Some things you do outside of your apartment door in 2020: Let packages mellow, remember what sort-of-fresh air feels like and, if you’re stand-up Nick Skardarasy, film a socially-distanced comedy show with your neighbors as the only audience members (and as occasional subjects).
In early September, the comedian gathered his neighbors—all wearing masks and distanced—and a small crew to record Thin Walls, his self-released debut special filmed in one take from the courtyard of his Central L.A. apartment complex. “My name is Nick Skardarasy, I live in apartment two, and I’ve lived there for a little over four years,” it begins before launching into bits about road rage, Italian witches and Disney as a religion.
Thin Walls started out as a distanced birthday party. In lieu of a traditional celebration, Skardarasy eyed his building’s runway-shaped central courtyard as a spot for a fashion show surrounded by his neighbors. “And then I started thinking, I’m turning 30, I don’t know when comedy’s going to come back and I want a career in entertainment, and I just wanted to do the special” Skardarasy tells us.
So he started splicing old bits into a half hour of material that he sent around to some trusted friends for notes, and then tapped his theater school training to run daily monologues of what would become his first half-hour special.
Actually getting an audience and the approval of his neighbors turned out to be one of the easiest parts of the process. They were all on board, and a couple had already seen Skardarasy perform live before (in the Before Time he hosted Arts & Crafts Comedy at the Clubhouse as well as Night Voyage at Cafe Club Fais Do-Do). Throughout the special, there’s a clear easygoing rapport between Skardarasy and his neighbors, like when he jokes “I tried cocaine once” and an off-screen voice yells out “Once?!”
“It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced in my life, how close this unit is,” he says. “It’s very Hey Arnold. There are artists, teachers, people who have started their own businesses, families, people who live alone—but all of us get along really well, and we’re all on WhatsApp and look out for each other.” Skardarasy says that they’ve all become even closer during these months of isolation, and that some residents’ participation in protests over the summer further deepened their conversations.
Director Jon Zucker decided to weave some of those stories into the special and make Skardarasy’s neighbors more than just audience members. Between bits, you’ll find short interviews with residents about reconnecting with relatives, TV-watching habits and engagement plans.
At the very end of Thin Walls, that interview format is turned back onto Skardarasy himself who, when asked about the special, essentially says “why not?” “I think it was a release,” he tells us. “I think before this happened, I had been kind of waiting for permission from gatekeepers in comedy and higher-ups. There’s really no end to this pandemic in sight, and I was just sort of looking at something that I had spent years developing and then all of a sudden I didn’t have it. I was on the cusp of this new part of my life. It just sort of hit me, like, why am I waiting? I should just make this.”
You can watch Thin Walls in full below.
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