By Gary Wien
When we checked out the performers for this year's Sketchfest, one group caught our eye immediately - Meat. Comprised of Elizabeth Ellis, Reggan Holland, Becky Poole and Livia Scott, these four women write extremely interesting and often hilarious sketches that are on the dark side. How dark? Well, their show at the festival is named "Camp Blood" - that should give you an idea. Ihad a chance to speak with Livia Scott about the group, her career, and what she loves about sketch comedy.
You originally studied to be an actress, how did you get involved in sketch comedy?
I trained as an actor. I went to NYU and majored in acting there. I studied with the Atlantic Theatre Company - David Mamet's company - and I took master classes with him. He was actually very encouraging of me. He said, "I could watch her all day!" Very nice...
So I kicked around New York theatre for a while, but I always loved sketch comedy. My parents were academics and nerds so we would go on these cross country road trips just listening to Monty Python sketches and acting them out. It's kind of funny that I've come back around to sketch because that's really where I started. It's the first thing that got me interested in performing in the first place. It's more fun. I discovered that I can write and it's just very gratifying to write your own work and to make it happen.
I still do some acting, but I'm primarily focused on comedy at this point in my life.
How did Meat come about? Who started it?
All of us. Everybody from the beginning.
You're all from very different parts of the country.
Yeah, we're a very diverse group. We all write and we all have our own, very specific voice.
Would you say the writing is dark or kind of sick?
I would say dark - not really sick. Not to be a snob, but I think sick is like excessive swearing. It's a crutch, I think, for when you don't really have an original idea or you don't have the confidence to take something that is seemingly simply and make it really provocative. If you have to go the sick route you're probably not very imaginative.
As somebody who has done both stand-up and sketch, do you notice a difference in the audiences?
Oh yeah! It's totally different.
So there's sketch afficionados?
Exactly. People who go and see sketch specifically and know what sketch is and love it... I would say they are more intellectual in some ways. It's never really occurred to me before, but people who really love sketch comedy are people who are familiar with Monty Python or Kids In The Hall or with Beyond the Fringe. There's a great tradition of sketch comedy that has been in existence for a long time. Sketch fans tend to have a more sophisticated sense of humor. People who go to see stand-up are sometimes sophisticated, sometimes not.
I think stand-up is much harder to do than sketch because at least with sketch you have a team with you; there are people to catch you if you fall. But I think in terms of the audience stand-up is a more easily accessible medium. You'll find all sorts of walks of life in stand-up while sketch is something different.
What is it like during a sketch festival? Is it just a huge gathering of sketch fans together or are some seeing sketch for the first time?
I think it's a mix. The sketch fans and sketch afficionados definitely come out because it's such a huge experience to have all of these incredibly talented groups from all over the country. These people are top notch. The audience becomes like a wave. The people who are out there who aren't that familiar with sketch are going to be swept up by the people who are. And as the show goes on they're going to be on the same page with all the people who really know sketch.
Did Mr. Mamet ever see you do this?
No, I doubt he'd even remember who the hell I am, but he did like me when he saw me back then.
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at email@example.com.