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Category archive for: Sketches

Checking in With You

I had my first stand-up performance at an open mic last month. It was exhilarating. All my friends and one stranger laughed. The stranger, a young woman who was probably high as a kite, said, “Oh my god I love her,” after one of my jokes. I said, “Thank you!” And I meant it. I should have said, “I love you too,” because that would have been polite.

They (people who talk about stand-up) say that you need to repeat your act and really hone in on the jokes. I bought some props I’m going to use for one joke, and I’ve written two new jokes I think I can clean up. Now I just have to work up the courage to attend another event!

My sketch career is also really blossoming. I recently wrote one that I’m especially proud of. I’m going to post it here. We haven’t performed it yet, but we will at the next show, I think.

I hope you can be happy for me, sweet blog. I’m not ignoring you because we’re not friends anymore. Rather, I’m not making time for you because there are more pressing matters I must attend to, namely my thriving comedy career. And you should be happy for me, because if I make it, that means we make it. That was the plan all along. You, me, and David, we’re going to be big stars.

Enjoy this sketch!

Setting: Bank
Ellen
Little Jane
Johnson (teller)
Manager (teller’s manager)
Bank Robber (female)

ELLEN
Sweetie, mommy just needs to order some new checks, and then we can go to the ice cream shop.

LITTLE JANE
Okay mommy, I’m going to order chocolate!

JOHNSON
Alright Ms. Applebaum, I’m going to finalize your request for new checkbooks and we’ll be all set.

BANK ROBBER
(charges in)
EVERYBODY GET DOWN! WHAT HAPPENS IN THE NEXT TWO MINUTES CAN BE VERY EASY OR VERY DIFFICULT.

(everyone in line ducks down)

JOHNSON
Is this a robbery?

BANK ROBBER
YES! Put all the money available into this bag. If you don’t, I’m going to shatter this bank’s glass ceiling.

JOHNSON
(yelling) I believe you already have Miss! We have never had a female bank robber before.

ELLEN
(yelling, while down on the ground)
As the first female bank robber, you are going to be representative of all female bank robbers. (turns to little Jane)
BECAUSE THAT’S HOW IT IS FOR WOMEN TODAY JANE!

BANK ROBBER
GIVE ME ALL OF YOUR MONEY!

JOHNSON
Miss, please remain calm. I have to ask my manager to open the vault.

BANK ROBBER
FINE!

MANAGER
(enters)
Johnson, did you need my help with a customer?

JOHNSON
Yes, I have a woman here who is being very assertive, if you catch my drift.

MANAGER
I read you loud and clear Johnson, she is being a bitch. Women!

JOHNSON
No sir, she is trying to rob the bank.

MANAGER
Well, hm, bless her heart.

JOHNSON
I need you to open the vault sir.

BANK ROBBER
Or else I’ll shoot!

ELLEN
And don’t you think for a second about paying her less than you pay the other robbers!
(to Jane) Jane she worked just as hard as any male bank robber. She deserves that. But SHE has to ask.

BANK ROBBER
SHUT UP!

ELLEN
You’re right! I shouldn’t treat you differently! I’M SORRY!

(Robber runs around and grabs manager and holds gun to head.)

MANAGER
AHH! THIS WOMAN IS INSANE! There’s no reasoning with her. GIVE HER THE MONEY, JOHNSON!

JOHNSON
OKAY!

MANAGER
WAIT JOHNSON. I can’t be the first manager that was robbed by a woman.

BANK ROBBER
(shoots)

ELLEN
A WOMAN MURDERER!

BANK ROBBER
I am not the first woman murderer!

ELLEN
NOR SHALL YOU BE THE LAST!
(turns to daughter)
The point is that women can do any job they want to do.

JOHNSON
Here is all the money, and I’ve counted it for you.

BANK ROBBER
I CAN COUNT FOR MYSELF.

ELLEN
(to Jane) She’s probably a math major Jane. A whiz at calculus no doubt!

