Wednesday, August 31

A Sketch22 Dating Question

If you've seen our show, then perhaps you remember some of the characters.

So here's a queston for the Ladies.  And/or for the Ladies inside the Men:

If you were to choose, which character would you pick to go on a date with:

Used Tampon, the happy Young Company Festy
Jim Simmons, the political correct word nerd
Hat-Trick, the one-night-stand mental midget
Debbie Gaudet, the foul-mouthed lesbian
Punchy, the stand-up Robot

Extra! Extra! More Shows Added!

So, you thought you could get through the summer without seeing Sketch22, did you?  You've been breathing easier this week, thinking that the run of that interminable in-your-face sketch comedy show was done, and now you could brave the streets of Charlottetown, not caring if you ran into "sketchers" because now you had your "Yeah, I was planning on seeing your show, but something always seemed to be coming up, and now it's too late" excuse speech practically memorized?
Not so fast, fast-pants.
We've added more shows.  Yes, Sketch22 has been held over for two more weekends.  There's still five more shows you'll have to avoid.  This Thursday and Friday, Sept.1&2, and next Thursday and Friday, Sept.8&9. 
"Ah-hah!" you say to yourself. "I've been fortunate enough to work in a field of labour that causes me to work on Thursday and Friday evenings, most likely in the food service industry.  Because of that, I'll still be able to avoid the show that people either really enjoy or really despise, but mostly really enjoy."
Again, not so quick, quick-shorts.
See, we've added a Super Special No Holds Barred Final Show on Sunday September 11.  Yes, Sunday.  So unless you have, like, the shittiest work schedule ever, you're gonna have an evening free to come to this show. 

And better yet, if you do go to the Special Sunday show, you don't have to worry about your $15  admission going to support the filthy-minded reprobrates who wrote, produced and act in the show.  No, if you go to the Special Sunday show, your $15 admission, every penny, will go towards food for the filthy reprobates who populate this town and rely on the Food Bank for sustenance.
Our Special Sunday performance is a show for charity, and every single dollar from tickets sold at the box office is going to the Food Bank.  Maybe you'd want to pay more than $15?

We hope to have one of those "presenting a giant cheque" photos taken for The Guardian.  Our dream is to have the character "Used Tampon" present a cheque to a street person.

Monday, August 29

Un-Labour Day

So now that I'm a famous media pundit (really the only person one should talk to in reference to all things The Office), it's time to say good-bye to the humdrum boredom of a bi-monthly paycheque and start the next chapter in my quest for financial stability.
This Friday is going to be my final day at the job I've held for the past 6 or 7 years.  Earlier this month, I informed those that needed informing that I was quitting. My reason for leaving is primarily one of feeling under-appreciated, as far as being paid what I should for the work I do.  I probably should have left two weeks after giving my notice, but, being the nice guy I am, I offered to stay on until the end of the month, to help train my replacements. Plus the extra couple of weeks of income will come in handy.
I quit without having any solid (or even loose-stool) prospects of a replacement job or career.  I have a couple of small projects that will get me through the next month or so, but after that, it's a serious question mark as to how my family manages to maintain the low middle class lifestyle to which we've grown accustomed.
Qutting a job at the age of almost-40 (only days away), with a wife and a kid and a falling-down house and breaking-down car may be the most moronic thing I've ever done, but I'm hoping it will lead to a more fulfilling life.
It's a rather scary step to take, but a step that I take with no concern that it's the wrong move to make.
It was time for a change.  Rather than wait for the change to come to me, I've decided to find the change.  (yes, I'm going to be a pro-active bum).
So, this Labour Day, as the world celebrates, um, Labour... I'll be celebrating Un-Labour.  Or De-Labour? Or Dis-Labour?

The People That You Meet

I am worried for a) the internets, and b) the state of journalism in today's universe.

