Sketchfest Review: Charles, Stupid Time Machine & Justin Scrimshaw @ Dark Room Theater, 1/21/2012

by OJ Patterson on January 25, 2012

Dark Room Theater

by Larry Rivera

People teemed into the Dark Room Theater, a black box in one of the City’s most colorful neighborhoods (i.e. a paradoxical place of real and fictitious danger). The lobby was littered with nonsensical paraphernalia (manikins, fake chickens, etc.). A one-eyed French Bulldog, Maggie, basked in the attention from adoring strangers. Sketchfest in the Mission, the largest focus of the festival’s freshest talent, was set to begin.

 “‘Hey Reid, what do you want for your set.’

‘Can I get a man speaking to me in a language I don’t understand, and can he be in the front row?’

‘You got it!’” – Reid Faylor

Good grief. Shame and regret injured the night immediately. Dead center, a disruption of crippling proportions manifested in a man speaking Spanish under a backwards baseball hat. Reid Faylor, the night’s host, battled him nobly, riffing the heckler to submission. The silence was merely a short-lived comfort. Between the ill-timed Spanish chimes, Faylor divulged his awkward neuroses, often speaking to himself to illustrate his internal turmoil. Angst included, the set was extremely light-hearted, aimed at distracting from the elephant in the (dark) room.

Nerdom is pretty relevant these days… but is it possible to make it even more contemporary? Joseph Scrimshaw believes so, as evident in his one-man lecture dissecting (roughly) thirteen pillars of nerd-geek society. The first piece dealt with Star Wars as told through Twitter jargon and “L337” speak. Heckler the Hutt was dispatched early in Scrimshaw’s set, giving the otaku orator room to “air-steer” the logic leaps in Super Mario Brothers. The All-American Nerd left the rest of his many topics to echo the abyss of internet/geek culture in a blistering, obscure garble. While the writing wasn’t completely derivative, Scrimshaw squandered many opportunities to uniquely display his enthusiast prowess (see: “My Little Pony”)

From the depths of the Louisiana Bayou, Stupid Time Machine surfaced in the bowels of the Dark Room. The New Orleans-based sketch troupe made complete use of space and time to produce a show of hilariously juvenile imagination. Sharp writing, pitch perfect performances, goofy, and unfiltered: Stupid Time Machine were rimming with ambitious, crass, tongue-in-cheek humor. Every character, while appropriately idiotic, was thoroughly three-dimensional, gliding through taboos without a clue or conscious. The entire group impressed but CJ Hunt particularly shined, performing with guttural convention and passion that put many scenes on edge.

Charles was an amazing experience. Returning to SF Sketchfest with waves of accolades and momentum, the Seattle sketch duo of Charlie Stockman and Chuck Armstrong push against every conceivable comedy construct imaginable. Tone and scope stretched endlessly and emotively. Every moment was calculated, every transition seamless, every vignette more elaborate than the next. Humanity from its personal and collective beginning to its terrestrial end was explored with a tremendous influx of sophistication. Charles provided thick satire, classical references shrouded in the cobwebs of well-intended, long-forgotten academic teachings. The finale of Charles’ wonderful whirlwind cast the reunion of two estranged disc jockeys, castaways in their field. The two characters, deeply devoted classic rock aficionados, were portrayed with extraordinary nuance and pathos, an unexpected turn on an oft-lampooned scenario. Sure, Charles was designed to funnel into the confines of “silly”, and the laudable intelligence was a means to an end. Still, the show’s use of care and compassion made it compelling far greater than its genre. To reiterate, Charles was amazing.

OJ Patterson

OJ Patterson is a Bay Area Native, who grew up on a diet of scathing satire and absurd surrealism. He is a comedy writer, performer and promoter. He has the best laugh in the room and loves you very much. Serving Size = 1.

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