I have been making comedy sketches on and off since 2012. For much of that time I didn’t really realise that I was doing it. Sketch comedy grew on me, like a beard. A patchy beard.
Whether it was the occasional comedy sketch on local radio or a made up character for a section of a podcast, in an attempt to increase the runtime; comedy sketches have woven their way into my career as an actor, writer and content creator whether I like it or not.
Only recently have I taken to calling them “comedy sketches.” Only recently, have I embraced the word comedy at all, to be quite honest. The reason is that I have been absolutely terrified of the word comedy and comedians since I was a kid. Terrified because over and above pretty much every art form, I respect comedy the most.
Like many bored British men in their mid-30s amid an international pandemic and several periods of national lockdown measures, I started making content for a laugh.
I created a YouTube channel about voice acting which very quickly got boring. I found myself wanting to make funny videos more often. Eventually I was trying to avoid talking about my job so that I could fit in any excuse to make a funny skit.
Pretty quickly, I was making sketches about voice acting every week, but not really talking about voice acting at all.
While I am still a voice actor and I love my job, the YouTube channel has now become purely a place to watch comedy; My relationship with comedy is technically the longest running relationship i’ve ever had; Comedy Beef is proof that she wears the trousers.
Now that I’m committed to making a comedy sketch every week, it is actually the most creative I have felt in many years.
British TV: Comedy Sketch Education
I grew up during that lovely age in the 80s and 90s when alternative British comedy was exploding onto radio and TV.
Sketch shows, sitcoms and stand-up were all over the place. Television comedy sketches drew my attention in particular; I think it was because of the huge amount of genius funny characters the likes of Harry Enfield, Charlie Higson, Caroline Aherne and Paul Whitehouse could squeeze into just half an hour.
In less than 30 minutes on a Friday or Saturday night, it felt like 100 people were telling hilarious jokes, making you laugh when actually it was just five or six.
I love that short form style of storytelling, but at the time I had absolutely no idea why. Short comedy sketches and minor recurring sketch characters in long-running shows (for example Alan Partridge in The Day Today/Brass Eye) also drew my attention. You found yourself caring deeply for someone who only had a few lines per episode. Sometimes they would go an entire episode without appearing, and then you see them again a few episodes later, and you were so happy to see them again!
So you hang on their every word, waiting for that tiny catchphrase, after which you can fall about laughing and be happy that you’ve seen them and that they’re okay. (It’s also the reason why the final season or episode of anything is always so hard for me to watch.)
Why do I care SO much about John Thompson welcoming me to Jazz Club, turning to the second camera and saying “nice?” Why is that such a genius, hilarious moment?!
Ok, now I Get It
20 or so years later, my love of the sketch show format makes a lot more sense.
As a voice actor, especially one that does audiobooks, I’ve got to jump into the skin of multiple characters all at the same time. I’ve got to jump between scenes, between perspectives, between locations, in the blink of an eye. I have to play lots of different characters at once; I’ve got a huge team of cast members in my head every time I sit down and narrate a novel.
Putting together a sketch comedy show is very much the same; assembling a jigsaw puzzle of characters, stories, situations, and making all of them as entertaining as possible.
It took me a while to realise sketch comedy actually makes a hell of a lot of sense, as somewhere to play, act, write and try making fun of life, hopefully through some decent characters (maybe even a catchphrase or two, hey, who knows, maybe even some extreme comical violence.)
Sketch Comedy in 2022 is Amazing
Today, sketch comedy is in a wonderful place.
A lot of people got ridiculously bored during lockdown and started making sketches at home, so there are lots of people embracing things like YouTube, TikTok and Twitter, not just as a place to argue over pop culture, all the latest news and each others sandwiches, but a place to be creative and tell silly stories.
It’s really nice to see social media and the Internet as a whole being used in that way and a whole new generation of creative geniuses are going to explode onto our screens over the next 10 years because of it. In fact, it’s already started.
Sketch comedy has been up and down in the last 20 years, there have been some incredible examples of of of great sketch comedy of course (Saturday Night Live, Key and Peele etc) but sketch comedy and its short format lends itself even more effectively to social media, in my opinion.
Social Media is a Sketch Show
As we scroll through Twitter or Instagram or TikTok, we’re basically just watching a really bad sketch show.
In less than 30 seconds, we’re telling each other stories with a beginning, a middle and end, featuring unique characters with different perspectives on life. Each one leaves an impression whether you realise it or not. It’s the perfect platform for sketch comedy to thrive on.
As an actor that has to jump into the skin of several different characters at once, the fast-paced frantic nature of social media, while tiring at times (ok, all the time) is probably the perfect place for me to do my best work.
Why Comedy Sketches Instead of Stand Up?
I’ve got a bad foot.
Try your first episode of Comedy Beef here.