Brian Ratcliffe is a member of new Philly Improv Theater House Team Codenamed Shadwofax. They make their debut this Friday night, at 10:30.
How and why did you get into comedy? I started doing improv in college and fell in love with it immediately. After graduation I had no clue where my life was headed next, but I knew for sure that I wanted to keep studying and performing improv, and Philly seemed like the perfect place to do it in.
How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? I like to think that my comedic impulses as an improvisor are grounded in truth. Human interactions are already intrinsically rich with humor, and so the task of the improvisor is simply to find that hilarity and draw it out. I am heavily influenced by the teachers and teammates I’ve had, both at college and now as part of a houseteam under the magnificent Kristen Schier.
Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? I enjoy playing at the Shubin quite a bit. It’s an intimate space, so you’re right up next to the audience when you’re performing. It’s also great to just think about how many fantastic improvisors and comedians have performed right there in that same space. It makes you feel connected to the larger community of Philly comedians.
Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? I will always remember the night that my new PHIT houseteam hosted our first Improv Jam at the Shubin. We were all nervous going into it, but the night ended up being really relaxed and positive, the audience was super supportive. It gave us all confidence going into our debut on Aug. 5.
Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? For me, the creative process occurs wholly between me and my scene partner. I try to start a scene with total openness and let the interaction with my partner inform the world that we create together.
What is it about improv (or stand-up, or sketch, whatever you do…) that draws you to it? I love the creative freedom and spontaneity of improv. It is an unleashed art form. Whole realities are co-constructed in an instant, and then are lost just as fast. It’s a thrilling and liberating experience.
Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? I can’t pick favorites… The thing is, everyone is bringing something new and slightly different to the table. As a wise improvisor, Neal Dandade, once told me, “everyone is a trailblazer”.
Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? At the end of my freshman year, the college improv troupe that I was on, Vertigo-go, performed at the Fracas! Improv Festival at USC. I’m not sure if it was the jetlag or if we were thrown off by the new space or what, but it was a nightmare of a show. Thirty minutes of incoherent, increasingly frantic and labored improv in front of a silent crowd… pretty mortifying for me as a very new improvisor. But it was a good early lesson to learn, that sometimes shows just go awry. All you can do is shake it off and try again.
What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow? Just more of everything that is already happening now–more performances, more classes, more discussions, more experiments into what is possible. That’s why things like WitOut and the Fringe festival are such awesome resources for the comedy scene, they bring attention to this community and offer opportunities introduce new faces and launch new projects.
Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy? The more I practice improv, the more I realize how much I still have to learn. This is a craft that you can spend an entire lifetime honing. My goal for now is just to keep practicing and learning from the brilliant people around me, and keep striving for that human truth that makes the foundation of it all.