Stand up, sketch, and improv traditionally represent the three main forms of live comedy. Over the last few years, however, there have been derivations of the three forms into shows focused on storytelling or the comic playing multiple characters. Then, there’s the oft-criticized one-person show.
The three forms used to exist nearly exclusive from each other, but as comedian Kyle Kinane recently said in an interview with Austinist, “We’re all doing comedy, dummy.”
I recently attended a “solo sketch show.” To achieve something labeled as such, you’d imagine it would take a great melding of the aforementioned three forms in such a way that would require the most well-rounded of comedic skills.
The show I saw in LA will travel to the Just for Laughs comedy festival in July. Here’s what it entails: a series of comedians take turns on stage performing10-minutes worth of sketches that they have written and directed themselves.
Though this might sound like just another type of solo show that’s frequently made fun of, especially by stand-up comics (because of its seemingly self-indulgent nature) the solo sketch show differs in that the time allotted forces to-the-point writing and performing in a set of well thought out and organized sketches.
Throughout the show, performers took a variety of approaches receiving warm room laughs to unbridled laughter and applause. Some did a variety of characters that delved into crowd work while others utilized props and multimedia; still others, simply performed a series of funny scenes. Those that created a story within their time made best use of the “solo sketch” format. Employing techniques from stand-up, sketch and improv, the most talented comics seamlessly transitioned between audience banter, monologue, characters, telling traditional jokes and even singing to almost non-stop laughs.
Though the bounds and rules of a “solo sketch” will be figured out and consequently broken repeatedly like they are with any other form of comedy, its development is a good sign for the progress of comedy as an art form.