It has occurred to Kirsten Hambleton, while her son has been distance learning, that sometimes the teachers are the only people she sees all day.
The writer took that truth — “that strange relationship with people we only see over Google classroom,” she said — and turned it into sketch comedy.
Hambleton’s piece is one more than a dozen scenes that are part of “COmedy VIDeo 2020: A Pandemic Comedy Special” produced by Andrew Kirov and the writers behind the Twin Ports Tonight variety show and the University of Wisconsin-Superior. It premiered on Wednesday and is available for streaming on iFan.
Kirov used a small cast of mostly college students for the show, which runs about 80 minutes, and set it in the present to explain socially distanced and masked-up characters.
“It’s topical and new and makes sense for right now,” said Kirov, who co-wrote the sketches and then recorded in a three-camera way that mimics the style of sitcoms.
The show is rooted with the Olson family, first seen at mealtime distanced from the dinner table. The sketches are either about the members of the family or what they’re watching on television. One pick: “Is it a Cure,” which asks contestants to guess whether something is a cure for coronavirus.
Kirov and company have been doing sketch comedy for years. He started it as a high school student with a fondness for late night television, then created more programming as a college student at UWS.
Since graduation, Kirov has taken his show to local stages and local television. “Twin Ports Tonight” was created at Teatro Zuccone, with scenes, interviews, music guests and sidekick Steve Wyeth, and aired on WDSE-WRPT.
For this go-round, the crew’s writing room was a Zoom screen where the writers pitched ideas, returned with written scenes, then workshopped the pieces.
“We were able to write an 80-page script in three weeks — all brand new material we’ve not used,” Kirov said. “It was a big undertaking.”
Hambleton, who describes one of her sketches as inspired by “Rear Window” and “The Shining,” said they were able to accomplish it because of COVID-19.
“There are no live theatrical things going on,” she said. “Everyone has been going stir crazy.”
Because of the way it was recorded with a minimal crew, the writers have yet to see the finished product.
Marcus Schramm, a junior at UWS, was quick to reply to a call-out for actors. He was able to sit in on writers' meetings and act in four scenes. His interest in theater is relatively new. Last year’s spring performance was canceled, and there hasn’t yet been any theater this year.
“This is the first acting opportunity I’ve had,” he said. “It was nice to kind of, like, shake off the dust.”