Being the immature, attention-craving, SNL-obsessed teen I am, who started college in a pandemic, I joined a sketch comedy group thinking it would be a breeze. Zoom auditions and we can’t meet in person? Yes, I crave attention, but I also crave my couch. This sounded ideal. Well, three shows later, I can’t tell you how to perform a sketch over Zoom, but I sure as hell can tell you how NOT to. Here are my top 9 tips:
1. Don’t read your lines from your script during the show. I am SURE you won’t be obvious like those AMATEURS. YOU can read without moving your eyes from side to side. YOU even have a special teleprompter thingie that will feed you your lines one by one. But trust me, unless you’re playing a character who is lost in the REM stage of sleep, your eye movements ARE noticeable.
2. Don’t get lost in your own eyes. Once I broke my habit of going on gallery view during class to find a new Zoom crush, I formed a new one: checking myself out instead. I mean, if I looked good enough to leave my camera on, how could I not have a staring contest with myself? I couldn’t help it … until I kept missing my cue. I don’t care if you have the piercing eyes of Ian Somerhalder. You better stare at the green camera light like Jay Gatsby himself when you deliver your lines.
3. Don’t assume the heights of the other members. Since tall girl energy is apparently a thing now, I had confidently assumed the heights of the other members based on their heads, stories, and, let’s face it, their Instagrams. So you can imagine my surprise when I towered over the members who I’d sworn were at least my height and was dwarfed by members I had pegged as no more than five feet. I had made my fellow sketchies into caricatures. Not great for team-building. Fortunately, we bonded F2F fast.
4. Don’t overact just because you can see your face. Sketch comedy isn’t subtle, but it’s not a soap opera either. When you perform on stage, you act with your whole body. But on Zoom you’ll catch yourself overreacting and dropping your jaw unnecessarily because you’re scared of looking deadpan. “Hide self-view” is a handy tool, you vain bastard.
5. Don’t forget to turn the volume input button all the way up. I know being quiet seems sexy and mysterious and might get the tall guy you’re eyeing to lean down in real life. But if no one can hear you on Zoom, all that time you spent perfecting your impression of “if Fat Amy were Irish” will go down the drain.
6. Don’t turn the volume down and miss your cue because you’ve seen every sketch 200 times already. Unless you can play off your character as hard of hearing…in which case try using ”WHAT?!” (Bonus points if your character “has internet issues.”) Classic Zoom humor, am I right? But let’s hope it’s not necessary.
7. Don’t turn your camera on when you’re not supposed to be on. You misread the set list and now all of a sudden the audience is wondering why Severus Snape is at the same Wendy’s as Judy Hopps. No amount of Felix Felicis is going to help you explain that away.
8. Don’t do your rehearsals in public to avoid bothering your roommate. Not going to lie, I’ve read some pretty dirty jokes in some pretty outlandish accents in public only to have my friends wave at me mid-read. On the other hand, saying “I’m on a sketch comedy team” gives you an excuse to do pretty much anything embarrassing in public, such as doing the WAP dance dressed as Vice President Kamala Harris … or getting really drunk and dancing in the middle of a restaurant. I’m guessing.
9. Don’t let your old-fashioned family find out about the show. Unless you want them to see you get knighted with the mysterious dildo at the end of the first show. Mom and Dad, if you read this, the performance is NOT floating around on Facebook Live. Whew! That was close.