In Sketch Artists, Colin Perkins profiles the many sketch comedy groups who produce videos for the internet. Up first: Good Neighbor.
After forming sketch troupe Good Neighbor in college, the members – writer/performers Beck Bennett, Kyle Mooney, and Nick Rutherford, and director/editor Dave McCary – embarked on an ambitious journey.
“When we graduated, we had the idea of going on a cross country grassroots road tour, complete with a Bio-diesel converted bus/camper,” says Rutherford.
“Most of our shows were completely empty,” recalls Mooney. “In Bridgeport, Connecticut our only audience members were this racist liquor store owner we’d met the night prior, and his son. I think they liked us.”
Their journey into the internet, on the other hand, has been much more well received. Today they have a well-established presence online and a loyal audience of fans that eagerly await each of the group’s unpredictably surreal video offerings.
In addition to providing them visibility, the web also inspires some of the group’s funniest and most popular content. “We have a handful of videos that deal with internet culture, like kids and random people who put up videos of themselves and their friends,” says Kyle Mooney.
This Is How We Trip sends up the type of self-narrated videos that saturate the web. The video joins a guy named Dennis and his friends mid-way through a DXM trip – providing access to their overtly-braggy inebriation rituals and beliefs.
While the user-created videos of the web inspired it, so too did some of the group’s own experiences.
“That video is mostly based on kids from high school who said and did a lot of those things. Dave and I had a friend who had a portal made of yarn in his room,” says Mooney. “There’s a whole sub culture of kids who are really into robotripping and have built this whole mythical culture around it, and have their own vocabulary for things relating to getting high.”
“I’m not sure if Kyle wants this on the record, but we both abused DXM in high school a little bit, which made the production of that video a pretty nostalgic one,” recalls McCary. “Although I don’t think the drug affected either of us the way that it affected some of the people we grew up with, I can still remember being under the influence of DXM and talking about spirituality while looking at trippy visuals.”
“In high school, I was mostly into getting high on life,” adds Rutherford. “I was super lame.”
Continuing the web theme, Best Videos Contest pokes fun at arbitrary internet contests - requiring multiple views to soak in all of the contradictory, nonsensical rules the group arbitrarily imposes on their faux fan contest.
Kyle Mooney sums up the absurd inspiration behind it: “There was a contest that a group called Rhett & Link did for who could hold the longest Supernote - which were people just making this obnoxious noise with their mouth for like 2 minutes. It was amazing to watch, because it was one of those things where as you’re watching it, you start to realize that this stuff happens only in this bizarre internet world – and if you had to explain it to somebody who knew nothing about viral videos, you’d look like a maniac or an idiot.”
“I just wish someone would enter our contest so we could disqualify them for breaking the rules” adds McCary hopefully.
But, the group doesn’t stop at skewering internet culture. Their two Los Angeles Lakers Championship Parade videos are each an equally brilliant parody of sports fans and their blind ability to spew platitudes in support of their team – even when the guy interviewing them lacks even a basic knowledge of the team or the sport itself. (At one point, the hapless interviewer refers to the team’s superstar as “Colby Bryant”).
But Good Neighbor covers much more ground than that, too. As evidence of that, their sketch video catalog also includes the tale of a drinking game gone horrible wrong (Drinking Game), a beautifully-shot WWII epic (An Inconvenient World War Truth), a glimpse into a future utopia (Fate of the World), a dad that has trouble letting go as his son heads to college (Goodbye Son) and the very popular Hook–inspired sketch Unbelievable Dinner.
For Bennett, the inspiration behind Good Neighbor’s surreal subject matter is simple: “I think we just want to be able to do all those things in the real world. Because the world would be a lot more fun if you could time travel, magically do dishes, and eat imaginary food.”
Good Neighbor performs regularly at the UCB Theatre in Los Angeles and can be found online at GoodNeighborStuff.com.
Colin Perkins is an author and comedian who has written for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,
McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, CollegeHumor, Cracked and mental_floss.