I don’t much care for American sketch comedy because of the generally poor writing. The typical skit is some funny idea that the writer (although the actor is often more important than the writer) riffs on for a while and then just stops. For example, Julia Sweeney’s androgynous Pat character. Pat enters, makes people uncomfortable and cleverly deflects questions designed to determine her sex, and then Pat leaves. If the ideas were always as funny as Pat, that would be one thing. But in general, the ideas are weak and they lead nowhere.
Recently, I’ve been revisiting old episodes of SCTV. When I was younger, I preferred the show to SNL. But actually, the show suffers from the same problems. It is just better because the cast is a lot better. There is also a whole lot more depth to the show because it is supposed to be a small local television station. So characters like Guy Caballero (Joe Flaherty) and Edith Prickley (Andrea Martin) were developed through the run of the show. Of course, there was also my all time favorite Count Floyd, the distinctly non-frightening host of Monster Chiller Horror Theater, their version of Creature Features that I grew up watching.
Given my problem with the lack of punchlines in “American” comedy, I was pleased to revisit one skit from SCTV that I think is brilliantly written (as well as acted). It features another Andrea Martin character, Pirini Scleroso. Scleroso is a great character who hardly needs a punchline. She is the janitor at SCTV who appears to speak little English but apparently just has a very bad accent. I also like that she is eager. She frustrates everyone, but is still charming:
“You just go down two blocks; you can’t miss it!” Now was that so hard?
Here is a typical SCTV skit with Pirini Scleroso in the part of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. As usual, when SCTV did a parody, they presented it as a “coming soon” commercial. This is very funny: