Great profile in the Chicago Tribune today!
and they were featured on the PRX podcast today: MP3
Here's the Tribune article:
Fly the send-up skies with SkyMaul's air farce
By Glenn Jeffers
Tribune staff reporter
Published January 12, 2007
It could be a twisted infomercial, or something so absurd that, for a moment, you aren't certain. A Carve-Your-Own Chess Set? Hmmm. That would keep the kids busy. Fingerless, sure. But busy.
Welcome to SkyMaul: the book and--now--multimedia creation of San Francisco-based comedy troupe Kasper Hauser. Like much memorable comedy, its most famous creation, based on the SkyMall catalogue, skirts treacherously close to reality. And when an airplane seat pocket-in-front-of-you catalog such as SkyMall sells ultrasonic jewelry cleaners and gravity-defying loafers, it's begging to be satirized.
The group will poke even more fun with their multimedia show, also based on the book, Friday and Saturday at The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival. The festival concludes on Sunday.
"It's immediate recognition," Rob Baedeker said during a telephone interview. "Everybody knows how absurd [the catalog] is."
The quartet, which includes comedians Dan Klein and twins John and James Reichmuth, came up with the idea while flying back to San Francisco after a series of performances. Grabbing a couple of catalogs from their chair pouches, the comics started scribbling fake titles into the pages for fun.
When the quartet met with their literary agent to pitch book ideas, "SkyMaul" was fully formed as a parody that anyone who's ever flown on a commercial flight would get.
The book also fit with the kind of humor the quartet enjoys. The group once built a fake craigslist page filled with odd listings on its Web site, www.kasperhauser.com
. One listing mentioned a woman looking for a man, but only for friendship.
Another mentioned a lost horse. He had a pellet gun and was a genius, fyi.
"We're into parody and it was sort of a natural fit to use [SkyMall] as a vehicle," Baedeker said. "There's something about being on a plane. Maybe it's the high altitude but people think they can perfect their lives through shopping, that if they get this water slide, their lives will be perfect."
As for the group, it's flourished since the Stanford University graduates and longtime friends came together in 2000, seemingly without the assistance of sky shopping. Despite performing mostly on stage, the group has ventured into other mediums, producing two films, the fake website, SkyMaul and other short video sketches.
Their writing translated well, said John Reichmuth, which allows the group to move from stage to film to prose without losing the joke, no matter how absurd.
"When you see a new medium, you feel compelled to jump into it," Reichmuth said. "But all the media we've explored, they're areas that made us laugh anyway. We like the written word and we like audio humor. We're after the same exclusive moment of great comedy that most of our fans are."
The writing also benefited from the four working together to sketch out ideas. Attacking the same premise from different comedic points lets them come up the jokes that never feel the same. In one section of "SkyMaul," the group listed a couple sub-standard products made by Uncle Terry, "your mom's older brother."
One product, Uncle Terry's sled, mentioned that there's nowhere to put your feet "until they've been rammed up your [rear] by gravity and alcohol." Another product, Terry's bullet boat, pulled fewer punches: "Your mom's older brother is an [expletive] and he thinks you and the rest of the cousins like to be whipped around on this inflatable raft. Well, you don't, and in fact you're really scared and worried you'll snap your neck."
Just stay focused and try to do well in school, the blurb concludes. Then go to college and get away from Uncle Terry.
"There's a fluid narrative, but you can't predict where it goes and that's what I love about SkyMaul," Reichmuth said. "It creates comedy like a warning on a Ouija board."