“Sketchy Dragons” has only been around the block for three years, but during that time, it has managed to attract a loyal viewership. Founded in 2012, “Sketchy Dragons” is Drexel University’s film and video sketch comedy show comprising over 30 Drexel film and video majors with varying degrees of involvement. Each show is based on three topics, which are mashed together in the show’s “Sketchy Finale” skit. The storylines range from short, comedic vignettes like “Operation: Flirting,” to longer segments like “Superheroes Dancing Reactions.” The group is exemplary of the limitless talent at Drexel.
I got the opportunity to interview Jack McCafferty, the creator and showrunner of “Sketchy Dragons” Jan. 12. McCafferty, a film and video production major at Drexel, talks about his inspiration behind the group, his plans to increase the group’s visibility on campus and the future of “Sketchy Dragons” as he sees it.
The Triangle: How did you come up with the idea for “Sketchy Dragons”?
Jack McCafferty: I always wanted to be a comedian. Even when I was little, I wanted to make people laugh like the crazy characters I saw on TV. I became a film major for that very reason. I need to make people laugh. It’s just in my DNA. During my freshman year, I and many of the original “Sketchy” cast were a part of another student-run show. I wrote a couple sketches for the show which got a great reaction from my peers, but wouldn’t [make the final cut for the show] due to time and budget restraints. It wasn’t that show’s fault. It wasn’t a sketch show. But that made me realize that if I wanted to write sketches, I needed to be the one who has to make them. I told my buddies I wanted to do a sketch show and, to my surprise, they were all on board. This all happened fall quarter of our freshmen year, and from then on, much of my time has been spent making the show.
TT: Are there any particular sketch comedy groups or artists that have inspired you?
JM: Anyone who knows me knows my dream is to one day be a cast member on “Saturday Night Live.” Almost everything I do is to get me closer to that goal. The actual show is inspired by one of my favorite comedians’ show: “Important Things with Demetri Martin.” That show took a single topic and based its sketches off of that subject. I really like that idea, so I took it, and modified it to a format that is a lot of fun to write for. I also liked the pacing, madness and mixing of different styles in the show “Mad” on Cartoon Network, so I tried to inject some of that fun in the show. At the end of the day, that was the goal. Have the show be fun. If the show weren’t allowed to be fun and silly, we wouldn’t have such gems as a naked dance instructor, or a trailer for a movie that is so scary the audience poops themselves. Maturity is for poopy heads anyway. I’d like to point out we do actually do some intellectual comedy with the goofy stuff. It’s all about balance.
TT: I watched some of your videos online, and I noticed that they are longer than usual sketch comedy vignettes and sometimes they are shorter. Is that a conscious decision?
JM: The show’s length is to accommodate the show’s format. Our actual sketches are typically shorter than your average sketch show, but we do a lot of them. For each show, we choose three topics for our sketches. Each topic gets its own segment of the show, with a bunch of sketches and animated gags based on that subject. After we do each topic, we have a Sketchy Finale, which is one final sketch that combines all three of the topics together. Those can end up being a bit crazy. While many of the sketches can stand on their own, the show really shines as a whole because of that unique twist. Or at least we think so.
TT: Do you intend to expand or increase your visibility on campus? If so, how?
JM: We intend to expand as much as we can. Last year, we did our first Sketchy Dragons Live Show to a packed house at the Black Box Theatre. The show had live sketches, music and stand-up and [we] got a great reception from the audience. We had a blast putting it together –– even when we were pulling our hair and working double time to make it happen –– and hopefully we’ll do it again sometime in the near future.
TT: I am sure that your entire team works very hard, but could you tell us what all goes into making each “Sketchy Dragons” video? How much time during the week do the actors and creators invest in the production of one video?
JM: Oh, man, is it a ton of work to make this show. Even the seemingly simplest sketches take a long time to produce. I remember one day we were shooting a sketch for the first episode that only lasted about a minute, but because of all the locations we had to travel to, we ended up shooting for about seven hours. Then we have to edit and add all the bells and whistles to the video. And then all the graphics and animations take hours upon hours to make for what will end up being a 10-second gag. Now, repeat all of that until you have a 20-minute episode. It’s a huge undertaking. But, if we get that coveted chuckle from a viewer, it’s all worth it.
TT: What all do you have lined up for 2015?
JM: We have a bunch of stuff coming down the pipe for “Sketchy.” Our third full 20-minute plus episode is on the cusp of its release and we have some new “Sketchy” projects in the works. As you pointed out, our full episodes are quite long, which can be a bit intimidating for a first time viewer to sign on to watch a 20-minute show on YouTube, so we’ve started a new part of the show. We like to call them “Sketchy Gaggles.” These will be videos that comprise of the quick and quirky animated gags that yours truly makes. They’ll each have a Sketchy Topic of their own to lampoon and will run about two or three minutes long each. These will give us a constant flow of content while we work on bigger episodes and will give people some videos to watch without a big time commitment.
TT: Could you tell us who all comprises “Sketchy Dragons”?
JM: I’m definitely at the head of “Sketchy.” “It’s Jack’s weird baby,” as my crew lovingly calls it. I’ve spent many sleepless nights rewriting a script or making props or puppets for a shoot the next morning. But, as much work as I’ve put into the show, I can say without a doubt, without the “Sketchy” crew, the show would never have become what it is now. It would have died the day I said, “Hey, let’s do a sketch comedy show.” Sketchy Dragons is comprised of over 30 Drexel film and video students with varying degrees of involvement. I wish I could name them all to you, but that will result in a long article. But, I will say, I am beyond lucky to be able to work with many of these amazing up and coming film makers. They are so talented in what they do, and I’ve learned more working with them than in any class I’ve taken. They are not just my colleagues, they are my best friends and working with them rarely feels like work. They are all invited to my funeral. (Hopefully, not for a while though.)
TT: Where does “Sketchy Dragons” see itself in another two or three years?
JM: Hopefully, Sketchy will still keep on trucking after graduation. I know I’ll still be writing and shooting sketches then. We’d love for the show and all its videos to take off and hit it big on the web. That may be a group of young film majors daydreaming, but, hey, stranger things have happened. But, we intend on working hard to make the best show we can make.