New York and Philly are close enough that any Philly-area comedy fans should head up for at least some of the Del Close Marathon
, started by the Upright Citizens Brigade
in honor of their mentor and celebrating its 13th year August 12-14.
The Del Close Marathon is the Woodstock of improv comedy—or the Lolapalooza or Bonnaroo or whatever fits your generation—a weekend of non-stop improv comedy from cities around the globe. Performers include names and faces you know, representation from funny-factories like Second City, UCB, iO, PHIT, etc., and college talent that will grace future improv stages (and commercials and rom-com best-friend roles). A $25 wristband gets you into more than 150 shows with some waiting in line.
Read more about the marathon and Del at www.delclosemarathon.com
.If you look at the full schedule, it can be a daunting task to figure out what to see, especially if this is your first time. It’s a hundred hours of performance on multiple stages.
Here’s a theme-park–style map of what’s happening where and when:
The marathon used to be only at the UCB Theater, and you can still spend the whole weekend there, but be prepared for a long line and occasionally getting cleared out for a theater cleaning. You’ll see primetime shows, representation of improv from different places, a lot of New York groups in the early hours, the perennial Sunday breakfast with Krompf, and weirdo shit in the middle of the night …but don’t think that the second stages don’t offer just as much great improv.
- UCB Theater – 307 West 26th St.
Fri 4:30PM to Sun 8PM
Hall of Famous People
Want to say “I saw so-and-so to friends, family, and co-workers? There’s a bunch of opportunities. The Colbert Show writers, John Lutz and Scott Adsit from 30 Rock, Horatio Sanz and Bobby Moynihan from SNL, and more will appear on the pay-per-show 4th stage at FIT*, along with Donald Glover (Community, Childish Gambino) and the rest of viral-video stars Derrick Comedy.
You can also see SNL featured players Vanessa Bayer [Sat 10PM UCB] and Paul Brittain [Fri 10:30PM UCB], Rich Sommer (Mad Men) [Sat 9:30PM UCB], Doug Benson (Super High Me) doing his podcast and bothering stand-ups [Fri & Sat 12:30AM UCB], and the improvisers who play the writers who never talk on 30 Rock [Sun 5:30PM Hudson Guild].
Plus, of course you can see the Upright Citizens Brigade—but probably not Amy Poehler—[Sat 7:15PM UCB] and any famous people who just so happen to show up to something, like past surprises Sarah Silverman and Brooke Shields. And the Sunday 8PM ASSSSCAT 3000 show at Haft Auditorium* is sure to be chock-full of stars finishing up the weekend.
You could call this Tomorrowland. Catch some college teams and spot the next wave of talent. Post-graduation, the standouts you like will head to improv hubs for classes, put together shows all around the country, or pop up on TV and in movies. You might even be able to cheer for your alma mater.
- Urban Stages – 259 West 30th St.
Sat 10AM-2PM & Sun 10AM-5PM
If you want to see some fucked-up shit in the middle of the night, head to the main stage to see improv mixed with pro wreslting, rap, robots, game shows, beer, stand-up, Spanish, predator-catching, anime, communists, Christian fellowship, and more. How about a show that’s all walk-ons or all straightmen, or all Matthew McConaugheys? Stay up late for some weird, wild, 15-minute shows; it’s like live-action Adult Swim that gets beer and ball-sweat on you.
- UCB Theater – 307 West 26th St.
Fri-into-Sat and Sat-into-Sun midnight to 6AM
It’s a Small World Ride/EPCOT
Improvisers from across the country and Canada (and Finland this year!) make their way to New York for the Marathon. Check out what the improv is like in New York, Chicago, Boston, Austin, LA, DC, Toronto, Vancouver, Philly, Phoenix, Florida, North Carolina, Syracuse, San Francisco, and much more. What’s your home town? There might be a group from around there performing and representing.
- noonish to midnight on all stages
Do you like Glee and/or Broadway and/or improv? Check out some musical improv:
- Baby Wants Candy [Fri 7PM Kate Murphy & Sun 5:30PM UCB], Vox Pop [Fri 9PM Hudson Guild], Dumpster Tequila, Broadway’s Next Hit Musical, Veal, Rebound! [Sat 11AM to 1PM Hudson Guild], Diamond Lion [Sat 5PM UCB], Hotel Principality [Sun 3PM Hudson Guild], iMusical [Sun 4PM UCB)].