BANK ROBBER
(runs out)

ELLEN
WAIT! DO YOU THINK WOMEN CAN HAVE IT ALL!?

THE END

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How to Get a Mentor

As you know, after my workshop last year, I was inspired to pursue sketch writing really actively. This past weekend I attended another workshop taught by not-my-mentor-yet-but-I-will-make-it-so-through-trickery-if-necessary.

During the workshop this weekend, I asked the instructor, Kevin McDonald from the Canadian 90s show, Kids in the Hall, what the next steps are. I told him that since the first workshop I took with him last year, I’ve been writing. He said the next steps are to re-write and ask people I trust to take a look and give feedback.

“I’ve re-written all my sketches seven times,” I said, without breaking eye-contact.

He continued, “Good, then you ask people in the industry, like me, to take a look.” This was the opening I had hoped for.

I said hesitantly, “Would you…look at my work?”

And he said, “Yes, because I know you, I remember you from last time, and you are funny. I will take a look.”

I was over the moon! I might have hopped giddily right in front of him.

Then I immediately said, “I have my portfolio here!” and reached into my bag.

He looked surprised and said, “Don’t give it to me now!”

And I was crestfallen.

He said, “Wait until the end of the day, so I don’t lose it between when you give it to me and when I go back.”

So then at the end of the day, I cornered him again! He said, “I’m going to watch soccer, give it to me tomorrow!”

So at the end of Sunday, I ran after him and asked for a picture and asked if I could give him my folder. He finally took it! Then someone else gave him something and said, “This is that thing we were talking about.” And Kevin put it into my folder. I hope he doesn’t confuse that one pager with my work! That would be a disaster! Who knows what was on that one-pager?!

I haven’t heard back yet, but it has only been 27 hours since I gave him my folder.

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Sketch Writing Has Been Going Terribly

For my SNL sketch writing class, we were supposed to write a sketch at home, bring copies to class, ask a couple classmates to read the sketch aloud and get feedback. On the first day, my sketch had this line in it:

CUSTOMER 4
When I have a rough night, I request a gay, black paraplegic. Greta is a terrible driver. But she serves as a gentle reminder that I could have it worse. That keeps me grounded.

And there was a woman in the class who was an attorney for disability lawsuits. She was in a wheelchair. I was sitting right next to her. When it came time for my sketch to be reviewed, I just stared straight ahead and tried to avoid eye contact. The instructor muttered, “I don’t think that line is necessary,” after someone uncomfortably read it out loud. Then he shook his head at me.

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To Wait or Not to Wait

After Saturday’s “Sketch-writing” competition, an organizer and an actor approached me about joining their sketch writing team. “Your sketch was spot on,” she said. “We’re a team of seven writers and a handful of actors, and that’s just the kind of dark humor we’re looking for.”

I didn’t think my sketch was particularly dark. I replied: “Yeah, if that’s the kind of piece you’re looking for, that’s totally the kind of brooding writer I am.”

She correctly interpreted this as a sign of my interest, and she continued, pointing to the gentleman next to her: “Sean here, is one of our actors.”

“I love writing sketches for Sean.” I said, “Sean doesn’t know me, so I realize this might sound odd or creepy, but I have watched him, and I write sketches with him in mind.”

Sean raised his eyebrow thoughtfully, “I’m more flattered than creeped out.” Classic Sean. What a guy.

“I just love his acting style,” I continued, justifying my writing methodology. Obviously I didn’t have to do that, but I wanted to, so she would understand I am a serious writer who could be part of their team.

Sean walked away.

The organizer continued, “We’re a committed group.”

“I’m committed too,” I said, hoping she didn’t think much of my choice of words, especially after that whole Sean weirdness.

“We have a google doc where we store all of our sketches and review them,” she explained.

“I think google docs are great,” I replied. “Great for collaboration.”

She nodded, “We do the whole thing: write, produce for web, practice for live performances. We think DC is ready for sketch. Are you interested in these other components? Acting, producing, or are you just interested in writing?”

