Sketchy Advice: A comedy writing column from UCB Comedy. Established sketch writers from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre offer sketch students advice on being creative, the writing process, and adding to a writer’s room.
Instead of everyone always complaining about the “feckless youth,” how about you do something about it and help them? Contribute to a chairty, put out a donation box at the office, or volunteer at a feck kitchen. In this country, in this era, with all the SUV’s, susidies and supercomputers we have, there’s no reason any youth should go to sleep tonight lacking in feck.
Time in New York was, you couldn’t order IKEA online. You had to go to Elizabeth, New Jersey. Some people took the subway to Penn station and then rode a bus from there. It was an underground railroad of flat-packed Swedish home furnishings. There was even a time when it was actually hard to get a copy of the IKEA home catalogue. Only one came out a year and you had to go the store and get it and it wasn’t always there. You would get it and read it on the way home and hold onto it for the rest of the year as reference material. Friends would come over just to look at it. It was like samizdat. Now it’s an app.
And in its pages was the promise that you could hack your apartment and get a cheaper American Dream, a newer better urban American Dream, where white picket fences and buying a house you pay off by working a job you hate is for suckers. I’m gonna knowledge work my way up to the top of my dreams, rent, and my furniture won’t be broken or used or look like anything from my mom’s house. IKEA’s furniture was from the future, with funny names and friendly prices.
Then you got it home and tried to figure out how to put it together. Those black and white lines so deceptively simple. And at the front of it there was always that little drawing of the guy with the big nose scratching his head and going huh? and then a drawing of a phone and you’re like yeah what kind of idiot needs to call IKEA to put his shelves together? And then later on you’re halfway through and you’re stuck and the umlaut won’t fit into the fjord and you are that line drawing with a big nose scratching your head and thinking of calling IKEA and you realize that because you didn’t put the board that had three tiny holes on it instead of two the right way up you have to take the whole thing apart and start over and as you’re turning turning that tiiiny hex wrench you’re like oh i get the business model, i get why my parents paid more at Raymor and Flannigans a pre-assembled bookshelf… because it’s already a bookshelf!
At IKEA, the cost of your own labor and stupidity is the savings that we pass on to you.
But you stuck with it because it looked smart and it was cheap. Where did you get that couch? IKEA. Oh I like that desk where did you get it? IKEA. Nice credenza, did you get it at IKEA? Yep. Each time you invoked the store the glow of pleasure spread inside you further, like a reindeer on a spit slowly turning over a fire.
That’s a weird image. I just said that because I imagine that’s something Swedes do.
And that’s IKEA’s whole angle, it’s something you imagine Swedes do, raising robust cheerful blonde families in tiny well-designed spaces excelling in the simple pleasure of a set of interlocking pots “that just work” and enjoying all the fruits of socialized healthcare and getting fined for putting your recycling out on the wrong day. And with your feet up on the $150 KAFETABLU, sipping from a nice wine glass that’s cheaper than the two buck chick that’s in it, all was good.
Then IKEA jumped the shark and landed in Red Hook.
The lines are long, and they’re filled with people. You’re stuck behind 20 Hassids in line and each of them carrying two sinks. There’s a homeless guy camping out in one of the show bedrooms. A Lithuanian family is eating a bunch of meatballs using the home office desk section like picnic tables. Bill DeBlasio is buying a garlic press in the shape of a cat. IKEA has become like Walmart home furnishings for New Yorkers.
Now we get all our stuff from a new place. It’s called Yahoo message groups. People in your community just post stuff they’re selling, often for cheap, or even giving away. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it, but it’s a whole thing. Just don’t tell too many people. We don’t want it turning into IKEA or anything.
My toddler just figured out how to open doors. I’m so proud of him. But we’re done for. This is worse than the target security breach. This is like when the velociraptors in jurassic park got like opposable thumbs. Forget private office time, private bathroom time, private mommy daddy wrestling time. Any one of those moments can be interrupted by a screaming kid wearing a poopy diaper as a hat looking for the one electrical socket in the house that’s not baby proofed. He has evolved. Soon he’ll be teaching all the kids in the building playgroup. They’re trading toddler hacks over by the Duplo area in the common room like an occupy wall street cell. They’ll share how to ride on the elevator, how to press the button to open the building door, then all use the distraction iphones their parents gave them to flee brooklyn. Oh yeah, while you’re telling your friends it’s ok to give a baby a miniature television to “make sure they’re touch screen literate” and telling yourself “at least im not rubbing his gums with liquid benadryl” - they’re ordering up uber cars to take them to six flags. Honey, where’s the baby? Don’t worry, he’s in his room, the door’s closed. Meanwhile little Barthlomew is riding “The Sidewinder” next to that bald guy with glasses, mainlining cotton candy and he’s waving his sippy going “moh wed bull?” And they’re all going bow bow deedidly deeddily bow bow. Yep, pnce they can open doors, it’s over.
"Bass Wars" is apparently my neighbor's favorite video game
My neighbors love to play a game called “Bass Wars.” Basically, you are made of bass and you shoot bass at bass enemies to protect your base, which is made of bass. From what I hear, it’s a great way to pass the time at 2 in the morning.
Dear Mr Sartorialist: As a man, should I tuck my pants into my boots?
Great question! Do you work in construction? Are you a cranberry bog farmer? For either sport or profession, are you a horseback rider, especially in the areas of jumping or dressage? Do you live in area with high populations of fire ants? Are you an SS officer? Are you part of an advance scouting party that checks stagnant pools for leaches?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, feel free to tuck your pants into your boots.
If you answered no, keep your pants outside your boots for chrissakes.
You think it’s about Seinfeld, but it’s really a satire of modern hypermedia folly.
"The Apple Store, by "@Seinfeld2000." @Seinfeld2000 is the online persona of an anonymous Seinfeld fanatic, created originally to spoof the hugely popular @SeinfeldToday Twitter account. Like @SeinfeldToday, @Seinfeld2000 imagines a world in which Seinfeld is still on the air today, placing the ’90s’ favorite sitcom characters in contemporary situations. Unlike @SeinfeldToday, @Seinfeld2000 is very funny. The Apple Store is a deranged Seinfeld fanfic masterpiece."
I’m going to make a smartphone that has a sensor that can detects the aroma of food and conversation levels so if you pull it out in the middle of dinner, it explodes in your face. Just shards of glass kamboom, right in the face. I don’t think anyone will buy it for themselves, but it will make a great gift.
"So, who’s got the poison ivy?" asked the checkout clerk as he scanned my poison ivy cream. Wow, I love friendly service but what if I was buying Preparation H? Or Plan B? “So, who forgot to put the condom on?"
" ‘praise’ is not very funny" - linguist David Moser after studying the effect of the Chinese Communist Party after they ‘corrected’ a classic theater form in their country called ‘cross-talk,’ replacing the bits in the two-man bawdy slapstick vaudeville political satire with ones that found the lighter side of praising Communism. Without critique, there is no comedy.