Because someone thought me worthy enough to be interviewed for a People magazine piece on the TV show "The Office".  Worthy, based on a couple of posts I made regarding The Office on this here blog here.  Yes, I was interviewed via telephone yesterday by a writer for People magazine (at least, he claimed he was a writer for People magazine).  He wanted my opinions on the NBC version of The Office being nominated for The Emmys.  I answered his questions.
I had mixed emotions about the whole affair.  It was nice, I guess, to be singled out from the pack and asked my opinion.  But, really, why should my opinion matter?
Seriously, if this is the state of journalism (even if it's "entertainment" journalism), where a hack like me potentially (I honestly doubt I'll get mentioned in the article) becomes a source in such a piece, and the things I say thereby achieve some level of legitimacy because they're in this magazine (even if it is just People), then I wonder about the legitimacy of sources in every piece of journalism I see or read in the future.

In the grand scheme of things, I am a Nobody With A Blog (and I am not being self-deprecating, just honest).  Since when have we started caring what Nobodies have to say?   I realise that blogs have become a popular buzz-phenom in the mainstream media, and I know that the media has begun to masturbate itself all over the fad, but when I am the chicken that the media begins to choke, then I think it's gone quite a bit too far.
I should not be interviewed for a People magazine piece on The Office.  I just shouldn't.
Should I?

I think somebody, somewhere, made a big mistake.

Friday, August 26

Midnight At The Oasis

We are performing a special midnight show of Sketch22 tonight.  We usually do this for the Festies and assorted people who aren't normally available to see the 8pm shows...  It's usually a pretty fun show and the audience is usually, um, primed for a good time.
Check it out, if you're up to nothing at midnight tonight.
Believe me, you've not lived 'til you've seen Debbie Gaudet at 2 in the morning.

Tuesday, August 23

My Picks Are Better Than Your Picks

For the past few years, I've been making NFL picks at a fantastic free NFL Picks pool site.

Visit it here.

I've just created a new pool for the upcoming NFL season.  If you'd like to join my pool, and try to challenge my uncanny ability to prognosticate the weekly winners and loser of the Football League they call National, then why not sign up and join my pool.  You should be warned, though, I got almost 55% of my picks right one season.  That's, like, one better than flipping a coin... Remember, picks are made based on the point spread between teams for each game.

It's free to sign up.
Once you register, then look for the pool called "The Annekenstein Monster"
The password to join The Annekenstein Monster pool is:   sketch22

Monday, August 22

Ess-Tee-Eee... Vee-Eee-Arr... Eye-Enn-Oh

I know, I know, you're all sick of the Sketch22 stuff.
Sorry, it's all I have.
Here's a little bit of a word-up on the show from Steverino, the brother of Sean McQ.

Click Here to read the post from his blog, Steverinoland.  Thanks, Steve, for coming to the show.

Sunday, August 14

Appealingly Appalling

Well, I suppose I should comment on the quickly-becoming-legendary Charles Mandel Sketch 22 review.  Many are calling it the worst theatrical review ever to hit the pages of the Guardian.  I don't know, some of those Confederation Centre reviews they spew every year are pretty ass-kissy.  But I guess that's taking "worst" in the opposite direction.

