If you haven’t heard, today kicks off “Sketchtember” on IFC.com, and inspired by Nick Schager’s look at the best and worst films derived from sketch comedy, I was reminded of Kelly Makin. Who is Kelly Makin, you ask? Well, besides giving “The Hurt Locker”‘s Jeremy Renner one of his first breaks, Makin enjoys the status of being the de facto sixth member of The Kids in the Hall as the director of 30 episodes of their original series and their eventual 1996 feature “Brain Candy.” And naturally when the Kids recently announced that they will return to Canadian TV for an eight-part murder mystery series called “Death Comes to Town,” Makin was asked to once again call the shots behind the scenes.
Yet Makin never had to slip on a dress in front of the camera as those crazy Kids are so fond of, and has joined a fraternity of directors responsible for the visual style of a comedy troupe, though such directors are largely unheralded for their work. The obvious exception to this rule is Terry Gilliam, who transitioned from creating the animated interstitials between “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” sketches into serving as a full-fledged Python member and eventual auteur extraordinaire.
Working in sketch comedy seems to breed a particular type of filmmaker like Gilliam — if Gilliam could ever be considered a type — one that embraces the absurd and won’t let the need for a three-act structure ruin their good time. The other two filmmakers who leap to mind are “The State”‘s Michael Patrick Jann and The Lonely Island‘s Akiva Schaffer (known for his “Saturday Night Live” digital shorts), both of whom brought their manic sensibilities to their first films, “Drop Dead Gorgeous” and “Hot Rod,” respectively, that they had cultivated from their time on television. It’s a type of film school that’s bound to produce many more graduates as more sketch videos flood the Internet, though whether any will ever scale to the same loony heights as Gilliam is a question; whether they’ll get the credit they deserve is another.
[Photo: Terry Gilliam and Jean Rochefort, “Lost in La Mancha,” IFC Films, 2003]