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Unread 07-09-2008, 10:47 AM   #1
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The Dos and Don'ts of Masquerade Skits

Anyone who has been to a masquerade can probably tell you there are some things that just work better than others, and there are some things that just should. not. be. done. Sometimes we don't know any better, though, so here's a chance to swap advice and horror stories. The dos and don'ts, shall we say, of Masquerade Skits.

Do prerecord your audio
Even if the convention supplies microphones, unless your act is a song (which, as Patrick D mentions below, may not be all that advisable either) and there's enough microphones for all, you really shouldn't be relying on them for your audio. Passing a microphone around stage looks sloppy, but expecting the mics at the edge of the stage on stands will pick up your sound won't work either. Also, a recording is much more likely to cut off at the time limit without going over.

Free recording software like Audacity works great for recording skits and editing your audio file and you can find decent microphones for under $20 at places like BestBuy or Staples.

Do write for the time limit and
Do build in laugh-time

This one is a big LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES point. This year for PortCon my friend came up with a freaking hilarious skit to do and wrote it up really nicely with tons of great jokes involved. Then we went to record it. Our time limit was 2:00...our recording was 3:30. Several cuts later we were down to 2:00, but everything was packed in so tightly we barely had time to act to it. What's worse, is some of our best material was laughed over, and due to the poor quality of the con's sound system we couldn't even hear the audio and lost our place. It's hard to anticipate laughs, and 2:00 (a common time limit) is VERY short, but you'll save yourself a lot of trouble if you work within those constraints from the start.

Don't do the Haruhi dance!
(Or anything else that's been done 100 times)

There is a whole thread about overdone skits, but my current pet-peeve is the Hare Hare Yukai from Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, so I'm going to use that as an example. This year at PortCon there were THREE acts doing the Haruhi dance. Three. Now, I know you love it, and its fun to do, but something of this nature does not have its place in a Masquerade, if only because of the chance of duplicate performances. Also, if you are in it hoping to win some sort of prize, I'm gunna assume the judges won't give you too many points for originality here, whether you're in the Haruhi costumes or not.

Helpful related links:
EffectiveCos: How to Successfully Present an Entertaining Masquerade Skit a blog post of mine on creating higher quality masq skits.

"Cosplay Crimes (and how to avoid committing them)" by Sarcasm-hime

Other helpful related topics:
Examples of Good Skits and Walk-Ons
What makes a good walk-on?
Overdone skits
Skits that SHOULD be done
Skit Audio Tutorial
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Last edited by Gale : 12-07-2011 at 06:30 AM.
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Unread 07-09-2008, 12:01 PM   #2
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Change "Don't Do the Haruhi Dance" to "Don't to any Dance that's been done 100 times."

There's a ton of "Don't" advice in the "overdone skits" thread...let's add more advice rather than overdone stuff. XD

I agree with the "laugh time" part -- at many masquerades everyone laughs through the next joke. 3:

Do be expressive in your voice / acting!
Nothing kills a skit more than a really hyper actor and a bored-sounding voiceover (or vice versa). And at some cons like Anime Expo, the big-screen TVs will get a close up of your bored face. Record your audio with plenty of emotion, to avoid sounding bored. And act out your skit with plenty of emotion, to avoid looking bored. It works wonders on exciting the audience.
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Unread 07-09-2008, 12:22 PM   #3
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Nothing looks worse then a skit prepared the day of the con. Take time to think out a nice skit and schedule a time to practice it many times for the actual con. Sure the masquerade is not Broadway and not every one are amazing actors, but your hard work will show if only you take time to run through your skit.
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Unread 07-09-2008, 12:25 PM   #4
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If you want to stand up in front of a crowd for two minutes and sing, perhaps you should consider entering the karaoke competition rather than the masquerade.

Short and sweet. You may think you need five minutes to convey all the comedy in your skit, but you really don't. Cut some of the jokes or a second half of the music and get it down to the specified time (or less!) and keep only your best material. Audiences get bored fast. If you leave them wanting more, they'll love you. If you stay one second past your welcome, you've lost them.
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Unread 07-09-2008, 12:27 PM   #5
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Yes, you have to be in character, over exaggerate yourself and your movements when you need to. Or you'll embarass yourself if you dont. You got to be into it, because you'll present yourself better, henceforth perform a wonderful performance. Emotion is the key.
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Unread 07-09-2008, 12:28 PM   #6
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I was hoping I'd get an actual masq. performance judge to give their 2 cents at some point. Thanks Patrick!

