Comedy is on the upswing in terms to popularity and social significance. In a recent study, young men today rank comedy as more important in their life than music or sports. This is incredibly shocking to Baby Boomers who fondly connect people like CSN&Y, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan to the counterculture and changes in society. Until somewhat recently, music acted as the vox populi--the voice of the people. It represented a pushing of the limits. Today, musicians have arguably ceded their social status to comedians who toy with stigmas, stereotypes, and comfort levels.
Asylum Attic is a Hartford-based group of comedic performers and writers displaying equal parts social commentary and absurdity. Consisting of Helder Mira, Joe Leonardo, and Vladimir John Perez, Asylum Attic has been getting attention for their recent online videos. They’ve been able to capitalize on a talented rotating cast of characters for these videos from many of the area improv groups. On April 20 and 21, Asylum Attic will be hosting a live sketch comedy show at Hole in the Wall Theater (New Britain, CT). The show will be in the vein of Saturday Night Live; there will be live sketches, videos, and a musical performer (Randy Newbury, from the band “Forget Paris”). Leonardo and Perez will serve as the hosts.
I talked to Joe Leonardo and Helder Mira to find out more about the event and how it came about. Both of them focused on their hope that the event will bring together local talent and showcase what people are doing. What is unique about the Asylum Attic LIVE Sketch Show is that it will be a collaborative experience. Asylum Attic had an open call a few weeks ago for area writers to submit sketches and videos. According to Leonardo, “the reception has been great so far. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback and were really happy with the submissions.”
Leonardo also emphasized the importance of a establishing an infrastructure for live sketch comedy. While improv has been flourishing in Connecticut, sketch comedy has been harder to come by. Improv has benefited from a few groups actively performing throughout the area, which then brings other interested people into the fold. Organized “cage matches,” where two improv groups compete for audience votes, have stimulated a growth in the amount of groups doing improv. Until now, there has not been an analogous platform for sketch comedy. Asylum Attic hopes to change this with their upcoming event, and are optimistic that future sketch comedy events and projects can spawn from it. “We hope to get more people involved,” said Mira.
I can relate to the “infrastructure dilemma.” Personally, I’ve always enjoyed sketch comedy and have played around over the years with a few sketch ideas. However, it was a passion without an easy outlet. Theoretically I could have busted my butt to get my material out there. As is often the case, other things always got in the way. Without an established platform, the process was extremely labor intensive.
I jumped at the chance to submit a few sketches when Asylum Attic put up the opportunity. I’ll have two sketches in the show, where I will be joining in the collaborative effort by assisting with casting and directing. I’m one part excited, two parts nervous about a live audience that will provide a proverbial thumbs up or down about my sense of humor (or lack thereof). Mostly, though, I’m just curious about what other people will be doing. Mira echoed those sentiments. “The event will be a great way to bring people together, to see what others are writing, and to get inspired. It’s media driven, but grassroots. It’s an experiment.”
Asylum Attic / iPhone Promotional Video