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Local comics explore the darker side of sketch comedy in KNOCK IT OFF


KNOCK IT OFF
Photo via KNOCK IT OFF Episode 2
Billed as a “scary laughing show,” KNOCK IT OFF is a new web series that mixes sketch comedy and horror tropes. The project is the brainchild of Alosha Robinson and Carter Davis, who write and direct the shows and appear in some of the skits. The camera work is by local artist Lev Cantoral.

Robinson has worked with Cantoral before, on the comedy talk show Iowa Desk and Couch. He’s also had his play Nice People produced by Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids, his alma mater. Davis is the creator of TacoBen.com; he also writes short stories and designs websites. Cantoral’s cartoons can be seen at LevCantoral.com. In the ensemble, several faces will be familiar to those who follow local comedy troupes Paperback Rhino and Great White Narcs.

If you’re a fan of sketch comedy, you’ll see familiar fare here … to a point. The unique thing about KNOCK IT OFF is how it plays with quirky premises and exaggerated tension. A skit will start off with some small talk or clever banter, then all of a sudden take a turn for the surreal. Some favorites of mine are “The Food Guy,” where an off-hand comment about stopping to grab a bite grows into a mania that warps time and space, and “Holding Hands,” where a woman’s intimacy issues turn out to have dreadful consequences. Cantoral’s eye for atmospheric lighting and the patient timing of human despair really make this style work.

KNOCK IT OFF
Photo via KNOCK IT OFF Episode 1

Like any good sketch comedy, KNOCK IT OFF plays with interesting characters and bizarre twists, which fit in well with scary stories where something goes wrong and just keeps going wronger. What’s really dark, however, are the more existential skits. “Spam Email,” a slice-of-life piece that shows a man’s struggle to connect over life’s little frustrations, is a prime example. It draws its humor from those things that make us uncomfortable or leave us feeling inadequate … a lying-awake-staring-at-the-ceiling-at-3-am-wondering-about-your-life horror that is much more frightening than any “Nightmare Moon.”

The combination of humor and existential terror are essential to the what makes KNOCK IT OFF tick. While the scenes are usually absurd and dialogue seems to be deliberately alienating, the emotional journeys are quite real.

“We wanted to take the things in our lives that were making us freak the hell out and feel very very scared,” says Robinson, “and funnel them through the goofiest funnel possible.”

“We think the world is a very big scary place and the horror elements of the show are a reflection of that,” explains Davis. “We see humor as a component of storytelling, along with sadness, happiness, fear and mystery. Our job is to twiddle the knobs on those different elements to make the most best least bad thing we can!”

The first two episodes of KNOCK IT OFF are certainly very least bad. Check out the first episode below; the second is available on their website. Look out for more from these funny-but-spooky folks in the near future!


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