sketch comedy

Gigglefest’s mission in McMinnville: Make ’em laugh (again)

After a warm reception last year, producers of the sketch-comedy show promise to take off the gloves this time around

The United States has a long tradition of sketch comedy, with origins in vaudeville and later popularized on radio and eventually on television shows such as Saturday Night Live and The Carol Burnett Show from the 1970s. Ty Boice and Cassandra Schwanke, formerly of Portland’s Post5 Theatre, are keeping the tradition alive in Yamhill County under the banner of Gigglefest, an occasional and limited-run comedy-sketch series that returns Thursday for an April run.

The couple’s Soul of Wit Productions launched Gigglefest last summer with four weekends crammed with more than two dozen performances, with a new “episode” each weekend. Tucked into a makeshift theater in Mac Mead Hall (a “Viking-themed” mead-and-honey-wine bar that hosts game nights and is one of the city’s best-kept secrets) on the second floor of the Union Block building in downtown McMinnville, Gigglefest sold out night after night, winning friendly reviews on Facebook.

Gigglefest 2.ohhh! director Cassandra Schwanke discusses a scene with comic Chad Sharpe before a rehearsal. Photo by: David Bates

Gigglefest 2.ohhh! director Cassandra Schwanke discusses a scene with comic Chad Sharpe before a rehearsal. Photo by: David Bates

It was a strong start, Schwanke told me, but it was also too much.

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Final sketch: laughing all the way

If this is truly the end, Portland's 3rd Floor is going out with a comedy bang with "The Final Chapter"

The image of a woman bouncing a pajama-clad child in her arms brings with it suggestions of care, concern and comfort, perhaps even a sense of warm nostalgia for when we were young, too. But if the fleece-clad moppet actually is well over five feet tall and pushing 40, you know the world you’re observing has another agenda: to make you laugh.

Then again, comedy and sentimentality both are at work in The 3rd Floor XXXIII: the Final Chapter, playing at Miracle Theater Fridays and Saturdays through December 19. After nearly two decades as Portland’s sketch-comedy powerhouse, the 3rd Floor is billing this as its final creation — so you might say they really are rocking their baby to sleep.

The 3rd Floor: comedy at the upper levels.

The 3rd Floor: comedy at the upper levels.

Co-founder Ted Douglass told The Oregonian that the group is considering a 20th anniversary greatest-hits finale next summer, and no doubt such a show would have plenty to draw on. The 3rd Floor not only served as de facto center for a community of local sketch and improv purveyors, with more than 50 actors cycling through its ranks, but it established a national reputation among its comedy peers, both through touring and by hosting an annual sketch festival for several years. In 2010, the group even toyed with a more cohesive, story-driven approach (y’know … a play) with its film noir-inspired dark comedy Killing Time, which Douglass described as “Double Indemnity with time machines.”

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