First off, I acknowledge that it's hard not to sound petty when the scathed confronts points made in a scathing review, so I hope I won't sound too petty.  But, in short, I think Charles Mandel pretty much got it all wrong.
Yes, he's entitled to his opinion and yes it's his job to report his experience of the performance.  So let's get that out of the way first.  He did that, and he quite obviously hated the show.  I can live with that.  I wish, however, that in his review, he would have been more truthful
about how his opinion of the show seemed to be counter to the opinions
of the majority of the people in attendance with him.
When we were writing and rehearsing the show, we knew there would be segments of the audience who would hate the show.  Our hope, though, was that the majority would like it.  Our hope seems to be winning. 
Besides the goal of producing a Funny Show, another of our goals this year was to challenge ourselves and our audience as to what is funny: So we wrote sketches that dance all around the limits of comedy, and the boundaries of "good taste".  We acknowledge quite openly that we often cross those boundaries.  Yes, to shock, but also (and I don't want to get all artsy-fartsy here), to explore.  Explore just how far one can go before a joke becomes too much.  Explore how far an audience is willing to go before they say "enough, that's too far".  Explore the depths even further and see if the audience decides "no, we were wrong, this is still funny", and then go farther still, until all agree that the limit has been reached.  And how do we judge the results of the explorations?  Simply, by the laughter.  If an audience laughs, then it's funny.  It's (almost - see below) that simple. 
Now I know of actors who kid themselves that their productions are better than they are, and who brainwash themselves into believing that audiences are loving their shows and performances more than they actually are.  I believe that I'm a pretty objective critic of any shows I've been involved in and I believe I have a pretty good sense of when an audience is honestly enjoying a show, and when they are "being supportive".  With comedy shows, it's much easier to guage an audience than it is with drama.  With comedy, audiences either a) laugh honestly, b) laugh in support, or c) don't laugh.  I may have brainwashed myself into believing this, but I'm pretty sure that audiences who see Sketch 22 are laughing pretty honestly.  A lot.  And hard.
Which brings me to the crowd in which Charles Mandel found himself in last week.  Now, Charles insinuates that the audience wasn't enjoying the show very much.  Saying things like "People forget to laugh"; "but the majority of the crowd remained silent" implies that the audience didn't laugh.  Saying something like "finally, though, a couple of the questions loosened the crowd up", implies that the crowd that night was stiff and tight.
This may very well be the way Mr. Mandel heard the audience, but from my perspective, the crowd that night was, without doubt, the most boisterous, loud, accepting, energetic, appreciative crowd we'd had so far to that point.  This year or last year.  It was a fantastic show, from beginning to end, and the audience's enjoyment was a huge part of it.  Again, maybe I've talked myself into imagining this, but I honestly don't think so. 
Because the audience was so over-whelmingly supportive and appreciative, I was looking forward to Mr. Mandel's review.  If he didn't like the show, I thought, at least he'd have to comment about the way the rest of the crowd liked it.
So, I was rather dismayed by Mr. Mandel painting the picture to Guardian readers that the show was not appreciated by the audience.  I think what happened was, the show wasn't appreciated by Mr. Mandel (and, no doubt, a few others), and to prop up his minority position, he, perhaps, chose not to  hear the roaring laughter, the clapping and cheering.  Maybe he was so worked up and bothered, outraged, by the content, all he heard were the swear words, and all he saw was filth.
Because, based on his review, he certainly missed a lot.  In fact, he missed a fucking great show.
What did he miss, in particular?
In my opinion, he missed some very key components of some of the sketches.  Too fixated on the crudeness, perhaps.  Regarding the lesbian stand up comedian, he claims (at least this is how I read it) that I bombed in my performance.  Even if he is referring to the character bombing (but I'm pretty sure he's referring to me, the actor, not the character I was playing), he says "It's not pleasant watching a comedian bomb."
Well, to me, that comment speaks volumes and perfectly illustrates how Mr. Mandel failed in his review of the show.  You see, Mr. Mandel, in that sketch, the character is supposed to bomb.  She is supposed to be an unfunny comedian.  Regarding that sketch, you wrote "nervous titters and giggles came from a number of people along with outright expressions of dismay".  What you failed to recognize is that the sketch was written and is performed to achieve precisely that reaction from the audience.  I wrote that sketch so that an audience would (hopefully) laugh along at the beginning of the sketch, and then as the character becomes uglier and more vile and more gratuitous in her language, more and more of the audience would feel uncomfortable and fewer and fewer people would laugh.  And it works very well.  Most people, whether they realise it or not, understand this, and are more than willing to come along for the ride to see just how bad it's going to get.
So, Mr. Mandel, you see, you don't see.  Now, you may ask, why would you want to have a sketch in a comedy show that's designed to get an audience to stop laughing?  It's a very good question, and one that compelled me to write the sketch.  It's kinda like an experiment.  In one sense, though, Mr. Mandel, I did fail in that sketch.  You see, by and far away, that character and sketch has become beloved by a huge number of people who've seen the show.  I tried to write a character that would repulse an audience, and ended up creating one who is adored by many.  In that way, I failed.  Yet, you were repulsed, Mr.Mandel, so in that way I succeeded, I guess.  Just like a Bag of Dog Poop, I'm so confused.
What else?
Okay, the "man-on-man" kiss.  You seem to take pleasure in the "Thank you" heckle from the audience member.  As if you were relieved that there was another person in the audience, besides yourself who couldn't handle such an event taking place before their (your) eyes.  You seem to be proud of that heckle, whereas I see it as a sad statement of homophobia.  A person so appalled by the very threat of seeing two men kiss that he is compelled to shout out his thanks at it not happening.  In truth, though, I don't think that guy meant it in such a homophobic way (yet I'm wondering whether your inclusion of it in your review is meant in that way?).  I prefer to believe that he just didn't want to see the big blonde guy kiss the skinny dark-haired guy.  I think that's the beauty of that moment.  Most people are equally compelled to watch and to avert their eyes.  They want it to simultaneously happen and not happen, hoping it'll be as awful as they're scared it will actually be.  It's such a Beautifully Ugly moment.
Hey, you know, maybe that homophobic reaction is exactly the kind we were hoping to elicit?  Maybe we're saying it's not the two guys on stage who are kissing who are appalling.  Perhaps the appalling ones are those in the audience who are disgusted by it. 
And, in reference to that heckle, you say "it's bad when the funniest lines come from the crowd."  Now, I question, really, whether that was the funniest line of the night, but it did get a laugh, to be sure (there are so many lines that get huge laughs, it's really hard to single one out.  We love all our babies.  Again, strange you didn't mention all the laughter in your review).  Yet, again, I have to disagree with you when you say "it's bad".  To me, a funnly line at a comedy show is a good thing, whether it's spoken by someone on stage or off.  If it somehow fits within the context of the show (as this line did) and it gets a laugh from the rest of the crowd, then I don't care who says it.
Oh, the "minds of 13 year olds" line. I'll have you know, I don't think there's one fart joke in the whole show.  Your comment almost compels me to imply that your review was written with the same basis of maturity, but my sense of decency keeps me from doing such.
Really, though, you're right that many of the lines in the nudist sketch are rather juvenile and full of double-entendre.  I don't know why that's a concern, though, since most nights many of those lines can't even be heard by the audience or by the actors, since there's a roar of laughter through so much of the sketch.  Seriously, it's like the Beatles performing at Shea Stadium.  We can't even hear ourselves perform at many points during that sketch.  Too bad the audience is being tricked by us into laughing.
Another comment that I think misses the mark is the one about Trailer Park Boys being a "not so intelligent satire".  Truthfully, I've only seen a few episodes, but the ones I saw seemed to be pretty smart satire.  And I would also suggest he misses the point if he thinks that sketch was making fun of TPB.  I would say we were exploring the same areas of society that TPB explores.