“This sounds great,” I replied. “I’m interested in the other components, but I’m primarily interested in writing. I don’t project very well as an actor.”

“Me too,” she said. “I’m not so great at projecting.”

I nodded, because I had seen her perform.

“So let me get your email, and I will send you a note and details,” she said.

I was in. I was in. I was in. So I gave her my email. Then I said, “Do you want to give me your email, in case you don’t contact me?”

“No that’s okay, I just need your email,” she said.

“And you’ll definitely email me?” I asked.

“Yes…” she said.

And she hasn’t emailed me yet! I know I wrote down my email correctly, because I know my email address by heart, and I have extraordinary penmanship.

I don’t really know what to do: should I email her, or should I wait? I want to be part of a sketch-writing group!

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Security Clearance

I attended another sketch writing event. This event went much better than the first, and my sketch earned me four chuckles and several pats on the back. The actors who played the parts really brought it to life, so I take one-third the credit. The third-third for credit go to David and Mike, who helped with the idea.

Security Clearance

Setting: 2 People in a coffee shop. One is taking notes while the other is speaking casually.

Characters:

OPM Agent: Leading the meeting. He is older and has a friendly affect. Too friendly. He is trying desperately to make friends in the midst of his clearance meetings.

Chris: Late thirties male.

OPM AGENT
Chris …Smith. Is that your legal name?

CHRIS
Yes.

OPM AGENT
British?

CHRIS
I don’t know. Maybe at some point.

OPM AGENT
You just seem like someone who has nobility in his blood.

CHRIS
Um okay.

OPM AGENT
Well let’s move on. Thank you for agreeing to meet today, Chris. This is a security interview about Jeff Saunders. I should tell you that according to the FAR Privacy Act, Mr. Saunders does have a right to request a written copy of my notes from today.

CHRIS
That’s fine.

OPM AGENT
Okay good. Let’s begin. Chris, what is your relationship with Jeff Saunders?

CHRIS
I’ve known Jeff for 10 years. We were roommates in college.

OPM AGENT
How did you first meet?

CHRIS
We met at freshman orientation.

OPM AGENT
Would you say you were – fast friends?

CHRIS
I guess. We hit it off.

OPM AGENT
It’s nice to become fast friends with someone.

CHRIS
I guess so.

OPM AGENT
How often do you see Mr. Saunders now?

CHRIS
Around once a week.

OPM AGENT
Oh, I’m sorry he doesn’t make more time for you.

CHRIS
Well, it’s fine. We’re both busy.

OPM AGENT
I’d make time for you.

CHRIS
What?

OPM AGENT
How would you characterize Mr. Saunders?

CHRIS
He’s a good guy. He’s someone you can really count on.

OPM AGENT
Hmm. You’re nice.

CHRIS
What?

OPM AGENT
That’s nice. Mr. Saunders sounds like a nice guy.

CHRIS
Yea.

OPM AGENT
Do you get the sense Mr. Saunders lives within his means, financially?

CHRIS
Um, yeah.

OPM AGENT
Do you know if he has any debts?

CHRIS
He has some student loans, but that’s all.

OPM AGENT
Oh student loans. Don’t you wish you had a friend who didn’t go on and on about his loans?

CHRIS
He doesn’t talk about them that much.

OPM AGENT
I like to talk about sports. Sports, and the ladies, and Netflix documentaries.

CHRIS
I like Netflix documentaries.

OPM AGENT
(Chuckles.) Chris, let’s focus on Mr. Saunders right now.

CHRIS
Um, okay.

OPM AGENT
Does Mr. Saunders have any relatives or friends that are foreign nationals?

CHRIS
Not that I know of.

OPM AGENT
He’s probably hiding them from you.

CHRIS
Why would he do that?

OPM AGENT
Probably worried you would steal all his friends.

CHRIS
(Bashful) Not me.