And thanks everyone else! My friends and I are actually thinking of doing a panel on this topic sometime soon so I may end up using these suggestions there. Keep up the good advice!
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Unread 07-09-2008, 03:33 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Gale View Post
And thanks everyone else! My friends and I are actually thinking of doing a panel on this topic sometime soon so I may end up using these suggestions there. Keep up the good advice!
I'm so there if you guys do this panel. Especially if you have suggestions for one-person skits and how to do an awesome walk-on.

Here are a couple of my suggestions:

DO remember that not everyone has seen the show your skit is from. Make sure it's something that people will understand. A skit can be funny to people who haven't seen the show - and it is a great way for them to be introduced to a series.

DON'T use inside jokes that only you and your friends will get.

DON'T rely on only yaoi and fanservice.
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Unread 07-10-2008, 06:42 PM   #8
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When doing a walk-on DO plan music and make up something a little more involved than running across the stage like something is after you.

DO keep things simple and straightforward. Don't make your plot overly complex with lots of things going on or it will just look like a mess.

DO tell a story. Something has to happen.

DO practice good blocking. That means know where everyone is going to be at all times, and make sure everything that is going on can be seen and the actors can move easily.

DON'T turn away from the audience unless your character is supposed to specifically have his back to the audience. This is called "cheating out."

I'd like to amend the Haruhi thing:
DON'T do a dance (ANY dance) unless it's fully choreographed, well-rehearsed, and all members of the skit are really good at dancing. I have no problem watching an amazing group of dancers do the Haruhi dance or Sailor Moon musical number or whatever - problem is, I've never seen that happen. It usually looks like a bunch of people doing it in their bedroom. Also, it has to work as a story somehow, otherwise its just a dance recital (similar to Pat's comments about singing). That's why these are the hardest type of skit:

Some examples of good dance skits:
Bleach Dance Skit
Harry Potter Dance Skit

Last edited by *Shiva* : 07-10-2008 at 06:45 PM.
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Unread 07-10-2008, 07:33 PM   #9
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I know it isn't popular with anime kids, but...

Don't do a skit. There are many styles of performance. Dancing (choreographed/group or interpretive), walk-on with music, pantomime, dramatic, fight/action, etc. Everyone competing at anime cons seems to think the audience only wants to see a funny skit, but the more funny skits there are, the less interesting costumes there are. As a judge, I'm starting to have a hard time awarding prizes because there aren't any standout costumes - just lame skits trying to get a laugh, thinking that laughter = award. It doesn't.

The presentation should be tailored to the costume(s), it should showcase the costume and the character as fittingly as possible. If you're trying to shoehorn your serious or dramatic character into a crack skit just because you think it's the only way to get an award, you're doing your costume and all that hard work you put into it a serious injustice. And, as the links to the walk-on threads will prove, walk-ons do not have to be boring or short.
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Unread 07-10-2008, 09:08 PM   #10
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>> DON'T turn away from the audience unless your character is supposed to specifically have his back to the audience. This is called "cheating out."

However, in some cases the judges would like for the back of costumes to be seen on stage at some point. Especially for walk-ons, it's best to show off all angles of the costume. ^^

So I suppose, that guideline would depend on the nature of the skit/performance and what the nature of the masquerade.

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Unread 07-10-2008, 09:25 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by CapsuleCorp View Post
I know it isn't popular with anime kids, but...

Don't do a skit.
I'd be careful with such a blanket statement like that. Sure, dance skits aren't that common, but also how many good dance skits have you seen?

Or perhaps its the wording you used. Do you mean skit as in a scene played out and choreographed like a scene in a play, or as in a sketch comedy style skit?

I'll agree that comedy skits are very common, and not always done well, but not to sound harsh, I have a feeling the quality lies in the creativity and talent of the individuals, and not the medium they choose to present. Not saying they aren't capable of a better performance, but the performers presenting these lame comedy skits (assuming thats what you're talking about) you mention, if they used the same amount of effort, probably wouldn't come up with a much better dance skit. In fact, it would probably be a lot less interesting to watch, since the learning curve with dance tends to be a bit higher than comedy (read: I'd much rather watch a mediocre comedy sketch than a mediocre dance routine).

That said, you do have a point. Comedy is deceptive in how easy it is to pull off. I know someone else mentioned the issue of using inside jokes from among friends or jokes that don't translate if you don't know the series. Creating a skit (no matter what the type) takes a LOT of time and effort and polishing. Be prepared to edit and revise and bounce ideas off of others (either other members of your skit group or not). Then practice, practice, practice. I know I'm even at fault when it comes to this in terms of skits I've done, but finding the time to decide on, and then run through your blocking at least half a dozen times (though more would be a good idea) is an absolute must, no matter what you're doing.
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Unread 07-11-2008, 12:09 AM   #12
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Work on scene changes.
I've noticed that this occurs where people have either too many scene changes, or awkard ones. For one thing, if not as well, it could actually waste time on your limit. If one feels that they need scene changes, try and work on something that's smooth.

