Three Dollar Bill takes comedy seriously. Created in 2009, the sketch comedy troupe has produced more than a dozen revues, including sold-out runs at three consecutive IndyFringe festivals. Producer and company member Will Pfaffenberger speaks for the troupe as they prepare a raucous holiday show.
"It's going to be R-rated, edgy sketch comedy," he says. "We are turning traditional Christmas concepts on their ear, tapping into mainstream events and pop culture to demonstrate different versions of how Christmas might play out."
The members of Three Dollar Bill constantly engage audiences to garner comedic inspiration. Many perform weekly at ComedySportz Indianapolis.
"Sketch comedy relies on the timeliness of the zeitgeist: Being aware of what the tone of the community is at the time and tapping into those sensibilities," he says. "We rely on what the audience is talking about; like twerking is a good example of something that has stuck around a long time this year. These things that come up over and over again cue us to know what is embedded in the culture of the time. We use those to our advantage."
Influenced by famed sketch groups like The Groundlings and Second City, each of the six members of Three Dollar Bill brings a different comedic sense to the stage.
"Jeff [Clawson] is an English literature media teacher; he has this very articulate sense of how to write and create a script," he says. "Then there is me and Todd [Kenworthy] who love the lowest common denominator stuff. Claire [Wilcher] is a mix of both. Matt [Kramer] has a great sense for awkward characters and situations, and Chad [Woodward] writes with a social agenda."
Everyone in the group writes; together they edit and refine the work into a polished piece. Often what's seen on stage doesn't align with what's on the page.
"Our roots are in improv," he says. "There is something you can't take away from a group of improvisers when they are performing. There is a lot of fun to be had when you get comfortable with a scenario and characters. A sketch takes an unexpected tangent and it's likely to be a good one."
Trust is key between these performers, many of whom have been working together for as long as 10 years.
"If somebody starts ripping, you listen and try to respond as the character in the moment and support that," he says. "We are such a tight knit group that we aren't caught off guard if that happens. We trust nobody more than we do each other."
Anticipating an improvised moment is second nature for the members of Three Dollar Bill. But when a performer is caught off guard and breaks character the troupe pushes further for funny.
"We know the 'tells' when people are tickled by something," he says. "You just dig in and try to get that person to break. We love those moments. There is nothing better than making each other laugh."