- And North Coast will perform a hip-hopera [Sat 4:45AM Urban Stages].
Electric Lady Land
Female improvisers can stand toe-to-toe with male improvisers, but here’s what to check out for some Ladies-Only improv:
- Doppelganger [Fri 6:30 UCB], The Amie and Kristen Show [Fri 7:30PM Hudson Guild], Sit Still [Fri 8PM Hudson Guild], Drysdale and Gausas [Fri 9PM UCB], Shmuckler Twins [Sat 7:45AM Urban Stages], 8 Girls Harold [Sat 9:45AM Urban Stages], ’92 Dream Team [Sat 3:15PM Urban Stages], Ness and Nance [Sat 10PM UCB], WiseSnatch [Sat 11:45PM Urban Stages], Bea Arthur [Sun 1PM Hudson Guild], The Katydids [Sun 4PM Hudson Guild]
The aptly named Not-Included-in-Price-of-Admission-Land
You have to pay extra for each of these big-name shows in a larger venue at the Fashion Institute of Technology, but each is a sure thing, with the funniest, smartest, most talented performers around and names from SNL and 30 Rock and the Colbert Show.
- FIT 7th Ave. at 27th Street, Bldg. D. – Fri & Sat 7 to midnight
- FIT Haft Auditorium – Sun 8PM
And now for something at least slightly different
A lot of improv is similar to other improv (especially in an all-longform festival).
Here’s a few shows with a unique take:
- The performers have to sit in chairs for The Chairmen [Fri 6:30PM Hudson Guild], stand in place for Nailed Down [Fri 8PM UCB], do the show backwards at Twik [Fri 11:45PM Urban Stages], and use only their voices in the dark for BIG BAT [Sat 1AM Hudson Guild].
- The show is inspired by your text messages at Last Day of School [Fri 11PM UCB] and Oregon Fail [Sat 2PM Hudson Guild], and by your embarrassing story at The Law Firm [Fri 11:30PM UCB] and Death By Roo Roo [Sat 9PM UCB].
- Audience members perform at Matt& [Sat 7:45PM Urban Stages] and Adsit and You [Sat 6PM UCB].
- It’s an elevator ride at Elevator Action [Fri 9:45PM Urban Stages], a rap battle at The BEATdown [Sat 1AM UCB], a telenovéla at Hispania [Sat 4:15PM Urban Stages], a fishing trip at Bassprov [Sat 7:30PM Hudson Guild], a movie at Rough Cut [Sun 1:45AM Urban Stages], a debate at The Master Debaters [Sun 11AM Hudson Guild], and improv with your iPod as the soundtrack at Mother [Sun 7PM Hudson Guild].
* Shows at FIT and Haft Auditorium are not included in the wristband admission.
So head up to NYC to check out some comedy from around the world, from all kinds of performers in all different kinds of shows, all made up on the spot in front of you.
On Wednesday July 27th, a packed Shubin Theater witnessed the dawning of a new era – Jim Grammond’s “Reasonable Discourse with Jerks”. For the unlucky ones who weren’t able to secure a ticket, here is what the host and his four panelists were wearing:
Jim Grammond – An orange, black, yellow, green plaid collared shirt with short sleeves, 5 buttons buttoned, one button left undone at the top showing a white under shirt, blue jeans, grey and white sneakers with a large “N” on both sides of each.
John Kensil – Grey button down short sleeved shirt, 5 buttons buttoned, one undone at the top, no undershirt, a necklace with a cross, blue jeans, white sneakers with some black, wrist watch on left wrist.
Blake Wexler – White soccer jersey 3 buttons unbuttoned, with an embroidered small red diamond inside of a larger red diamond over the right breast, a patch on the left breast with 3 blue lions and 10 red “O” shapes under a small white star, a grey undershirt, brown shorts, white ankle-high socks with 3 black bars on each, orange/red, black and white sneakers with the letter “N” on both side of each shoe.
Mary Radzinski – A black blouse with wide arms and a neckline that went to the shoulders, silver feather pendant on a silver chain necklace, silver slippers, dark blue jeans, red bracelet on the left wrist.
Mike Rainey – Black t shirt with a white Philadelphia Flyers logo, with the word “FRESH” in all capital letters underneath also in white type, light blue jeans, black, grey and white sneakers with a grey wavy line on the side.
