Dispatches from Sketchfest 2018: Volume II

The 17th edition of the festival has concluded, but its final week brought thoughtful tributes, the demented brilliance of Horatio Sanz, and one very charming Jurassic Park star.

It’s Horatio’s World and We’re Just Living in It

The thing about improvised comedy is that you’re not necessarily supposed to stick out. Under the conventions of “yes, and” — a rule that directs performers to agree and forward the scene — improv is built on teamwork. However, sometimes certain improvisors may skirt the conventions of a scene. When done poorly, it can derail the entire thing. When done well, you get the demented brilliance of Saturday Night Live alum Horatio Sanz.

Performing with Upright Citizens Brigade co-founders Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, and Ian Roberts as part of Saturday’s night “ASSSSCAT” show—the UCB’s flagship improv offering—Sanz wasn’t so much sandbagging scenes as taking them in unexpected and hilarious directions. From his choice to use a mic stand to play a boom operator to the sometimes unintelligible accents he employed the following afternoon during a live taping of Besser’s podcast, improv4humans, Sanz is simply on another level.

Far from being frustrated, fellow performers Jon Gabrus and Jessica McKenna seemed to delight in the curious ways Sanz would twist a scene, from entering the scrum late with a non-sequitur to fully committing to premises that truly defy simple explanation.

As a fan of Sanz from his time on SNL, he is clearly most at home in scenarios without boundaries, able to interject and eschew expectation freely. Besser, Walsh, Roberts, McKenna, and Gabrus are all also worthy of their own write-ups—this crew is as tight and talented as improv gets—but all hail Horatio Sanz for making weird awesome again. Zack Ruskin

Jeff Goldblum Weighs in On His Package

Before his Sunday night set at Marines Memorial Theatre was even officially underway, actor and jazz pianist Jeff Goldblum was already seducing fans with his everlasting brand of charm. Offering to do a dramatic reading of an audience member’s text conversation, he selected a chat in which the women’s friend suggested to her that she ask Goldblum what made him proudest: the length or girth of his penis.

Upon reading the words out loud, Goldblum burst into laughter and laid backwards on the stage before bolting back upright. “Girth,” he stated with stoic sincerity.

While the show could’ve ended there, instead the festivities continued. For 90 minutes, the star of The Fly and his co-horts in the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra alternated between jazzy vamps and conversations with the crowd. Singer Annie Ellicott was a notable highlight, blessed with a breath voice and not afraid to scat with the best of them.

During one segment, she and Goldblum read lines of dialogue from the nine films nominated for this year’s “Best Picture” Oscar, prompting Ellicott to inform her dashing companion that her dream was to live the human meets aquatic monster sex scene at the heart of The Shape of Water.

Naturally, Goldblum obliged, contorting his face into that of a fish and leaning in for an air kiss. Having now appeared at Sketchfest in consecutive years, let us hope Mr. Goldblum and his merry band of players become a festival staple. ZR

Slightly Too Hot For Radio

Host and stand-up comic Aparna Nancherla quickly tempered the claim that Friday night’s Selected Shorts were particularly raunchy. But NPR would probably still pass on the literary pieces of the night.

Naturally, the fiction read by David Cross (Arrested Development) led with the show’s most outrageous story. Who couldn’t see Cross at the center of a plot involving a foul-mouthed child insisting she was a little person wanted by Interpol, a flight attendant in heat, and a plane crash conspiracy to stress the importance of flight safety demonstrations?

Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle) ought to be featured in more storytelling performances, for her reading of a woman’s affair with a man she met online blended so marvelously with her own quips that it may take a second look to discern the difference. And as Nancherla pointed out, hearing Lance Reddick‘s (The Wire) rich, baritone voice say, “Dry hump the world” has to be on multiple bucket lists.

Fortunately for the rest of us, Selected Shorts: Too Hot for Radio can be infinitely accessed as a podcast with other beloved actors and authors. Ida Mojadad

Christopher Guest: World’s Best Moderator

Following a subpar moderator performance noted in our earlier dispatch, the scales were righted when Best in Show director Christopher Guest sat down with Ricky Gervais for an evening in tribute to the latter. Brushing off Gervais’s noble proclamations that it should be Guest, not him, being honored, the notably wry and curmudgeonly Guest was the perfect foil to Gervais’s boisterous and big demeanor.

In truth, the two are both titans of their craft. Gervais should be lauded for his ability to pivot between trading barbs with Guest and sincerely reflecting on his career. When asked by an audience member about whether he felt any topics were off-limits in stand-up comedy, his response was one of the best answers I’ve heard offered on the subject (in short: no).

As someone who wasn’t intimately familiar with Gervais’s career following The Office, it was to hear him animatedly explain to Guest how everything he does comes back to Laurel & Hardy. If there’s ever an auction to have dinner with these two, you might not get a word in but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more captivating conversation. ZR


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