Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Thursday, November 21. All times are Eastern.
The Good Place (NBC, 9 p.m.): Just when all hope seemed lost, an army of giants decided to play a game of keepaway. (As is always the case with anything written about one of TV’s twistiest joys, please don’t watch this clip or read the rest of this entry if you’re not up to date on the show.)
The Soul Squad/Team Cockroach is now left with an incredible ethical pickle, colossally high stakes, and a ticking clock. They have only one hope onto which they can cling, like a big wooden door floating in the icy Atlantic ocean: Chidi Anagonye. Of course, such a situation is basically Chidi’s ultimate hell (or Bad Place, if you will) so this may not go all that well. Dennis Perkins will stop rescuing all the Janet marbles long enough so that he can write a recap.
Baroness Von Sketch Show (IFC, 12 a.m. and 12:30 a.m.): As each new Thursday begins, a quartet of scrappy Canadians draws together to do funny sketch things—and by that, of course, we mean that they filmed it long before and are hopefully cozied up on the couch at home watching themselves be funny, because that’s a late night. One of those brave and hopefully well-rested women: Aurora Browne. Here she is in an exclusive clip from one of today’s two episodes:
We spoke with Browne about the state of sketch comedy, how the show has changed over the years, and whether or not Shangela was robbed.
The A.V. Club: What makes a great sketch?
Aurora Browne: That’s a big question. On our show we always start from what is true. Even if a sketch goes to a nutty place, does it start from, “This thing is very true”? Because when somebody can watch that sketch and recognize even one aspect of it, that’s [where the humor comes from]. If the true thing is, “white women love RuPaul,” if you start from there you can go to crazy places. I think definitely our most successful sketches, the ones that we have the most fun doing, start from something that we recognize, and then we can go anywhere with it.
AVC: Is there a sketch from this season that best epitomizes that idea?
AB: There’s a lot, actually. One of my favorite to do, but also to watch, is the sketch where it’s my birthday and I’m getting all the same gift, which is a gift card to Bulk Barn. Do you guys have Bulk Barn in the States, or is that a strictly Canadian thing? A place where you get everything in bulk?
AVC: Here that would be Costco or Sam’s Club.
AB: You get nuts and bolts, you get peanut butter, you get candies in bulk, just everything. And in the sketch, this woman is getting all the same gifts from her friends. It’s her realizing, “Oh my God, I’ve been reduced to a cliché about myself.” That was a really, really fun one to play. We all knew we’d all been to that party, and having to worry, “Have I given a good thing, what does that say about my relationship with my friends?”
And then there’s the Drag Race sketch, which is a great example because I found that my journey as a person getting ready for that scene was exactly the journey of the woman in the scene. I knew of the show, I knew many friends who watched it. I had just never gotten into it, so when I got that scene, I thought, “Okay, I guess I should watch that show,” and I just fell into it. I could not stop myself from snapping [my fingers] at people. I started showing my husband compilations of, I don’t know, the best lip syncs from season six, stuff like that. So I personally went through that as I was getting ready for the scene. It was a total joy to do that. And then there’s the total letdown that she also has to face, which is, “I am not, nor have I ever been, or will I ever be, a beautiful, tall black drag queen. I am a white woman.”
AVC: Do you write differently when you’re writing for yourself as compared to when you’re writing for the other people on the show?
AB: I would say so. I find it easier to write for other people because I have a recording of them in my head. I see them all the time so it’s easier for me to see—“Oh, I know exactly how Jen Whalen might say this line”—that kind of thing. I get a special pleasure, if I think I know that she’ll say it a certain way and then that happens. When I’m writing for myself, it’s harder for me. And by the way, we all have that, all four of us think, “Oh God, I’m the weakest link.” I find it very dicey sometimes to write for myself because I wonder, can I pull this off?
I will say that when I’m writing a part for myself, I don’t actually picture myself. People have muses, and I know I’m never actually going to get this person on the show, but it helps for me to picture them doing it. Weirdly, my muse is Keegan Michael Key. So if I can picture him playing the part, then I can play the part. I don’t know why. He’s just so good.
AVC: You’ve already been renewed for a fifth season. How do you feel the show has changed over the years?
AB: We were talking about this the other day. In the first season, even though we were very, very clear about our vision, it isn’t until you’ve done the show, edited the show, the show’s aired, and you’ve seen the response [before you can say] this is really working, this is what people are really responding to, and this is what we really responded to ourselves. I think that we’ve just gotten a lot more sure of ourselves. We’re sure of the truth that we’re starting from. So it makes us more adventurous. In the first season, we had much less genre stuff, and we were really careful to keep it relatable. Starting in the second season we really knew we had the bit in our teeth. And lately, we’ve found how we can do big genre pieces. We just found our way to do it. We’re so involved in every part of it, particularly in the editing now, so a lot of our conversations when we’re talking about a scene really revolve around how it’s all going to fit together. We know when a sketch is going to live in the edit, we know how it’s going to go, and we’re a little more daring that way.
AVC: The episode in which that Drag Race sketch aired was called “Shangela Was Robbed,” and a lot of our readers would agree with that particular hot take.
AB: I feel like most people agree that that was a total travesty.
AVC: Do you have any other strongly held Drag Race opinions you want to share?
AB: I don’t know if this counts, but I think comedy rules on that show. I feel like Bianca Del Rio would say all of this much better. But they can be as gorgeous as they want, if they can’t make people laugh, they’re going to fall on their face. Bob The Drag Queen—and oh my god, did you see Bob The Drag Queen on A Black Lady Sketch Show?
AVC: The Basic Ball, yes, it was amazing.
AB: “Awkward in the body!” I remember the first time I watched that show, I thought, “That is next level. There’s an immediate level of style and substance. And then the guests! I love that show. Anyway, yes, on Drag Race, funny trumps everything.