The Gross Show is a sick and twisted view on the world of “trash talk shows” from the mind of Alex Gross. It makes its return to Philly Improv Theater in its new time slot this Friday at 11:30PM.
WITOUT: Explain the format of The Gross Show.
ALEX GROSS: The Gross Show is just your regular live theater comedy talk show. We have guests, we drink some beer and we have some good old fashion fun.
WITOUT: Where did you come up with the idea to do an improvised “Trash Talk Show”?
AG: Growing up I didn’t watch the Price is Right when I faked being sick to stay home from school. When my Mother would leave for work I would race down the stairs and turn on Fox to watch nonstop Springer and Maury action. It was (still is) almost everything I hate about humanity and I could watch it without having to actually deal with it. I would scream at my TV until I was red and get really involved. I don’t think I actually enjoyed it, I think I really enjoyed fucking hating people on TV which is why I imagine people watch the Jersey Shore and other corny reality shows (hopefully).
Last fall I was bumming around my apartment with nothing to do until I saw Jerry Springer was on. I hadn’t watched it in years. The exact same feeling rushed into me as when I was a kid. I had so much fun watching and I thought about how I wanted to host a show like it someday. A few days later I saw Greg Maughan and realized I could host a show like it now! I had already pitched several ideas to Greg with no success but he was on board almost immediately with The Gross Show.
WITOUT: Who is your favorite Trash Talk Show Host? Do you pull your hosting style from any one person or do you try to grab bits and pieces of different people that you like?
AG: Jerry Springer is the best day time talk show host of all time. Oprah can suck it. Originally I tried to pull my style from Jerry but as shows went by I realized that it sort of sucks for me and for the show. It’s way too laid back and I felt like my audiences as a whole were too polite at times. Now I’m doing whatever seems right in the moment while still being kind of laid back.
WITOUT: What is your favorite segment of Trash Talk shows? (is it paternity tests? someones cheating on somebody? I’ve got a secret to tell you.? I’m a bad kid who’s getting sent to boot camp?) What do you like about it so much?
AG: On Jerry Springer, the cheating segments are classics. They are consistently sad, depressing and funny as hell. The guests show raw emotion which draws me to the edge of my seat, the fights are entertaining and the twists are awesome. I believe every time a man cheats on his wife with a tranny, that he wasn’t aware had a dick, an angel gets their wings. On Maury, the “I’m eating myself to death” fat segments are too much for me to handle. I love to hate it. You have people dying of hunger around the world but here in America we cry over fat kids who can’t stop eating and have half eaten roast beef sandwiches under their mattresses. I just can’t wrap my mind around it.
WITOUT: Your show has moved time slots a few times, do you feel like you are getting the “Freaks and Geeks” treatment or is it just something to add to the lore of The Gross Show?
AG: I think I was getting the “Greg Maughan is scared to have the cops show up” treatment after we got threatened by the neighbors at the first show for making too much noise. Good news though! Last month Greg called me after the Hopper Brothers decided to end their show and asked if I was interested in going to Fridays late night for good. With no thought I said yes and after being lectured about what I still can’t do on the show, The Gross Show has Friday shows until at least the end of the year!
WITOUT: You play a pretty straight-forward host on the show, do you ever get the itch to get down and dirty and gross with your guests?
AG: In the worst way. Before the first show I couldn’t wait to be weird, crude, strange, disgusting and offensive but while in the planning process I had a reality check. I realized I had to be the straight man or at least the audience’s point of view and a single tear rolled down my cheek. It was really heart breaking.
WITOUT: Is anything off limits? Has anyone come to you with a segment idea that is just too much to put on stage? Will the day ever come? Where is the line?
AG: Nothing is off limits, no idea is too much and there is no line. Example, I couldn’t get the actress for Friday’s show but I was really close to having Zombie Amy Winehouse throwing (fake) ketamine on audience members. My Father said it wasn’t funny but what does he know.
Monday 25 July 2011
8:14 PM – I take a seat in back of the Shubin Theater
8:38 – The houselights go down, we are asked to silence our pagers and Chip Chantry is introduced.
8:41 – Chip talks about toilets, while discreetly checking to make sure his fly is up.
8:44 – Chip check’s his fly again.
8:47 – Chip introduces co-host Johnny Goodtimes. Tonight is the last show with Johnny co-hosting. He finds out the show will continue without him.
8:50 – Chip introduces a possible new co-host Johnny Summertimes. Johnny Summertimes is bothered by the weather.
8:53 – Johnny Summertimes spits hot Mountain Dew Code Red on the stage.
8:56 – Johnny Summertimes leaves.
8:57 – Paul Goodman is introduced
9:01 – Paul recalls a gym teacher teaching him about sex.
9:02 – Paul makes a fake phone call using his right hand as the phone.
9:04 – Paul Goodman exits
9:05 – H. Foley is introduced.
9:07 – Chip walks from in front of the stage to the back of the stage. H. Foley thanks him.
9:08 – H. Foley references Chewbacca.
9:10 – H. Foley drops the C-bomb, and apologizes to a woman in the front row.
9:13 – H. Foley exits
9:14 – Chip introduces Jim Grammond for a segment called “The Feed”
9:15 – Chip tells a twitter joke, Jim tells a twitter joke. Everyone laughs
9:15 – Chip tells another twitter joke, Jim also tells another twitter joke, everyone continues laughing
9:15 – “ “
9:16– “ “
9:16 – Chip tells another twitter joke.
9:17 – Jim also tells another twitter joke, everyone continues laughing Chip tells another twitter joke
9:17 – “ “
9:18 – “ “
9:18 – “ “
9:18 – Jim tells another twitter joke
9:19 – The Feed ends, Jim Exits.
9:20 – Chip Introduces Kerri Lendo
9:22 – Kerri has a pit-bull named “Hoagie”
9:26 – Kerri was recently in Atlantic City.
9:31 – Kerri exits
9:32 – Chip introduces Luke Cunningham
9:33 – A woman leaves the audience, Luke pleads with her that he hasn’t even told a dick joke yet.
9:38 – Luke does a great impression of Poseidon
9:44 – Luke exits
9:45 – Johnny Goodtimes and Chip introduce the Wheel of Terrific, a game similar to a popular game show where contestants are given clues by celebrities to guess words or phrases.
9:46 – 2 stools are brought to the stage
9:47 – A contestant is pulled from the crowd. His name is pronounced “KOOB” * They begin playing the game.
9:49 – Koob accurately guesses “Donkey Punch”, and wins.
9:50 – Koob exits, Chip introduces the 1 Minute Comedy Challenge
9:50 – Jim Grammond returns to the stage to plugs his upcoming show at the Shubin, Wednesday evening. Johnny Goodtimes gives Koob a beer for his participation in Wheel of Terrific
9:51 – Rachel Lipshits is announced as the first contestant for the 1 Minute Comedy Challenge, but is nowhere to be found.
9:52 – “Fat Doogie” (Christian Alsis) explains how he is unbelievably diabetic
9:53 – “Rossane Buckley” (Samantha Russell) has sore hips when the weather changes
9:54 – “Big Brand Daddy” (Paul Triggiani and Brian Kelly) sing songs
9:55 – “Fran Walker” (Brian Craig) has microphone difficulties and reads from a newspaper
9:56 – Mike DiEva picks apart “The 27 Club”
9:57 – All participants of the 1 Minute Challenge are invited back on stage for voting. Luke Cunningham joins them, not realizing that Chip didn’t mean to call all the performers of the evening, but rather just the participants of the contest.
9:58 – Luke Cunningham realizes his mistake. Exits.
10:00 – The crowd votes on the contestants
10:01 – “Fat Doogie” wins
10:02 – Chip thanks everybody – a final farewell for Johnny Goodtimes.
10:03 – Lights up, audience exits
*Sorry if I’m getting your name wrong, KOOB!
Joe Moore is a comedy fan and sometimes-performer. You can follow him on Twitter.
Camp Woods is a Philadelphia sketch comedy group comprised of members Rob Baniewicz, JP Boudwin, Patrick Foy, Brendan Kennedy, Sam Narisi and Billy Bob Thompson. They will be performing a brand new show this Thursday and Friday at Philly Improv Theater at the Shubin Theater, 407 Bainbridge St. We caught up with some members of Camp Woods for this installment of our Spotlight on a Group series.
WITOUT: Tell us how Camp Woods was formed (originally, and the addition of newer members).
