Could relatively unknown sketch comedy groups compete with national headlining comics for eyeballs, attention and laughs at The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas? That was the challenge for "Unprotected Sketch!" a series of sketches hosted by NYC’s Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal. Kurt and Kristen, who host Hot Tub at Pianos in New York, already got industry approval in Montreal earlier this year (and Kristen is a past Andy Kaufman Award winner and Aspen winner, too), so they took the lead on this one, too.

"We’re excited to be here in the city of broken dreams…and secrets!" Kurt said.

The duo introduced a new recurring sketch for Vegas called "Double Down Hearts" to show off their "dramatic" side, as well as their "dancing" side — not only then but also in their proven glowstick body dance to promote polio awareness and the rousing crowd-pleaser, "Kristen Schaal is a horse!"

Gareth and Evan, or is it Evan and Gareth? Either way, this duo’s entrance looked odd not because they were both wearing all white turtleneck-and-pants outfits, but because Kurt and Kristen also exited the stage in similar getups. Anyhow. On this night, Evan Mann and Gareth Reynolds weren’t worried about Axe but about letting us in on their "final" performance together…all really to set up their series of flashbacks…to letter-writing to Jon Bon Jovi, to the first time they met at a support group for people without friends, to when they went on $25,000 Pyramid, and then to an audience-participation gag about their inability to read people’s minds. For reasons unclear, they closed with a profanity-laced song about f—ing.

Nasim Pedrad showed off a selection of five characters (two on video) from her one-woman show to illustrate how funny Iranians can be, opening with her take on a rebel insurgent who’s losing her terrorist edge due to her illict affair with a Texas soldier. A video spoof on MTV featuring a Persian mafia member and wannabe rapper was redeemed by its closing joke. Pedrad was just getting started, though, first with a 12-year-old girl at a science fair, then with a video about an ultra-aggressive Iranian bachelor, and finally with a Persian-American princess from Beverly Hills on a first date.

Neil Campbell and Paul Rust opened big, jumping onto tables in the audience for a bit on a homeless father and son who use their imagination to escape reality. Several short bits, including two videos, none quite matching the level of their opener, although their sketch on loud eaters at Baja Fresh came close.