OPM AGENT
What, a charming guy like you?

CHRIS
I don’t have a lot of friends.

OPM AGENT
Jeff’s probably holding you back.

CHRIS
What no, Jeff’s a great guy.

OPM AGENT
Would you trust him with matters of National Security?

CHRIS
Absolutely.

OPM AGENT
Would you trust him with matters of the heart?

CHRIS
What is that supposed to mean?

OPM AGENT
Is he someone you can trust?

CHRIS
Absolutely. Jeff’s a good guy. I’d trust him with anything.

OPM AGENT
Okay very good. Can you tell me more about the kind of people he spends time with. For example, what do you know about his best friend, Steve Richardson?

CHRIS
Steve isn’t his best friend. I’m his best friend. Steve’s his co-worker.

OPM AGENT
Mr. Saunders listed Steve as his closest friend.

CHRIS
There has probably been some sort of mistake.

OPM AGENT
Mr. Saunders listed him as the primary contact on his form and confirmed their friendship status during my initial interview with him.

CHRIS
(aghast)

OPM AGENT
They see each other at least twice a week.

CHRIS
(looks away in dismay)

OPM AGENT
Steve is Jeff’s emergency contact.

CHRIS
Steve is Jeff’s emergency contact?!

OPM AGENT
Yes.

CHRIS
Well maybe he can call Steve the next time he hits a pedestrian.

OPM AGENT
You mean like a light tap?

CHRIS
He didn’t even pay for my dry cleaning.

OPM AGENT
Is that related?

CHRIS
And maybe Steve can ghost-write his next Lord of the Rings Fan Fiction.

OPM AGENT
Why would you agree to ghost-write? You should sign your name to that.

CHRIS
Ugh. That’s the last time I buy Sudafed for that ingrate. STEVE IS HIS BEST FRIEND?

OPM AGENT
Hm. You don’t need Mr. Saunders anymore. How about we get a beer and watch some Netflix documentaries?

THE END

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99% Postmortem

This past weekend I went to a sketch-writing-thing. People wrote sketches, and you could ask people to perform the sketches and get feedback to workshop your content. The original version of my sketch got one chuckle and some raised eyebrows. This motivated me to try again! I edited the sketch on the metro ride home, and I present to you the updated version of my first sketch: 99% Postmortem.

99% Postmortem

Setting: 4 people are gathered in a classroom or apartment condo. They are having a group meeting.

Characters:

Howard: Leading the meeting. He is older and a sociology professor.

Jennie: Twenty-something female who is sincere and chipper.

Gary: Granola thirty-something who may or may not be high and is a bit dirty.

Andrew: Uptight thirty-something. Tries to be nice but becomes more irritated as the meeting goes on.

Scene opens with people chatting, sitting in a circle. Howard calls the meeting to order.

HOWARD
I call this meeting of the 99% to order.

JENNIE
Um, there are only four of us here.

GARY
That’s because we’re no longer relevant, man.

ANDREW
Did anyone send an email to the distribution list?

GARY
We don’t keep lists, man. That’s 1 percenter speak.

HOWARD
He’s right. I posted about this on reddit.

GARY
I upvoted it.

HOWARD
Thank you, Gary. Yes, the post received 1 upvote. Ehem. I call this meeting to order. This is a post-mortem meeting. We need to discuss what went well and what could have used some improvement. Who would like to start?

ANDREW
(raises hand)

HOWARD
Ah yes, go ahead.

ANDREW
We did a really good job of gathering.

HOWARD
Yes. Fact. We gathered exceptionally well.

JENNIE
Yes, I learned about permits.

GARY
Permits were created by the man to give the working class a perception of freedom of speech.

ANDREW
That’s not true.

GARY
I, for one, swelled with pride when they called me a squatter.

HOWARD
(shakes head)
Let’s move on.

ANDREW
We made some great posters. They really resonated.

JENNIE
Absolutely. I learned how to leverage hemp rope, cardboard, permanent marker and glitter to make my words pop.

