Laughs for all in sketch-comedy group Leftovers’ show ‘Just for Us’

leftovers
Chia-Yung Wu /Courtesy

Outside the infamous Tenderloin district nestled between Mason and Taylor streets, Bay Area-based sketch comedy group the Leftovers, presented their show “This Is Just for Us” at the Exit Theater on Saturday night. As relative newcomers to the Bay Area sketch comedy scene, the Leftovers showcased their diverse comedic sketches examining the absurdity of everyday life.

In an interview with The Daily Californian, group member and UC Berkeley alumnus Cas Ruffin clarified that the title of their show was their tongue-in-cheek way of exploring different situations and characters that made them laugh. “And if the show bombed,” Cas explained, “we can say, ‘This show is just for us.’ ” 

The group did have an experience bombing on stage in New York in a venue that was less receptive to newcomers in sketch comedy. “It was the first time we bombed,” Cas said. “It was 3 p.m., no one was drinking yet, and no one was gearing up for a sketch show.” Despite the awkward experience of acting out sketches and delivering punch lines that were met with agonizing silence and blank stares from the audience, Cas found the experience to be reinvigorating and encouraging. “For the longest time, I was scared of bombing (on stage), but after that, I realized it wasn’t that bad.”

Returning to the Bay Area with a renewed sense of bravado, the Leftovers performed to a more laidback and supportive audience. Sketches in the show blend pop culture and common tropes with farce, irony and slapstick humor.

In one of their opening sketches, three girls playing with a Ouija board come across a mournful teenage spirit who just wants to see the girls kiss. Then, in an almost farcical parody of A Christmas Carol, two more spirits arrive — a poorly dressed Abraham Lincoln and an old nanny — only to endorse the dead teenager’s bizarre demand. In another sketch, the members act out the “Pepsi challenge” to prove Pepsi is, in fact, not only better than Coca-Cola, but also actual cocaine. This challenge quickly proves to be a mistake, as the contestant furiously chooses the white powder laid on the table and demands more.

These sketches, driven by a democratic and collaborative writing process and solid performances throughout, created interesting and dynamic situations that kept the audience members entertained throughout the night. The Leftovers presented instantly familiar characters, such as pop-culture icon Michael Jackson, and real-life settings, such as a business meeting and high-school classroom. But at times, their premises felt overly safe and commonplace, relying too much on recognizable caricatures that didn’t push the punch line far enough or toward an original direction. Though the group may facetiously say that their show is “just for them,” the sketches were charming and provocative enough to resonate well with everyone in the theater.