June 13, 2001


sketch comedy at
The Perch

reviewed by
Lynn Trenning

























For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.

aired on WFAE, June 22, 2001

The Perch, Charlotte's only live sketch comedy troupe, describes itself as "cheerfully offending Charlotte since 1994." It's a good slogan, if show #237 is representative. The Perch advertises with a neon sign featuring a caged parrot's skeleton in the 2nd floor window of a Plaza Midwood building, where they perform. The performance space includes a tiny stage faced by rows of overstuffed furniture someone's aunt probably decided was no longer fit for the front porch.

Every Friday and Saturday, at 9 and 11 p.m., with a third 1 a.m. show on Saturday, 4 to 10 actors perform an hour and a half of live comedy skits, freshly written every two weeks - no mean feat. Show #237 had 12 sketches, 4 of which were songs, and most of which relied on jokes that featured crabs (not the kind you eat), VD, general scatology, and lots of swearing, all of which are potentially humorous. Unfortunately, the cast was so amused at itself that it lacked the discipline to successfully deliver what was often quite clever, albeit irreverent material.

The sketches were full of good ideas and an occasional gem. In "Dysfunctional Family Feud," six actors effectively milked the old game show gag by answering the question 'Why didn't Santa come?' with absurd personal stories. In the sketch "Bad Porn," the audience was treated to several inches of plumber Mike Dickson's exposed posterior, while he flirted with Shannan Brice, who sported a backside Perch of her own. "What A Wonderful World," featured an obscene Louis Armstrong imitation that worked because of the contrast between who he really was, versus how he was being portrayed. In "Snack Treat," a peanut butter cup was used to mock racism.

But as often as an idea glimmered, it tanked. In "Horsey," a man arrived at his horseback riding lesson to find that his instructor was the paralyzed Christopher Reeves. Poor taste can be funny, but when the skit slid from that shaky ground to question the holocaust, The Perch crossed the line from raunchy to grim.

Sloppy writing and poor attention to detail ruined the potentially riotious ode to Jesse Helms. This lively musical laceration repeatedly referenced Helms as a Roly Poly 300 pounds. I doubt if Helms weighs 200 at this stage of his life. There's no reason to make cheap shots against a target that provides so much natural material. It undercuts the humor.

Irreverence and satire require professional handling or they turn into adolescent clowning. The skits ranged from absurd to indecent, and left me to question whether offensiveness is a redeemable quality in and of itself. The show was infused with a sense that the actors couldn't get over how clever and naughty they were being. Too much of the humor was written to the level of a 19 year old, who lives at home and was seeing his first live performance that wasn't a Broadway musical.

But the band rocked. Between each skit the three member Dawn Patrol pulsated the house with Martin's wailing guitar. I don't know anywhere else in Charlotte that you can hear groovin' live music for 8 bucks before 11 p.m. The living room style setting, and the availability of fresh baked cookies added to a whimsical, informal atmosphere. The idea is great. The cast needs to grow up a little, and take themselves as seriously as I wanted to take them.

Lynn Trenning, June 13, 2001

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