The creators of spurn do at least two things right: they utilize films between set changes and they keep their sketch comedy show brief. Sketch comedy is not an easy art to master. spurn tries its best but, like other troupes before it, frequently comes up short. spurn has been together since 2001; this is the group’s tenth installment. The actors, particularly Greg London and Lara Jane Dunatov, are polished and intrepid, but their shine is repeatedly dulled by mediocre writing.
One gets the sense that the spurn creators really, really, really once wanted to work on Saturday Night Live; their whole act owes deeply to the legendary show. spurn’s sketches are at least as good as the current crop of SNL ones. However, since the experience of watching SNL right now is one of hoping desperately for just one gem in a growing pile of forgettable clunkers, that's not saying much. SNL is uneven at best and so, unfortunately, is spurn.
Several of the eight sketches fall flat because they are simply vulgar and hackneyed. Although the sketches average only five to seven minutes in length, during several of them I caught myself anticipating the endings, and wondering what the next one would bring. Many of the skits elicited curiously loud guffaws and hoots from a few members of the audience and, at times, I wondered if they were shills. After all, how loud can one laugh at punch lines about necrophilia and the word “vagina?”
Hard core sketch comedy fans will enjoy the show's fast pace and crispness. Others might wonder how it differs from a typical collegiate comedy revue. spurn shows flashes of brilliance; thy just don't come frequently enough. One of the stronger skits is “am i right, fellas?” in which four female college dorm mates try to pull off a television show about feminism. One of the cast members memorably refers to it as “The View with working ovaries.” The “show” predictably turns out to be anything but feminist and soon devolves into bickering among the cast members, one of whom later flees in tears after her mother calls the studio to tell her she has cankles. Another imaginative sketch is the final one, “shooters,” in which three guys at a TGIF’s bar compete to see who can insult girls the most quickly. One of them gets more than he bargained for, as the other two bolt in horror.
Another strong feature of the show was the use of inter-sketch films, a smart idea that alleviates the awkwardness of frequent set changes. One of the sharpest was “20th Century Fops,” a hilarious recurring bit about two lecherous eighteenth century dandies trying to make it in the modern world. The sketch is introduced by a classical music rendition of The Doors’ “Twentieth Century Fox.” The antiquated humor is absurd and the idea original. spurn’s videos are already big hits on YouTube and its own podcasts. Not all the films are equally clever, however: “Rape Lazer” is simply lame and offensive. spurn wants to offend, to push the envelope. That can be a good thing, but spurn too often takes an easy prurient path that results in the “been there, done that” kind of sketch that leaves one laughing only briefly. Well, maybe not really laughing—more like chuckling. I recommend this for folks looking for a quick evening of giggles and for those loyalists who are still fans of SNL.