Other lines to comment on: 
"But bludgeoning their audience with scandalous language isn't particularly clever."  I would counter with this: Nor is it particularly clever to entirely miss the clever aspects of the show you're claiming isn't particularly clever.
"Much of the show can't even be discussed in a family newspaper such as this one." I bet a competent writer would find a way. (okay, that was a little petulant.  I will give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he meant he didn't *have time* to bother to find a way to discuss those aspects of the show in a way suitable to a family newspaper such as this one.)

I guess, in the end, it boils down to a difference of opinion.  I really enjoyed reading it.  It doesn't bother me that he didn't like it.  I wish, though, that he tried a bit harder to see beyond his outrage at the foul-mouthed outrageousness and attempt to review the aspects of the show that take place beneath that layer of filth.  I am also a bit bothered that his review, in my opinion, misrepresents the fun and excitement and pleasure so many audience members seem ot experience when they see the show.  I feel bad for those who were perhaps contemplating coming to the show, and then, having read his review, decide against seeing it.

Seriously, who are you going to trust?  The guy who hated the show the one time he saw it, or the guy who loves to perform in it more and more with each successive performance?  And one of the main reasons I love to perform in it is because the audience reaction is so fantastic and enthusiastic.

He's right though, the show is appalling.  But in a most appealing way.

Friday, August 12

But Did You Like It?

Sketch-22 pushes show to the raunchy limit

by Charles Mandel

    Judging from the full house Friday night at The Guild, the word is out about Sketch-22.

