Originally, I had a few thoughts on the future of television here. Since they made this review awfully long, and took away from the conversation about what the Junior Varsity guys were doing, I expanded them and moved them to a new blog entry. Okay. Back to your regularly-scheduled blog.A few weeks ago, I reviewed Alexis Niki’s mythic archetype-drenched Web TV series, My Bitchy Witchy Paris Vacation. Since then, I’ve discovered a wealth of original content waiting on the Web. Much to my surprise, a lot of it is quite good. Some of it, in fact, is as good as a lot of what you’ll find on the commercial networks or cable television channels.
One of the surprises I’ve found lately is The Best Sketch Comedy Show from the guys at Junior Varsity TV. As you can tell from the descriptive if not overly modest title, this is a sketch comedy series. So far, the team has posted eight episodes, each around four or five minutes long. All of them are funny enough to make you smile—and, in fact, all contain at least one or two good laugh out loud moments.
Sketch comedy is hard to pull off, at least if you define “pulling it off” as doing it well. The best sketches create a character quickly, usually one you can describe in a sentence (remember John Belushi’s Samurai? Or Eddie Murphy’s Buckwheat?) and puts them in an absurd situation that’s good for a few obvious chuckles. To really pay off, the best sketches build toward an obvious punchline, and then veer away at the last second to a different, unexpected payoff. The guys at Junior Varsity do two of the three brilliantly—the situations are good for a smile, and the punchlines, more often than not, actually inspire a laugh. The characters they create (with a few exceptions, like the way, way wrong but way funny Jesus for Justice) aren’t that memorable. They usually play variations on their own everyman personas. It works, though.
The Best Sketch Comedy Show hasn’t quite lived up to it’s title yet. Unless they mean the best on the Web, which is possible, because honestly, I haven’t seen any others. Still, they are easily as good as most of the sketch troops I’ve seen live (some of which are quite brilliant) and many of the ones I’ve seen on commercial television. I won’t put them on a pedestal with the very best of Saturday Night Live just yet, but I’d put them ahead of, say, the Anthony Michael Hall years (yeah, I guess that’s damning with faint praise), and ahead of most of the sketch shows I’ve seen on cable that don’t involve Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. The production quality exceeds some of what you’ll see on cable. More, the episodes get better as they go along, although all are worth the four or five minute investment.
In short, if you go out to see live improv, and you enjoy it, this is going to be your cup of tea. Give it a try, and let me know what you think.