Sketchy Stuff shows us their best comedy of the year with The Sketchies

Zac Carman, Gracie Taylor, Brigid Connelly and Kalen Helfrich perform a sketch called “Close Encounters” for Sketchy Stuff. | Photo by Lou Tingle

Louisville’s less hoighty-toighty audiences have received many gifts from the febrile scrum of Kaiju — from “The Mothra” to Louisville Championship Arm Wrestling.

Sketchy Stuff, Louisville’s only original sketch comedy group, emerged from this Pabst-infused petri dish almost two years ago. And on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 14-15, they are giving us a gift in the form of their second annual, year-end best-of roundup, The Sketchies.

Insider checked in with Gracie Taylor, Zac Carman and Lena Beamish, the group’s co-directors, to get the details.

Gracie Taylor | Photo by Lou Tingle

Taylor says that despite their co-captaincy, the trio does not pick the “best” sketches.

“It’s chosen by the members of Sketchy Stuff. It’s their top favorite sketches of the year,” she explains.

Taylor, the group’s founder, has given a lot of people a chance to get on stage and get funny in the last two years, but claims she started the group with pretty un-altruistic intentions.

“Selfishness,” she says. “I was in a theater lull and an improv lull. And I didn’t have anything to do, so I said, ‘OK, what if we do a sketch comedy troupe?’”

She admits she’s self-centered, but the focus of the group stays on the group, with Taylor actually ending up with a lot less stage-time than she originally intended. Instead, she’s in the audience directing sketches and doing other producing duties.

Carman is a leader in the group in part because he was in the first meeting Taylor hosted. He was responding to an open call on Facebook — anybody was welcome, and about 25 people showed up. But seniority doesn’t matter when it comes to The Sketchies.

“We try to keep it pretty democratic,” adds Carman.

To procure the pinnacle of the past performances, leadership passes out a survey — i.e. an actual ballot. On it is a list of every single one of the 50-ish sketches performed over the course of 2018. Each member can vote for up to 10 sketches, those votes are tallied, and the top 10 are re-rehearsed and re-presented on the Kaiju stage.

Tim Northern, Kalen Helfrich and Ross Bowman in “Passing on the Gig” | Photo by Lou Tingle

When the three Sketchers were asked what their favorites are, they said they mostly had the same picks that emerged from the group’s ballots.

“I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like ‘Cap’n Fishhands,’” says Beamish.

As the final member of the triumvirate, Beamish is a great example of the group’s overall ethic. She didn’t create the show, and she isn’t a founding member.

Her first appearance with Sketchy Stuff was in September of 2017. A friend had written a sketch and needed someone to fill in for another performer who couldn’t make it. Beamish helped out and hopped on stage. 

“I was, like, this is really fun and I want to do it again, so I just started showing up,” she says. “My first show show was in October.”

Sketchy members Lena Beamish and Francesca Socolick | Photo by Lou Tingle

That is all it takes to get into Sketchy Stuff. If you can make it to the group’s regular Thursday night rehearsals, you get stage time.

“That’s my favorite thing about Sketchy Stuff,” says Taylor. “If you’re available Thursdays, you’re in.” 

Showing up got Beamish on the team, but it was consistently showing up and doing the hard work that landed her in leadership.

“So Lena would volunteer to do things,” Taylor explains. “She was, like, ‘Hey, if you want, I can put a show order together so people aren’t back to back in every sketch’ — which is impossible.”

Carman agrees that such a task, as well as other tasks Beamish takes on,  was immense.

“Lena has proved herself absolutely invaluable. I don’t know what we would do without her,” he says.

Beamish also designs and builds costumes and props when she’s not mastering spreadsheets.

Sketchy Stuff does have an open-door policy, but it’s only fair to mention Beamish wasn’t walking in as a doe-eyed novice. She had previously formed a sketch group in Indiana called Clacklebones.

While volunteering at the Culbertson Mansion, a historic Victorian mansion in New Albany, she asked leadership if she could use the space to perform. They said sure, but only if they could convince the state of Indiana that it was historical content.

“And that,” says Beamish, “is how ‘Fascist Community Baseball’ happened.”

That’s the name of a popular sketch that came with Beamish from Southern Indiana. Hitler’s rise to power in a part-time baseball league is one of several sketches, like the aforementioned “Cap’n Fishhands,” that have already had multiple outings. Sketchy Stuff’s core group will often show up in other places, including the Tim Northern Comedy Festival and appearances at Kaijusedays.

The open-door policy for newbies helps grow audiences and it’s very democratic and all, but how does it affect the overall quality?

“Some of our (regular) shows don’t always have only top-notch material,” says Carman. “You can’t have it 100 percent all the time.”

But hey, the last half-hour of “Saturday Night Live” usually offers up plenty of chaff as well, and those folks are supposedly the best in the world.

For Carman, any not-rolling-on-the-floor-laughing bits are worth it.

“We get really great moments out of people who think they can’t do it,” he says. 

Those great moments will get to stand out on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 14-15, when The Sketchies take the Kaiju stage. The show starts both nights at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $7 in advance or $10 at the door. Kaiju is located at 1004 E Oak St.