SAM NARISI: The group was in its embryonic phase when they asked me to join. That happened because I had been in a video that Pat made in college. I lived with Pat in college. Boy, we had some crazy times. But anyway, Pat asked me if I’d do some more stuff. And boy did I do some more stuff…
PAT FOY: The first Camp Woods video we shot was a remake of a video I had done in college. I asked Sam to reprise his role as this Stephen Hawking-type guy who was confined to a wheelchair because his beard had crippled him. He was so funny in the re-shoot we asked him to become a permanent member of the group afterwards.
SN: Then Brendan came along, which was mostly a matter of all of us being into his standup. He told us he had sketch ideas and we were like, “Niiiiiice.”
PF: I think Brendan was excited to collaborate with other like-minded people, and we knew him as one of the funniest comics in the city, so we were more than happy to have him join. It was his idea to start doing videos with title cards at the beginning and end, which has become sort of a calling card for us.
SN: Billy threatened to blow up a train if we didn’t let him join. Actually, I guess what happened was that we needed an additional cast member when we went down to a festival in North Carolina so we asked Billy, and it was cool.
PF: As I remember it, the train thing was part of some performance art piece Billy was working on. Really edgy stuff. We were so impressed that we asked him to join Camp Woods.
SN: As for Rob, he joined one night while drunk and didn’t remember it the next morning.
ROB BANIEWICZ: JP had mentioned to me after Meg left about joining up. I didn’t know what I was going to go comedically so I thought I’d just write a sketch or two. Then one night I was very drunk and Brendan asked me to join flat out while he was also very drunk. I remembered but he was surprised afterwards when he was sober that he would ask me that. But I’ve hung around long enough that everyone else seems to be ok with it.
WITOUT: I know that you guys have some rules when it comes to writing sketches (no doctors office sketches or cashier and customer sketches, etc) can you talk about why you made these and how you think it helps you stand out or in your process?
SN: We’ve had a bunch of rules, like no doctor’s offices, no parody/reference things… basically stuff that’s easy that you see too much of already. Lately, though, we’ve had a lot of fun breaking those rules. Like, we recently did a doctor sketch – Dr. Stephen Tyler PHD.
We also have a live sketch called Big Friendly Baby, which has a lot of Silence of the Lambs references. But one of the characters is a giant baby, so it’s not something where people are like, “Oh, I’ve seen this before.” I hope not, anyway.
So I guess the point is, the rules helped us in the beginning to figure out what we did and didn’t want to do, but now I think we’ve grown up to a point where we know what we like and we can just do whatever we think is funny.
WITOUT: Tell us about your writing process.
SN: There are occasional times where we’ll all sit in a circle and write a sketch from scratch together – but the result is usually a big, big mess. You know, too many cooks or whatever. So most of time someone will have a draft printed out and then we’ll all read it and say things like, “Yo, what if this happened ….” Then sometimes, we change the sketch so that what the person said should happen happens. That’s a really boring answer, so feel free to imagine these meetings taking place while we also have to diffuse a bomb that’s about to blow up the White House. Like, “It’s okay, Mr. President, we’ll get you out of this thing alive. Also, Pat, I don’t think the joke at the top of page 2 works as well as it could.”
WITOUT: Do you approach writing an entire show differently from writing a single sketch (do you try to build on themes or make connections) or do you just focus on one sketch at a time?
RB: Sketches are like women. You need to work on them one at a time. To pull a bunch of women into a bedroom at the same time and have them find what they have in common with each other is just a mess — especially when they’re in various states of undress — so I use the same rules when I approach writing a sketch.
SN: When we started out, we tried to write shows that were these big narrative productions … and it was pretty insane. They took a long time to write, and they were completely unadaptable to a setting other than a full 25-minute set in a theater. I liked them, but we probably also bored a lot of people. I don’t know, we have some ideas for those things (they’re basically half-hour plays, I guess) that we might do at some point.
PF: We tried to run before we could walk. Those early shows were pretty ambitious conceptually, but we had to go back and learn how to write actual sketches since we are, after all, a sketch comedy group.
SN: But basically now we focus on the individual sketches one at a time, and use them to build the show by creating transitions or adding some kind of through-line. There’s also been talk about doing some more theme-intensive shows, like a show that’s all about pizza. So that’ll be a thing where the idea for the show comes first and we write sketches to fit it. But yeah, I think it’s about time to start getting people hyped on this pizza show. So hey people: Get hyped.
