ASF HOT SEAT: The Neighborhood Sketch Comedy

The Neighborhood Sketch Comedy Show is one of The New Movement's premier sketch shows. We caught up with Amy Jordan of the group to try and get some of her comedy wisdom to rub off on us. 

When did you first start working together?

The Neighborhood is a sketch show produced by me, Amy Jordan (nee Pacheco). The show had its first show ever on November 2010. I have produced and directed the show since the very beginning but the cast and writing staff has been ever-changing over the years. For the past two years, the show has run with a group of people that do all the writing and acting as a team, most of whom stick around in the cast for 6 months to a year. It is currently formatted similarly to Saturday Night Live, with a monthly host and an opening video that introduces the team.

How did you come up with your team name / show title? 

The show was borne of my first ever sketch class at The New Movement taught by Chris Trew. When I wanted to put up my own show to showcase all of the new writers after our recital, Chris helped me come up with a cool sketch show name.

What was the first sketch idea you can remember having as a group or an individual? 

In the first ever show we did in November 2010, we did a news segment called The News Movement. This is cool because the performers who did that bit with me ended up fleshing out this idea into their own full show of topical sketches and news desk segments. But that’s not the bit that I loved the most. We did this one bit where Margaux Binder did an economy editorialist bit as a child talking to her teddy bear, Ben Bernanke. The comedy contrast worked so well. It was a great way to make a political statement in a soft easy way for the audience to digest.

What's your creative process like? How do you generate ideas and keep it fresh?

In our current format, we do a monthly show on the 1stand 2nd Saturday of the month at The New Movement. As soon as each month’s show premieres, we start preparation for the next month. Each month, we have a different host who we build the comedy around. We brainstorm sketches that we think would best highlight our host and after we pitch them our ideas, the host gets to add their input as well. As the head writer/producer/director, I work to make sure the best ideas/themes get put in every show. We meet weekly to write the show, punch up the sketches and rehearse together as a team. We build each show over 4 rehearsals and 2 shows.  

Who are your influences? Who are some of your favorite sketch comedy acts performing today? Who has blown your mind? 

The first ever sketch show that inspired me to do comedy was “Tracey Takes On,” an HBO-produced sketch show featuring Tracey Ullman. I loved her and that show opened my mind to what could be a performance. After I watched her, I saw SNL for the first time and fell in love with this kind of live sketch comedy show. Later, I really enjoyed acts like Kids in the Hall and Key and Peele. And the cool thing is, in my life right now, I have had the opportunity of working with and taking workshops with writers who worked on both of those shows and they really blew my mind. They inspire me to keep creating comedy every day.  

Do you have any fun "worst show" or "worst audience member" stories?

I prefer to think of every show as a good learning experience. Sometimes the audience gets it, sometimes they don’t but we’ve never had anyone be rude or yell at us.

Do you have any fun "best show" stories?

I am pregnant right now so the April show was the last one that I’ll be a part of for the summer. (For the May, June, July and August show, I have assigned one of the current team to lead the group.) So in the April show, we had a song and dance number. I have always wanted that in The Neighborhood and this was such a wonderful thing for me to experience before I took a hiatus. In the almost 7 years that I’ve put together the show, I’ve never let it run without me but this group is so strong that I tryst them and this special song and dance number just filled my heart with such love and appreciation.

Are there any ideas that you've had that you can't seem to make work or convince the rest of the team / troupe is actually funny?

There have been plenty of ideas along the way that the group thought was funny but that the audience doesn’t connect to. But before ideas go up onstage, the whole group usually agrees they’re good enough for our show. We hold ourselves to a high standard so all of our different perspectives have judged and hones an idea so we’re always putting up something that represents us as a team.

What should people interested in comedy know about performing sketch that you didn't know when you started?

1.   Keep it simple. A single joke with 3 beats is going to get a much better reaction that a complicated idea. If you have a bunch of different joke ideas, write a separate sketch for each idea. 

2.   Work with people you like and who work similarly to you. If your fellow troupe-mate doesn’t care as much as you do, it will cause resentment and that filters into the comedy. Find a team that wants to do the high quality show you do and your end result will be best. 

3.   Often, the idea you start with and the words that come out of your brain can be very different. Don’t beat yourself up. Use what you wrote as maybe a new sketch and try again to communicate your initial idea in another sketch.

4.   Promotion is key. Do everything you can to build your audience. If no one is there to watch your show, it is much less fun. A full house is the best house.

What else – comedy wise – are you looking forward to this year? What do you have cooking?

While I am away on my maternity leave, I am going to focus on writing and bring a bunch of new sketches to the gang in the fall. For the rest of the team, I am excited to see how the summer goes for them and I look forward to hearing what they learn when they are in full control of the production of the show.

Check out The Neighborhood Monday, May 22nd at 8:30 PM at ColdTowne Theater! Tix Here