Mark Leopold is a Philadelphia improviser, sketch comedian, employee, someone-whose-affection-for-cheese-leads-him-to-buy-far-more-than-he actually-ends-up-using-and-in-the-end-probably-wastes-more-than-he-eats-and-just-really-wishes-he-had-that-part-of-his-life-worked-out-a-little-more clearly,and a friend. He is a member of the PHIT house team Hey Rube as well as a new addition to the cast of Comedysportz and he does sketch comedy with his group The Hold-up. When he isn’t doing one of these things he is busy doing other things, like working and laundry, and so while he sincerely wishes he was able to be a real interviewer, the best he is able to do is interview people in his head while he drives different places. Today, while on 95 south, Mark took some time to sit down on a Euclidian plane in his head with Philadelphia improviser and Hey Rube teammate Dennis Trafny.
Mark Leopold: Hey Dennis, it’s me Mark!
Dennis Trafny: Where the hell are we?
ML: It’s a Euclidian plane.
DT: Is this a metaphor?
ML: Nope, just a mathematical plane.
DT: I mean, does the existence of this place inside of you represent some subtle and ignored aspect of who you are?
ML: Uh…maybe. I just thought it would be a neat place to do an interview.
ML: Because it’s a place where math and physics exist perfectly. In the real world, the imperfections of matter prevent those things from being observably true.
DT: This is starting to sound a whole lot like a metaphor.
ML: It’s not a metaphor. Just drop it. I thought you would like it here.
DT: I don’t.
ML: Why not? It’s awesome…math and physics exist as a reali…
DT: Pirate ship.
DT: You should have chosen to interview me on a pirate ship.
DT: Pirate ships are in no way dumb.
ML: Okay fine.
The Euclidian plane, which was totally awesome, fades away and is replaced by a big dumbpirate ship. Mark and Dennis are now suddenly dressed as pirates, which makes no sense at all,but hey, whatever right?
DT: What the hell?
DT: These are the worst pirate outfits ever. They’re not even close to anything authentic.
ML: What did you expect? I have no exposure to pirate culture. My only reference for piracy is a news item from a few years ago and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
DT: I think you misspelled Carrbiean.
ML: Nope, I had to check with Google, but it’s spelled Caribbean.
DT: You’re sure? Two Bs in a row?
ML: It’s a crazy mixed up world Dennis.
DT: Well either way you could make us look more badass…
ML: Swiss Family Robinson.
ML: There were pirates in that movie as well, but again, they were like cartoon pirates.
DT: Whatever, let’s just shoot cannons or something while we’re here.
ML: Forget this, we’re going back to the Euclidian plane.
DT: No, come on…
ML: Hey, I’m running this interview okay? I’ll do it where I want to do it. I initially thought you’d be psyched about the Euclidian plane…
DT: Why would I be excited about that?
ML: Because you’re a doctor! I thought you’d be impressed.
DT: I’m a veterinarian.
ML: …which is like a doctor.
DT: Not really.
ML: You went to animal medical school and stuff, so it’s like a doctor.
DT: It really isn’t. I mean, when pretty much the first thing you recommend is euthanasia, it’s not exactly…
ML: …this is starting to feel really disrespectful towards veterinarians.
DT: We’re cool with it.
ML: Well you better be. I don’t need Dr. Dolittle showing up at my door…
DT: Okay, now you’re crossing a line dude.
ML: Ugh, whatever. I need to pull over and get some gas anyway.
Dennis stands there on the Euclidian plane dressed like a stupid pirate…and it makes no sense.
This Wednesday, Sketch Playground will present it’s first “showcase” at L’etage. Play Favorites (Facebook Event) will feature improv performances by Hate Speech Committee, Iron Lung and Get a Room. The show will also feature favorite sketches from Sketch Playground and will be hosted by Ian David Vaflor.
Last week the second episode of Down the Show premiered at Connie’s Ric Rac – now it is online for your enjoyment. The episode features an opening performance by Sherman Hemsley, stand-up from Chip Chantry, John McKeever and Conrad Roth, sketches from the minds of Rob Baniewicz and Abigail Bruley which feature performances from Aaron Hertzog and Joe Dougherty and sketches from Secret Pants and Camp Woods.
