Premise sketches and character sketches

"What is Sketch Comedy?" is a good intro to sketch. Here it offers a look at the difference between premise sketches and character sketches.

The famous “Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker” (Van Down by the River) sketch is a classic character sketch.* Chris Farley’s performance is the only reason that sketch is funny. It’s a relatively mundane situation made interesting by the addition of a wacky character. These are a staple of SNL sketches. From John Belushi’s Samurai Tailor to Gilda Radner’s Emily Litella to Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri’s Spartan Cheerleaders, SNL has made the character sketch its bread and butter. This is a great sketch to have if you have the actors to pull it off. SNL draws from some of the best comedic improvisers and actors in the world, many of whom are looking to show off so they can land better jobs, so character sketches are a natural fit. In general, British shows tend to have few pure character sketches, instead inserting funny characters into premise sketches...

A premise sketch is a sketch in which the situation is funny, rather than one character. Both characters can be totally normal people doing something weird...Sometimes, premise sketches have silly characters, although this is more common in England than the U.S. For example, Monty Python’s “Dirty Fork.” This why sometimes people say the two types of sketches are “one funny person” or “many funny people.”

See the full piece and accompanying videos.

P.S. Speaking of sketch, I loved this Soul Food clip from Key & Peele.


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