No, today’s title is not a flashback to some underaged Bartles and James brouhaha.
(It could be. But it’s not. Not today.)
Instead, it’s in reference to the latest assignment for the sketch writing class I’ve been taking over at ImprovBoston. This time, we’re tasked with writing ‘blackout’ sketches. And there’s nary a wine cooler or bottle of Thunderbird involved.
Rather, a blackout sketch is a short bit that sets the audience up for one situation, then quickly yanks the rug out from underneath. As soon as it happens, the lights fade to black, and we’re on to the next thing. They’re used as segues in skit shows or a change of pace; blackouts are the non sequitur of the sketch comedy world, apparently.
“I liken them to having sex with a random person down at the local Greyhound station.”
(I liken them to having sex with a random person down at the local Greyhound station. There’s something in it for both parties, but it’s not entirely comfortable, no one gets fully satisfied, and it’s best to keep it as short as possible before anyone thinks too hard about what just happened.
Your likening may vary. Naturally.)
Also, the teacher told us, they’re really stupid hard to write.
I have a thought about that. In a moment.
First, I’ll say two things about this assignment. One, we had the holiday weekend off, so we’ve had two weeks to simmer in this challenge. Now, when you give me too much time to think about something, one of two things is going to happen. Either I’ll forget about it entirely — which is more likely, by far — or I’ll go way, way overboard and put more effort into the thing than it probably was meant to warrant.
And two, we were supposed to try to write one ‘blackout’ for class tomorrow. Below are four. And this is just the first half.
I think I can fairly say at this point that blackout sketches really aren’t that hard to write at all. Now, writing a good blackout sketch… well. I don’t think I have an opinion on that yet. I need another two weeks. At least.
In the meantime, here’s a four-pack of quick-hitters. Look for four more tomorrow, if you dare. Happy weekend.
[A couple stands near one edge of the stage. On the opposite side, Kenny enters making ‘vroom’ and tire-screeching noises as he mimes driving a car in at high speed and parking it.
Kenny mimes exiting the car and celebrating, pumping his fists in the air and yelling. A backflip would be ideal. He mimes shaking up a champagne bottle and spraying the crowd and himself, and taking a swig. The couple opposite watch passively.
Kenny makes his way toward their end of the stage, still pumping and hooting. On his way past, he mimes tossing something in the air, which the man in the couple catches. The couple walk toward the ‘car’ opposite, somewhat bewildered. The man stops to open the door for the woman, shaking his head.]
MAN: Weirdest valet. Ever.
[Several people stand around the stage, with Holmes near the front. The others are silent and attentive as Holmes speaks.]
HOLMES: And thus, the particular brand of Turkish cigarette favored by Lord Balfour eliminates him as a suspect, as well. And so, logic compels me to positively identify the countess’ murderer as… YOU, Sir Montby!
[The gathered crowd gasps. Montby puffs himself up to refute the charge.]
MONTBY: Me? I say! How could you assert such a thing?
HOLMES: Elementary, my dear Montby. That’s her head you’re still holding in your hand!
[As the scene dims, the crows oohs and aahs and says, “Oh, the _head_!” and “Of course!” and generally looks impressed.]
[Frank enters from stage left, sporting a ‘plumbers crack’. Tom is standing stage right, looking worried as Frank approaches. Frank points to a spot near Tom.]
FRANK: This the one here?
TOM: Yeah, that’s it.
[Frank mimes removing a tool belt and handing it to Tom.]
FRANK: All right — hold my tool belt, I’ll take a look.
[Frank mimes opening a cabinet low to the ground, lies on his back and slides under.]
FRANK: Lessee… oh, yep, I got it. That’s it right there. Hey, can you hand me the pipe wrench there?
[Tom mimes passing a wrench from the tool belt. Frank mimes taking it and fiddling with something where he’s working.]
FRANK: Good, good. Now the hose cutter.
[Tom mimes passing a hose cutter to Frank, who mimes cutting a hose.]
FRANK: Yep, and the roll of duct tape in the pocket.
[Tom mimes passing it; Frank mimes wrapping something with it.
Frank shimmies out from under the ‘cabinet’ and stands to face Tom.]
FRANK: Well, you’re all set, Mac. [He extends his arms toward Tom, as though cradling a baby.] Congratulations, it’s a girl!
[Fred stands center stage, excitedly cheering and miming holding something in his right hand.]
FRED: All right, let’s go! C’mon, Birdseye Delight! You can do it! Come on around, now! Here we go! Birdseye Delight! Yessir! Bring it home! Don’t fail me now, Birdseye Delight! Aw, yeah! Rounding the corner, now! Come on, baby, hit the finish…
[A microwave oven bell dings. Fred mimes opening the door, taking out a bowl, and eating it with the fork in his hand.]
(Did I mention that tomorrow’s are better? No?
And did I promise they’ll be better? No?
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