Stanton Brasher is red in the face. “NEER-DA-NEER-NEER-NEEEERAAAAAAAAAW! BEEE-DA-NEEEER!”
Brasher’s face purples and his fingers fly, picking an air guitar as he bellows in a shrieking tenor that makes your throat burn in sympathy.
Speaking of sympathy, most of it should be saved for the poor man gently picking out the deep blue notes of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on the acoustic guitar as Brasher serenades him with the speed-metal air guitar improvisation. The racket has the actual guitarist screwing up the side of his face closest to Brasher’s mouth.
The scene is part of Fight Boy Theatre’s upcoming production, <ITAL> Sketchy People. It’s an evening of sketch comedy performed in two acts. It’s also the realization of a dream Brasher has had for a while now.
“Travis and I started talking about doing a sketch comedy show at least a year ago,” said Brasher, the co-producer and co-writer of Sketchy People. Travis Barth, a co-producer and co-writer, said he thought the idea could end up on stage. He also said he thought Fight Boy was the local independent theater company to stage the show.
Fight Boy Theatre has earned the goodwill of its audiences both by staging R-rated shows and producing new work.
Artistic director Kevin Wickersham showed his playwriting chops several seasons ago when he penned and produced the uber-raunchy Gomorrah Go Go: A Perversion in Two Acts. It was filth for the sake of filth; it was a retelling of the biblical story of Lot, told with more heart than one will find in the Scriptures.
Barth said sketch comedy was a logical next step for the company.
“It’s so much easier,” Barth said of writing short, complete scenes instead of a two-act play. “Way easier. When you have as many people sitting around the table as we did, you have too many ideas to use.”
Brasher said the moment indeed seemed right when Fight Boy accepted the pitch for Sketchy People.
“Everyone came to the table with an idea for a skit,” he said. “The hard part was deciding which ideas to develop, really.”
Sketchy People is a series of oft-gutter-mouthed scenes that satirize popular culture, politics and people in the 11-person cast. For example: A couple breaks up as the Titanic sinks; a group of hillbillies can’t stop loving mayonnaise; and Rush Limbaugh tries to get Ashley Olsen, Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann to stay on the topic of brain cloning after a zombie apocalypse.
“If you have a heavy metal theme restaurant [idea], we’ll run with it,” said Wickersham, director of the show. “And then there was Stanton’s obesity and his doctor’s complete lack of concern about it. We can run with that, too.”
Brasher has the build of a Viking — or at least an Irish lumberjack. He has an important belly and has a bit of a smoking habit that his cast mates like to crack on.
But when he launches into what can only be described as athletic physical comedy, Brasher comes off like Jack Black on one of his manic rampages, bending, leaping, twisting and moving with the speed of a jackrabbit and the coordination of a tennis pro.
And as it turns out, Brasher isn’t in this just for kicks. The sketches helped to create his master’s thesis in theater at Texas Woman’s University.
He’s pursuing a degree in arts administration, a program that will help him create his own projects.
“I am fascinated and immensely entertained with all the aspects that go into a production like this. Plus, I have a knack for making fun of things,” Brasher said.
Barth and Carrek Coleman, an actor and the video operator for the short films and scenes that will roll as scenes change, said the company deliberately used some cliches in the sketches, but only as shorthand for the audience.
“When you have to get your point across in five pages, you have to resort to some cliches to get some information across to the audience,” Barth said.
For instance, when Gov. Rick Perry charges into a sketch, he makes his entrance in grand Texas style. In other words, Governor Good Hair is brandishing a gun. Too partisan?
Sketchy People recruited talent that’s new to Fight Boy. Art professor and local musician George Neal, of Hares on the Mountain, makes an appearance, as does local musician Tony Ferraro, who plays with the Satans of Soft Rock, among other bands. Brasher met them during D Haw, last year’s musical comedy based on the old television show Hee Haw.
Barth and Brasher said they tested the sketches on anyone who’d sit still long enough to read a short script or watch a comedy video.
“We bombarded people with it,” Barth said. “We totally did. When people came over, we’d be like, ‘Hey, come read this.’ If they didn’t laugh, we talked about it. If they did laugh, we knew we had something.”
Coleman said the company expects to attract some new audiences because it will stage the show at four venues through September and into October.
“There are so many crowds in this town,” Coleman said. “We’ll get our usual crowd when we do it at Art Six. When we do it at Dan’s, we’ll get Tony’s crowd. Who knows what we’ll get at Hailey’s.”
Wickersham isn’t counting out the PointBank Black Box Performing Arts Center, either.
“At the Black Box, I think we’ll get a theater crowd — maybe the same crowd that comes to Art Six for our shows, but maybe some people who like to see shows in that space,” he said. “Word of mouth is our best friend.”
The company isn’t shy about staging shows meant for an adult audience, and it doesn’t wince at suggesting that thin-skinned folks skip Fight Boy’s bawdier shows.
“I look at it this way,” Barth said. “Are we offensive sometimes? Absolutely. But our intent isn’t to offend people. It’s to make them laugh. I think if your point is to offend people, it isn’t comedy. It fails as comedy, really.”
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.