Word up Pizza Pals! Pizza was named “Food of the Week” at a small ceremony at my apartment on Tuesday, and I couldn’t wait to celebrate with Mike Rainey. Mike’s no pizza greenhorn, and here’s the proof:
Pizza Pal Joe Moore: How much do you like Pizza? Mike Rainey: If babies were slices of pizza, I would never use condoms.
PPJM: What is your favorite slice in Philadelphia? MR: Lorenzo’s is great. Pizza there is terrific, plus they’ll pretty much punch you in the face if you ask for toppings on your slice.
PPJM: How often do you eat pizza? MR: At least 3 times a week. These breasts aren’t gonna maintain themselves…
PPJM: Are you into plain pizzas or toppings? If toppings, which? MR: I love pepperoni and sausage. However, if I had to rank them, pepperoni would be Hall and sausage would be Oates.
PPJM: What is your favorite use of Pizza in Pop Culture (Film, TV, Music… etc.)? MR: Pizza the Hut from Spaceballs. If I had to murder people for an organized crime boss, I’d at least want to be able to eat parts of his face.
ROUND 3 – What has started as a fireside discussion has quickly spread to be a wild fire embroiling the NFL, the NBA, and the friendship of two comedians. Below, the closing arguments from both James and Darryl on who is the biggest asshole: Football players of Basketball players.
James: Darryl, you ignorant slut.
I am surprised that you actually spent the time to write your rebuttal in complete sentences. I expected you to just take one key word or phrase and repeat it over and over again.
“Roethlisberger raped a girl in a bathroom. In a bathroom. A BATHROOM. A BATHROOM!!!!!”
You want to talk about hack? Why don’t you give the audience another twelve minutes of your new material on how women like talking and dudes like sex?
And can you wrap up the joke already? If the audience wanted to see a nine minute bit that ended without a punchline they would have just gone to one of your improv shows. This is stand up. Have some respect.
I’m going to be honest with you, Darryl. There are days where I wonder why I ever thought you were funny. Doing Cheap Laughs at the Raven Lounge, doing CheaPodcast and the Famous International Variety Show, were all just a giant waste of my time. And remember, I’m unemployed right now so my time is very difficult to waste. It’s practically worthless.
Darryl, I don’t know how to say this, but I think that we should stop working together. And I don’t mean that I should stop doing any of the things I’m doing, I mean that you should go ahead and quit comedy all together and go back to your day job. Then you it won’t matter that you’re just like the vodka you drink.
Darryl: There really isn’t much to be summarized. Football players are larger and assholier than basketball players. I tried my best to state my side of the argument while making it fun, which is hard to do when you have dead weight like James Hesky pulling you down constantly.
We’re talking about a guy who ran a blog, two open mic locations and a Saturday night showcase into the ground, all with the same tired jokes about him being fat. It damn near took a congressional hearing to get him to leave poop jokes alone, and all he did was put it later in his set. People are making that face because you suck, not for your eloquent description of a wet shit in a space station.
Poop, being fat, masturbation and religion. The tried and true repertoire of a guy who will never make it out of Philadelphia. Maybe I’m being too harsh. You’ll leave Philly, but only to go back to Pittsburgh after you stop lazing it up on my tax money and crawl back to your mamas basement. There you’ll relive the joke you had that came the closest to making me laugh. That is until your mother cuts off your internet access, then you’ll be sad without having to wack it first.
Having you as my sidekick was my version of watching over an autistic kid; except I did your former job better than you ever did and I’m gonna quit this crap before I get fired. Grow up, get funny and leave me alone. If you can just do one of those I’d be proud of you, and there’s a first time for everything.
The fine gentlemen at Rittenhouse Comedy (Paul Goodman, Jack Martin, and Brian Finnell) have put together this handy list of do’s and don’ts for comedians performing at open mics. These guys know a thing or two about running an open mic – you can see for yourself every Tuesday at 9pm at Noche (1901 Chestnut St.)
