If there’s one thing that's more difficult than recording a stand up comedy album, it just might be recording a sketch comedy album. I don’t know that for a fact but am just hypothesizing based on the fact that, with stand up, you instantly know how well a joke goes over. The audience is usually more than willing to let you know what they thought of a joke by laughing, groaning, or staring blankly back at you without making a sound. With sketch, unless you happen to live in a large city such as New York with clubs that cater to those comedians and performers, you might not have an outlet with which to test your craft and, as a result, not have any idea how it’s going to play. In that regard, I would imagine it’s a bit like skydiving at night and I must say I respect those who give it a go.
For me, sketch comedy is tricky because I’ve never heard a sketch comedy album where I’ve liked every track. Even my favorite sketch albums like Monty Python or Adam Sandler have a few tracks that I usually skip. For every track that makes me laugh out loud, there’s often one that just leaves me a bit confused and uninterested. I think that’s a good thing, though. In general, sketch writers and performers tend to take a lot of chances and risks and aren’t afraid to try something out regardless of how off the wall and bizarre it might feel. For every SNL sketch that caught fire and exploded over the pop culture scene, there were countless others that aired in the last half hour, never to be included in a “Best Of” collection that were placed in the last half hour for a reason. But at least they tried it out.
The reason for such a long intro to my review of Cowboy & Indian’s “In Case of Emergency” is to assure you that, just because I didn’t love every single track included here, that doesn’t mean it’s not good and I didn’t enjoy myself. On the contrary, this is a solid entry into the Sketch Comedy genre and very probably the best one I’ve heard since Sandler’s last entry. It’s nice to see (or hear, rather) that there are good sketch writers out there doing their thing and, even more impressive, writing material that translates well to a non-visual format.
The writing on the album is solid and covers a nice variety of subjects. Even better, for the most part, they are approached from a different angle than you have probably heard before. Sure, you may have seen a couple of terrorists devising a plan in other sketch programs before, but you’d be hard pressed to find a series of scenes written this smartly and with such originality. Because their take on it was so fresh, it genuinely felt as if this was the first time I’d experienced the premise.
There’s a fun running gag that features a friendly yet sexually disturbing mythological creature and when their mad scientist decides to create a new spin on laboratory creations, the results are just what he should have expected...but didn’t. My favorite track comes early on and confirms the fears of parents everywhere who listen to their kids singing along to Katy Perry and Ke$ha songs they hear on the radio.
As it often goes with sketch collections, for every track that featured Game Night with a mood-killing dark knight or a fun take on Doctor Who that, quite honestly, I’m surprised I never thought about before, there are tracks that made me scratch my head and will probably be skipped over in the future (like SNL, these are positioned near the end of the project and feature a salad that confounds Japanese businessmen and a series of voicemails that were a bit predictable). The members of Cowboy & Indian do a fine job as long as they aren’t trying to do European accents. There are a couple of sketches (the aforementioned Doctor Who sketch and a BBC play-by-play porno commentary) where the actors struggle to keep from drifting from a British accent to Australian to Scottish. A conversation between Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels shifts from a conversation between Germans to Russians and....yes...at times, what seems to be French. The inconsistency of the accents was a bit distracting and, had they gone for no accent at all, I would have given them a pass and been able to focus more on the humor.
All in all, though, this is a fun project and one that deserves a place in your iTunes playlist (especially if you’re a fan of sketch comedy). The production value is impressive (although they should probably invest in a new “slap” sound effect) and there are some really clever laughs waiting to be discovered. If Cowboy & Indian is the future of sketch comedy, then the future of sketch comedy is in good hands.