Believe it or not, after all these decades in the game, Executive Producer Lorne Michaels and his production company Broadway Video still continue to venture into new comedy territory. This time its with the new YouTube channel Above Average Productions.
For those of you extremely well versed in the lore of Mr. Michaels you will recall in the late 1970s he started up a production company of the same name to launch a film that came from a Saturday Night Live sketch called The Rutles. From the beginning, Lorne has always mined the talents from one show to use in another comedic venue. You know, the way CBS often has an over-the-top soap opera actor play a guest spot on a primetime sitcom – wait a minute, that’s a bad example.
A perfect example of this is Fred Armisen. He got his break with SNL, then went on to co-create, write and star in the critical hit Portlandia (which is produced by Broadway Video for IFC) and of course Armisen uses his cornucopia cast-of-characters in many an Above Average Production.
In fact, a showcase for variety, if anything, is the ethos of Above Average Productions. That and sheer volume, volume, volume. Once a day, almost everyday, AAP presents the continuing saga of humorous episodic scenarios. SNL writer Mike O’Brien hosted his own talk show segment featuring celebrity guests chatting with him inside his closet called, “7 Minutes in Heaven.” This allowed a behind the scenes personality the opportunity to display his performing chops in front of the camera.
Seven minutes also happens to be the longest segment you’ll find from this production. Brevity and seeing a known talent in another light is what makes AAP stand head to head with such competition as Funny or Die. Michaels’ talent pool of writers and performers (30 Rock and Lonely Island are also produced by Broadway Video) is so deep to draw from that you shouldn’t be surprised if a premise you truly relished is suddenly gone and replaced with something else.
True to the tradition of sketch comedy, satire is alive and well here but only in the social realm. Need a fix where narcissistic, obnoxious, entitled people get shown up for being the unsavory morons they are? Then look no further. But if what you hunger for is political satire, sadly, you will not even catch a whiff of it at AAP.
The best way to sample what is available and pick out which characters and storylines are best suited to your own comedy appetite is to watch Above Average Highlights. A promotional reel that lasts a mere three minutes and forty-five seconds features samples from eight different segments. Unfortunately, it doesn’t include my favorite, Rejected Pitches. Imagine if Orson Welles or Quentin Tarantino were trying to sell Citizen Kane or Pulp Fiction to a studio today where only nincompoops hold all the power and storytelling craft has no value.
About the Author: Andrea Elizabeth Mitchell is a professional comedy writer and performer who has been in the business close to thirty years now. She has worked in several types of media including TV, Radio and Print. To branch out even further this year Ms Mitchell's work will be seen on both the internet and the big screen. Yes, a feature film she co-wrote is going into production, and who knows where this internet thing might take her!