Bob Odenkirk: a cult legend credited with championing and evolving a subversive, acclaimed comedy sentiment. Birthday Boys: a hyped collection of vastly witty, silly sods. Together they formed a rousing precession of jubilant, sophisticated sketches, closing Sketchfest with a bang — bang, scream, yell, “He’s got a gun!”, “My baby!”. You know, comedy.
The festival’s closing night, the unassuming finale of humoristic gluttony, the last zeppelin ascending into the blue-gray beyond. Didn’t feel over, the Eureka Theater filled with youthful love drawn to the buzz of the Boys or the prestige of Mr. Show. No eulogies or goodbyes, no closing ceremonies for comedy’s chilly cousin to summer camp. Just another show of expected excellence shed of any immediate significance. This is arguably true of every show, made for momentary laughter with fleeting or nonexistent hindsight. Exposition aside, the Birthday Boys and Bob Odenkirk presented “The 7-Man Sweater” to end Sketchfest, a tantamount collaboration of darlings and a titan.
“In honor of Black History Month, Bob Odenkirk will recite Martin Luther King Jr.’s worst speech,” echoed an announcer, topping the show. “Um’s” and “Ah’s” lapped longingly through lulls of inspiration as Odenkirk, steely eyed and silver tempered, fumbled through a fictional Farce on Washington. The opening thread knitted a precedence of creamy irony and corrosive disposition for the entire “Sweater”: good-natured offense and well played ham.
The eponymous 7-man sweater, cumbersome yet quaintly appropriate attire for a less horrific human centipede, symbolized the charging pomp and romp. As expecting as the audience was, the performers demanded much more. The multimedia, multidimensional, macabre revue pivoted on two prominent principles: the anonymity of the Boys and the ubiquity of the Bob. The notoriety of Odenkirk, ethereal straight man, distracted the audience from the roguish misdemeanors in the show’s margins. Shows within shows, creative nonfiction, mirror gazing and a spindly nest of circumstances were mischievous children beget of outstanding control, precision, timing and convolution. Jefferson Dutton, Dave Ferguson, Mike Hanford, Tim Kalpakis, Matt Kowalick, Mike Mitchell, Chris VanArtsdalen and Odenkirk left little to be desired, emitting immense proficiency through fizzled-minded soda heads and faulty illusionists (among other clever premises). Right before entitlement settled in, before comfort and understanding, “Sweater” was over with a poignant pang of longing for a well of talent not yet purged and for laughter not quickly forgotten.