Let us say foremost that The Whitest Kids U Know have a much larger fan base then we had assumed. Their fans are young, overwhelmingly suburban and-- more than anything-- loud. "Screaming girls annoy the shit out of me," screams a girl behind us, while other folks yell catchphrases across the sold-out theater. It didn't take long for us to question our pledge of sobriety for the night.
The opener for the night is Josh Fadem—a California comedian who is half a self-aware parody of the audience and half a bevy of irreverent hipster non-sequiturs. “You guys seem like an edgy crowd,” says Fadem early on. “So I’ve prepared a dick joke.” We approve, even if the crowd didn’t (“Get off the fucking stage” yells the aforementioned screaming girl who hates screaming girls).
The Whitest Kids U Know took the stage at 9:30. The majority of the show was live material-- all of it performed in street clothes (they had lavalieres taped to their clothing) with only four folding chairs to serve as a set. This is their first national tour, but the Whitest Kids seem at home on a stage this size, even though they were performing on small NYC stages only two years ago. There are a number of technical foul-ups that we can relate to, and we’re relieved for a moment to see that no sketch comedy shows are without their tech issues.
The content of their scenes is well received by the audience, though none of it is groundbreaking. Much of their material hinges on misdirection or double entendre. Their scenes are more a collection of references or lists of shock items rather than defined patterns of action or escalation—but that is a non-issue to their fans. The crowd favorite of the night—a sketch about a vulgar, ghettofied Abraham Lincoln who is beaten to death for acting out in Ford’s Theater—is also their least substantial (and probably the most potentially offensive). Their best sketch (from a conceptual standpoint), wherein Whitest Kid Zach enacts spiteful vengeance upon his girlfriend in the context of a scene, is also the most poorly received. The Whitest Kids aren’t particularly concerned with structure, but they know what their audience wants to see—and their audience could give a damn about structure.
While the Whitest Kids may not particularly be our cup of tea, we know they are clearly someone’s. Many someones. We came to this show expecting what we’ve come to expect from national touring sketch shows—production value, crafted sets, elaborate costumes and props, perfectly choreographed tech, and barely a crowd. What we saw was exactly the opposite.
Like them or not, The Whitest Kids U’ Know are doing something right. If the success they’re enjoying now can trickle down to yield mass awareness, the benefits will be there for the reaping.
- Paul Triggiani and Bryce Remsburg are part of the Philadelphia sketch comedy group Secret Pants.