PF: We found early on that making connections and coming up with themes and through-lines was the easy part. Creating the building blocks, the actual sketches, was harder. You know, the funny parts of a show. So we focused on getting better at that. Also, if we ever do the pizza show, we are probably going to give out free pizza to the audience.
WITOUT: How has your style evolved in your time together? Has the addition of new members changed your style or dynamic at all?
PF: I’ve started writing parts tailored to certain members of the group. Like, I recently wrote a sketch based around a character thinking, “Brendan will play this guy.” It’s a really dark sketch, but Brendan can play dark with this certain amount of insane goofiness that, hopefully, will allow us to get away with how dark it is.
SN: What’s weird is that after working with people for a while you start to here their voices in your head while you write – like, you imagine the other dudes liking or disliking something. So you get that kind of influence from everyone else in the group even when you’re by yourself. Unless I’m actually just insane and this is a weird thing that only happens to me.
PF: I’m also writing a sketch about a schizophrenic guy, who will be played by Sam because he clearly suffers from schizophrenia.
WITOUT: What are each of your roles in the group? How do you see yourself and the other guys?
RB: Someone else can answer this… although actually that’s my role. Getting someone else to do my work for me and taking the credit.
SN: My role is basically “one of the guys without curly hair and a beard.” Rob and Billy are my reinforcements. Before they joined, all the sketches were about guys with curly hair and I couldn’t be in any of them.
PF: Billy, I think, is the only one of us who wasn’t brought up Catholic. He’s our diversity hire. It’s about time a white guy from New England got a break in this world. Rob is the oldest member of the group, so he’s like the father figure. Or at least the pervert uncle who walks around muttering “pussy party” under his breath. Brendan is our bullshit-detector. He tells us who or what is bullshit, who is full of shit, who should go fuck themselves, and who should go get fucked. JP is the Social Chairman; he’s all charisma and charm and he’ll never settle down. Sam is the muscle of the group. He’s got 1-8-7 skills. Like, one time he couldn’t make it to a show, and didn’t tell us why. The next day they announced that Osama bin Laden was dead. I’m the guy who gets naked the most often. I also do all of JP’s and Brendan’s stunts.
You can find out more about Camp Woods on their website, Twitter and Facebook page. Their videos can be found on Vimeo.
Yet another round of Helium Comedy Club’s Philly’s Phunniest Competition was last night with Mary Radzinski, Steven Bryan and Gordon Baker-Bone moving on to the semi-final round. The first round continues next Sunday, July 31st and each Sunday after until August 21st. Get your tickets HERE
New York comedian Kurt Metzger recently released a new album through Comedy Central Records called Kurt Metzger Talks To Young People About Sex. He talks in THIS INTERVIEW about it, as well as getting his start as a comedian in Philly.
This Tuesday, Philly Improv Theater will host their new, monthly fundraiser show at the Shubin Theater. This month, PHIT will donate all proceeds from the show to the American Association of Zoo Keepers. You can find out all about the charity, and the show, on the Facebook Event Page.
Also at PHIT this week is the debut of new panel comedy show Reasonable Discourse With Jerks. Wednesday night, Jim Grammond takes the reigns from Luke Giordano (host of PHIT’s previous panel show The Bully Pulpit) where he will be joined on stage by John Kensil, Mary Radzinski, Mike Rainey and Blake Wexler to talk about what’s going on in the world, and why it’s funny.
The Ministry of Secret Jokes has been doing a lot of work on it’s Flickr account, uploading pictures from the past few years of shows. Check it out to see, as Doogie Horner put it “how terribly all the Philadelphia comics have aged.”
Starting Monday, August 1st there will be a new Monday night open mic in Northern Liberties. Comedy at the Piazza will be hosted by Dan Vetrano and Chris McGrail, and will be a replacement for their now defunct Comedy X-Change. Show starts at 9:30 and is at King’s Oak, 1001 North 2nd St.
Pat Foy is a Philadelphia comedian and member of sketch comedy group Camp Woods. They are debuting a new show next Thursday and Friday at Philly Improv Theater (Facebook event).
How and why did you get into comedy?
