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Theater Review - Skit happens

The Best of Sketchworks in Decatur

Most local comedy teams base their humor on improvisation, going for laughs at the spur of the moment. The members of Sketchworks set themselves apart by writing their material ahead of time. The 5-year-old, 12-member troupe offers a showcase for its short-form humor in The Best of Sketchworks, which christens its new permanent home, The Sketchworks Theatre, in Decatur.

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Theoretically, performing pre-written sketches gives the performers more time to polish comedic ideas than content presented off the top of their heads. Judging from The Best of Sketchworks, the execution proves more iffy, at times relying on thin premises and overly broad acting. Sketchworks occasionally follows the "Saturday Night Live" formula of putting shticky characters in familiar situations, like "The Trials and Tribulations of Angry Man," in which Brian Bremer's titular hothead goes out on a first date and throws tantrums at the least provocation.

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For a show composed of the troupe's highlights since 2004, the Best program features a little overlap, such as two sketches about parents trying to explain their impending divorce to a young son. In the better version, some familiar children's musicians pop in to help break the bad news in song. The video segments provide some of the highlights, particularly Mike Stiles' "Notorious D.A.D.," in which a suburban family man launches into an aggressive rap number a la the whitebread gangstas of "Lazy Sunday."

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Some sketches play closer to the surreal wit of "The Kids in the Hall" or "Mr. Show." "Font World" depicts a man writing a love letter from the point of view of the potential fonts of his letters: a guy in a toga represents Times New Roman; a Goth stands for Century Gothic, etc. "#27" offers an amusing spoof of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, with Bremen and Della Cole playing characters out of Tennesee Williams, incongruously waxing nostalgic for the 1980s.

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Best of Sketchworks runs through Aug. 6, and the company plans to stage programs of new material for four-week runs through the end of the year. I should point out that the audience frequently applauded the first appearance of recurring characters, like Misty Holcomb's coarse, chain-smoking, single gal on the prowl. The "Saturday Night Live" model may not be the most subtle approach to sketch comedy, but for many it seems to pay off.

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Best of Sketchworks. Through Aug. 6. Sketchworks Theatre, 3041 N. Decatur Road, Decatur. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. $15. 404-499-8181. www.sketchworkscomedy.com.