The next time you are in need of a good old-fashioned belly laugh, look no further than your computer. Hilarious comedy sketches are a click away at ThoseArentMuskets.com, a Web site created by UC San Diego graduates Michael Swaim and Abe Epperson.
“Those Aren’t Muskets!” is a young comedy troupe with “nothing to lose, and everything to prove,” led by head writer Swaim, who attributes the name of the group to a line from Star Trek. He says that after watching their “Star Trek rap,” all shall be revealed.
This is a site that is definitely geared toward the open-minded-and-not-easily-offended, as most of the material could be considered offensive and inappropriate for, say, a family gathering or child’s birthday party. Some of the videos find their basis in topics such as below-the-belt glitter (which is heaving, silent-laughter funny), explicit Pictionary (clever and amusing) and of course Swaim’s commentary on non-visible porn. (Just watch. It’s awkward and laugh-out-loud funny at the same time.)
The quality of the filming and humor is surprising. This site is worth at least an hour of uninterrupted viewing and appreciating the level of inappropriate situations and language.
Swaim said that he and Epperson decided to do Internet sketches after pondering thoughts of indie movies and festival shorts because they figured it was the best way to get noticed by Hollywood.
“We both knew we wanted to do some film projects after school, and decided that we were the perfect yin-yang of powers. He had cameras, lights and the knowledge to use them, and I wrote and performed,” Swaim said. “We wrote and filmed five sketches, designed the site and went live. It’s been about a year since then and we’re inching ever closer to breaking into film and television, which is certainly where we want to be.”
Swaim’s brother, Cal Poly architecture sophomore David Swaim, also had a hand in the success of the site, appearing in one of Musket’s most notable sketches.
“David was the star and central premise of one of our best sketches, ‘Chops,’” Swaim said. “That one got us fourth place in Sketchies II, a Youtube sketch competition that had about a zillion people enter. He shot for two days in a row almost non-stop…it was brutal, and he did a phenomenal job.”
“Chops,” as previously mentioned, and “Clitter” are two videos to check out to ease yourself into Musketland. It is hard to pinpoint the funniest sketch, as there are a variety of topics and offending criteria to choose from.
Swaim accredits some of their structural influence to shows like “The Simpsons” and “Futurama,” but said most of their success comes from their curiosity for how things work.
“Both of us are obsessed (when we see something that works) with figuring out ‘how they did that.’ I think that’s basically the key to success for us…we find stuff we like, reverse engineer it, and then we’ve got that trick added to our arsenal,” he said. “We try and see as much as we possibly can and, the truth is, there’s too much good stuff out there to catch it all. It all goes into the hopper.”
Although the site has been up for a short time, it has already gained tremendous popularity. Sketches such as “Internet Party” and “Games Conference” have caused Hollywood to look in the Muskets’ direction but, Swaim said he is still striving for a “super hit.”
“After seeing a lot of my forbears take five to 10 years to get those kinds of meetings and that kind of recognition, that feels like a huge accomplishment,” Swaim said of being asked about possible movie deals.
“We’re going well, but there are a lot of troupes we know who have videos with millions and millions of views, whereas our highest is somewhere around a quarter of a million. It doesn’t bother us too much, because people still know who we are and our sketches regularly show up at all the hot spots. But having a big, viral, breakout hit is something I think we’re still kind of waiting for,” Swaim said.
He said there really is no target audience for the site, and that the group is into mostly “making what we want to.”
“We’re making what’s funny to us, because that’s all you can really do. Our target audience is anyone who agrees with us that, ‘yes, that is funny,’” Swaim said. “So far, people have been really positive, especially about our filmic production value, which I think is something that really separates us from some other troupes. Abe is a bona-fide filmmaker and is attending USC film school. He makes our stuff look professional, and that’s something that’s really helped us be seen as serious story-tellers and filmmakers, rather than just some guys who are doing this in their garage for fun.”
Swaim pointed out that while nothing is wrong with just doing it for fun, this comedy troupe is “in it for the long haul.”
The actors in the sketches display depth in their performances of a wide range of characters, with believable awkwardness and near-perfect comedic timing.
“Consider Muskets a long-term film project,” Swaim said. “I should also note that all the actors you see on the site are UCSD students, largely our friends from the acting program there. We couldn’t do any of this without them.”