Over the past two years, I have performed on numerous open mics, produced comedy showcases, and been part of the Rittenhouse Comedy team running a weekly open mic every Tuesday at 9 pm at Noche (1901 Chestnut). Before running a show, I had no idea how challenging it was to organize a weekly comedy show that hopefully makes the comedians, audience and venue happy. Here is what I have learned through trial and error both on and off stage.
10. Don’t ask when you are going to go before the show starts. The comedians running the show need to collect the 30-40 names on the list and quickly come up with a line up that has BOTH the comedians and audience members interest in mind. It’s not a meritocracy. It deflates the energy in the room by having 5 consecutive comedians with little to no experience start a show. That being said all open mics try their best to give new guys a chance to perform in a “good spot.” However, I have learned a lot about myself as a comedian and person by performing at Raven at 1am. Sometimes those lessons are rewarding like making a tired audience laugh after 4 hours of comedy and some are on a different level like $5 PBR/whiskey shots help you calm your nerves and also forget your material.
9. If you have some type of special request (work, bus, you brought a girl you hope to hook up with), let the guy running the list know ahead of time so they can make a note, but realize unless you support the open mic on a weekly basis it may not be able to be accommodated.
8. Find out how long the set times will be and when the light will be given. Most of the time the light is a cell phone that signifies you have one minute left. Wrap it up in that one-minute. As noted, there are 30-40 comedians on the list.
7. Do not say anything negatively about the room and/or the number of audience members in the room. It’s disrespectful to the comedians running the show and the audience members that have stayed to see you perform. If you do not like to perform in front of small audiences, simply ask for your name to be crossed off the list.
6. Outstanding advice from the hysterical James Hesky. “The only thing I can control is my performance and not my placement in the line up. With that in mind, all I can do is try to kill it each and every time I get on stage.”
5. If you need to leave before your turn, let the guy running the list know. It’s embarrassing to announce a person who is no longer there.
4. Be nice and funny in that order.
3. If you’re new to the scene, stay around for a few comedians after you perform. Comedians’ function as audience members and it’s frustrating for a comedian to ask to go by a certain time and then not stay to support their fellow comics.
2. If you have an issue to address with the comedians running the room, address it with them directly AFTER the show through email, a phone call or preferably in person. Passive-aggressive Facebook post do little to help your cause and the morale of the comedy community.
1. Feel fortunate that you are a new comedian in an awesome comedy scene. At the time of this article, there are 6 free “night of” sign up open mics in the city of Philadelphia. Have a good time, support your fellow comedians, and thank you for your support.
The gloves are off as the Great Debate between Darryl Charles and James Hesky continues. After having a chance to read each others opening arguments, we’ve given them a chance to respond and rebut to the question: who are bigger assholes, Football players or Basketball players. If you missed it, you can check out round one here.
James: Darryl, your opening statement was so bad that I’m wondering if you were just trying to show that it was possible to be worse at being a person than a basketball player or a football player.
If I understand your argument, basically you’re saying that football is a violent sport so football players are violent people. What better way for violent people to get out their frustrations than by running at full speed into each other? On top of that the sport requires you to be in phenomenal condition and spend hours in the weight room, which is another great release of all that pent up anger. Football is probably the best therapy for being a terrible person I could think of.
Even when football players make mistakes, they have amazing comeback stories. Michael Vick has made people forget that he ran an organization that drowned dogs because they didn’t fight well enough. He has grown as a person over the last few years, not just by becoming a better football player, but by lobbying congress for harsher penalties for people associated with dogfighting rings.
The NFL works regularly with the United Way and is working hand-in-hand with Michele Obama on here “Play 60” initiative to get reduce childhood obesity. The NBA might be more than a year away from even having any games, causing half of their lazy players to be enrolled in the “Play 60” program to prevent them from looking like retired offensive linemen.
Darryl, you’ve made a nice attempt to make football players seem like they’re worse than basketball players, but you simply chose the wrong side in this battle. Also you are an inferior comedian and debater and honestly you never stood a chance.
