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Comedy Sat Jan 07 2012
As it so happens, my experience at Day 2 of Chicago SketchFest 2012 resulted in me seeing two very different musical acts and two sketch acts with completely different formats. All of the acts I'm about to review will be performing again this evening, so let's get right to it.
Armed with a guitar, ukulele, accordion, tambourine, and fake southern accents, New York's Reformed Whores launched into several country/folk/Americana-style songs about the tribulations of love and lust from a woman's perspective, including the follies of drunk dialing, staying on birth control, confronting a boyfriend's porn habits, and a friendly reminder to ladies to remove their tampons every once in a while.
Going into the theater, I was afraid the duo's shtick would get old after a couple songs. However, their songwriting was great, their lyrics were sharp and clever with some unexpected twists, and the girls themselves had fantastic voices, along with witty, well-timed stage banter in-between songs. If you only see one act this weekend, these charming and hilarious ladies will be sure to entertain.
Portland's Sweat was one of the few acts I heard any sort of buzz about ahead of time, so I walked in both curious and cautious about what I was about to see. Opening with a great video intro (that's even funnier if you know what they're parodying), the troupe delivered a variety of sketches ranging from a feuding Irish family's botched bank robbery to a campfire at a Christian summer camp that gets a little too confessional.
Their mermaid sketch in the middle dragged on for too long (I saw a guy next to me send a text message in the middle of it). However, the reoccurring Justin Bieber jokes were great, and their last sketch about a quinceanera party was so funny, spot-on, and well-executed that they were worth seeing for that scene alone. While not perfect, Sweat gave a great performance and definitely lived up to their hype.
Other than knowing they were a two-man duo from Seattle, I knew nothing about Charles going in. Starting out with a sketch about a cheating dispute between correspondence Jenga grandmasters, the duo seamlessly segued in and out of seemingly random and obscure topics like quantum physics, Beowolf, linguistics, and Arsenio Hall (which had a very sly "we need a volunteer from the audience" gag), and closed with a brilliant father-son argument about Federalism vs. Anti-Federalism prompted by a "10-Minute Thomas Jefferson Lineage Test."
The best way I can describe the duo would be "Mr. Show" performed by two "Kids In The Hall" fans pursuing graduate degrees. For turning obscure intellectual subject matter into comedy gold on a number of levels, Charles was my favorite act of the night, and the one act I saw on Day 2 that I sincerely wished lived in Chicago for me to see what weird and startlingly-fresh ideas they come up with next.
Indianapolis' Three Dollar Bill Comedy delivered a "Schoolhouse Rock" parody called "Schoolhouse Wrong," consisting of a dozen 2-4 minute song parodies about slightly more accurate life lessons than the original show. The songs followed a "politically incorrect sentiment" + "ironic cheerfulness" + "jazz hands" formula, with songs such as "Trail of Tears of Joy" and "Cussin' Cussin', What's Your Fussin'?" After seeing Reformed Whores, many of the lyrics to the group's "Schoolhouse Wrong" songs fell flat in comparison.
I did enjoy a few of the songs, such as the double entendre-filled "Love Geometry" and a lesson in cooking methamphetamine from a dancing Sudafed pill set to the tune of the classic "I'm Just A Bill" song. The scene transitions were pretty funny, there were some hilarious lines, and the whole cast was high energy from start-to-finish. Most of the audience really enjoyed it, but I felt most of the performance ended up being what I was afraid Reformed Whores would be - a 40-50 minute riff on a 2 minute joke.
While the individual acts varied in quality, I had an great time on Day 2. I enjoyed seeing what groups across the country were doing, and many of the Second City students, out-of-town troupe members, and casual comedy fans in the audiences with me all seemed to be having fun as well.
In summation, go see Charles, go see Reformed Whores over Three Dollar Bill Comedy (or see both if you like musical comedy), and don't feel like you missed a "must-see event" if Sweat sells out before you can get in...but still try to get in.