Review: Sketchfest Delivers Side-Splitting ‘Thrilling Adventure Hour’

From San Jose Mercury News

January 25, 2011
By Roman Gokhman

This review is brought to you by Patriot Brand Cigarettes. Or, it might have been, had the sponsors of the hilariously charming “Thrilling Adventure Hour” at the San Francisco Sketchfest Saturday night at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre had their say.

But don’t take our word for it! (Actually, take our word for it).

In the second of two performances, an ensemble cast including Neil Patrick Harris (“How I Met Your Mother”), Alison Brie (“Community,” “Mad Men”), Busy Phillips (“Cougar Town,” “Freaks & Geeks”) and a handful of other TV and stand-up veterans staged an old-timey radio program in front of a sold-out house.

The performance included several sketches in the vein of serialized radio programs from the early 20th century. Those were separated by singing jingles from the show’s fake sponsor: Patriot Brand Cigarettes.

Call it a sendup that would make Garrison Keillor proud.

Instead of a variety of instruments to serve as sound effects, comedian Hal Lublin commanded the various space ship beeps and volcano eruptions with the help of an Macbook.

It was just as interesting seeing the actors sing the 1940s-style radio jingles as act the skits, which were performed on a undecorated stage, with several microphones up front and a backing band tucked to the side.

In “Sparks Nevada,” a western set on Mars, a human marshal played by comedian Marc Evan Jackson, and his Martian deputy (Paul F. Tompkins of “Best Week Ever”), face a problem of the planet-goes-boom variety.

The plot involved the warming core of the red planet. The marshal and deputy get a visit from a “Star Trek”-like space ship piloted by Donal Logue (“Terriers,” “Grounded For Life”). His dimwitted first mate was played by Colin Hanks (“Orange County,” “The Good Guys”). With them was a stoic Dutch data analyst, played by comedian James Urbaniak, who deadpanned all his lines, such as, “The Netherlands is also on Earth.”

The crew of the spaceship wanted to supersede the authority of the marshal (“This may be your planet but this is my solar system!”) and shoot the planet with ice missiles.

In “Captain Laserbeam,” the best of the four sketches, a superhero, played by John DiMaggio (“Futurama”) faces three challenges.

He sells magazine subscriptions to send urban youths to a summer camp, puts up with two annoying kids (Samm Levine of “Freaks & Geeks” and a hilarious 4-year-old sister played by comedian Annie Savage) and his third-worst nemesis, Foxy Burlesque (Phillips). The villain’s one superpower appeared to be seducing men.

In the next sketch, “Col. Tic-Toc,” (Craig Cackowski; “Community”) her royal majesty’s time traveler, is sent to Victorian London to rescue comedic opera writers Gilbert and Sullivan from a caveman hurled through time to their dressing room.

Tompkins played Gilbert and Neil Patrick Harris stole the sketch as a Sullivan with low self-esteem and who needed a pep talk before he could play a violin to tame the caveman.

Brie, wearing a black dress and burgundy beret, and playing a glamorous Hollywood actress named Alison Brie, was up next to sing a radio jingle for Patriot Brand Cigarettes. Someone needs to find her some more singing gigs.

The final performance was set in Jacksonville, Fla., where three hobos, played by Cackowski, Lublin and Brie, are captured by townspeople who plan to sacrifice one of them to bless the year’s crop harvest.

The performance concluded with a jingle singalong from the full cast.

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