Funny business

Boys & girls clubs: Local sketch comedy troupes performing at Carolina Sketchfest include all-male group Feral Chihuahuas and all-female group LYLAS. Offstage members from the two teams have worked together on LaZoom and on video projects, and there’s even one intertroupe romance. Photos courtesy of the artists

It’s no secret that the Internet has changed the way we consume entertainment. And sketch comedy, with its compact, easily digestible format, is tailor-made for sharing on social media. Get on Facebook, and there’s a three-minute clip from Portlandia. Log on to Twitter, and someone’s passing around a Key & Peele skit. In a way, the Internet has created a golden age of sketch comedy, but with this unfortunate side effect: an ever-growing pool of comedians wanting to get in on this renaissance.

“How do you get noticed?” asks Tommy Calloway of long-running Asheville comedy troupe The Feral Chihuahuas. “It’s a big pond. We have a video called ‘Autoerotic Asphyxiation’ that has like 50,000 views, but then we have much better ideas, much better sketches, that only have 1,000. How do you find that formula that gets you the hits?”

One way to recruit new fans, of course, is the old-fashioned approach: live performance. The second Carolina Sketchfest will happen Saturday, March 29, on Asheville Community Theatre’s main stage. Spearheaded by fellow Chihuahua Wyman Tannehill and dubbed the “Mamma-Jamma Edition,” this year’s festival will include performances by the Chihuahuas (celebrating their 10th anniversary) and LYLAS (Asheville’s all-female group, now in its ninth year), as well as Thunderstood, a one-man show out of Greensboro, and Charlotte’s Robot Johnson.

The ticket price includes beer courtesy of Asheville Brewing Co., and proceeds from the benefit — which sold out last year — will go to Brother Wolf Animal Rescue. “Everybody is doing their ‘best of’ material,” notes Tannehill. “If you came last year, this show will be completely different.”

In live comedy, says LYLAS member Betsy Puckett, “There are opportunities to find new things. We did shows in January, and there was one sketch I did with Jenny [Bunn] where, every single time we stepped out onstage, we found something new.”

Tannehill shares that passion for live performance. “What I love is that you’re feeding off the audience,” he says. “People who are up there doing comedy, everything’s laid out. We have no shame: We’re not afraid to fail.” To illustrate that point, Tannehill and Calloway describe an especially bizarre-sounding sketch, which, without giving too much away, involves each Chihuahua wearing a pink bodysuit, approximating different aspects of a very particular portion of the female anatomy.

The Chihuahuas’ irreverent nature, says Calloway, is expressed through “disparate styles within a style,” citing influences as wide-ranging as Kids in the Hall and Monty Python. But if that kind of humor doesn’t do it for you, fear not: The Carolina Sketchfest lineup will feature a diverse array of styles. Robot Johnson, says Tannehill, fits more within the Saturday Night Live mold. “They are doing true parody of celebrities, of hot topics,” he says. And Thunderstood, A.J. Schraeder’s solo act, is a mix of sketch comedy and multimedia interaction. “It’s not like anything else you will see that night — or anywhere, really,” says Calloway. “It’s very interesting, very unique.”

“All these groups are bringing these different tastes,” adds Tannehill. “You’re getting a little bit of everything. What you prefer, whether it be fart jokes or political/social commentary, you’re going to get it.”

what: Carolina Sketchfest,
where: Asheville Community Theatre
when: Saturday, March 29, at 8 p.m. $20 (advance purchase suggested)


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