Dave Buckman is possibly the most esteemed sketch comedy performer, instructor, and director in Austin. After cutting his teeth studying and teaching improv in Chicago, Dave served as Artistic Director of the legendary Boom Chicago in Amsterdam, where he worked with and directed some of the funniest people working in television and web-based sketch comedy today.
We asked Dave to write about a few Sketch Fest acts he was looking forward to. His response? “I sat down try to do this and a 2 page story about how I met Ithamar came out.”
We present to you Dave’s story of how he met 2014 Austin Sketch Fest performer Ithamar Enriquez:
Coming up in Second City
I’ve known Ithamar Enriquez since we were both underdogs at The Second City.
In 2002, I was a new touring company director with some heavy hitters in GreenCo. who were making me look really good: Tom Flannigan. Rob Janas. Maribeth Monroe. Sue Salvi, Rebecca Drysdale and John Lutz.
All monsters of comedy. All still in the game.
And I was hungry for some more work. They asked if I would direct a one-off Patch Co show. A Patch Co show is made up of alumnus and understudies. The minor leagues. People coming up and needing a shot at a good show in front of the right folks to get into a touring company…combined with people who were sick of the road but needed the $75. This was a cast of all understudies.
The cast was some folks I had met, some I had heard of and an old housemate of mine from Amsterdam. The cast was also ethnically diverse which a) unfortunately was a rare thing handed to you as a director in sketch comedy and b) fortunately opened me up to so much more material from the archives as a director to choose from. It also meant I could possibly get to use scenes from my favorite SC show ever.
Everybody’s favorite SNL cast is the one they group with as a teenager. When you work at Second City, your favorite revue is usually the first one you saw written. Mine was RiverAnts.
Chicago 1997: I was a host. I walked you to your seat. I got ice for the bar, I told drunks to shush. I got free cokes and got to watch the best sketch writers and improvisers on the planet 5 nights a week. While Fey and Dratch and Dorff and Adsit were in one room performing the groundbreaking Paradigm Lost, Mick Napier was in the theater next door writing a show with Rich Talarico, Horatio Sanz, Jerry Minor, Rebecca Sohn and Laura Krafft, Rachel Hamilton and Matt Dwyer and Jeff-fucking-Richmond on the piano!
The show, full of transitions and 2nd and 3rd beats to sketches, peaked with an 8-minute two-couple scene about swingers. Everything about this scene made me giggle while they were improvising it in previews.
Horatio and Jerry played new suburban neighbors who wanted to swing with Rich and Laura after dinner. The white couple doesn’t want to because… they’re not like that. Horatio and Jerry accuse them of being racist for not wanting to have sex with them. Heighten to a dizzying crescendo. (Talarico (trying anything): “We’re not racist! We’ve got a color tv!”)
It finished with a 1:45 slow fade. To Marvin Gaye’s, “Let’s Get it On.” Picture that. A MINUTE:FORTY-FIVE SLOW FADE! (“We’re all sensitive people…with so much to give”)
In previews, Mick would let Horatio improvise a two-minute monologue about how wonderful it was to make to love to Jerry, his beautiful Nubian Queen. The speech was different every night. He was unreal.
When it was done and the show opened, the scene was called “Neighbors.” It was edgy, it was raunchy, it was honest, it was emotional and it was fucking funny. And I would gleefully watch an audience watch that scene every night I could.
“No one ever toured this sketch…but I would.”
Cut back to 2002: I have running order to assemble based on previous Notre Dame shows and the temperament of a Catholic University. No cursing/No repeat scenes. Got it. But… anything else is fair game.
“There is a black guy in the cast and a hispanic guy in the cast…” Not that it should matter…but for some sketches it does. For the comedy. This one, it matters. It wouldn’t work any other way unless you had an African American man, a Latino man, a White man, and a White woman. The jokes were just so. This cast had that mix. The running order was approved.
I cast Jon Keaton, Nicky Margolis, Ithamar Enriquez and my old Boom friend, Joe Kelly. How exciting! No one ever toured this sketch…but I would. On paper you couldn’t see it, but I knew how good it could be.
As we got closer to the show when we needed to start rehearsing the scenes, Joe was called back home to Georgia suddenly. His sister, a mother of three, had been killed by a drunk driver. He had to bow out of his first Second City show. My heart broke for him in so many places.
There was literally only a day or two to find someone. Even though I had never been IN a second city show, (just directing), the producers asked me if I could step in and do Joe’s parts, since I knew them and had blocked the scenes already. There was so much bittersweetness about getting to do my first Second City show in my favorite scene while my friend Joe was missing his first show and in a personal nightmare.
When we got to campus, the show was in an old cathedral. The running order was a lot dirtier than I guess I had anticipated. I always liked edgy comedy. Maybe as a director I misjudged the temperament of a Catholic university. It was all…okay, but the crowd wasn’t exactly feeling it.
Then deep in the show I found myself setting up the chairs in the dark for “Neighbors.” At least this was going to be FUN!
In THAT scene.
In THAT show.
In THAT Cathedral…I had a front row seat to watching a master work. A new master.
Ithamar Enriquez won back a crowd like I had never seen.
He was physical. He was emotional. He stomped. He paraded.
He gathered all the focus in the room, then claimed it for his laugh and handed them back to you. Hot.
He got all his laughs and found new ones.
He was doing his dance.
It was fantastic. I was there feeding him lines. He was brilliant. And we all got all our laughs. 8 minutes of my hey day I wish I could live in just one more time again.
Later, during the improv set, a bat flew into the cathedral and danced around the overhead stage lights during freeze tag. The simple game disintegrated into a simpler game of Ithamar and Mike screaming and chasing the bat around the stage and into the audience with a broom in character. The audience squealed. Cherry on the cake.
I will never forget how good Ithamar was that night. He made my sketch comedy fantasy camp come true.
Saturday May 24. I will be front row again to see his 3rd trip to Austin Sketch Fest.
This time he is on stage by himself.
In a one-man silent sketch show.
And you will get to see him dance the way I did.
Ithamar Enriquez will be performing his silent, one-person show “Ithamar Has Nothing to Say”, Saturday May 24th at 7pm, at the Spider House Ballroom with opening act The Hustle Show. Tickets available here.