(reposted here–originally on Yahoo Voices which will shut down 7/31/14)
Does anyone care about sketch comedy? Unless there’s a rising star on Saturday Night Live, no one seems to pay much attention to the show or sketch comedy as a whole. Award winning sketch comedy writer and performer Michael Hornbuckle of 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors gave his perspective.
Sketch comedy on a pop culture level has taken some hard hits recently. Is the art form stagnant or is it still relevant?
Sketch comedy has had its ups and downs, admittedly. MadTV was canceled. The days of the variety show are gone, and these shows (Like The Carol Burnett Show) regularly featured sketch comedy. Sketch comedy, relevant? Absolutely. The Daily Show and Colbert Report are simply sketch shows with the “News” segment taking center stage. Key and Peele on Comedy Central is going strong. Portlandia is a sketch show focused on a city. I say the form is still relevant if it entertains and illuminates which it surely does. I think what we’re waiting for is someone to take the art form to another level. It seems after the Goon Show and Monty Python, no one has really come along and really innovated beyond them. Maybe there is nowhere to go after Python!
One of the tests of a well written sketch is the ending. Why do so many sketches fail at a good ending?
If I knew THAT then I wouldn’t write sketches with such sucky endings! I think primarily its lack of a gestation period. In other words, one rushes to get a sketch out and so hacks out an obvious ending. If one lets it sit a little bit, a great ending might occur to the writer. A great ending should wrap up the sketch in a satisfying and unpredictable way. And it should be logical and not out of left field (Monty Python was notorious for not ending sketches properly, so they dropped the many ton weight at the end). I think if one just thinks about their sketch, the proper ending can be found somewhere in the text, and be incorporated at the end to give the sketch a final punch. An ending doesn’t necessarily have to be funny. It can be poignant as well. So look out for that possibility.
When you develop a sketch, what’s your impetus? What says, “This will make a good sketch.”
The best sketches come from spontaneous ideas that occur to you that make you laugh. I think you need to put yourself into a mindset in which you are receptive to coming up with great ideas. Maybe it sounds mystical, but I believe that ideas will flow into you that way. Also, get plenty of sleep. Ideas don’t flow when you are sleepy. What I’m talking about here are ideas that just come to you. You know they’ll make a great sketch because they just pop into your head and make you laugh. Sometimes you’ll hear a news headline and think “that’ll make a great sketch!” Like Kim Jong Un requiring all males to have his haircut. That’s funny!
What inspires your sketches and what are some of your next projects?
Life inspires my sketches. As I mentioned before, put yourself into a mindset of being receptive to ideas and life will deliver them. And then look around. Ideas and inspiration are all around you.
Next youtube video. Probably “Bruce Lee, the Musical.” A stop motion animated comedy based on every Bruce Lee movie. With song.