Studio 60 and 30 Rock have fostered a lot of conversation about sketch comedy, and how neither show is really able to offer up any good examples of what they are supposed to be about. Well, quite by accident, I stumbled upon a little-explored hotbed of great sketch comedy that I urge you to check out. Where did I find this hidden font of quality comic sketches? On YouTube? A college campus? Public access? A local improv group?
No. On Sesame Street.
One example of the comedic genius at work. Sesame Street nowadays ends each episode with an episode of "Elmo's World," a ten minute or so segment with Elmo talking about a single subject. The format of "Elmo's world" is pretty rigid- Elmo sings the theme song, introduces his pet goldfish Dorothy, announces the topic of the day, interacts with Mr. Noodle (a mime-like clown character essayed originally by the brilliant, and missed, Michael Jeter and now played by the equally brilliant Bill Irwin), asks for demonstrations from real kids, asks a baby (I love this segment- Elmo asks a real baby a question and, of course, never gets an answer), etc.
On a recent episode, after the opening credits, we heard the familiar theme music for "Elmo's World." But wait - Elmo's world always comes at the end of the show. What was going on? An answer came as soon as we heard the singing start - this was not "Elmo's World," but a brilliant parody - "Cookie's World." After finishing his song, Cookie introduced himself. This was clearly going to follow the same format as "Elmo's World." And then came the pure comedy genius. As I said, Elmo always introduces his goldfish, Dorothy. And the camera pans to Dorothy, a goldfish swimming in a bowl. So Cookie Monster says, "say hi to Cookie, boys and girls." And the camera pans to a goldfish bowl with a chocolate chip cookie in it. I laughed like a loon.
Look to Sesame Street, you Sorkins and Feys. Look to Sesame Street.