In school, whenever there was an option to perform a short skit, write a silly script, or make a stupid video for a homework assignment, I took it. In high school, my friends and I ran for student council for the sole purpose of making funny signs and writing funny speeches. Clearly, I had a hard time taking school seriously. I have the transcripts to prove this.
Shortly after college, my buddy Kevin Kelly started writing comedy sketches with his childhood friend JP Boudwin. Since Kevin and I had made a few comedy videos together, both for school projects and otherwise, they asked me to come to a few writing sessions and see if it was a good fit. We all cracked each other up, wrote a bunch of stuff we liked, and that was the beginning of Camp Woods.
How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? I guess it’d be a cross between dryness and absurdism. I also like stuff that mixes the highbrow and the lowbrow. That might come from all the Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Simpsons I watched growing up. But then again, I watched a lot of Home Improvement, too, so who the hell knows?
Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? There’s nothing quite like doing a show at a packed-out Shubin Theatre. When every seat is filled and people are standing in the aisle, there’s a really great energy in the room that the performers benefit from. The Shubin also seems to attract audiences who are really excited to see comedy, rather than people who just want to hang out with their friends and talk in the back of the room.
Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? The impromptu four-on-four wrestling match between Camp Woods and the #AmericaGethard crew at January’s Bedtime Stories was probably the weirdest, most memorable thing I’ve been involved with so far. When I came to Connie’s Ric Rac that night, I was not expecting to body-slam strangers in front of a crowd or be forcibly thrown from the stage. As a side note, I’m very grateful to those guys for cutting out of their video the part immediately post-match, when I’m doubled over onstage, gasping for breath and trying not to puke everywhere.
Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? Or a sort of method that you use to develop comedic material? Most of my ideas come when I’m doing something else, like taking a shower or hanging out with friends or sitting at my desk at work. I’ll write it down in a notebook, then come back to it later when I get a chance to work it out. Sometimes I’ll write a fully-formed first draft on my own and bring it to a writing meeting. Sometimes I’ll bring just the idea to a writing meeting or a workshop and bounce it off people, and the sketch ends up going in a totally different direction than I would have guessed. If the idea is super-specific, I’ll usually try to use it as an essay or short humor piece rather than a sketch. Sometimes things are just funnier to read than they are said out loud, and vice-versa.
What is it about stand-up / sketch / improv that draws you to it? As I said earlier, I wrote a lot of sketches, or attempts at sketch comedy, when I was younger, so I think it’s just the most natural way for me to express humor. I like being part of a group, and I like having a plan, so sketch fits both of those things pretty well. I’m drawn to stand-up and improv because they’re both so intimidating, and I will, I swear, try them both soon.
Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? There are so many good ones, but I’ll say it’s a tie between The Feeko Brothers, Bing Supernova, and Fastball Pitcher Bob Gutierrez. The Feekos come up with the silliest premises and Christian and Billy are such natural hams onstage, they make the premises fly. With Bing and Bob, Chip and Brian are really good joke writers, and when those jokes are filtered through the personas of, respectively, a hateful idiot and an oblivious idiot, they’re irresistible. The jokes, that is. Not Chip and Brian. I don’t care for them.
Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? We’ve had a number of shows, at a number of venues, where we’ve had videos that won’t play or other technical difficulties. That always sucks, but it comes with the territory. Probably the worst time I’ve had onstage was at the “Mental Illness” Bedtime Stories. One of my classmates from a PHIT writing workshop put up a sketch about an insane, vegan homeless man, and I played the homeless guy while Paul Triggiani played the little boy who tries to give him a cheeseburger. The homeless guy had a ton of lines, and I forgot all but a handful of them. Dom Moschitti sat beside the stage with my script, feeding me lines, but it was still a disaster. It was embarrassing, and I felt really bad about ruining this poor guy’s funny sketch. Our conversation after the show was him thanking Paul and me profusely for performing his sketch, and me apologizing profusely for fucking it up.
What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow? A permanent theater for PHIT will certainly go a long way, and a bit more recognition from the local press couldn’t hurt, either.
Other than that, I think we all just keep doing this, keep getting better, keep helping each other out, and more and more people will begin to take notice.
Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy? I’d like to do this as a job someday. I’m a simple man, and I don’t really care about being famous. All I ask for is boatloads of cash.
