Theater This Weekend, The Stranger Also (Improbably) Suggests: A Sketch Comedy Festival in Bellingham
posted by April 2 at 11:47 AMon
I wouldn’t normally flog a sketch comedy festival in Bellingham, or a sketch comedy festival anywhere. In fact, the words “sketch comedy festival” should send a little chill through the heart of any reasonable person. (Sorry, Seattle Sketchfest.)
HOWEVER! This weekend is the first weekend of the poorly named, but well-curated, Sketchingham, which has been cobbled together by the Cody Rivers Show, who are comedy geniuses. (Seriously: They’ve been independently audited by myself and Lindy West, and we’re both picky. And we shortlisted them for a Genius Award.)
The main attraction this weekend is the Pajama Men, formerly known as Sabotage back when they came to the Seattle fringe festival and got stiffed, along with most of the other performing artists, when the festival went down in flames. So they’ll probably never return to Seattle—they’ve cursed the place, shaken our dust from their feet, and moved on to performer for luckier people in happier cities—so YOU must go to THEM.
A paean: I know, I’m not crazy about the name either—but The Pajama Men is one of only two comedy duos I’ve seen (the other is Cody Rivers) whose performances are as rigorous and hermetic as the best theater and dance. Most comedy just reflects and riffs on the world. The Pajama Men’s fast, tight fictions (one concerns a horse who wants to kill, but cannot bring himself to kill, his rider; another concerns variations on an old couple walking through a park, verbally abusing each other) imagine new possibilities—they rethink the world.
They’ve got crazy discipline—they switch between characters as quickly as you’d blink—and understand precisely how long an audience’s attention will follow one idea.
I still remember a sketch from years ago about a father and daughter in a haunted building, exactly what their faces, voices, and personalities were like. (He was patient, funny, the kind of dad everyone wants. She was squeaky-voiced and that painful combination of pushy and ashamed that you only find in adolescents and developmentally disabled adults.) It remains one of my favorite, most vivid memories of a live performance anywhere, ever, along with that one production of Platonov and Dorky Park.
To their credit, the Pajama Men don’t have any YouTube videos that I could find (theater is always degraded by the camera—the most angelic performance, mediated by a screen, will turn to mud), but if you have any sense, you will travel to them. Two years ago, I followed them to Vancouver; this weekend, I’m taking the train to Bellingham.
Sketchingham runs three weekends total, with comedians and sketch groups from Seattle (David Cope, Emmett Montgomery, Becky Poole) as well as New York, Los Angeles, and Mexico City.
But I only ever care about the Pajama Men.