As the year winds down, WitOut collects lists from comedy performers and fans of their favorite moments, comedians, groups, shows, etc. from the last year in Philly comedy. Top 5 of 2012 lists will run throughout December, and slightly beyond, if we deem it necessary–if you’d like to write one, pitch us your list at firstname.lastname@example.org!
In past years, I made it a goal to see every sketch comedy show that went up in Philly at least once. I considered it a duty to support the other sketch groups in town, but I also benefited from seeing what my peers were doing. Often times, they inspired me to write and perform better.
In 2012, it became impossible to see every sketch show in town. I would have had to give up my life and become a full-time sketch comedy audience member, and I don’t think that would have been very lucrative for me. I still make it to most of the shows, and I am still regularly inspired by the talent and brilliance of the people I’m privileged to watch (and sometimes collaborate with).
Here is a list of my favorite sketches by groups that started performing in 2012.
5. American Breakfast – “Prank My Tween”
A TV prank show where parents “prank” their tweens while a camera rolls on their reaction. Only, in this case, all of the pranks are just normal parenting behaviors; the tweens react with disgust because they’re tweens and that’s how tweens act when their patents do anything. I’m a sucker for a simple premise with a truthful observation at the core. This is that.
4. The Specific Jawns – “Rape & Murder Mystery Party”
This sketch was one of many very strong offerings during this year’s Dirtiest Sketch In Philadelphia competition. Specific Jawn Carl Boccuti “hosts” a rape & murder mystery party where he selects a handful of audience members who read aloud from evidence envelopes that they have been given. One by one, each participant reveals further gory (and hilarious) details about the crime, themselves and the song “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors.
Putting up a sketch that relies on the audience or non-performers to carry the scene can be risky and outside of our comfort zone, but when it works, it can pay out major dividends. Even if it doesn’t win a competition.
3. The Flat Earth – “Sexy Telegraph”
We know that the first message ever sent by telegraph was “What hath god wrought.” We could assume that the second message sent by telegraph was “What are you wearing,” since at the advent of any major technological breakthrough, our first question is “How can we use this to jerk off better?” That was the underlying assumption of “Sexy Telegraph,” where a man and woman engage in erotic telegraphy across the Atlantic (and it escalates over the course of the scene). Physical comedy without dialogue is a rare thing to see on stage in Philly, and it’s rare because it’s hard (and one might argue that it’s hard because we rarely attempt it). Seeing a totally physical/visual sketch done and done well was, for me, delightful.
2. Daring Daulton – “Hammer Store”
Joe Paolucci enters a store to rob the joint with his weapon of choice, a hammer. We eventually learn that the store he is attempting to rob is a hammer store and the man behind the counter (Trevor Cunnion) has a seemingly endless supply of hammers at his disposal. Despite this, Trevor does not immediately do away with the robber but instead attempts to remedy the robber’s insecurities. It gets weird, but in a way that should stand as an example of how to breathe life into what feels like it could be a one-note premise.
1. Dog Mountain – “No More Birthdays”
This is making my list as the best sketch by a new group in 2012, but a case could be made for “No More Birthdays” being the best local sketch of 2012. A man (Dennis Trafny) throws a birthday party for his significant other, but at the stroke of midnight, he demands that both the party and her birthday are over (to a frightening degree). This sketch sticks with me and makes number one on my list because it has almost everything that I look for in a sketch. The performance by Dennis is paramount; he plays a funnier “terrifying” than any human I can think of. Mike Marbach is also a great asset; he may have been born to play a guy being emotionally dismantled.
I performed in my first live sketch comedy show with Secret Pants in 2005. At the time, there was one other sketch group in town (that we knew of), and we never saw or crossed paths with them. Now, almost 2013, there are too many sketch shows to see, five or six new groups in one year, a sketch open mic that is envied in Los Angeles and New York alike, and a sketch comedy community that is growing at a rate that none of us ever imagined. When I sat down to write this list today, I was excited. When I realized that I could write it, I was thrilled. Let’s all raise a glass to more lists.