    The suspicion, however, is people are jamming the venue not because the comedy quintet is especially funny, but because they've heard the show is especially raunchy.
    Make no mistake, Sketch-22's second season is about as raw as it gets.  Much of the show can't even be discussed in a family newspaper such as this one.
    But if foul-mouthed stand-up comedians strike you as funny, you'll love this show.
    It's not as if profanity is something new in humour.  Comedians like Lenny Bruce have relied on the shock of the outrageous to pull laughs from their audiences.
    It's a little different, though, when the outrage overtakes the humour.  People forget to laugh.
    That's exactly what happened at times at the Guild. The troupe pushed the performance so far that they lost their audience.
    During at least one skit in which Rob MacDonald played a lesbian stand-up comic, nervous titters adn giggles came from a number of people along with outright expressions of dismay, but the majority of the crowd remained silent.
    It's not pleasant watching a comedian bomb.
    Josh Weale's appearance as Jesus offering to take questions from the crowd also got off to an awkward start.  Finally, though, a couple of the questions loosened up the crowd.
    Elsewhere, at the end of the night, when MacDonald was threatening to give another cast member a full tongue "man-to-man" kiss, but backed off, someone from the audience heckled, "Thank you!"  That prompted one of the first full laughs from the audience in several minutes.
    It's bad when the funniest lines come from the crowd.
    A segment featuring Andrew Sprague as a doctor visiting a nudist colony drew waves of helpless laughter from the audience - even if much of it was in disbelief.  Although the language of the skit was fairly juvenile, composed of obvious double entendres, people cracked up as members of Sketch-22 appeared nude but for strategically placed items.
    The Full Monty had nothing on this.
    Another piece that kept the audience in stitches featured MacDonald as a man who arranged swaps for unwanted babies.
    And why would they be unwanted?  Because, they were "from away".
    Advised MacDonald: If you want that boy to be an Islander, "make sure his first word is pogey."
    But the laugh-out-loud skits were few and far between this year.  The problem isn't with the comedians.  MacDonald, along with fellow satirists Josh Weale, Andrew Sprague, Graham Putnam and  - new to the troupe this year - Dennis Trainor are reasonably funny guys.
    However, if their material is anything to go by, they have the minds of 13-year-olds.  The majority of their skits seemed designed to be as offensive as possible.  If that was the goal, they succeeded.  But bludgeoning their audience with scandalous language isn't particularly clever.
    Occasionally, snippets of local or political humour made their way into the act, but for the most part it was just one vulgarity heaped upon another.
    Perhaps Sketch-22 believes this is what an audience raised on Trailer Park Boys, rap music adn MTV's Jackass deserves.
    To be sure, one skit explicitly made reference to that whole culture when MacDonald introduced himself as "Teddy Goldman, producer of the Low Income Boys."
    The problem, though, with trying to make fun of something that's already a not-so-intelligent satire is it becomes a question of how low can you go, and as Sketch-22 proves, they can go very low indeed.
    Given that Sketch-22 wrote their humour to be as outrageous as possible, what more can be said: they succeeded.  The show is appalling.

Here's the review of our show by The Guardian's Charles Mandel.  I'll comment more when I get a chance.  Thought you might like to read it, though.  I think he liked it!

