Sketchfest NYC Preview: Murderfist
Just hours before the fifth annual Sketchfest NYC opens tonight at the UCB Theatre in NYC, Blog Stage spoke with some of the members of Murderfist, an 11-person sketch comedy group performing tonight as part of the festival. The group describes itself as "a journey to the extreme horizon of your mind-ocean. Winston-Salems, a couple of old chubbies, a horse with a banana in it’s mouth, a man dressed up like a doctor, some Peppercorn schnapps and Monster Mash playing on repeat, Murderfist is going to get loud and get weird and this show may just help the pain of being alive."
Like The Money Kids (read yesterday's Blog Stage Q&A with the comedy duo here), Murderfist was accepted into the three-day sketch comedy festival after wowing producers at a live audition in February. (Back Stage posted the casting notice for auditions. Did any of our readers try out?)
We were too afraid to talk to all 11 of the funny people of Murderfist at once, but Henry Zabrowski, Holden McNeely, Ed Larson, and Tim Dean took the time to talk about their audition, creating sketch comedy, and getting "Late and Dirty." Dean says that everyone in the group can call themselves a writer-director-performer, but McNeely also calls himself the town drunk.
Read the full Q&A:
Blog Stage: How do you make sure your voice gets heard in a group of 11 funny people?
Henry Zebrowski: Be the loudest.
Ed Larson: During every meeting we drink heavily and yell at each other until a decision is made. It's like British Parliment.
Holden McNeely: Actions speak louder than words, if you ask me.
Tim Dean: I just stay as involved as possible. If you show interest and put the work in, you get heard.
Describe the sketch comedy style of Murderfist. What sets the group apart from other sketch comedy in NYC?
Ed: Murderfist has created an alternate reality. Another world where serpents are king and squirrels force you to murder the ones you used to love. It is a journey to the center of your mind ocean.
Holden: I liken it more to musical styles. We’re punk mixed with funk, so it’s a violent party. Whiskey mixed with acid, that sort of thing.
Henry: I would say what sets us apart from other groups is body hair. We know it's a common practice in sketch comedy to shave faces and bodies for wind resistance. But we just let it go, because of our strict religious beliefs. Big chest hair means God can't see you masturbate.
Tim: We're all ugly as sin and we love to be loud and filthy. We try to stay away from pop culture, and we really don't like the song and dance thing. Nothing is worse than "cute" sketch comedy.
When and how did the group form? And how long have you been performing sketch comedy in NYC?
Henry: Murderfist started officially in the summer of 2003 when we got a weekly show at the only gay bar in Tallahassee, Brothers. We could do whatever we wanted and it was an incredibly disgusting space. It was great. We moved to NYC three years ago and got our first show at Galapagos Art Space and have been performing regularly ever since.
Holden: We were all good friends, too, before we decided to do comedy together.
Ed: Half the group moved to NYC in January 2006, but I had legal issues and could not rejoin the group until 6-6-06. I felt that was appropriate.
This is your first-ever Sketchfest, correct?
Holden: Yes, it is, and it’s been a goal of ours to get in for a long time now. We’re very pleased to be a part of it.
Ed: We were denied twice. Now they have to pay.
But Murderfist has been making an impact on the NYC sketch scene, with your monthly show at the PIT, "Late and Dirty with Murderfist," for example. Can you describe the show and talk about how it came to be?
Henry: The show is exactly what it sounds like. We do a weird show of all new material once a month. It just seems no matter how hard you rehearse a sketch there are always things that change when you show them to people and those are normally the changes that make the sketch better and repeatable.
Tim: We are constantly writing new sketches so it's nice to have a monthly spot to work the new stuff out.
Holden: Back in Tallahassee, we were doing all new shows bi-weekly at a club. It’s the way we prefer to work. We don’t like to be doing the same sketches over and over again every week.
Ed: Before, the show was called "Rabbit Hole Junction," which can be made to sound a bit cute, and some people walked out a couple of times. Now with the title "Late and Dirty," people should know what they are getting into.
Why did you guys decide to go to the live audition for Sketchfest NYC, rather than submit a tape?
Holden: We’re not completely happy with how the video of a live show represents us, compared to being in the theater watching us. We like to have a powerful presence on stage. Also, Henry burned all our footage in a fire on an insane meth binge.
Henry: We know we come across a lot stronger live. It's more fun for us, because we love performing in front of an actual audience.
Ed: We are more of a live group than a video group. Like the Allman Brothers.
Henry: Also, there are 11 of us, and we could have torn the place apart.
Can you describe your Sketchfest audition?
Henry: It went by really fast. We did two sketches and all the guys laughed, which is much better than silence.
Holden: Every group I talked to made a comment on how nice the judges were in general. I would definitely recommend the live audition.
Tim: The audition took about six minutes and it involved Henry's naked ass. It was beautiful.
Henry: I got changed in the lobby and most of the interns there were nonplussed, which is nice. No one screamed at the sight of our bodies. We just went in there and did our thing.
What is the worst part of being part of an 11-member sketch group?
Henry: Bro smell. And juggling multiple schedules.
Holden: Scheduling is a pain in the ass, especially when something changes last minute.
Ed: It gets really hard to get everyone on stage sometimes. In the end, everyone gets up there and kills it. Every person has their place and is extremely talented in their own weird way.
What is the most rewarding part of being part of an 11-member sketch group?
Ed: The orgy parties.
Holden: It’s more than a sketch group. It becomes a family. Also, it’s a lot easier to know that something definitely works when it makes eleven people laugh.
Henry: Everybody's opinion brings a new dimension to our sketches, and to how we perform them onstage.
Tim: Walking into a gig with 10 other people is pretty awesome… It's hard for people to miss us.
Henry: We are like a friggin' motorcycle gang and we can take over a space.
What about performing at Sketchfest NYC makes you nervous?
Tim: Nothing. It's gonna be a party.
Ed: There is nothing to be nervous about. We were hand picked!
Henry: It's only going to be awesome. I can't wait to bust my nuggets on this show.
Do you have any favorite sketch groups performing at Sketchfest NYC?
Tim: Rue Brutalia. Those guys are mutants. And I have to admit, I'm pretty giddy about seeing Kevin McDonald [of Kids in the Hall].
Ed: Rue Brutalia is our brother group and we have been performing with them pretty much since they formed. Recently, we have developed a healthy relationship with Pangea 3000. They have performed at two "Late and Dirtys," and our relationship is blossoming like a 15-year-old Polish girl.
Henry: A Week of Kindness is so damn funny and we can't wait to share a slot with them. Like this one time in Dubai, turned out we were both making love to the same horse.
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Sketchfest NYC?
Holden: Meeting a lot of comedians that I never got the chance to meet, and being surprised by some group I’ve never heard of.
Ed: The free booze backstage. I am broke.
Murderfist performs tonight, Thu. June 11 at 11 p.m. with A Week of Kindness at the UCB Theatre in NYC, part of Sketchfest NYC. Sketchfest NYC runs June 11-13. Individual tickets are $10, day passes are $40, and full festival passes are $100.
-- Daniel Lehman