Sketch Study 10/13/14: GO THE DISTANCE
I’m intrigued by the idea of distance. How far can a sketch take the audience from start to finish? As a teenager, I remember falling in love with the frustrated screaming depths of darkness to which Mr. Show and Will Ferrel could push their smiling straight men.
Now, Key and Peele is my model of how far one can push. It has become their signature. The sketch above, “Family Matters" begins as a clever but ordinary how-did-this-get-made type of sketch. Let’s have the actor who plays Carl Winslow standing in the show runner’s office complaining about the ridiculous ways Steve Urkel is taking over the show. But of course, it doesn’t stop there. How could it?
The other day, my sketch group Stupid Time Machine was writing a sketch in preparation for our October East Coast Tour. We were trying to find an ending, and one of the members said “we’ve gotta think like Key and Peele here; How far would they push this concept?” Pretty wonderful when a show - especially one on network TV - can reshape how comedians think and write. The point: take your audience on a ride. When you have a solid premise and a fun game; don’t stop. Push to see how far you can go. Push till it no longer makes sense - till the whole house burns down and the your bickering husband and wife characters are charred skeletons still bickering; till they are just molecules of ash arguing as they blow on the wind. Hell, you are a great writer. You can always walk it back to a place that is both surprising and believable.
The audience doesn’t know it yet, but they want to see you pull the trigger. They want to see the brains come out and splatter against the wall. Because if that happens - holy shit - what’s next?