Richmond sketch group Trash Bang is making an impact. Winning the judge’s prize at Unified Scene Theater’s 24-Hour Sketch Fest in Washington D.C. this August, this group is taking the local sketch comedy scene to a higher level. This weekend, they’ll be performing at Coalition Theatre’s sixth annual Nightmare On Broad Street event, celebrating Halloween with a performance entitled “Trash Bang Goes To Hell.”
The seven-member group got its start on the local improv circuit, and began writing sketches earlier this year; they made their debut performance at Coalition Theatre in April 2018.
Trash Bang draws from a wide range of aesthetics and influences. Variety shows like Liquid Television, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and Pee-wee’s Playhouse are major inspirations for the group, but each performer brings their own particular style to the table.
“I think what binds us is a lopsided view of things,” performer Joe Mack said. “Everybody in the group has an absurdist worldview.”
Performances typically feature an overarching storyline that’s broken up by video segments and animated shorts projected onto the wall behind them. The video skits and animations are primarily the work of Grace Manno, Dashiell Kirk, and Shawn Hambright.
“I think we all love the 90’s grunge-zine aesthetic,” Manno said about their visual aesthetic. “It has tone’s of anti-capitalism/consumerism and DIY. It’s messy and fast. Largely we try to think of what’s going to shock or demand attention.”
Trash Bang’s cast also draws inspiration from unlikely, often obscure, sources. Manno said that art history, specifically the surrealist and dada movements, informs much of her comedic and visual style.
“Those eras are often thought of as ‘high art,’ but really it was just groups of oddballs trying to process the insanity of their day,” Manno said. “I like to think we’re trying to find our way through some of that as a group.”
Mack also cites historical movements and figures from that era as a model. Some of his recent sketch ideas, he said, were inspired by the writings of Daniil Kharms, an early 20th century Russian poet and playwright.
“He kind of predates absurdists,” Mack said. “He’s like a proto-absurdist. So there’s an absurdist lineage there.”
Yet Trash Bang’s loftier ideas and influences are undercut by the group’s crude playground humor and penchant for gross punchlines, described by Mack as “pee pee poo poo boobie” jokes.
They’re one of only a handful of sketch groups that regularly perform throughout the city, but Trash Bang’s smart mix of comedic styles and multimedia features have made them a group to look out for.
Catch Trash Bang performing “Trash Bang goes to Hell” at Coalition Theater’s annual Nightmare on Broad Street Halloween show on Friday, Oct. 26. Tickets are $10, and can be ordered here.