Billy Bob Thompson is a Philadelphia based comedian originally from Vermont. He does stand-up, writes sketches with The Feeko Brothers and Camp Woods, and performs improv with Hate Speech Committee and the new PHIT House Team codename: Shadowfax. He is also the voice of Burgh on Pokémon: Black and White.
How and why did you get into comedy?
How: My entire life, the only thing I’ve ever taken seriously was comedy (that’s how my auto-biography is going to start). I first realized that comedy was something I would like to pursue, when I was in a barbershop quartet called “The Half Steps” during high school. We would perform super cute little comedy bits between songs which I wound up enjoying more than the actual singing itself. Fast forward a few years, blah, blah, blah, and now I’ve become extremely successful at being an unsuccessful comedian.
Why: Crippling anxiety, the strange desire to be liked by people I don’t know, and dirty butt sluts.
How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? I’m not sure how to describe my style, but here’s some stuff I’ve heard:
“Billy Bob Thompson is the closest thing Philadelphia has to Paul Rudd.” -–Pat Ackerman
“Billy is like a white Steve Martin.” – John McKeever
“You look like that Carey guy! Can I get some change for the bus?” – Guy outside of a 7/11
Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? I’ve had the most fun on Chip Chantry’s “One-Man Show” and Doogie Horner’s “Ministry of Secret Jokes.” Anything goes on those shows, you knows! These two fine gentlemen have created even finer shows that are an absolute pleasure to perform on and watch. If you want a crash course in what is actually going on in Philly Comedy, go to these shows. Quick side note: If you run a show or a venue, please don’t throw hissy fits in front of your performers. It puts them on edge and makes you look unprofessional. The performers are there to help you. Stop it. I’ve seen this baby behavior happening all over the city. You’re being bad. Bad!
Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? For me personally, it’s either doing stand-up at Helium’s Philly’s Phunniest OR “A Slow Day at the Dildo Factory”:http://youtu.be/6i_DlJzsc7w But I’d have to say that “The Roast of Meg Favreau” was one of my favorite moments in Philly comedy. Everyone on the dais MurderDeathKilled with their sets! It was one of the funniest shows I’ve had the pleasure of being involved with. See for yourself: http://www.witout.net/2011/03/
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? I use the 3 Ps* method.
What is it about stand-up / sketch / improv that draws you to it? I’m drawn to stand-up because to me it is hands down, the hardest of the three. When you’re alone on stage and it goes bad, it feels terrible. But when it goes well, it’s one of the greatest things in the world. I’m drawn to sketch the most because it fits me the best. There’s more creativity involved in putting together sketches which is why I think I gravitate towards it. I’m drawn to improv because it takes the least amount of preparation, and fucking around with your friends on stage is always a good time.
Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? HOW DARE YOU MAKE ME PICK WHICH OF MY FRIENDS I LIKE MORE!!! Okay, I pick Emily and Micah McGraw. They’re a married comedy duo that sings hilarious songs, every one of which is PURE GOLD. I love everything they do and you should too. Man, I wish I had a husband I could sing comedy songs with. WIFE! I MEANT WIFE! I’m also a gigantic fan of everyone I work with on a regular basis. Like the Camp Woods blokes and the Hate Speech Committee crew!!! We roll deep. But my super favorite would have to be my comedy husband, Christian Alsis. Awwwwwwww. He makes me laugh shit. There, I mentioned you, Christian. Are you happy now?! No? See! I told you you’d never be happy.
Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? Of course! But wouldn’t you rather watch a video of it? Here’s a well-shot video of The Feeko Brothers bombing at the late great Bedtime Stories: http://youtu.be/-RB3mPVh9pI Enjoy! I know we didn’t.
What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow? There needs to be more crossover within the comedy scene. HEY, YOU! Do you only perform stand-up and think improv is “gay?” Well, crowd-work is improv so that means you’re “gay” too! Go see an improv show! Do you only do improv and have never heard of Secret Pants? Well, there’s something wrong with you! Go see a sketch show! Do you only perform sketch? Good, keep doing it. There needs to be more people doing sketch. It’s much better than stand-up or improv, but also go see an improv or stand-up show anyway! Crossover within the scene will give everyone more exposure. Get out of your bubble!
Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy? My goal is to hopefully make the transition from a Volunteer Comedian to a Paid Comedian. I already treat comedy like a job so all I’m looking for is a promotion and maybe a raise. Dental would be nice. I’d also like to be Mr. January in the “Beef-Cakes of Philly Comedy” Calendar, but it would be an honor just to be nominated.
*Paper, Pens, and Pot.