Wednesday, August 3


I just found out today that one of my close childhood friends just overdosed and died.
This, of course, makes me sad.
We were very close during the first twelve years or so of my life.  A Top Four Friend who sometimes elevated to Best Friend.  As we grew into mid-teenagers, though, we began to lose touch with one another.  Him choosing to explore the more wild, troubled, rebellious side of teenagedom, and me perhaps more comfortable remaining within the confines of sensibility.
He was always a very smart person, one who perhaps, as such, over-analyzed everything. As a result, he had, I'd say, a hard time finding himself, and as he grew into an adult, those troubles manifested themselves and he began to experience all manner of difficulties, psychologically speaking.
He kind of disappeared from my life for the past 20 years yet I'd frequently think of him and wonder how he was coping.  I never really bothered to actually find out though, selfishly preferring to keep his troubles out of my life.  About as far as I'd go in that respect was to ask my parents if they heard any updates about him from his parents, who live a few houses away.  It was rare that his parents offered any updates on his status.  And when they did, it was usually more of the same kind of news: trouble coping, rough times, hard news.  Not exactly the kind of topic you want to bring up.
I felt guilty about 15 years ago, when our lives briefly intersected again.  He was not in the best state, mentally, yet desired us to form a friendship.  I rebuked him with what I thought, and still do think, were valid reasons why I couldn't, at that time, entertain the potential for rekindling a friendship that would likely be rather needy from his side.  I still feel bad for that.  Not because I think I did the wrong thing, but because I wasn't able to give him the support he needed at the time.
I hadn't really heard a hing about him in the last 5 years, but tonight my mother called me to tell me she found out he died. 
All kinds of implications in that word, but I'd rather not speculate on that. 
I'd rather remember that he was the first friend I remember.  I can still remember the first time we met, him a year older than me, arriving in short pants and introducing himself to me in my house, me playing alone at the time in my caged playpen.
I'd rather remember the incredibly fun times we had together as kids.  Playing all kinds of sports, all the time it seemed. Inventing and playing all kinds of games.  Going to the beach and riding in the back of his parents car, not seatbelted in child-seats, but unbuckled on the top of a couple of orange crates so we could see out the windows, laughing our heads off as the crates would tip over as we went around sharp turns.   
I'd rather remember that, as teenagers, his musical taste and knowledge was leaps and bounds beyond mine and how his music appreciation ignited a similar fire in me.
I'd even rather remember those times when I saw him going down what I thought were the wrong paths in life and not being able to pull him back.
He always seemed to be searching, way too hard, for a simple, easy, peaceful state of mind.  I hope he found some of that, at least for a brief moment or two.


Extras Extras Read All About It!

I downloaded the first two episodes of Ricky Gervais' new "sitcom" and watched 'em. It's really hard to watch Extras and not compare it to The Office, but I'm a man of exquisite talent, and am thus able to.

Extras is a great show. Ricky plays Andy Millman, a guy who considers himself 'an acTOR' even though he's only ever had roles in film and television as non-speaking extras. Each episode, so far and I assume will continue as such, finds him in yet another production. His main goal each time is to acquire a line in the production and the episode casually follows his attempts to cajole someone of import in terms of the production to get him a line.
He has a female friend, Maggie Jacobs (played by Ashley Jensen) who is also an extra, but her main goal each episode seems to be to find a successful person to marry. She is supposed to be a rather dim-bulb and Jensen plays her as wonderfully dense yet likable. Together, they make a great team and take turns tossing off some really funny lines.
Ricky is great at creating characters you simutaneously like and loathe. Andy Millman is not David Brent (there goes my self-declared "exquisite talent" credibility), but they do share some similarities. The world doesn't revolve around Millman as it did around Brent. Whenever David Brent was on screen, he was the centre of attention. In Extras, Andy Millman in rarely the centre of attention, just like a good extra should never be. In many of the scenes so far, he is on the fringe, trying to bask in the glow of the "talent" that he tries to associate with on the set. Gervais does this brilliantly and it's really a pleasure to watch him. Only when he is alone with Maggie, or with the whomever he's trying to get to get him a line, does his more Brent-like insenstivity and selfishness come out.
A difference between this series and The Office seems to be that this series, so far, doesn't seem to have any episodic arc like The Office did. Each episode of Extras seems to be more of a stand-alone piece. This is neither good nor bad, it just is.
Each episode seems to involve a guest appearance by someone famous. First episode had Ben Stiller playing himself (a wonderfully serious and rather egotistical version of himself) as the director of a "serious" film about a Bosnian tragedy. The second episode had another Somebody (a British somebody I assume, one I wasn't acquainted with) playing himself as an actor in a Napoleonic period TV series. I was worried at first when I heard there'd be guest appearances each episode, worried that they'd not be able to pull off the subtlety sometime required to play themselves in a comedic way. So far, those fears were ill-founded because the casting and writing and performances have been great.

That's enough. It's a great show, and well worth seeking out the weekly bittorrents.

The Greater Wow

Answer me this:
Would a person from, say, the year 1749 be more impressed with today's indoor plumbling-slash-toilet, or more impressed with the toilet paper on a roll?

Now, on first flush, one might think that the toilet would make a greater impression, but when you think about it, you might be inclined to say the toilet paper would make more of an impact.