Comedians love giving advice, most of the time when they’re not even asked for it! Unsolicited Advice is WitOut’s chance to give Philly comics the opportunity to do just that, without looking like a know-it-all so-and-so.
Thinking about making the move to New York from Philly huh? Don’t do it man! Well don’t do it until you are ready. Of course only you will know when that is, but I don’t think there’s any need to hurry. It’s true you are probably less likely to get “discovered” in Philadelphia and yes, ultimately, if you want to “make it” in this business, you should make a move. I wouldn’t worry about that though. Try making sure all the local spots in Philly are recognizing your talent first, and then give the big apple a try. Philly has a great comedy scene with plenty of stage time and a good supportive community. It’s a really great city to develop who you are as a comedian.
I made the move to New York because of a job and not because I necessarily felt ready to take on stand-up comedy there. The move has mostly worked out for me, but making the transition into the New York comedy scene is a lot more difficult than Philadelphia or even Chicago, where I first started stand up. It takes some time to get any real comedy work at clubs or even the alternative comedy scene there. Shows will not be as frequent at first. That is why having established myself in Philadelphia was a great advantage to have over other comics in New York performing at my level. I could make the reasonable drive into Philly on any night of the week if I wanted to. I can’t tell you the amount of New York comics who have never had the opportunity for the valuable stage time I continue to get in Philadelphia. I will just say this, the occasional Philly show or open mic have kept me sane. Whenever I need to work on new material and I need an actual audience response to gage that material, I look forward to coming down and running through stuff there.
Speaking of actual audience, once you do get to New York, get out as much as possible, meet people. You can get on stage several times a night, every night. Be prepared though. Most open mics do not have much of an audience. You will be performing in front of crowds that are mostly just other comics. A lot of the time, they may not laugh. They will have seen you all week at every other open mic you do together. Don’t let it bum you out. It can. Instead use it as motivation to write as often as possible. There are plenty of friendly comics there too. For example, I live there. But it’s very competitive with a lot of hungry comics and it’s a much more treacherous scene to navigate. You have to be a bit more thick-skinned. Stick with it. If you are funny, you will get spots. It will get easier. I haven’t really figured it all out yet myself. Otherwise I would be doing more too. It’s not like you’ve heard of me. It seems to me, the old clichés are true for everyone I see having success at this. To recap: It’s basically, get up as much as possible, and write as much as possible. Work hard. Be friendly and nice to everyone. You are not better at this than everyone. Keep at it. Good things will eventually happen.
Pete Kuempel is a “Philly” comic who just so happens to live in New York City. We won’t hold that against him, though.
If you’re a comic and want us to post your Unsolicited Advice, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s a Kickstarter Campaign to raise money to produce an entire season of Down the Show, the project that showcases material from the minds of Philly’s sketch groups, stand-up comedians, actors, writers, illustrators and musicians.
Quizmaster/ Comedian Johnny Goodtimes wrote on his blog about the 3 Philly Funnymen You Absolutely, Positively Should Be Following on Twitter. Check it out.
Doogie Horner has been updating his blog, KGB Yard Sale more frequently. Just today, he posted a skit, a sketch (drawing) and some words of inspiration.
Luke Giordano has found time out from his new job as a writer for Two and a Half Men to keep updating his website Everything You Like is Stupid. His latest post is inspired by LA traffic.
The latest episode of Darryl Charles and James Hesky’s CheaPodcast features special guest Brendan Kennedy – fresh off consuming some of the “pickle back” shots he made famous (perhaps infamous) with their appearance in his Sketch-Up or Shut-Up performance.
Also in the podcast world, The Holding Court Podcast continues to release episodes even in the NBA offseason, because, really, Gregg Gethard and Aaron Hertzog don’t need much actual basketball play to keep their discussion alive.
The first round of the Philly’s Phunniest Person Contest continued last night at Helium Comedy Club, with Pat House, Tommy Pope and David Ray Agyekum moving on to the semi-finals.
This Thursday Connie’s Ric Rac will host a show headlined by Chappelle’s Show co-creator Neil Brennan (buy tickets HERE).
Chip Chantry will be recording his first comedy album live at Helium Comedy Club on Tuesday, August 16th (Facebook Event). Joining him on the show will be Pat House and Amir Gollan. Tickets are available for $5 and can be purchased online or by calling the club and making a reservation (215-496-9001).