I'll admit it: the words "sketch comedy" didn't inspire optimism in me. Rather, I tended to imagine hammy, self-congratulatory acting, and awkwardly long skits centered on one flimsy premise. I'm a fan of movie comedies, even some sitcoms, but sometimes the labored zaniness to get people laughing lands with all the subtlety of a lead balloon. So imagine my surprise when I left the opening night of local comedy troupe Killing My Lobster's new show with a strange happy sensation in my heart... one that came from seeing something, um, actually FUNNY.
The show, Killing My Lobster Saves The Day, is a themed send-up of all things capes and tights and comic books: "comedic vignettes for the superheroically silly." The show rescued my view of sketch comedy in a few key ways. First of all, all of the performers are fantastic and energetic, and seem to be having an absolute blast on stage. Each of the six actors rotates through roles with a chameleon-like ease and endless energy that leaps over "impressive" in a single bound, and lands straight on incredible.
Even more importantly, though, the writing and staging is professional and surprisingly fresh. Familiar staples of the genre do bear the brunt of a few jokes -- capes and tights are given a rather scathing visual and verbal treatment, and phone booths and overly sincere heroics appear in quite a few of the jokes. But the show's use of the expected clichés ends there. It would've been too easy to have sketches full of nerdy, sexually repressed fanboys LARPing the epic battle of Kirk vs. Picard, but KML opts for a more original take on comic culture. Instead of wrapping their sketches in a kind of pretentious cleverness, the knowing wink-wink of stiff satire, the KML crew performs with a light touch. The troupe lands the jokes and the funny voices and the ridiculous scenarios with the driving force of just making something fun, not overly clever or snide or even all that complex.
I don't want to describe the sketches here, and ruin their surprises, but I will mention that one of the most hilarious and effortlessly clever sketches was a slideshow of the bizarre, suggestive imagery buried in old Superman comic pages. Set to a wonderfully over-the-top pop ballad, the segment had the audience roaring, and added a nice, researched credibility to the troupe's dissection of superhero lore. Clearly, comics and fantasy and caped crusaders are things the troupe knows well -- well enough to take the subject in a new direction.
Killing My Lobster Saves The Day runs through June 16th at the Eureka Theatre in San Francisco. For tickets and information visit killingmylobster.com.