A VERY SPECIAL SKETCH SHOW
nytheatre.com review by Alexander Zalben
Do you remember that episode of
"One of the Goys" when Benjamin joined the Hitler Youth? Or the episode
of "Shhh!" that dealt with both anorexia and bulimia in a
heart-wrenching and hilarious manner? Of course you don’t, because they
don’t exist in real life, only on stage as two of four sketches in A
Very Special Sketch Show.
August 15, 2003
Using the format of a TV taping for the "WBS Network," A Very Special Sketch Show presents four issue-driven, 80’s style sitcoms, with varying results. Generally, they’ve nailed the genre pretty well. "Shhh!" which is set in a library, and "Make Room for Uncle," in which a single uncle takes in four wise-cracking nieces, have a good handle on what goes into making a cheesy sitcom.
Jackie Clarke, the show's director, scores the biggest laughs of the evening playing a washed-up TV star hosting the taping. And Chris Butler, although essentially playing the same character in three sketches, is hilarious as the aforementioned Uncle.
"Make Room for Uncle," also written by Butler, is the show’s best example of a well-made sketch. It doesn’t just present an effective, over the top, sitcom situation; it goes the extra step to add absurd jokes into the mix. There are more laughs in the first minute of "Uncle" than in the rest of the show combined.
Technically, the show leaves a lot to be desired. They do manage to cover the set changes between sketches effectively with Clarke’s constant patter. But during the sketches, we get only an occasional bit of canned laughter and long stretches of darkness between scenes.
This, I think, illuminates the main problem with the show. By only giving us one or two bits of laugh track and no sitcomesque music cues (except for the title sequences), we’re left with the feeling that they went half-way with the whole sitcom idea. Presentation of an idea is nothing without the execution of it, and it is, unfortunately, in the execution that A Very Special Sketch Show is lacking.