The miracles of teh YouTubes mean that I can be intimately familiar with a sketch show’s material without ever even having seen an entire episode. That’s how I feel about Baroness Von Sketch Show, a Canadian group I really like and know solely through individual bits as opposed to their actual IFC program. Maybe that means I’m not the best source of information about them, but I at least know their stuff well enough at this point that it was tough deciding which of their sketches to write about, seeing as there are multiple contenders (you will almost certainly hear more about them if this series continues).
I’ve decided to go with this one mainly because it involves the entire ensemble and shows some of the group’s strengths. During a lunch break, an office worker (Jennifer Whalen) asks an orange-eating employee (Carolyn Clifford-Taylor) to join her for a quick jaunt up and down the stairs so they can meet the requirements of her Fitbit, only to find out that her friend plans to nap instead, since her Fitbit says she’s missing sleep. The idea that the logic of the Fitbit could justify all sorts of questionable behavior is enough to justify a sketch in itself, but things take a turn as we see other variations. Another woman apparently named “Shosh” (Aurora Browne) explains that she’s wearing a “Fatbit” to measure “every time society body shames me” before sorrowfully eating a sandwich. We also learn about similar devices for tracking sex and fun before we get to the punchline, delivered by final group member Meredith MacNeill, which is so good that I’m not even going to reveal it here because you should really just watch the sketch yourself. Come on. It’s less than a minute.
Having seen almost all of the other IFC Baroness sketches currently on YouTube that I can while living in this country, I like how many of the group’s trademarks appear in even this simple bit. Whalen often gets to rattle off declarative bits of dialogue like here and she’s a pro at it, while Browne is a master of facial expressions (she does something similar when she sadly eats a blob of birthday cake frosting in this similar sketch). Clifford-Taylor and MacNeill’s roles aren’t as tied to their recurring traits, but I will say that many of the group’s sketches follow a tried and true path of ramping up to a big payoff and delivering spectacularly. Punchlines are, in my experience, supremely hard to write, which is why, I suspect, many comedy troupes today avoid them altogether in favor of non-sequiturs, segues, or, in the case of SNL, the camera just dollying back toward the crowd to indicate that the sketch is now over. Baroness clearly cares about its writing as much as performing and that always gets points in my book. The final shot of the original duo’s silent reactions is perfectly timed, too, as Whalen clutches her wrist in shame while her friend downs an orange slice like a Tequila shot.
In a larger sense, it’s a great sketch because it takes so many turns while still sticking to a coherent premises. This could have easily ended with a simple shot of all of the women back at work carrying out what their respective trackers tell them to do. Instead, we get a harsh rejoinder that really shows how powerless everyone else in this situation feels. It echoes a theme that comes up in other Baroness sketches, that the greatest freedom a woman can gain comes from not giving a shit, a near-impossible task when society is constantly holding you to unobtainable standards and every thing you do seems like a tell. The fact that I heard someone quoting this very sketch today on the train proves that real people I don’t know are into this group, so hopefully the Baronesses will continue exploring the many ways we’re all dying inside for a long time. Meanwhile I will try to search for a legal, artist-supporting way to watch the actual show itself. If only they awarded visas to help you get caught up on TV…