The Inaugural Next Level Sketch Awards

Wednesday was our sketch collective’s Christmas Party and awards show, which we put together to celebrate the funny stuff we somehow managed to get out over the course of what I am contractually obliged to describe as a Challenging Year.

The party was on Zoom, and people who we hadn’t seen at any online script meetings for months turned up, such is the human lust for glory. Some dressed in their finest top hats and ball gowns; others did not.

Hosting the awards were Mick Fleetwood and Sam Fox, and I found myself playing the role of Fox. Paul was the Dido to my Eminem, as we bickered, took copious quantities of cocaine [1], and generally turned the entire ceremony into a complete laughing stock. Which, of course, was the intention.

From left: Me, Euan, Mick Fleetwood / Paul

Favourite Podcast Sketch

Landslide victor in the podcast category was Grondelkemmer. Ben gave a very moving speech in which he attempted not to say Grondelkemmer a specific number of times, lest this cause Grondelkemmer to appear and steal his eyes.

Grondelkemmer can be heard in the Next Level Sketch podcast episode ‘Grondelkemmer’

Favourite Stage Sketch

We managed three live shows in 2020, two before the pandemic and then one in October, which went ahead thanks to the excellent efforts of Hoopla and The Miller to make the venue Covid secure. The London Dungeon sketch got the biggest laugh of the night, helped in no small part by Greg Davies’ tuning forgetting his lines into a masterpiece of sustained nonsensical tension on a par with Sideshow Bob’s incident with the rakes.

Greg gave his acceptance speech in Klingon.

You can watch London Dungeon on our YouTube Channel

Favourite Music in a Sketch

The pivot from stage to audio brought on by some global pandemic or other allowed our more musically talented members the opportunity to play around with jingles, songs for imaginary [2] characters, and theme tunes for 1950s-style sitcoms about Richard Branson and Elon Musk living in a moon penal colony due to unspecified crimes against humanity.

Worthy winner was the infuriatingly catchy Handyman theme tune, which was so good our producer included it in the episode twice.

‘The Handyman’ can be heard in the Next Level Sketch podcast episode “The Handyman Chronicles”

Best use of Puns

My co-host, Mick Fleetwood, tried to catch me out by asking me to define puns while introducing this category, but Sam Fox is nothing if not professional and managed to squeeze out an accurate if long-winded explanation.

Puns are like slower balls in cricket: they are made of leather and cork, and need to be used sparingly to maintain the element of surprise. John Dredge is the master, James Turner is brilliant at wringing out every last bit of funny from a tortuously wordy premise, and Euan just added the prefix “horse” to everyday objects to remind people that his characters are horses, and still somehow almost won this category.

Sadly Joe could not make it to the awards, so Roderick gave an acceptance speech in the style of Joe. It’s what he would have wanted.

You can watch ‘Puntastic’ via our YouTube channel

Favourite Character Name

Tory poverty understander Darcy Trustfund III. Vivien Pubic-Jones, the first nudist in space. Writing sketches provides the joy of coming up with stupid characters, and then giving them even stupider names. The good people of next level decided that broadcast journalist Chad Genocide-Smith was the most winningly stupid of them all.

You can hear Chad Genocide-Smith in Episode 3 of the Next Level Sketch podcast

Favourite Advert

We interspersed our podcast episodes with adverts for everything from Jurassic Park and Ride, Nottingham City Council’s second most successful transport scheme, to frothy coffee, the most sheep related coffee ever to make it out of Wales. Sarit’s spookingly good ad came from our Halloween special, and she gave a tearful acceptance speech hammer than David Cameron’s penis.

‘Creepy crawly cover care’ can be heard in the Next Level Sketch Halloween special, ‘Steve the Sexy Cat’.

Favourite Delivery on Stage

Another hard fought category, particularly as one sketch did in fact feature a delivery on stage. Vic has been one of our most consistently funny performers, and I’m delighted she won this award in a very strong field. 

You can watch ‘Traumatic Time Travel’ on our YouTube channel

Favourite Delivery on the Podcast

The character of Charles, with his innocent if relentless appreciation for boys of a particular girth, has existed in Paul’s head for many years. He did a delightful job in decanting him into the podcast, where he was last spotted, covered in shards of broken glass, in our Christmas episode.

Charles can be heard in the Next Level Sketch episode ‘Never Knowingly Underslothed’.

Favourite Pet

I am so pleased that there were some Russians in the room for this incredible performance. Cody’s monologue in character as the doomed first

Cody and Laika in rehearsal at the Royal Festival Hall.

You will need to travel back in time to February to see Cody’s Laika Sketch, as unfortunately we do not have it up on YouTube

Outstanding Innovation in the field of Stage Direction

I enjoyed every single entry on this prestigious shortlist, but Roderick has a special talent in constructing borderline impossible FX cues. The winning entry was a masterpiece of economy: “A twenty foot magpie flies down and eats them”.

‘Ornithologists’ can be heard in the Christmas episode of the Next Level Sketch podcast.

Grossest Sketch

Zoe is one of our funniest writers and contributors, with a keen ear for dialogue and sharp awareness for the hypocrisies and absurdities of our age. Our Harvest brilliantly skewers the smugness of a very particular type of middle class holier-than-thou-iana. It’s also really gross!

‘Our Harvest’ was too disgusting [3] to be committed to film.

Favourite Impression

Paul won favourite impression despite his impression being a) inaccurate, as Musk doesn’t have a South African accent, and b) far nicer than the actual Elon Musk. Mick Fleetwood had the good grace to give his acceptance speech in the style of Paul Creasy’s intentionally inaccurate Elon Musk.

Elon Musk can be heard in the Next Level Sketch podcast episode ‘Billionaires in Space’

Honourable Mentions

These require either no further explanation or lots of further explanation, depending on how deep into the NLS Lore Hole you find yourself. All I can remember is Dan promised to write sketches with no characters whatsoever next year, and Greg was busy writing a song during the meeting.

In Memoriam

The awards concluded with a five minute silence for all the people who left our WhatsApp group this year, and the messages that pushed them over the edge.

Footnotes

[1] Metaphorically speaking

[2] I suppose all characters are imaginary.

[3] I’m not quite sure why this Sketch was not captured on film :/

Published by jamesofwalsh

My past blogs haunt the internet like ghost ships on a digital sea.

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