SNL stopped being consistently funny around the time Chris Farley stopped breathing. The members of Kids in the Hall and The State and Mr. Show have been banished to the cruel deserts of work-for-hire sitcoms and kiddie flicks. And if he really wants to convert people to atheism, Richard Dawkins should simply ask how any god could allow MADtv to last for 13 seasons.
But while great televised sketch comedy might be dead—or at least hibernating—all hope's not lost. Live sketch comedy is alive and kicking, and for that I profusely thank the 3rd Floor.
That's Entertainment? The Director's Cut is a remixed version of a production the 3rd Floor briefly performed in 2005, and it aims to do nothing less than sum up the entire history of modern comedy. Advertising "100 years of comedy in 90 minutes," each sketch is performed in the style of a major comedic movement—from vaudeville and silent motion pictures to late-night talk shows and variety hours. (Also included: Satan, a grown man in a dirty diaper, and an irate Leonard Nimoy.) But it's less about the concept and more about the troupe, who might be the funniest nine people in Portland. So the important part is this: Go to this show, because it's funny and clever and unpredictable and smart and fun, and it will make you laugh.
That said, it's all a bit stop and go. Rather than going the easy route by parodying the often-antiquated styles of comedy they're surveying, the 3rd Floor earnestly—sometimes too earnestly—seeks out the humor within. That's not to say the writing and performances here aren't sharp, but it is to say that That's Entertainment? is overly reverential. Some periods of comedy are just funnier than others, and while the 3rd Floor can wring laughs out of even the driest clichés (a pie-to-the-face sketch is one of the best in the show), some of these sketches feel too straightforward and dated.
But ultimately, the hits easily outnumber the misses, and That's Entertainment? is a blast—and yet another welcome example of how the 3rd Floor is keeping sketch comedy vibrant, sharp, and alive.