Andrea Kuhar and Aubrie Williams are the one-two-punch-in-the-chops that make up Philly comedy tour-de-force Local Holiday Miracle. At Aubrie’s suggestion, LHM and I sliced it up at Lickety Split, and we talked about Ninja Turtles, Pizza on English Muffins, and their show Thursday August 4th at the Shubin Theater, at 8:30 PM. If you’ve ever wondered about how pizza works into the LHM magic, read on:
Pizza Pal Joe Moore: How much do you like pizza:
Andrea Kuhar – I live in Philly for a lot of reasons, Pizza is one of them.
Aubrie WIlliams – I consider it a religion and practice it… religiously!
PPJM: What is your favorite slice in Philly:
AK: I’m partial to Lorenzo’s, but if I’m feeling fancy – Pizzeria Stella!
AW: I’m gonna say Lorenzo’s cause there is so much cheese on a single slice, and the more cheese the better!
PPJM: How often do you eat pizza?
AK: If English Muffin pizza counts, weekly.
AW: Anywhere from 4-7 times a week. It’s my go-to pre-rehearsal, pre-show eat.
PPJM: Are you into plain pizzas or toppings? which toppings?
AK: Every veggie – no black olives!
AW: I enjoy both plain and toppings equally. MY favorite toppings are mushrooms and olives.
PPJM: Favorite use of pizza in Film, TV or Music:
AK: Das Racist – “I’m at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”
AW: NINJA TURTLES (movies cause I always want to eat it straight from the screen)
PPJM: Did your family have a pizza day, what day was it?
AK: Yes! Way back, we got pizza on Friday and then watched TGIF! “Step by step, day by day…”
AW: It was always Friday night, and Friday at school was also pizza day… so Friday was a great day all around
Claire Halberstadt is a member of new Philly Improv Theater House Team Codenamed Shadowfax. She is also a member of musical improv group Suggestical.
How and why did you get into comedy? I never intended to get into “comedy”. I was raised on musical theater and was actually introduced to improv through a musical improv group that I was in during college. I loved making up musicals on the spot, so when I moved to Philadelphia, I figured I’d give regular improv a try. I started going to the Improv Incubator on Sunday nights and pretty much fell in love.
How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? I’m definitely inspired and driven by physical comedy, and my background as a dancer feeds into that. I also tend to play over-the-top characters, the ones that you find most often in musical theater.
Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? The good ole Shubin does it for me. It’s a good size, your audience can drink in the seats, and they’ve got easy access to electrical outlets- which we need for the piano in my musical improv trio- Suggestical.
Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? Haha, well I just love when people can leave a show talking about something that happened on stage or humming a tune that we made up during one of our improvised musicals with Suggestical. Most recently we sang a song called “An Ipod for Dolphins”. That was pretty fun. And then there was the time that I named Jess Ross’ mother’s maiden name: Magucci.
Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? I try to meditate sometimes. I’m a big fan of Chicago Improv Associates’ ZenProv. They basically draw parallels between improv and Zen Buddhism. Check it out, it’s life-changing- they’ve got podcasts.
What is it about improv (or stand-up, or sketch, whatever you do…) that draws you to it? Honestly, I did theater for so many years and I don’t think I ever truly “got” what it meant to be “in the moment” until I started doing improv. Improvising makes real acting a lot more accessible. It’s a lot easier- and no, I don’t mean to say it’s “easy”, just “easier”- to be present, listening, and truthful when you don’t have a predetermined script that you’re following.
Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? I love the Amie and Kristen show. I’m really inspired by their organic transitions and the awesome chemistry they’ve got.
Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? Don’t you know, I block out those memories.
What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow? A permanent space for PHIT definitely. More musical improv!
Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy? I guess a personal goal of mine is to somehow keep my life balanced, as I will be hopefully going back to school in the next year or so for Clinical Psychology. I want to keep improv as a part of my life, but also be able to balance it with my other interests.
Tara Demmy is a member of new Philly Improv Theater House Team codenamed Brandybuck. They make their debut this Friday at the Shubin Theater.
How and why did you get into comedy? I got into comedy while at Denison University, as a member of Burpee’s Seedy Theatrical Company, the oldest college improv troupe, doing short form with a bunch of wonderful geniuses.
How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? I was always into theatre and became aware of the many rules and styles associated with different theatrical forms. I always felt most connected to comedic improvisation because it gave me much more freedom (with genre, with manipulating the world of the scene) than interpreting a script.
Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? I have only performed in a few spots but I like the community feel at the Shubin. I do like spaces where the audience and the performers are on the same level (physically) it makes more for a connection and spontaneous feel. As for shows- I like the crazy, honest, super energetic ones.
Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? The 201 class show on Saturday, July 9th was one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve ever seen. There was so much support on stage for everyone’s ideas, really impressive work.
Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? I try hard not to think so much. I oftentimes get in my head and blockade nifty ideas. I also try to take at least one big risk per show, something that will keep both me and the team on its toes. Safe is no fun, no fun.
What is it about improv (or stand-up, or sketch, whatever you do…) that draws you to it? Improv can’t be anything other than contemporary and relevant. It is the HERE and NOW, even if it references a historical time period, it is based on the current climate of society (because that’s what is in our heads) and it has never been performed before and never will be performed again. It is the truest example of ephemerality. Visual and performance art grapples with how much to “invest in past work,” how to make “past work modern,” when to honor tradition and when to throw it out the window. Improv’s content is always new and because of that, it’s structure is always in a state of change. Improv is a necessary force in pushing our arts culture forward.
Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? I really love watching Amie Roe and Kristen Schier in the Amie and Kristen Show. They may be my favorites. They have super range as performers and never lose the “sense of play” so important to the form. I want to be them when I grow up. Creating comedy that does not require a “…and they’re women” after someone says “funny show.”
Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? There are lots, especially in college. In college, you know everyone in the audience, so you want to be funny, oh gosh let me be funny! Since then I have learned it is more about ensemble, it’s about support and creating honest scenes.
What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow? I’ve only been in the scene for a short while, but the building of new independent groups, more opportunities for performance around the city, getting people excited so they come to Philly for IMPROV would support growth. Not comparing our models/formats/structures to New York and Chicago so much (even though it’s hard not to) is important to always keep in mind. This comedic community is full of some of the most supportive, encouraging, welcoming individuals- to not lose that when we becoming bigger and bigger.
Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy? Take more classes, think more, practice more, laugh more. I always want to work on being more confident on stage, learning how to better create compelling stories. Basically, to keep creating.
Mark Leopold is a member of new Philly Improv Theater House Team codenamed Brandybuck. He is also a member of sketch comedy group The Hold Up.
How and why did you get into comedy? I initially got into comedy through sketch. I was a member of The Action Section. They brought me on to run tech and write for their Halloween show three years ago. I have always had an interest in writing and have done a small bit of performing in my life and wanted to give it another try. Things went really well with The Action Section and it was through doing sketch shows that I was introduced to improv.
How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? I’m still working to figure out what my style is. I enjoy a wide variety of comedy from silent physical humor, like Mr. Bean and Boy with Tape on His Face, to very cerebral, verbal word-play in the vein of A Bit of Fry and Laurie, Arrested Development, Mitchell and Webb and Demetri Martin. So when I’m writing sketch, I find myself trying to write things which are clever, which is terrible. I’m constantly discovering that clever sketches are interesting, but not very funny usually. Since I’ve begun doing improv, I feel like I am learning how to write great sketches every week. Improv is amazing in how it essentially teaches you how to be funny through not concentrating on being funny. Improv has definitely made me a better writer and has made the sketches I’ve come up with stronger.
Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? Almost all of the shows I’ve ever done have been at the Shubin. It’s my favorite space in the city because it is so intimate. You can feel the audience hiding behind the lights and when you have them with you it’s electric. It’s just a great place to perform because despite it’s relatively small size, it’s very versatile. There isn’t much you can’t do on that stage sketch-wise.
Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? I love all of my Philadelphia comedy moments the same.
Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? I like getting ideas from my everyday interactions. I’ve been getting better about keeping a pen and paper nearby to jot down notes and ideas about jokes and sketches I want to try out. A lot of it is situational or might just be a premise I think has merit. Then I’ll procrastinate. Weeks later, I’ll come back to the idea only to realize I didn’t manage to capture what it was about the situation or idea that I found funny, so I’ll stare blankly at the note, vainly hoping to somehow resurrect the humor from it. Eventually, I’ll abandon it and promise myself to write more thorough notes in the future. I tend to get a lot of ideas right before I fall asleep, so it’s always pretty interesting to see what my semi-conscious mind comes up with joke-wise.
What is it about improv (or stand-up, or sketch, whatever you do…) that draws you to it? It’s creativity. We are able to create through these things. Even if it’s not the best thing ever, it’s still something new. Something that has never existed before. With improv, I feel like it’s unadulterated creativity. The whole skill is about simply allowing the scene to happen. Once you try to force it, or control it, that is when it falls apart for me. It just simple and fun and it forces me to be in the moment, which I don’t do very often. Sketch brings the same challenge, with higher expectations. When it goes well, I feel like a good sketch is organic and compact and lean. The characters are clear and the premise comes out early so the audience can enjoy it. The jokes are an extension of the premise without simply restating it and as a scene the sketch has a beginning, middle and end.
Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? Matt Holmes was one of the first improvisers I ever saw. Rare Bird Show opened for The Action Section for one of our shows and I just feel lucky to have been introduced to improv by one of the best groups around. Seeing Matt Holmes and Alexis Simpson being nonchalantly hilarious remains impressive to this day. I’ve only seen a few of their sketches, but I like what Camp Woods is doing right now. I like the Feeko Brothers. I think Ladies and Gentlemen are doing some great and interesting things. There are just a lot of great people doing stuff right now, Joe Sabatino, Doogie Horner, Kelly Vrooman, Mary Carpenter, Steve Gerben, just to name a few. I think what makes them my favorites…
Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? Our most recent showing of “Work” didn’t go as well as I wanted. We had some tech issues, the projector shut off in mid-show and refused to come back on and some of our re-tooled re-written sketches didn’t work at all. It was a good experience overall though. I think I learned something about failure and its relationship to success or something.
What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow? As a community, we need to push each other. What I love about Philly is how supportive everyone is, but we need to find a way to keep that while adding a sense of competition. We should all be trying to get better. We should be trying to challenge ourselves.
Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy? My comedy goals are simple and small. I want to write more and perform more. In the past, I’ve performed about once or twice a year. That isn’t nearly enough. Putting material in front of an audience is what this is all about and I want to do as much of that as I possibly can.
Nathan Edmondson is a member of new Philly Improv Theater House Team codenamed Shadowfax. He is also the director of current House Team Mayor Karen and a member of Rare Bird Show.
How and why did you get into comedy? Watching Stand-Up Stand-Up on Comedy Central in the early 90s was when I first thought that making comedy would be the best thing in the world to do. I studied Theater at Oberlin College and loved watching improv there but I was too busy with shows (and also intimidated) to join a group. When I moved to Philly, I thought joining an improv group would be a good way to stay in practice as an actor between theater shows. Unknowingly, I auditioned for a never-to-form group alongside Matt Holmes. Months later he contacted me after meeting Alexis Simpson and Chris Conklin and Rare Bird Show soon formed.
How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? Ninja-style. In that I dress in black, hide in the shadows and decapitate whomever wrongs the emperor…. Um, performing with Rare Bird Show for over 7 years has been the biggest influence. I’ve played many a straight man to the absurd. Big, clear characters have always been a goal and I always look for variety in a show so the audience sees different characters, stage pictures, pacing and scene structure.
Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? The next venue is the best venue.
Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? Oh geez. Any time I was actually able to make Matt Holmes bust up in the middle of a scene. I hold that close to my heart. When I realized how big the Philly scene has become and how the quality of shows has sky-rocketed.
Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? I look to find variety in the scene work.
What is it about improv (or stand-up, or sketch, whatever you do…) that draws you to it? Going on stage in front of people and making stuff up takes a lot of gumption. It’s an incredible adrenaline rush wherein you have to learn to trust your instincts and your scene partners while ignoring your fears and doubts. It’s good training, Sir! And it’s fun.
Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? So many. And recently there are so many new performers that are bringing a lot to the scene. If I start naming, the list will be too long. (If you’re reading this, you’re on the list. Unless you don’t perform. Then you’re on my favorite non-performer list.)
Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? First time I tried to improvise was when I was nine on my front porch with a friend. We were dressed as clowns trying to do a simple clown play of some sort and we bombed in front of the rest of the block. Boo. Little Johnny’s mom from across the street suggested we rehearse more before charging $0.10 a head. She was right. Early on there were some terrible shows, like the one Fringe show in the basement of the Ethical Society that missed it’s black out by 20 minutes. It was so hot in the room and terrible and miserable and I’m sorry still for that audience. Recently, a co-worker of mine realized she was at that particular Rare Bird Show performance and since she had improv experience even considered calling it for us. Wow. But wonky performances still happen and you hold them lightly, learn from them and move on.
What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow? Garbage truck loads of money. From new, clean garbage trucks. I don’t want those crisp bills smelling like your kitchen and bathroom trash. A central theater/rehearsal/class space for PHIT would be great so if there are any millionaires out there with the desire to have their name on a theater, and you have a new, clean garbage truck, you know what to do.
Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy? Be on stage more.