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Arts and Entertainment

Tonight! Fries On The Side Sketch Show

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Photo courtesy Fries On The Side.

A lot of what is often missing from sketch shows, as opposed to improv, is that organic moment of discovery. With lines, there’s security and safety... which explains why half the hosts of Saturday Night Live manage to make it through without looking like COMPLETE douches. If you want the dangerous side of scripted live comedy, you’re really going to have to look towards UCB’s show Sketch Cram, where they write and perform the show in only 12 hours. But that’s once a month and is wholly comprised of veteran writers and improvisors. Try doing a live show where you get your lines two hours before the lights go up, your teleprompters are only 50% reliable, and you’ve got a host performer for the evening who may not have ever done a sketch show in their life. And it has to be good. Sweating bullets yet? Good. Welcome to Fries On The Side.

This North Hollywood show staple has been performing around the greater Los Angeles area for a few years now, in various forms. The members come (from Groundlings, UCB, Second City, iO West) and go (to other comedy endeavors, perhaps more lucrative but none more dangerous), but the format is always the same: sketches are written and submitted weekly and then given to an overlapping cast of actors a couple of hours before the show starts, for better or worse. The ‘teleprompters’ are simply two computer screens on either side of the stage, but they are less safety net and more laughing clown at the mini golf course, reminding you of what you should be doing but (for some reason) aren’t. Sketches get cut, others get added and improvised with a simple backstage call to the booth for a light or sound cue. There is an overwhelming sense of controlled pandemonium,while show masters like Shane Elliott anchoring the production, which only makes sense considering he created the damn thing.

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It’s interesting, because one could easily reason that a show like Fries would be terrible. No real rehearsal for a weekly written show is not often a recipe for success, yet the quiet North Hollywood bunch have been doing it without fail for years, and with novice and veteran performance hosts every single time. Such awesome past hosts have included Chris Titus, Alan Ruck, and Tommy Davidson. Oh, and did we mention there’s a music break in the middle? Not some DJ spinning 45s that were bad when they came out, either, a fucking BAND. For $6 a ticket, which is about 25% of what you pay at Groundlings and .0005% what you pay at the Comedy Store.

Fries on the Side is absolutely like no other sketch show you’ve seen, which should be taken as a very high compliment. The amount of focused energy, unbridled fun, and endless possibilities makes Fries a show that will keep you laughing off the edge of your seat, with a cheap cold beer in one hand and a smile on your face. Their season is quickly shuttering to a close, so be sure to check out their big finale weekend on June 20th, with hilarious host James Adomian and musical guest Jamie Drake. There’s a lot of great shows to see at any given point in the greater LA area, but if you don’t kick yourself for missing a Fries on the Side show, I will.

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