GARY
Way to go, MacGyver.
Posters were fine but our real strength was in our presence. Pitching tents was a good way to demonstrate to the world that we would no longer be suppressed by the walls of Wall Street. We don’t need brick houses.

ANDREW
What? No! Everyone needs brick houses. Or should have an equal opportunity to buy one.

GARY
Hey man, only pigs need brick houses. Don’t go spreading your upper class values where they’re not appreciated. Pig.

ANDREW
You grew up in a brick house.

JENNIE
Don’t throw that in his face.

GARY
Not cool, man.

HOWARD
Let’s move on. What could we have done differently?

ANDREW
I think if we had kept the tents in better condition, the media would have stuck around.

GARY
The media was created by the 1 percent to spout their vitriol.

ANDREW
They were on our side!

GARY
Sides are structural boundaries that cage people in.

JENNIE
I think you’re thinking of prisons.

ANDREW
Did you think you were in a prison when you defecated in front of the Channel 7 camera crew?

GARY
We had said that day we were going to shit on Wall Street!

HOWARD
That was a metaphor, son! A metaphor!

GARY
Metaphors are elitist, Dad!

HOWARD
You destroyed our campaign! We lost all credibility.

GARY
You never hugged me growing up!

HOWARD
(lunges at Gary)
I gave you everything!

JENNIE
I guess nepotism isn’t just a 1% problem.

THE END

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Sitcom Idea

“If I don’t wake up in the morning, just know that I had a good time.” I sighed, closing my eyes. “You showed me a good time.”
David thought about this for a moment and decided to not accept the compliment: “We need to go to the hospital if you are not feeling well.”
“I’ll be fine!” I replied. “I just drank too much.”
He sat back, “Well that was a really sad thing to say.”
“It was a really honest thing to say,” I whispered. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” he smiled and turned to sleep, absentmindedly-grabbing most of the comforter in the process. I was too weak to grab any back, so I laid there, in the cold, and drifted off to my final sleep.

This is the final scene to my new sitcom: How I Met My Maker. Every episode I unwittingly avoid death in a darkly humorous way, until the series finale, obviously, which will be deeply touching.

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Running in the Community Pool

I met a Canadian B-List celebrity from the 1980s over the weekend. Jealous much? He might have even been an A-List celebrity at one point. I’m not really sure. Either way, now that I’ve interacted with greatness, every other encounter I have had – and will have – will be uninspired. It’s a good thing you can’t talk back to me, blog, because perhaps you too would have left me wanting.

I kid of course. But let me tell you about the sketch-writing workshop with Kevin McDonald from Kids in the Hall that I took this weekend. It was awesome! The workshop involved using improv skills to develop comedy sketches. I loved every minute. The instructor had all sorts of fun anecdotes from working in the television and comedy writing industry, and I took vigorous notes, so now I too have fun anecdotes about working in the television and comedy writing industry. He also taught us his approach to sketch-writing and re-writing. It’s very straightforward. You come up with a concept, you improvise a scene, and then you re-work the scene until it tells a good story and gets some laughs.

Here’s an example of one of the scenes we worked on and the transformation it went through. I’ll change the names of my classmates of course.

Take 1: (Entirely improvised)

Location: Community Pool
First Line: “No running!”

Paul: (starts running)

Greg: No running!

Sally: Yeah! No running if you’re going to run that slow!

Mitchell: You can’t tell my kid what to do!

Greg: He’s getting in the way of all the other kids!

Mitchell: How dare you! How old are you anyway?

Greg: How old am I? How old am I?!

Sally: Show some respect. This lifeguard is 40 years old!

Mitchell: Oh.

Greg: I AM.

Sally: And we owe this man a round of applause. He is only recently allowed to be around young children again.

Sally: (begins clapping – everyone else begins awkwardly clapping as well.)

Greg: Thank you. Your kid needs to run faster.

