My husband has spent a lot of time studying comedy and producing video sketches at the Upright Citizens Brigade in NYC. Because of his involvement with UCB, I’ve attended a lot of shows there and heard a lot about what they do. And since I pretty much exclusively only choose to consume funny content – we talk about the comedy world a lot.
One of the areas of comedy he’s studied is sketch writing. A sketch is a short comedic piece, usually written by someone trained in comedy writing structure. There are lots of shows on TV that fall into the “sketch” genre: SNL, Inside Amy Schumer, Mr. Show, Key & Peele, etc. For any of these shows, the whole sketch requires a team of people who are professionally trained to put it together: actors, writers, directors, set designers, costume designers, and prop masters. While they often have to put these sketches together quickly for a weekly show, it’s still a team of trained professionals who have presumably studied their craft for a long time. They know about comedic structure, “game,” and other things that the average person doesn’t. It’s their job. While a given sketch might be written, produced, and performed in a few days, it definitely has years of skill behind it.
And yet – a lot of people call sketches “skits.” A sketch is not a skit. A skit is something fourth graders throw together in an hour for the summer camp talent show, or maybe for their “group presentation” to illustrate a topic for a school research project. Skits are usually poorly scripted, or not scripted at all. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with skits, or improv for that matter, but – for people in the industry, who write comedy for a living, calling a sketch a skit is demeaning, and minimizes their craft.
A while ago, I was telling my husband about how frustrating it is when people I know (and work with…) talk about “e-blasts,” and it struck me that our industries aren’t so different. People use the “skit” and “sketch” interchangeably, and it probably grates on comedy writers as much as eBlast grates on me. People without our skillsets refer to his craft as skits, and mine as blasts (or spam, but that’s a different article…), and it’s incredibly frustrating. I don’t expect the general public to know our preferred terminology for everything. I certainly don’t know every industry’s preferred nomenclature.
But I do expect professionals in our own industry to understand what it sounds like when you call an email a blast. On Twitter, and in various email groups I’m in, whenever this topic comes up, there’s always someone who tries to argue that any non-personalized email that goes to a full list IS a “blast.” So… it’s violent? It’s aggressive? You’re literally bombing your subscribers with content? Or is it some kind of ’80s messaging and imagery involving lasers? Yeah, good luck with that. “Blast” grates on me in an unsettling way, but I’m getting close to a very zen(like) state about it. Rather than be offended, I’m just going to accept it as you giving me information about yourself and your email skill level. Because you know what?