What do the terms live sketching, live writing, and live sketching have in common? According to the dictionary, that’s: “The act of making a written or oral observation, or making a sketch, by or in relation to a living person.” A live sketch, according to Wikipedia, is “the performance of a scene recorded on film or videotape, as in a motion picture or on television.” So where does the term live writing come from?
The term live sketching is generally traced to the late 70s and early 80s when the U.K. comedy sketch show The Smiths made a name for itself in the UK with its signature riffing. The sketch show got its name from the Smiths song written for the theme song used during its episodes. After the Smiths, it caught on in the U U.S. around 2002. But in the UK, the term live writing is still in use.
The term live sketching has been around for over 30 years, in fact. But since it didn’t exist in the US until the Smiths were famous, it is widely used to describe sketch comedy that isn’t “live.” (In contrast, “documentary sketch” (a sketch where a journalist reports the details of a news event from an unseen perspective) and “documentary sketch” (a sketch that doesn’t rely on a narrator or camera) are still popular.) What’s more, when it comes to live writing, as opposed to live sketching, “live writing” refers to an original sketch that is taped and produced without the aid of a studio audience.
What if a sketch isn’t recorded live or recorded live and then played or replayed?
Live writing doesn’t necessarily exist in a vacuum like live sketching. The term live writing can refer to other types of sketches, and many sketch shows rely heavily on that. For instance, comedy writer Dave Becky describes a situation where a sketch may be taped live (say, a sketch done by the creators just a few days before that recording), then used after a new show or tour. “To be true to the script, the writers will rewrite the sketch and put it on TV,” he says.
So how do sketches get mixed together? “What is often overlooked in the production process,” explains Becky, “is the way in which sketches are mixed together. Often the best sketches come together during the live recording phase.”
Some examples can be found on YouTube, where live
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