Local Sketch Night
Wed. Jan. 18, 9 p.m.
Theatre 99
280 Meeting St

In a festival chock full of improv and even some stand-up, the Local Sketch Night provides a chance to see some prime comedy that performers have actually had a chance to think about before they go on stage. With some of the scripted scenes running up to eight or 10 minutes, there’s time to develop a plot, establish characters, and build up to a climactic musical number or two.

Three of the night’s sketches will be performed by members of The Bottom Line comedy team, a Have Nots! offshoot that started up three years ago with shows at Theatre 99 on Cumberland Street. TBL hasn’t officially appeared since late 2004, so this show provides audiences with a chance to catch key members of the team presenting their most popular work.

“Some of our members have moved away or gone on to different things,” says Jason Cooper, one of TBL’s founders. “But since we started up in 2002, we’ve written tons of sketches.”

The performers picked three of the best for the Local Sketch show, one of the events kicking off the Comedy Festival on its opening night tonight. Special Day, about a wedding day gone awry, is by Jessica Chase, from another Theatre 99 group, Mary Kay Has a Posse. Stormtroopers concerns a pair of the white-helmeted Star Wars minions bitching about the Death Star with New York accents and attitudes; The Bicycle is the story of a boy, his stolen bike, and a bunch of fake ballet dance moves.

“We’ll hopefully end on that one,” says Cooper, who always likes to set the audience up with comedy and knock ’em down with a Broadway-style number. “We like to end all our shows with a musical kind of act.” Caleb Usry, Dana Mitchell, John Brennan, Matt Perry, and Sean Sullivan will all step in.

The evening will also include quick skits by Bill Davis, City Paper assistant editor and host of Lite Affair’s Liquid Courage open mic nights. Davis will be joined by actress Andra Watkins, with Sean Sullivan providing commercial-skewering voice overs. His scenes will be short, sharp, and surprisingly civil. “They aren’t even mildly scatological,” says Davis, sounding disappointed. “It’s the cleanest stuff I’ve done, pretty funny and always pretty fast.”

In an effort to prove that the richest comedy comes from the easiest pickins, Davis will poke fun at The Post and Courier, Kwadjo Campbell, Clay Aiken, American consumerism, speed dating, and relationship problems — all in quick-fire sketches that don’t outstay their welcome.

“One of the problems with most sketch shows is that they drag,” says Davis, “they go on for too long or the show takes a while to pick up speed when a new sketch starts. Because we’re alternating, we won’t have that lag between scenes, and our sketches will be short, standard comedy, almost to a whack-out level. The show moves really fast, and if we’re wrong and one sketch ain’t funny, we’ll knock it out and move on to the next one.”

Davis and the folks from The Bottom Line make for a heady combination of gag-fuelled ideas and smart stage moments, so this is one sketch show that definitely won’t drag. Unless of course, an actor appears in drag. And then all bets are off.

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