Sketch comedy has changed over the years as the culture changes around it. This adaptation is on the one hand necessary so that audiences continue to find the jokes and situations funny and relevant and on the other hand reflects a change in the culture of the people making it — even if the audiences were identical or for some reason not considered during production, someone who grew up in the 70s would make a very different sort of sketch than someone who grew up in the 00s. In the same way, changing times and cultures will continue to affect the genre going forward.
Artistically, the biggest change that has happened for sketch comedy was the introduction of recurring characters. As far as the audience is concerned, this allows for the “inside joke” kind of reference that makes viewers that have seen the previous adventures with the repeated characters feel included in a different way from traditional sketches and creates a dedicated following that seeks out related sketches for the same reasons that people read all of the books in a series. For the creators, it allows for characters to be more fleshed out, more three-dimensional, and lets the writers build upon their previous work in an otherwise impossible way. I think that producers will continue to build sketch upon sketch in the future; it has recently become more popular, and I think that it will become even more common in the future than it already is. I do not think that it will be more common than stand-alone sketches, however, or even that it will become as common.
In the amateur realm, the advent of the internet was huge in allowing for the distribution of non-professional work. I don’t know how video would be more easily accessed than by web videos (though you can never really imagine changes like that — I’m sure that before CDs nobody imagined how to distribute music better than cassettes), but if there is a way, the forward trend will be for increased accessibility. From a production standpoint, as better cameras become more affordable, the video quality of amateur sketch comedy will increase. For example, you can already see the difference in production value in Julian Smith’s (we’ll use his work since we’ve already referred to it several times over the course of the manifestos) first video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IeO2icVo5g) compared to his latest (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WP1lhWlsh4I). In the far future, if 3D becomes better and more accessible, it will likely make its way into sketch comedy (I’m thinking holodecks from Star Trek).
Sketch comedy isn’t going anywhere. Its resilience to change with cultures allows it to remain relevant and accessible to new generations, and its disconnect to other material means that it is not tied down to any preexisting material means that its future doesn’t depend on the continued popularity or knowledge of that earlier work. If becomes unpopular, it can very easily reinvent itself so that it is again. The amateur production and proliferation of sketch comedy will only increase in the future as well, as access to the necessary technologies (computers, cameras, editing programs) increases. I would like for sketch comedy to focus more on the sociopolitical commentary side of the spectrum than on the escapist humor side simply because I think that art (which is what sketch comedy is) should exist for a reason other than its simple existence. But there is certainly value in comedy for comedy’s sake, and I think that it should, and will, continue to be produced for both reasons.