Veteran sketch comic Pat Thornton shows no hesitation when asked to name his worst live show ever.

“It was a fringe tour with (comedy troupe) Todd’s Lunch. We didn’t get in the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, so we rented out a theatre that seats 300 people,” says Thornton, the creator/writer/star of The Comedy Network’s fast-paced new sketch series Hotbox.

“Someone who had seen us before and hated us wrote this one star review before we arrived. So only five people showed up for the show. Three volunteers and the people who billeted us. They were real polite but I can’t imagine they had a good time.”

The 13-episode Hotbox, which premieres tonight, reflects Thornton’s nine years of good and bad gigs with sketch troupes like Todd’s Lunch and, more recently, The Sketchersons.

However, the show’s core target audience is most definitely today’s YouTube generation. For Hotbox is a lightning-fast mish-mash of sketches that take on all subject matter and sport names like “Press Conference With a Bear,” “Dinosaur Man,” “Dinner in Space” and “Dr. Bloodfister.”

If a segment lasts 20 seconds, it’s a rarity. Most of Hotbox’s comedy bits just end abruptly. Think of it as a live action variation on the animated series Robot Chicken … though Hotbox does also feature some cool animation and puppets.

“For the most part, what you see on the screen is all there was on the page,” says Thornton. “We really enjoyed the challenge of writing things that just start and stop quickly; redefining how something ends.”

Hotbox is also unique in its steadfast avoidance of a regular cast. There are 20 Canadian comics featured in the first season. This includes members of three comedy troupes, as well as cameos by well-established comics like Colin Mochrie, Jon Dore and Sean Cullen.

“There really isn’t a regular cast. Yeah, we went back and forth with the network on that. Part of it was I simply wanted to make opportunities for comics in this town.”

Thornton says making the leap from stage to the small screen wasn’t difficult, though he does miss the live feedback.

“The laughs are different. You work all day on a TV set with the crew, and they don’t care how funny you are.”

• Hotbox airs tonight at 10 p.m. (ET) on The Comedy Network.

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