This edition of A.D.D. features live audio from the first <a href="http://www.lawrence.com/events/2010/mar/10/37477/">Sketch Bags comedy night at the Eighth Street Tap Room</a>. Jason Barr sat down with organizer and Taproom employee Brad Shanks to talk about making the show happen. Twelve Lawrence funny people performed stand up for the first time on this October night. The combination of wildly different personalities will make you laugh, cry, cringe and laugh again. WARNING: This is for MATURE AUDIENCES only!
Did you hear the one about illegal narcotics in Mexico? How about the one about redneck stereotypes? Maybe the one about prostitution? No? Well then, you probably didn't go to Sketch Bags. Because if you had gone to this standup show filled with some of Lawrence's most profane amateur comics, you would have heard jokes on these topics and even worse. That's entertainment, folks!
"All of the comics were just vile. It was no holds barred," says Sketch Bags co-organizer and performer Jason Barr. "'Sketch Bags' is kind of a misleading title. Everyone thought it was going to be sketch comedy."
Indeed, there were no "Saturday Night Live"-style sketch comedy pieces. Sketch Bags is just a bunch of gals and guys with a filthy perspective on life. "It's not in the sense of sketch comedy, it's in the sense of sketchy dudes," says Barr, who came on board after being approached by Sketch Bags founder and local musician Brad Shanks. "Like, 'What a sketch bag!' Brad was like, 'Let's have an underground, anti-comedy comedy show.'"
And so, last October, Sketch Bags was unceremoniously birthed at the Eighth Street Taproom, 801 N.H.
"It was one in, one out, so it was really packed," says Suzannah Johannes, one of the inaugural Sketch Bags. "Everyone just wanted to have a good time, you know? It was really laid back. I don't know what peoples' expectations were, but it didn't seem too bad."
It wasn't quite so laid back for all of the performers.
"It was very intense. We were completely sold out," says Barr, who also contributes podcasts to lawrence.com. "We thought there was going to be 30 people there. It was sold out upstairs and downstairs. So when I looked out, all I saw were 200 people in front of me."
The Taproom is normally a music venue, and there was plenty of overlap between these budding raconteurs and the local music scene. "I would say standup is harder than performing music. It's just you and there's a lot of pressure," says Johannes, herself an accomplished musician when she's not spinning humorous yarns about her boyfriend's baldness. "Another thing that's weird is, after you do standup comedy, people will come up to you and say, 'Let me hear a joke. Make me laugh!' People don't really put you on the spot and say, 'Oh, you sing? Sing me something!'"
The atmosphere and audience at Sketch Bags isn't that far removed from the regular raucous Taproom crowds.
"I don't think it's going to be that much different from any other Saturday night at the Taproom, to tell you the truth," says Casey Millstein, who will brave the comedy gauntlet at the next Sketch Bags. "Same (stuff), different day."
If there's any similarity between the various Sketch Bags, a common theme uniting the foul mouthed performers, it's their dissimilarity and disregard for traditional standup norms.
"I think traditional standup is very much like Jay Leno - I'm going to come out, I'm a charismatic person, I'm going to tell this joke and that joke. It's very formulaic," Barr says. "It's like the difference between regular rap and college rap. The college rap dude is going to rap about Zoloft. The regular rap guy does easy stuff about guns and (women). I feel like anti-comedy is personalities just riffing on what they're into. Every person at Sketch Bags was different. It was just them being them."
Expectations for the next Sketch Bags, thanks to its unexpected success, have been raised. "I'm kind of terrified to do stand up again," Johannes says. "I thought I did really well last time, so I'm kind of terrified that I'll bomb this time."
The high wire act of standup comedy, although fraught with the risk of heckling and abject failure, is a cruel mistress that the sketch bags at Sketch Bags cannot refuse.
"It was nerve wracking. I didn't talk to anybody for three days afterward," Barr says. "I was so mentally jacked. It was awesome, it was a great experience, and people told me after that there was laughter, but to me, all I heard was crickets. It was like someone was stabbing me the entire time, but I was simultaneously loving it."