huge Grease 2 nerd — and an amazing musician — and I was just into leather and combs for a while there. It was the perfect project for us.”

An hourlong musical parody can be risky, especially if you lose the audience from the first notes. Luckily for them, it worked. Flling the stage with a large ensemble cast, Fearsome took audiences on an exuberantly silly ride back to high school at Shmydell High, where the Pink Labias and T-Boners prepared for the senior talent show and graduation. They got help from special guests John Phillips, Amy Heidt, Livia Scott, Catia Ojeda, Jason Denuszek, Luke Manson, and David Flaherty to complete the cast of 12 for “Threase.”

Fearsome presents "Grease 3: Threase"

Fearsome presents "Grease 3: Threase"

“Shayna and I wrote the show knowing we’d need 12 cast members,” Flaherty says. “It’s exhilarating to play with other comedians you admire. We wrote some parts with specific performers in mind, others just occurred to us as we saw them in various shows over the last few months.”

In six years, Fearsome has not missed a chance to perform at Sketchfest NYC. “After all these years, the staff knows to just place tartan blankets in Fearsome’s laps and roll our wheelchair into the green room, where we stay creepily in the corner for three days watching the youngsters,” she says. “We keep coming back to Sketchfest NYC because it’s an awesome gathering of cool people and talent, new and old, from across the country. It’s inspirational, and fucking fun.”

As a sort of passing of the torch, Fearsome gave up their usual Saturday closing night performance slot to rising stars Murderfist, whose Henry Zebrowski and Ed Larson should be recognized as the reincarnations of Chris Farley and John Belushi. (“We are the heaviest group in the festival, weight-wise,” Zebrowski says. “Me and Ed together are heavier than Pangea 3000.”)



“We are extremely honored to be closing out the festival,” Zebrowski told me before the show. “There is only fun. A late night crazy drunk time slot, a hundred college students screaming for a good experience doing belly shots onstage, all 700 comedians hitting on the same girl…”

Murderfist attacks their audience with manic energy and violently funny sketches, including a farmer who loves molesting; popcorn, kettle corn, and corn on the cob as projectiles; and the eternal battle between jeans and khakis. Murderfist took over the UCB and made a joyful mess to close out the sixth annual Sketchfest NYC.

We could further analyze every individual performance, every sketch, and every joke from Sketchfest NYC — or we could instead point out that in the end, Sketchfest is still about fart jokes, funny faces, profanity, slapstick, and gross-out humor. And we cannot wait until next year.

(All photos by Tracey Wilson)

This story was posted online June 13, 2010 at Blog Stage.