Yesterday’s blog was taken from a conversation I had over a month ago because ironically, when I stopped posting daily blogs, I still had the same or worse amount of time free. Today’s is the same.
Over a month ago, I saw American-based comedy sketch duo We Are Thomasse at the Museum of Comedy in London. They flew in on the Thursday, did the show on Friday, attended a wedding on Saturday (their real reason for flying over) and flew out on Sunday.
We Are Thomasse are British-born Nick Afka Thomas and US-born Sarah Ann Masse (Thomas + Masse = Thomasse).
“So,” I said to Sarah at the Museum of Comedy after the show, “You were living and working in New York and your manager was in LA And now you are moving to LA for the pitch season?”
“Yeah. Our manager had us go out. We went out to Los Angeles four times last year. We went on a whim to a sketch festival and really had a good time and decided to go back. In LA, it’s a theatre called iO West and they said any time were back in town they’d put us on their main stage, which they did.
“It’s really nice to have a place to perform every month. We had a monthly show in New York for a year at the PIT – the People’s Improv Theatre.”
“And,” I asked, “you post regular online stuff?”
“Yes. On our YouTube channel. We do the online sketches every fortnight. We filmed a lot between June and September last year and then a few in December and January and we’re now releasing them every two weeks.”
“How did the two of you meet?” I asked.
“Through a mutual friend. The only thing I knew about Nick when I met him was that he was a maths tutor and wrote books about Sudoku. He came second in the National Sudoku Championships. I had no idea he was an actor and writer.
“We just got on really well and he moved back to London; but I was in New York. So we spent the next five months typing to each other online every day. We started writing together then. Then he came back out to New York to do a play with me.”
I was talking to Sarah alone. Nick was schmoozing the rest of the room.
“He’s very well-spoken,” I said.
“Though,” said Sarah, “every now and then an Estuary sound comes out of his quaint, posh accent. He was born in Peterborough and grew up between England and Switzerland – because his dad got a job there and…”
“I thought you were going to say he went to finishing school there!” I told her.
“No, he went to Eton,” she told me.
“Well then,” I said, “he’s only one step away from getting some superhero lead in a Marvel film…”
“And later,” added Sarah, “he was back there teaching at Eton.”
A few days after this conversation, Nick e-mailed me:
“When I was talking to Sarah about how much you already knew about me, I realized that she hadn’t been filling you in on her own credits, so you must not have heard about what an interesting life she’s had. It’s totally different from mine, which keeps in line with our ‘opposites attract’ thing: husband-wife, British-American etc.
“Whereas I was at a fancy school and university, Sarah was home-schooled from the age of 11 and made the decision that she didn’t want to go to university at all (saving thousands and thousands in pointless debt). She began auditioning professionally at 18, did the famous (at least famous in the US) Williamstown Theater Festival two years in a row and started her own highly-acclaimed theatre company when she was 21… I didn’t even get out of drama school until I was 23! I have to be honest: Sarah is responsible for a majority of those punchlines in the show.
“It’s a shame we don’t yet do songs, since her singing voice is absolutely breathtaking – She used to be a musical theatre actress, working with some pretty big names. We haven’t figured out how to incorporate that yet, but hopefully one day we’ll begin to have a musical side.”
Now, flashing back to my chat with Sarah at the Museum of Comedy:
“Working together,” I suggested, “is often not a good idea if you are a couple.””
“Well, we started working and writing together before we started dating. In the five months that we were not dating – just talking online – we started writing characters for what would become a web series. Nick always wanted to do sketches and a sketch show.
“Eventually we got round to doing a few of our sketches in other people’s shows and then we applied to a festival in New York and got in and – Oh no! We’d better put a show together! – and, since then, for just over a year now, we’ve been doing a version of this show.”
At this point, Nick joined us.
“The big thing for us at the moment,” he said, “is to draw people’s attention to the fact we even exist. There are so many YouTube channels and so many sketch people out there that how do you know what’s worth seeing?”
“Why bother with Britain at all,” I asked, “when you are doing fine based in the US?”
“We are British-American, so we want to keep that connection on both sides. We are interested in appearing in Edinburgh. I went to the Fringe a couple of times – once with the Oxford Revue and once with NewsRevue.”
“You were in NewsRevue?” I asked.
“One of the things I took from that experience,” said Nick, “was the speed of change, the pace of it. If you fly at it, even if there is a bad sketch, you are through really quickly. Sarah and I have kept our change-overs (between sketches) to about ten seconds or less. In NewsRevue, I think we were doing 4 seconds, but they had two more people to be able to do that.
“In America and in a lot of sketch shows I’ve seen in Britain, the gap between sketches can be so long that the energy that has been built up just gets dissipated. That was a big thing with us from the start, which is one of the reasons why we do all our changes on the stage.”
“So your career will be sketch shows for ever more?” I asked.
“We are talking to a director,” Nick replied, “about doing a play where the two of us play all the characters.”