Highlights from Sketchfest NYC 2009

Everyone is hungry for laughs this year, and cue the rest of this metaphor, because the fifth annual edition of Sketchfest NYC certainly delivered with a healthy appetite (Zoinks!) of fun times, served up with a side of…you know what I'm trying to say, right? Food was on the brain and onstage in many of the highlights from this past weekend's celebration of sketch comedy in the Big Apple. Harvard Sailing Team reimagined the callback auditions for a Pizza Hut ad. Elephant Larry screened a "viral video" for Subway that never went viral, in a special edition of The Rejection Show. Kristen Schaal claimed that her comedy partner had gotten turned into a stuffed bird. Rue Brutalia handed out rolls of Rolos and compared fast-food sandwiches in a job interview. Pangea 3000 interrupted a sketch to eat ribs. The Apple Sisters modeled "ration fashion" featuring watermelon muffs, hats and shoes. The 3rd Floor served up pancakes to one lucky audience member. Kevin McDonald put on his one-man and one-guitarist show, "Hammy and the Kids" (ham not included). Let's review some of these things in further detail, shall we?

IMG_0251wtmk The Apple Sisters made a triumphant return to NYC, having all moved out within the past year to Los Angeles and showcasing a new 1943-era radio programme set aboard the USS Sketchfest Intrepid en route to Hawaii. Cora, Candy and Seedy were looking to get lei'd with the seamen, but first had to deal with a mutiny, a pirate, an emergency SOS call and more. Quite saucy and sassy, these broads! A fun moment when the captain declared: "You can't just ovulate all over the ship!" To which Candy replied: "Well, what am I supposed to do with this?" thrusting her hands to her pelvis. Funnier still, when the ladies modeled their "ration fashions," with actual juicy watermelons getting all over themselves and the theater floor. "Anybody hungry?" Cora asked afterward.

Also on Thursday: Kristen Schaal made her fourth Sketchfest NYC appearance, but first without comedy partner Kurt Braunohler (who was performing in Tennessee at Bonnaroo); Team Submarine took on "Who's On First" but with 69 jokes; Rue Brutalia played good-cop, bad-cop to investigate the ultimate riddle: Who farted? and also unveiled a sketch that somehow didn't work when they tried it in a Brooklyn hip-hop club; A Week of Kindness fashioned an awards show completely around Bee Movie; Murderfirst wanted to prove that being loud, fat and naked makes any sketch idea funnier (did it work?); Sam and Timmy from The Whitest Kids U Know tried to tell a story about when the kids got interviewed by High Times; and Olde English deconstructed the plot to Pixar's new hit movie, UP, to such a degree that you wonder how the film ever got made in the first place.

IMG_1969wtmk Pangea 3000, five fellas who met at Boston University and now call NYC home, presented very clever sketches on Thursday and Friday that, when you looked in the program and saw they all contribute to The Onion, made you go, oh, that sounds about right. On Friday night, they delivered a seemingly never-ending series of acceptance speeches that gave thanks to concepts, things, numbers, Phil and especially Jessica Hess. They turned around Saturday and showed us a clever take on how the people of the Fifteenth Century may have gone to greater lengths to bless your sneeze. Much greater, more ritualistic lengths. A sketch about foreign language issues during surgery got cut short — "Pangea 3000, your food's here!" — and even vegetarians in the audience probably got hungry as the boys sat down to eat slabs of barbecue ribs. Some troupes didn't have the smoothest transitions or endings. These guys, meanwhile, closed their set with a rock song that not only called back to a previous sketch, but also included classic rock band introductions for each member of the troupe.

Also Friday: Harvard Sailing Team kept things upbeat from the outset, including all nine of its members for a literal take on the Guys and Dolls showtune, "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat," kept a nine-piece air band sketch short but sweet, flipped the gender script for a pair of scenes, and took a closer look at a recent Pizza Hut ad that blindfolded a family in their own home; The 3rd Floor came all the way from Portland, Ore., to present an hour of sketches that were all over the map, bringing them all together by the conclusion — sort of like Lost!; an audience member didn't seem to get the whole concept behind The Rejection Show, muttering loudly during most of the performances as if he were the first person to realize why these sketches and jokes didn't make it the first time.

IMG_4422wtmk And then there was your headliner, ladies and gentleman, Kevin McDonald! McDonald presented a one-man show — "Hammy and the Kids" — about the two biggest parts of his life, his father, Hamilton, and his sketch comedy group, Kids in the Hall. He followed that up on Saturday with a special edition of "Inside Joke" with Carl Arnheiter (who was partially responsible, it turns out, for McDonald putting on his one-man show to begin with!). Among the other revelations: McDonald was a chubby kid who got his first laugh after falling during Catholic Mass as an altar boy; he met Dave Foley in a mirror exercise at Second City in Toronto after getting kicked out of acting school; "living with Scott Thompson was a glorious adventure…like the time we had a masturbation fire!"; he and Thompson got into the habit of peeing in the sink for luck after what happened during the taping of their TV pilot for HBO/CBC; they became friends with Lewis Black during their yearlong stay in NYC writing the pilot, and once got run out of the West Bank Cafe for performing a sketch with an AIDS fairy in 1987; Kurt Cobain was on their guestlist for a show in Winnipeg, but didn't show up because he had killed himself, and that same show, they shared an elevator ride with Wayne Gretzky; the KITH also were in Seattle for Cobain's public vigil; the new KITH TV project for the CBC, an eight-part miniseries called "Death Comes To Town," begins filming in Canada this August (no U.S. TV partnership just yet).

All photos courtesy of Tracey B. Wilson, the official Sketchfest NYC photographer.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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