Sketch comedy comprises a series of short scenes or vignettes, called "sketches", commonly between one and ten minutes long. Such sketches are performed by a group of comic actors or comedians, either on stage or through an audio or visual medium such as radio and television
. Often sketches are first improvised by the actors and sketched down based on the outcome of these improv
sessions; however, such improvisation is not necessarily involved in sketch comedy.
An individual comedy sketch is a brief scene
of the type formerly used in vaudeville
, and now used widely in comedy and variety
shows, talk shows, and some children's television series
(such as ''The Electric Company
Sketch comedians routinely differentiate their product from a "skit", maintaining that a skit is a (single) dramatized joke (or "bit") while a sketch is a comedic exploration of a concept, character, or situation.Sketch
definition 3b, Merriam-Webster online. Retrieved 5/4/2019
Sketch comedy has its origins in vaudeville and music hall, where many brief humorous acts were strung together to form a larger programme.
In Britain, it moved to stage performances by Cambridge Footlights, such as ''Beyond the Fringe'' and ''A Clump of Plinths'' (which evolved into ''Cambridge Circus''), to radio, with such shows as ''It's That Man Again'' and ''I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again'', then to television, with such shows as ''Not Only... But Also'', ''Monty Python's Flying Circus,'' ''Not the Nine O'Clock News'' (and its successor ''Alas Smith and Jones''), and ''A Bit of Fry and Laurie''.
In Mexico, the series ''Los Supergenios de la Mesa Cuadrada'', created by Mexican comedian Roberto Gómez Bolaños under the stage name Chespirito, was broadcast between 1968 and 1973, creating such famous characters as El Chavo del Ocho and El Chapulín Colorado.
While separate sketches historically have tended to be unrelated, more recent groups have introduced overarching themes that connect the sketches within a particular show with recurring characters that return for more than one appearance. Examples of recurring characters include Mr. Gumby from ''Monty Python's Flying Circus''; Ted and Ralph from ''The Fast Show''; The Family from ''The Carol Burnett Show''; the Head Crusher from ''The Kids in the Hall''; Martin Short's Ed Grimley, a recurring character from both ''SCTV'' and ''Saturday Night Live''; and Kevin and Perry from ''Harry Enfield and Chums''. Recurring characters from ''Saturday Night Live'' have notably been featured in a number of spinoff films, including ''The Blues Brothers'' (1980), ''Wayne's World'' (1992) and ''Superstar'' (1999).
The idea of running characters was taken a step further with shows like ''The Red Green Show'' and ''The League of Gentlemen'', where sketches centered on the various inhabitants of the fictional towns of Possum Lake and Royston Vasey, respectively. In ''Little Britain'', sketches focused on a cast of recurring characters.
In North America, contemporary sketch comedy is largely an outgrowth of the improvisational comedy scene that flourished during the 1970s, largely growing out of ''The Second City'' in Chicago and Toronto, which was built upon the success in Minneapolis of The Brave New Workshop and Dudley Riggs.
Notable contemporary American stage sketch comedy groups include The Second City, the Upright Citizens Brigade, and The Groundlings.
Warner Bros. Animation made two sketch comedy shows, ''Mad'' and ''Right Now Kapow''.
Such sketches made during the 1970s and 1980s were ''If You Don't Stop It... You'll Go Blind'' and the sequel ''Can I Do It... 'Til I Need Glasses?'', ''The Groove Tube'', ''Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)'', ''The Kentucky Fried Movie'' and its sequel ''Amazon Women on the Moon'', and Monty Python's ''And Now for Something Completely Different'' and ''The Meaning of Life''.
More recent sketch films include ''The Underground Comedy Movie'', ''InAPPropriate Comedy'' and ''Movie 43''.
Many of the sketch comedy revues in Britain included seasons at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Since 1999, the growing sketch comedy scene has precipitated the development of sketch comedy festivals in cities all around North America, including festivals in Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York City, Montreal, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, and Philadelphia.
*British Comedy Awards
*List of sketch comedy groups
*List of sketch comedy TV series
*List of recurring ''Saturday Night Live'' characters and sketches
*''Saturday Night Live'' TV show sketches
*Brave New Workshop