Keith Horvath is the director for North American Field Guide, House of 1000 Sketches, and This is (Not) the Gayest Show You'll Ever See. So he's pretty busy this week. But he took time to talk to us for the ASF Hot Seat.
When did you first start working together, with your collaborators on all these projects?
Well the first show I did at ColdTowne was House of 1000 Sketches, which was around Halloween last year. (Important side note: I have Cortnie Jones to thank 100% for the success of that show. She got the majority of the cast and my AD for that show, and she helped sell it out and hyped me up like cray. Without her I don't know if I would have gotten as many opportunities at ColdTowne as I have.) We rehearsed every Sunday for a few weeks in September and October, I showed everyone how I wanted them to write sketches, and then we just ran with that and made a twisted and hilarious show. Everyone involved is incredible.
After House of 1000 Sketches, sometime in November, I was approached to do North American Field Guide, which was great because I really like the challenge of a 1-2 person sketch revue, and especially the challenge of a short time frame (we only had a few weeks to get a show together)
I then held auditions for (Not) the Gayest after Thanksgiving, I think, and had the pleasure of working with some amazing comedians and we are continuing to work together as the sketch group "Martini Ranch"
How did you come up with your show titles?
I did not come up with the name for North American Field Guide, but House of 1000 Sketches came about because I knew I always packed a lot of scenes and blackouts - blackouts are real quick scenes that last a few seconds and are a joke - into the show, and knowing Rob Zombie's work, I was able to create the show title. Most often with revues you'll find they're named after puns, not always, but it's a favorite. For example, I once directed a superhero sketch show called "The Fortress of Solid Dudes" and a show written by college comedy students called "Ashes, Ashes, We All Grow Up."
For (Not) the Gayest, I wanted a title that would really grab people's attention, as well as protect the actors in the show. Since it is (Not) the gayest show you'll ever see, if there was content that didn't directly relate to the LGBTQ community, that would be fine, because the show wasn't necessarily the gayest. I usually put a lot of thought into the title, it's the first impression for an audience, so it has to be interesting and unique.
What was the first sketch idea you can remember having as a group or an individual?
For House of 1000 Sketches, I remember Cortnie being inspired by the song "Mars Needs Women" and writing a scene about a character trying to convince women to move to Mars, but with not that great incentives disguised as awesome. I loved the idea, particularly because sketch comedy is generally satirical, meaning it pokes fun at every day life. Satire is comedy born out of anger, and got it start at The Second City. Their goal was to create scenes that made people socially aware, and 'stuck it to the man' so to speak. So when I read Cortnie's sketch, I was happy we had already fallen into socio-political territory.
What's your creative process like? How do you generate ideas and keep it fresh?
For me, I almost always have people bring in a premise for a scene, or the most basic info one would need in order to successfully improvise a game or relationship. Usually this process bodes well for the ensemble, as they have time to filter out thoughts, and bring in an idea they're really excited about.
Staying a bit topical helps keep the ideas fresh, and improvisation makes the dialogue and relationships organic. Together you'll get comedy that is unique to the performer(s) who created it.
Who are your influences? Who are some of your favorite sketch comedy acts performing today? Who has blown your mind?
Growing up, I was very much so a fan of Jim Carrey and Robin Williams, and I always aspired to be like them.
While I may be biased because I also direct them, I'm a huge fan of GoofTowne, the solo comedy show. These are writers and performers who get up on the first Thursday of each month (10pm!) and showcase characters they have been working on. The actors in this show are incredible.
There are so many people who have been impressing me with their skills, but I love anything Laura de la Fuente does. She's unbelievably relaxed and funny on stage. She makes improv look easy.
Do you have any fun "worst show" or "worst audience member" stories?
I was in my conservatory graduation show at Second City, and one of our classmates brought his girlfriend to the show - who was already belligerent by the time she got there. We all knew who she was, so we weren't sure if we could say anything or not. So for most our 15 minute improv preview, we had to do our best not to acknowledge all the yelling and critiquing from her before a host finally came and she LOUDLY left the theater.
Check out Keiths Shows this year at Sketch Fest. North American Field Guide, House of 1000 Sketches and This Is Not The Gayest Show You'll See.