The Plank Panel get the skinny

They're skinny and they don't like to wear pants.

The Play:
The Skinny Presents: Adventures In X-Ray Theatre, written and performed by Vancouver-based Jackie Blackmore, Michael John Unger and Darren Williams. They did not wear pants throughout their show - unlike the panel of reviewers you are about to meet.

The Panel:
Mike Vardy is a Victoria-based writer and performer who co-founded local sketch comedy troupe The 30 Cent Players. He is also behind Effing The Dog, a popular website that pokes fun at personal productivity.
Paul McKinnon is currently a member of The 30 Cent Players, and is a veteran writer/performer in his own right. He is also based in Victoria.

Mike: The Skinny have been around since 2006, and I know all three of them. I actually met Michael and Jackie during the same writing meeting where The Skinny first met, as Darren and I had gone to this meeting together from Victoria.

Paul: Yes, we’ve both worked with Darren with The 30 Cent Players. I’ve seen The Skinny perform in shorter sets, so I was looking forward to seeing what they could do in a longer show. They are also the only true sketch comedy troupe performing at this year’s festival, which is a departure from recent years where sketch comedy ran rampant.

Mike: It’s strange to see so little of that form of comedy at the Victoria Fringe this year. But The Skinny do not disappoint.

Paul: I agree. The performers are all strong - and there is definitely a great chemistry between them. With only three people on stage, everybody’s got to be at a particular level, or there’s going to be an imbalance. They work well together. All with no pants, no set and very few props.

Mike: The material was very strong. I don’t think either of us should go into too much detail; since these bits are so short that they could be compromised by revealing too much - possibly even sabotaged. What I will say is that with the nature of sketch comedy you have to expect that it’s going to be hit and miss but The Skinny had far more hits than misses.

Paul: The sketches were diverse, too. One sketch was done almost completely in the dark, and one WAS completely in the dark. It made for a nice mix.

Mike: The fact they mixed it up is important, because things can get stale really fast otherwise. Keeping a sketch comedy show moving - having a flow - is critical.
The Skinny also pushes the boundaries by avoiding blackouts (as promoted in their show description). Transitioning with no blackouts is incredibly challenging. The way they move from sketch to sketch is reminiscent of how the highly-acclaimed Mr. Show used to do it. There is definitely a craft in doing that because you don’t have those blackouts to give the performers time to breathe (or recover), so it’s “full on” for the entire show.

However, sometimes these transitions looked like they were “overworked.”

Mike: You’re right. Sometimes it looked as if a sketch was written a certain way because of a transition, not the other way around. It’s a tough balance, for sure.

Paul: What The Skinny does is not what most people would consider as sketch comedy. It’s absurd…and very physical in nature. The physicality is one of the strongest points about the show and all of the performers are quite good at it.

Mike: If you’re looking for MadTV, you’re not going to get it here. And that’s a good thing. That’s not to say The Skinny doesn’t “do” pop culture references. I mean, there’s a sketch about He-Man and another with Star Wars references. These three know what’s funny about these things and how to draw the audience into the show with such pieces. And they keep you interested with some excellent writing, instead of hitting you over the head with a punch-line.

Paul: I really liked the not-so-obvious ones, like The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew bit and a hilarious beat poet jam. I’m not going to tell how that one ends but it’s both tragic AND funny. However, this material isn’t for everyone. The show is listed as “adults only.” This is something to keep in mind. The audience the night we went was a little older than I think they’re used to playing to and I felt the audience pulled back a little because of it.

Mike: While it’s too bad The Skinny won’t be doing this show at the Vancouver Fringe, they will be performing in Vancouver at the same time as the festival. They’ve taken it upon themselves to perform at The Beaumont Studio Stage; I’d check them out there if you miss them here in Victoria.

Paul: Absolutely. This show is kinetic, frenetic and smart. Clocking in at 45 minutes, it didn’t seem nearly that long. That’s generally a good thing with sketch comedy. Even on opening night, when things can (and will) go wrong, The Skinny comes highly recommended.

The Skinny Presents: Adventures In X-Ray Theatre; written and performed by Jackie Blackmore, Michael John Unger and Darren Williams. Performances are at Victoria Fringe Venue 2 - The Metro Studio (1411 Quadra at Johnson). Show dates and times:Fri Aug 22, 8 pm; Sat Aug 23, 10:15 pm; Mon Aug 25, 8:30 pm; Sat Aug 30, 9 pm
Sun Aug 31, 3:15 pm. For more information get your skinny arse here.

By Mike Vardy and Paul McKinnon