Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Is Sketch Comedy Dead?

It's no secret - the demise of Saturday Night Live has written about and discussed since before anyone knew who Adam Sandler was. Furthermore, this season's cutbacks, including five major cast members not seeing contract renewals, the one-time weekend behemoth is starting to feel the heat. Not that the show has completely gone under. In fact, it has found an unlikely second life in "digital shorts" that started last year with "Lazy Sunday" and were taken to new heights this month with "Dick in a Box." Yet, these shorts have found just as great an online audience as a television audience, and for the most part, are the only SNL sketches making their way to YouTube. The popularity of "Lazy Sunday" and "Dick in a Box" speaks volumes about the state of entertainment - we're getting much of it online, and that we are getting is being curated by a trusted source. We're not sifting through a 90-minute program for that two and a half minutes of comedic bliss - the essential sketch is waiting to be streamed on our favorite blog.

Furthermore, with the rise of internet video that can be watched any given time, is a show whose direct premise relies on a "live" taping have much relevance. To its credit, NBC has been at the forefront of exclusive online content for network shows (despite its frequent removal requests over at YouTube) - posting the digital shorts, as well as outtakes, and even a whole season of webisodes for The Office this past summer. NBC will be fine wherever entertainment tastes go, but what about this classic art of sketch comedy? Do we need it anymore? Apparently, NBC is asking itself the same question, with two shows in its primetime lineup being self-aware programs about sketch comedy shows that always seem on the brink of disaster (Studio 60 and 30 Rock).

In related news, digital short mastermind Andy Samberg is talking about putting together a record of pop spoofs with his Lonely Island collaborators. "It's something we've always wanted to do and we've been working on putting it together," he says. "It's about finding the time, but we've definitely got some ideas."


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Interesting question. I think that perhaps we will see a shift in the way that sketch comedy is made. You already referred to it by citing the programs that have struggling sketch comedies as their premise.

Just as shows like Seinfeld changed the face of sitcom, so I think will internet video change the face of sketch comedy. It will not die, but it will not be the same. And that, perhaps, is not a bad thing.

Allison said...

I haven't even watched SNL this season. The only thing that kept me watching last year was The Lonely Islands guys and the digital short. I've been a fan of theirs since The 'Bu. But now I just watch whatever I find online.

I don't think sketch comedy is dead. I think it needs to be reformated. 90 mins is perhaps too long, and may have worked in another time, with better talent, but I find these days its a rather long window to fill. With SNL I think the show could be done in 60mins.

KC said...

I haven't watched SNL in a couple years, but I do enjoy sketch comedy. I just prefer mine to be "live". There is a fantastic troupe here in St. Louis called "The Non-Prophets" that do a "bingo" version of sketch comedy. Too difficult to explain here, but check out their website if you get a moment.

Oh... by the way. The Boy got a new video iPod for Xmas, so I got his old 20gb iPod. I'm so excited!