Bright Colors and Comfy Couches
Fez Ballroom, 316 SW 11th, Friday 9 pm, through Sept. 2, $7
Scheduling the opening night of its very first production on the same night as Best of the Best Sketch Fest 2005 was bad timing on the part of upstart, all-female sketch comedy troupe XXX Chromosome. It was bad timing because—after having the strange experience of witnessing both events on the same night (XXX at the Fez; Sketch Fest at Artists Repertory)—I won't be able to help but compare them in this review. But even more so, it was bad timing because the ladies of XXX couldn't see the Sketch Fest themselves. They could have learned a lot.
XXX Chromosome are all about the punchlines; their style is to present a bizarre situation that is suddenly explained in a quick, comic twist of a finale. In one, a young lady (Bri Pruett) struggles to fill out a ludicrous SAT-style test with questions involving baffling leaps in knowledge and logic. In the end we learn it's all part of the hiring process for a certain lame grocery store chain. This idea, in and of itself, isn't so bad, but stretched out to the length it is by XXX, needs some pretty dazzling filler to rise above the level of what it ends up being: an extended joke. XXX fails to provide such filler; Pruett's fellow test-takers pursue comedy by behaving like drugged monkeys and the questions themselves are just plain confusing. In another scene we learn that a boss' strangely sexually tense firing of her employee is actually a phone sex commercial advertising "sexy women pretending to be businessmen." Again, a decent joke, but the meat of the sketch, the "business interaction" is painfully unfunny—a rushed, bumpy ride to a punchline that isn't worth the discomfort.
Later, at the Sketch Fest, I watched Hoskins and Breen (Portland's funniest sketch comics) spin massive laughs out of surreal characters and sharply observed dialogue. Their sketches had no punch lines at all, and usually ended quietly, with little or no fanfare. The destination was not important, but the journey to it—and, like going by train over plane—the ride was patient, languid, and smooth as hell.