Over the past decade, people have asked us a lot of questions and sometimes those questions aren’t “Is Diana single?” or “How can I get Nelson to act in my independent film?” From time to time, we will be posting some of the more interesting or offbeat questions and our hopefully sensical answers.
What inspires your sketch ideas?
Kuan: Sometimes the sketches are based on a single central idea: gigantic, Japanese terror-beasts rising from the sea as a metaphor for existential angst in “Waiting for Godzilla”, the ballet of boredom and despair in “Salarymen.” Sometimes they are collections of lines that I scribbled randomly on the bus that I’ve pieced together over months or even years (“Picture if you will, Friedrich Nietzsche as a stand-up comedian”). Humour has always been my way of poking at things that I find frightening, enraging or disturbing – fear of aging, irrelevance and death; disgust at human cruelty; the disorienting pace and absurdity of the modern media cycle – and I tend to write about things that create strong emotional reactions in me. I like to call it “laughing heroically in the face of the abyss”, but it’s probably more like “grinning stupidly like a scared monkey in a vast and unfeeling universe.”
Marlene: I’m a little random when it comes to ideas for sketches. Sometimes, an interesting scene, staging, lighting effect, or piece of music in a theatre production will spark an idea. People’s stories interest me. Certain topics and themes inspire me. I’m fascinated by old people, anthropomorphic Chinese zodiac signs, and more recently, roadkill. Often the comedy doesn’t come from a funny source. The initial draft for “Chelsea’s World” was about a little girl who has an amazing play date with a lady who seems to be the coolest parent ever. The lady disappears at the end of the sketch and you learn that the little girl’s mom is actually dead. Needless to say, I’m glad we workshopped that one and found the comedy!
Diana: I think I work best when I’m given a task, or particular constraints or obstructions. I like to figure out ways of combining two differing ideas into one sketch. For example, many years ago I was given the challenge of writing a sketch that included a song and the line “Peeling lychee hurts my fingers.” I’m not exactly a songbird, so I decided to come up with a chant instead of a song. As a lazy default, I end up anthropomorphizing everything, so why not Lychee? I thought, why would I peel Lychee? To get to her juicy, soft vulnerable core, of course! So, I imagined this overly dramatic lychee being angry at the world, and her guiding spirits attempting to peel off her hard skin. Then, Kuan brought in a great piece of music with taiko drums and we all came up with the movement for it. So basically how many of my sketches have been born is that I start a sketch and don’t have the skill or technique to finish it and then Kuan takes it and completely transforms it into something presentable and bee-u-ti-ful, much as he’s probably editing my answer now [Editor’s note: yup!] In essence, I’m just a minion who gets inspiration from her masters telling her what to do, or I help inspire others with my incompetence.
(Photo of “Waiting for Godzilla” by Ed Lam, “Chelsea’s World” by Ann Chow, “Lychees” are public domain.)