Don't push it if your cosplays are all different.
What I mean by this is - If all your cosplays are all from different series and it's proven to be quite difficult to blend it together in a skit, then don't force something. You don't have to be in a giant groups, just split it in smaller groups.

USE the stage.
Don't just stand there! Move around! Use the space to your advantage! When a person or more is just standing there in a line, talking, it is not as interesting. Of course, this could depend on the characters and storyline at times if it's suppose to look like that...but when you have actors at various levels on a stage, it brings the eye of the audience member more variety and more gazing throughout the whole area.

Edit your skit ideas/script.
Don't jump into a skit right away that hasn't been checked over. It's good to get opinions from other people, to see how they like it. Maybe you and your friends might find a skit funny or goofy, but maybe everyone else might find it childish. Often when you are within a group of friends, each of you are similar in personality and how you potray yourselves. Which gives this..every group of friends is different! Some are more loud than others, some more quiet. So edit your work!

Don't "Borrow" ideas from other people.
I think everyone at least once has heard or witnessed, or even dealt, with people using someone else's skit ideas and not giving credit. Please show more respect, and don't take an idea from the internet, a live show, through word of mouth or ear, or a script - Unless giving credit. Stealing ideas suck, and makes something less original. Be creative!

Keep it PG.
Please, no nudity or high sexualness. Last year I saw a girl with her chest...flying everywhere and dancing provacatively. Sure, maybe the audience is full of adults, but that doesn't mean everyone approves or enjoys that sort of thing. I personally don't want to see soft porn or great amounts of fanservice on stage. For one thing, it can make the performers, cosplay, and the con itself appear raunchy. Sex is on the media enough these days, don't encourage it. And you never know if there is some younger members watching : /

Be creative.
Sometimes it happens by fluke where people might have similar skits. But try to think this at all times during the process: "What is something that hasn't done before that I/We could do?" It's good to have that mindset and branch out into new, creative ideas for a skit. As everyone said, using something that has been used 100 times is not appealing.

I'm just throwing stuff out there from my acting experience XD;
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Unread 07-11-2008, 12:42 AM   #13
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Do keep your presentation/walk on/skit short and sweet. It's much better to have a short presentation than to have one that just seems to drag on forever from the audience's perspective. Anything from 30 seconds to a minute is a good enough amount of time to get your point across without losing audience attention. I would also like to point out that performance judges are also part of the audience you are playing to and like everyone else they can quickly become disinterested in your performance if it drags on too long. I've won a few performace awards including a Best in Show and the presentations involved were all under a minute.
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Unread 07-11-2008, 04:39 AM   #14
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DO keep comedy skits general. Like "someone who hasn't heard of this show/manga/game/whatever can enjoy the skit as much as a fan of this show/manga/game/whatever" general.

I know a few people have said before me, but it's something that is starting to become a bit too common for skits. Inside jokes with fans and friends is fun and all when you are at home mucking around. Not when you are entertaining people. Remember this - you are doing skits to entertain other people. Not yourselves. Inside jokes usually don't carry across.

DON'T attempt to do any crazy stunts without getting the OK from officials.

Well, if you are planning on stripping down to your panties for the whole audience to see, make sure your officials have the heads up (although I still won't recommend it. XD). And be prepared if your idea is given the no-go. If it means rewriting the ending or taking a part of the skit out, make sure you have a back-up plan.


Yeah, that's all I can think of now... XD
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Unread 07-11-2008, 07:10 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by CapsuleCorp View Post
The presentation should be tailored to the costume(s), it should showcase the costume and the character as fittingly as possible.
THIS. (@Gale - I think that is the heart of what CC is trying to say). I was going to add a rant but who's got time? So trying to stick to the thread format I'll just say:

DO make sure you provide tech with a high-quality audio file.
Because this is another huge problem with "comedy" sketches that rely on dialog or lyrics to make their point. Half the time the sound is so bad no one can make out the words. But even if you provide a good file, many cons don't have time for a walk-through or sound check or they may just have a crappy sound system. At that point the sound quality is completely out of your control. You could have written the most brilliant sketch EVAH but if no one can hear it, so what? These kinds of problems have far less impact if you are just using music for atmosphere or background to your pantomime.

Last edited by The Hag : 07-11-2008 at 07:15 AM.
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