Here is another of Erin Pike's series of interviews on Seattle's summer theater festivals—the Seattle Fringe Festival, 14/48, the Pinter Festival, and more. This one is with Kate Montgomery of Sketchfest Seattle, happening this weekend. —Eds.
Sketch comedy, like improv and musical theater, often gets a bad rap. The complex reasoning goes something like this: "when it's bad, it's BAAADDD." Which, obviously, fails to take into consideration that something that is BAAADDD is also, by definition, "bad." No shit.
Well, that BAADDD/bad redundancy can take a hike because this year's Sketchfest is full of good, good, good! Groups like Charles, The Cody Rivers Show, and Le Frenchword are performing, in addition to a bunch of other talented people. Check out what Kate Montgomery had to say:
Erin Pike: Share a brief history of Sketchfest's origin:
Kate Montgomery: During the later years of Almost Live! there was a huge boom in live sketch comedy in Seattle. In 1999 Mike Daisey looked around at his friends and realized they were the new sketch scene. Enough local groups were performing regularly that they had a full-weekend festival showcase which John Keister hosted.
After SketchFest’s conception, it became the model for other scripted comedy festivals around the country. As the years went on, the festival grew and began pulling in national and international acts to perform. We continue to be the world’s first and longest-running sketch comedy festival.
What makes your festival unique?
Along with bringing amazing out-of-town acts in, we work to enrich our local community. We provide them access to classes, workshops, writing groups, chances to perform alongside and learn from national talent, and support and coordination for their shows throughout the year.
What are the drawbacks to a festival format?
A festival has a larger up-front price tag than other shows. That, along with the non-monetary costs of administrative tasks (admissions, venues, housing, coordination… etc.) makes it all much more daunting than a standard show. We are very lucky to have amazing sponsors such as 4Culture, Pabtst Blue Ribbon, Sub Pop, and the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs.
How does Sketchfest affect both the performance community and the community-at-large?
Our function as a festival is to serve our local community. It’s the main lens through which we look at all of our decisions. Local groups get a chance to work groups from Chicago, New York, Vancouver, Portland, L.A., San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, and many other places. This gives them a chance to network and add a festival to the group's resume.
We all need laughter. There can never be enough. The festival is a warm light for many in what can seem like a very dreary city.
How much does the artistic strength vary from year to year?
We hold ourselves to an extremely consistent, high caliber of performance. Every show is worth seeing. There is no show that only has one group in it, so if something isn’t your taste, we pair it with something totally different.