Sally: Yes, perhaps we can help. In fact, I know we can help. I propose that Greg chases your son. That will compel your son to run really fast.

Mitchell: I’m not sure about this.

Greg: Yes…yes…I will chase your son.

Paul: Okay! (Starts running)

Greg: (starts running after Paul)

Mitchell and Sally start cheering: Run! Run! You can do it! Oh! Wait!

Greg: To the parking lot!

Mitchell and Sally: What! Not the parking lot!

Greg: I got you! I got you! Get into my van!

Paul: Oh no!

Greg: (mimes getting in a car and driving off and smiling like a crazy person)

Paul: (Looks very scared behind Greg)

Sally: (turns to Mitchell, who looks upset) I’m sorry Ma’am. I …didn’t think that would happen. Hm. Who could have seen that one coming?

End scene.

So…I confess, I was Sally in this scene. And I sincerely didn’t think Greg would follow-through on abducting Paul, because Rule #87 of improv is actually something along the lines of “Thou shalt not molest children.” Even though the sketch got a lot of laughs, we understood it wouldn’t really work as improvised because it was too dark.

Take 2: (Workshopped)

Location: Community Pool
First Line: “No running!”

Paul: (starts running)

Greg: No running!

Mitchell: You can’t tell my kid what to do!

Greg: (looks nervously at Sally)

Sally: (shaking her head and looking at her notepad) Greg, if you are going to pass the Life Guard Life Coach test, you need to step it up.

Greg: (nods, summons strength) I said, “NO RUNNING!” He could fall and hurt his head!

Mitchell: My son will hurt his head if he wants! He is training to be a professional football player and being exposed to concussions will make him even stronger.

Paul: I don’t know Mom. Maybe I shouldn’t be running. (takes out small bag of chips and starts eating)

Greg: What should I do Life Coach Coach?!

Sally: Concentrate! Remember Step 5! Life longevity!

Greg: (nods and rushes over to Paul) Are you stress eating? You should eat healthy!

Mitchell: MY SON WILL EAT HIS FEELINGS IF HE WANTS TO! HOW DARE YOU! He is eating to be a football player!

Sally: Greg this is not going as planned! Turn to Step 7! Dreams! You can’t get certified if you don’t pass Step 7!

Greg: Son, do you even want to play football? What do you really want to do with your life?

Paul: Well..actually…I want to be a publicist.

Mitchell: A publicist…FOR A FOOTBALL TEAM!

Sally: Greg you’re going strong here. You’ve established his dreams. Now…all you have to do is Fix the Family Dynamic. Fix it, Greg. It’s broken right now.

Greg: (Nods and turns towards Mitchell) It’s very clear to me there’s no man in your life.

Sally: Greg, what?

Greg: (gets down on one knee in front of Mitchell)

Sally: Greg this is not part of the reference material. What are you doing?

Greg: I would be honored if you would take me as your husband. I will be a father to your son and a lover to your needs. Will you marry me?

Sally: (scribbling madly in her notebook)

Mitchell: (touched) I…I don’t know what to say….I, YES. Yes! I do! You’ve made me so happy!

Sally: GREG THIS IS UNPRECEDENTED! And INCREDIBLE! You have fixed this family dynamic! AND PASSED THE LIFE GUARD LIFE COACH TEST! Congratulations! Welcome to the team! (reaches out to shake Greg’s hand – Greg shakes it.)

Greg: Thank you, but I’m afraid I can’t accept the position.

Sally: What? You’ve worked so hard for this.

Greg: Well, I can’t make it on that salary. I have a family to take care of now. I have mouths to feed.

Sally: Huh?

Greg: (Turns towards family)

Paul: Daddy! (Famly hugs)

End scene.

We received feedback after this second version that I thought was solid.
1) Play up the Life Coach, Coach jokes
2) Insert some parts where we do Life Guard/pool activities, for example switching towers or testing for chlorine levels.

I would have liked to have played with those ideas of course. Perhaps I will come back to this!

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