If the atmosphere at the New Faces Characters showcase at Montreal’s Just For Laughs feels a bit more heightened than in years past, it’s likely because the opportunities for actors and actresses to break out in sketch comedy roles is that much obvious to both the performers and the industry.
With at least three major cast departures this summer from Saturday Night Live, and another sketch comedy series in development at NBC, the time is ripe for comedians with an arsenal of impersonations and stand-out characters at the ready.
Are you ready to see them?
Dan Klein is a member of the great former sketch group Pangea 3000 whose credits also include working in front of the camera and behind the scenes for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, CollegeHumor, Funny or Die and The Onion. But one of his biggest YouTube hits has been a series of “Fruit Reviews.” That’s bananas. Anyhow. Klein opened his showcase set with an impersonation skewering Walt Disney’s intentions for a career making cartoons for children, and closed with a lip-sync performance piece set to “Funkytown.”
Here’s a throwback to a much younger Klein performing “Funkytown” for CollegeHumor.
And here, too, is his portrayal of a cool guy smoking a cigarette.
Samantha Martin is an NYU grad with a strong stage presence who has held her own musically, as well, as mainstage regular with Story Pirates. Her repertoire includes Bjork calling for pizza delivery, a character called Bridget Maloy who is the spokeswoman for the “How to Look Less Dumb Kit,” and an old-school German teacher named Edna Klaus introducing herself to kindergarteners. Martin also demonstrated just a tiny bit of her singing prowess with a quick take on Shania Twain’s “That Don’t Impress Me Much.”
This is another character-in-song piece from earlier this year, with Martin portraying Anne Hathaway singing a Les Mis mashup with “Girl Meets World.”
Russ Armstrong made an early first impression with his impersonation of Breaking Bad‘s Jesse Pinkman. He kept the audience’s attention with portrayals of an airline pilot circling over the Apocalypse and a self-published author at a Barnes & Noble reading. Armstrong is based in NYC and performs mostly at the Magnet Theater and sometimes also at UCB.
This is Armstrong’s character reel.
Jessica Lowe just wrapped on her part in an upcoming Adam Sandler movie, Blended. After watching her perform her Glee-meet-zombie-survivor audition, Icelandic home-shopping network sales pitch, and bachelor party dancer, I’d like to see more. Bitter. Batter. Butter. Better.
Here is her character reel from last year:
Conner O’Malley began his comedy career in Chicago and performed in JFL Chicago’s solo sketch comedy showcase last summer. This summer, he informed the people of Milwaukee about a vicious attack by Shrek in the woods, a guy who awakes from a 12-year coma and tries to visit a Blockbuster store, and a screenwriter from Staten Island with his own spec script for “Entourage.”
This was his JFL performance from 2012:
Sarah Nowak is a member of The PIT’s house sketch team, The Baldwins. Her characters included the cousin at a wedding party attempting her first speech, and a teacher who finds a way to get everyone to cut “Footloose.”
Mark Raterman is a member of Chicago’s Cook County Social Club, where he performed with SNL cast member Tim Robinson in that group and their series, “My Mans.” Raterman’s characters include Officer Alan, “the hip hop cop”; an over-active GPS; an adult film producer; a nervous TV reporter with good reason to be nervous; a friend with a disingenuous laugh; and a deleted scene from the movie Air Bud.
Here’s Raterman’s acting reel:
Jen Bartels was in last summer’s In Living Color reboot that has yet to air, and also shot a sketch pilot for Comedy Central this year called “Legion of Goons.” Her performance in Montreal included impersonations of Judy Garland and Jillian Michaels, plus original characters such as Ramona Caramel.
John Milhiser is based in Los Angeles and just put on a show at the UCB-LA earlier this month with videos that included Jen Bartels. So if you’re casting a sketch troupe, that’s good to know. Paul Feig is among his fans, too. But what about his solo work? Milhiser gets rather involved playing a teacher at a fifth-grade musical performance, a flight attendant for JetBlack Airlines, and the worst co-worker to encounter on the subway.
Here was his character reel from 2012, which included impersonations of Owen Wilson and Johnny Depp: