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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Sunday (2/22/09) 4:10pm - ... wherein Peter posts thoughts about the "Borders" Sketchwar.

Okay, I'm finally catching up on some more commentary entries for Sketchwar.  The week of 1/23/09, the topic was "Borders".

This time around, we had five, count'em, *five* sketches:  one from Mr. Wilson, one from Mr. Porter, one from Mr. Brownlee, one from Mr. Robertson, and one from me.

Mr. Wilson's sketch about rednecks vs. zombies was a nice, solid piece of work.  It's an engaging setup:  two armed rednecks wait at a dump.  It's a great payoff:  the zombies appear.  I don't go for the sketch's puns myself ("You loaded?" and "The South will rise again."), but they work fine as characterization.  And really, the characterization was what I found funny -- it isn't just "rednecks shooting zombies", it's "two *very specific* rednecks shooting zombies."

Well done all 'round, and I have no useful advice.

On to Mr. Porter's entry.  One of the fun things about Sketchwar is to see people take a topic in wildly different directions, so I was really happy to see Mr. Porter turn in a sketch about two siblings fighting over bedroom territory.  IIRC judovich and I had a similar duct-tape line at Rice University.

My only tweaks would be to cut down the pre-Virgil "setup" section and expand the "kids contend with Virgil" part.  Get to the funny part faster, and make it last longer.  There's a lot you can do with a grizzled Minuteman dealing with the under-10 crowd.

Mr. Brownlee turned in an entry about Doctors Without Borders.  First off, I've never heard the "I'm trying to build up an immunity to cigarettes" joke before.  Chortled at that.  But generally, this one didn't really work for me.  I saw the "it's actually America" punchline (even correctly guessing "Detroit") pretty much as soon as I saw that Karrie and Henri weren't going to do anything funny themselves.

That said, it did a good job feeling like an outtake from a straight medical drama for most of its running time (although I'd agree with Mr. Porter's assessment that Karrie should seem like the naïf on her first assignment).  I'm not sure what I would have done differently on this one.

Mr. Robertson, thank god, wrote a pretty straight-up treatment of the topic, with immigrants trying to sneak across the Mexican border.

Like Mr. Brownlee, Mr. Robertson did a one-joke sketch where the joke is the twist at the end.  However, this time I didn't predict that the three Mexicans were actually trying to sneak back *into* Mexico.  And I liked that Mr. Robertson elaborated on the joke -- explaining *why* Jimbo and Bobby Ray aren't letting them sneak back into Mexico.  Even if I'd guessed, "they're sneaking back into Mexico", I wouldn't have foreseen "Keeping America’s cheap labor inside America until we’re ready for them to leave."

As usual, I'm going to squawk that "it could move faster".  You could use just two lines to establish that Jorge, Juan, and Esteban are trying to sneak into the E.E.U.U.  Or, hell, you could establish it with just the setting and no dialog at all.  I'd like the sketch to get right into the conflict between the Minutemen and the Mexicans -- that conversation is a little repetitive, but it builds nicely and Bobby Ray and Jimbo are both funny.

Lastly, there's my sketch.  I've mentioned before that I usually start on Sketchwar by brainstorming the topic until I think of something I find really cool.  In this case, once I'd come up with the all-but-abandoned border station on the Sino-Russian border, that's pretty much what I had to write.  I came up with the setting, I came up with the two guards, and I sort of hammered together a plot for those guys to go through.

As you might guess, I'm proud that I used a unique setting, but not proud of much else.  I'm pretty sure I accidentally lifted the dull "I spy" game from Blackadder somewhere.  The Chinese man running in from nowhere is a nice development, but making him play chess and then juggle -- that felt pretty arbitrary and draggy.  Nice resolution on tasering the axe murderer, though.

Really, I think this one just gets by on the personalities of Lubov and Borovich, as well as the unique setting.  The plot sort of creaks.

(Also:  dear *god*, the sketch runs long.)

[Note:  this is mirrored on the Sketchwar site.]

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