An Honest Review of UCB Sketch 101 Writing Class
WARNING! BECAUSE OF EXTREMELY HIGH DEMAND, IT'S DIFFICULT TO SIGN UP FOR A UCB CLASS.
If you're wondering if UCB sketch 101 class is "worth it," for most people, I'd say: Eh, save your $450.
However, if you're looking to commit to UCB classes for the long term, with the eventual hope to write for a Maude team, then sure, this class is for you: It's the prerequisite for every other sketch writing class.
If you're looking to perfect a sketch, or to really dive into humor writing, this isn't exactly the best place for it.
What the class is good for:
Holding you to a deadline. We had one 3-4 page sketch due each week. And, exposure to different genres of sketches.
The type of sketches we wrote and watched included:
- General (think any sketch from shows like SNL, Mad TV, Mr. Show, etc)
- Character (examples: Waiters Who are Nauseated by Food & Space the Infinite Frontier with Harry Caray
- Commercial Parody (examples: Mom Jeans and Oops I Crapped My Pants)
- Genre Parody (examples: The Shooting from SNL and Inside the Actors Studio
- Topical/News Parody (examples: Weekend Update on SNL or Mr. Show's East Coast vs West Coast Ventriloquism - start 33 secs in)
Now, I say "hold you to a deadline" lightly. If you're someone who needs a due date from someone (anyone) to hold you accountable to turning out pages, this is great. But, if you're the type of person who needs actual consequences for not doing work, this class won't work for you (or at the very least, you won't get that much out of it). Some members of my class didn't write more than a few sketches (instead of one per week), and I'm not sure if anything happened as it's a pass/fail class.
With that said, the biggest benefit of 101 is hearing your sketches read out loud. As for formal instruction on how to write, that wasn't really the emphasis.
The general format of the three hour class:
- The instructor took attendance and asked if you saw any UCB sketch shows that week. You're required to see two by the end of class to get a "completed" status. If you did see a sketch, you discussed it with the teacher for a bit, and gave your general thoughts.
- A table read of everyone's sketches (we had to bring enough copies for all the speaking parts in your piece plus one for yourself and one for the teacher). While it was definitely a little nerve-wracking (for everyone) to hear my classmates read my material, it was worth it to see if the humor I thought worked in my head actually worked out loud.
- The teacher gave you a verbal critique of your sketch directly after the table read. In the later sessions, my classmates chimed in on feedback, but in the beginning classes, it was purely the instructor talking for 10-20 minutes after each sketch (yes, this took forever with twelve total students).
- For the 10-15 minutes left in class after the table reads, we'd watch example sketches, quickly discuss the next week's assignment, and then we were out the door.
So if you're looking for a more structured format to learning how to write, this class is a little more tilted toward verbal feedback after you write your sketch. Which is great, in some regards, but also not so useful for integrating the knowledge. I hear that in sketch 201 you actually do re-writes based on feedback for most of your sketches so that you actually put what you learn into practice, which makes sense.
101 is more of a quick buffet of some of the better known types of sketches.
Details for Sketch 101:
Length: 8 class sessions (3 hours each)
Class size: 12
Total sketches written: 6
And yes, it's a pain in the ass to actually get into a class. Spots sell out almost instantly and it's mindboggling that people respond to the tweets that fast to get in.
Got a specific question about the class? Feel free to drop me a line.