As the punctuation in its title would suggest, Hello … Shovelhead! is awfully good at standing out. On Friday evening, the sketch comedy troupe took to the stage in the Stokes Art Tent to perform a mix of new and old sketches. Several were taken from sketches in their shows this semester, but others were cast favorites from earlier shows. Cast members showed off their versatility through a range of impressions and characters.
The show started strong with a Boston College-themed sketch. The segment follows a student who mistakenly uses a tray in the dining hall. Inevitably, when friends and strangers see him using the tray, they turned on him. Even the character’s ailing grandmother comes into the scene to share her disapproval, all because he put food on a tray. The act scored laughs among the mostly student crowd, familiar with the phenomenon of the lunch tray in BC dining halls.
Shovelhead! quickly moved beyond the walls of BC’s campus, exploring pop culture at large. The next sketch was a parody of the popular Food Network show, Chopped. The act parodied the judges on the show, presenting a fictional panel including Nicolas Cage, “the celebrity guest,” “every white chick,” the sushi specialist, and Guy Fieri. The group made fun of the ridiculous ingredients on the show, giving the contestants odd items like loaded guns to incorporate into dishes. The strong impressions of Cage and Fieri carried the sketch, and the premise itself certainly was compelling.
Politics were also fair game at Friday’s show. One of the finer moments of the evening was “Bedtimes Stories with The Bush Family.” The performance was chock full of strong impressions, with George W. Bush (known in this sketch as Captain America), Jeb Bush, Laura Bush, and Jenna Bush as featured characters in the act. The former president read children’s bedtime stories with his own twists. Where The Wild Things Are, Bush remarked, “is the Middle East.” Other books included Goodnight Moon, Oh, The Places You’ll Go, and The Giving Tree. Captain America, as G.W. insisted his brother call him, also explained the concept of drones to daughter Jenna. “They’re guardian angels,” he told her while inadvertently revealing he’d used them to spy on her when she was on dates with men.
Not all of the sketches revolved around celebrity impressions. The evening also showed off the group’s ability with original character work, particularly in a sketch starring parents that talked and behaved like teens-they texted each other from different rooms and sought advice from their teenaged son about their relationship. They used “okay like” to start nearly every sentence and used “literally” very liberally. In the end, it was revealed to be an act to scare off their son’s friends.
One of the funniest moments of the night came from a sketch titled “That 2010s Show.” The imaginary future television show incorrectly used contemporary slang like “turnt up” and “ratchet” in inappropriate ways. The future narrator shared ironic jokes with the intended future audience-the segment played with nostalgia, remarking how simple times were before war with Russia. The troupe also joked about how there were still fish in the ocean. The family had their friends “Mrs. and Mrs. Lesbian” over for dinner, and commented on how quaint a time it was before gays had equal rights.
The final sketch of the night also dealt with the issue of equal rights. Set on an army base, the sketch dealt with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the military. The performance followed a truly exceptional soldier whose skills ranged from flying planes to sharpshooting as a master sniper, who also happened to be gay. While it took a while, his commanding officers accepted his sexuality and they shared a hug.
The 40-minute show was packed with ideas, showing off the range of the group. The comedy group showed off a nuanced understanding of its craft, working tactfully with impressions and original characters, making it funny, while keeping it smart.