Comedians actualize sketches in 22 hours

The+event+will+take+place+Jan.+18+at+ComedySportz%2C+located+at+420+S.+1st+St.+Proceeds+will+go+to+the+charity+of+a+participant%27s+choosing.
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Comedians actualize sketches in 22 hours

The event will take place Jan. 18 at ComedySportz, located at 420 S. 1st St. Proceeds will go to the charity of a participant's choosing.

The event will take place Jan. 18 at ComedySportz, located at 420 S. 1st St. Proceeds will go to the charity of a participant's choosing.

Photo by Jordan Johnson

The event will take place Jan. 18 at ComedySportz, located at 420 S. 1st St. Proceeds will go to the charity of a participant's choosing.

Photo by Jordan Johnson

Photo by Jordan Johnson

The event will take place Jan. 18 at ComedySportz, located at 420 S. 1st St. Proceeds will go to the charity of a participant's choosing.

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A lot can be done in 22 hours — including writing, producing and performing a comedy show.

Patrick Schmitz is a Milwaukee-based comedian and the founder and artistic director of Schmitz ’n Giggles, the company putting on Sketch 22 Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. at ComedySportz. The event consists of participants putting together a comedy show in 22 hours. Schmitz said the biannual event — now in its 12th year — was inspired by a desire to bring passionate comedians together without a huge time commitment.

“When I first started getting involved in the comedy scene, there were just so many people that wanted to do so much more,” Schmitz said. “I figured, well, let’s put this together and see how it goes.” He said the first show was a success so he decided to continue the event.

Bob Schram, adjunct professor in the College of Communication who teaches a sketch comedy class, said Sketch 22 provides the opportunity for something essential to the craft of comedy: practice.

“You could compare (learning comedy) to playing a musical instrument,” Schram said. “You just keep on practicing, you learn new songs, you learn little nuances in the song and as a human being, you just keep on getting better.”

Schram said he thought the element of teamwork found in sketch comedy makes it the ideal style.

“I think sketch comedy is the highest form of comedy because you have so many different ingredients,” Schram said.

He said having a diverse team, including writers, actors and a tech crew, contributed to sketch comedy’s prestige.

College is an appropriate time to experiment in comedy because of a need for creativity, Schram said.

“One of the most fertile times in a human being’s life is college — arguably you’re at your silliest,” Schram said. “The older you get … the more polite you get. When you’re in your twenties you’re a little bit more uninhibited. … You’ll do things that are a little more ridiculous.”

Megan McGee, a Milwaukee-area comedian, has participated in every Sketch 22 since its inception. She said while she alternates between directing and acting, she always writes a script.

“Writing comedy is a cool way to criticize the world, make fun of things, maybe even discover things about life,” McGee said. “It’s a nice escape from daily life. It’s a good exercise in creative thinking.”

McGee said one thing she considers when writing comedy is the dynamics between characters and their defining traits, such as an accent.

“I think the other thing (writers) think about is, ‘Can you give each character one really fun thing to play with? Can a character have a fun personality trait, or an accent or something? You don’t want to have one character be Wonder Woman and everyone else be a waitress,” McGee said.  “You would need to give each waitress something unique about them.”

Joel Dresang, a Milwaukee-area comedian, said this will be his 15th time participating in Sketch 22. He said as a participant, one of the highlights of the event is the feeling of anticipation.

“We all get there together, and nobody knows who is doing what sketch or which director has which actors,” Dresang said. “It’s all a mystery. … There’s a sense of unexpectancy, of not knowing what’s going to happen, but whatever happens it’s going to be fun.”

Those who are less experienced in comedy can feel supported by those who have more practice, Dresang said.

“It was really cool because just before we went on to perform it, I saw one of the actors who was more experienced just kind of look at (a nervous actor) and say, ‘Look: You’ve got this. You know your part. We know your part. We know our part. We’ve got your back,'” Dresang said.

Schmitz said hearing that people feel welcomed at the event is the best compliment he can receive.

“I’ve been encouraged to make it a competitive thing, I’ve been encouraged to try and bring in people from Chicago and broaden it a little bit, but I want it to stay a very welcoming environment, a very friendly environment,” Schmitz said. “(I) try hard (to) be diligent in who I’m bringing in, as far as just good people.”

McGee said the bond she makes with other people is what keeps her coming back.

“This is about comedy and putting on a show, but it’s also about building a community and being inspired by others,” McGee said. “There are people I’ve been in a sketch once with but now if I run into them somewhere, I feel a little connection.”

Although the sketches are created in a compressed time frame, they can still have the potential to bear great worth, Dresang said.

“Maybe they’re not all world-class acts of theater or anything, but over the course of that evening, in those 10 sketches, there are going to be six or seven or eight in which you find something very remarkable,” Dresang said. He added that he thought having the admission be $10 to watch — or $1 per sketch — made it worth the money. The proceeds go to the charity of a participant of seniority’s choice.

Schmitz ’n Giggles holds auditions once a year. Schmitz said while there is no set date yet, those interested can anticipate auditions for future showcases in early fall.

This story was written by Emily Rouse. She can be reached at emily.rouse@marquette.edu.