Darryl: Mr. Hesky, king of the hack metaphors, would have you believe that because Michael Jordan gambled and got divorced and Charles Barkley likes a road soda that all basketball players are assholes. But plenty of people gamble and cheat, and few men wouldn’t break a speed law or two for a bj. You know what plenty of people don’t do? Sign contracts prohibiting them from riding motorcycles without a helmet and do it anyway. Or get accused of rape twice. No, that was Ben Roethlisberger. Plenty of people also don’t get accused of murder and then threaten that crime rates will increase when he’s mad his 44.5 million dollar contract isn’t truly representative of his worth. Nope, that was Ray Lewis.
But I’m not saying all football players are assholes, just that they’re bigger assholes than basketball players. Playing your way through an 82 game season and shaping up along the way, like Shaq, is really nothing compared to taking a bunch of herbal supplements (aka steroids that can’t be tested for yet) so you can “Keep up with the n[common racist football talk removed]ers” like Bill Romanowski.
Plus, Isaiah Thomas is a terrible person and a terrible GM. The fact that the media decided to showcase his ineptitude at managing basketball over his terrible lusting doesn’t make him an asshole. Bill Bellicheck’s blatant cheating and the keeping of his job while the media worries about who Tom Brady happens to be having dinner with makes the NFL full of assholes from the bottom up.
That doesn’t even go into Lawrence Taylor who used his fame and fortune to end up a crack fiend and get caught years after his prime with a 16-year-old prostitute. Where’s the hacky joke to excuse that bit of assholishness?
The final preliminary round of the 2011 Philly’s Phunniest Person Contest was held last night at Helium Comedy Club.Steve Balbier, Munzy K, and Gary Vider advanced to the semi-finals, which will be held next Sunday, and Monday at the club. Tickets can be purchased ONLINE.
Bye Bye Liver: The Philadelphia Drinking Play is searching for talented actors (men and women ages 21-40) with experience in improv, theatre and sketch comedy to join its ensemble. Also searching for an assistant director, pianists and guitarists, stage managers, and technical directors. Visit ByeByeLiver.com for more information or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an audition.
Tomorrow night The Barbary will play host to another Comedy Dreamz show featuring sketch, stand-up, and short films. Doors open at 9 and the show starts at 10. (Facebook Event)
Center City Comedy has released a new sketch – Painballing With Rambo. The sketch features performances by James Hesky, Billy Bob Thompson, Mary Radzinski, and Andy Nolan as the titular character – as well as a slew of other Philly comics in supporting roles. Check it out right here!
Steve Kleinedler is an improviser and director who recently joined the Philadelphia scene after working at ImprovBoston. He is currently directing the PHIT Fringe Festival show twenty-four.
How and why did you get into comedy? I was always interested in theatre, and I slowly slid into comedy in high school in the early 80s when I took part in a program for teenagers affiliated with the Flint Community Players. Every Saturday for 2 years, about a dozen of us would play around, and we gravitated toward improv without fully even realizing it was improv, per se. I don’t think I got into comedy intentionally, it just sort of happened.
How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? I’m a verbal player. I’m quick to make connections and see patterns verbally, and I have a good command of the English language. I’ve done several hundred radio interviews for work, and I can talk fluently at length on many subjects. Doing improv is an extension of that skill.
Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? After a while, venues blend together. Essentially they’re all rooms with an audience, so it really makes no difference to me as long as they’re acoustically sound. My favorite show was not one I was in, but one I directed: Backstory, up at ImprovBoston, in which the story unfolded backward in time, like the movie Memento. The actors spent eight weeks rehearsing and then had an eight week run, and it was really intense, and they nailed every single performance. All the actors attended every single rehearsal (except for one person who missed one week because she was in Ireland), so it was insanely tight. Favorite shows I was in is my two-person show with Harry Gordon: Directions with Steve & Harry.
Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? The first time I did Adrift (PHIF 6, I think), I literally met Kelly Vrooman about 2 seconds before we went onstage. We took our places in the dark, the lights went up, and she and I locked eyes and *immediately* had a fully fleshed out backstory and we were both on the same page. Without saying anything! It was amazing. And then I got to make out with Kristen Schier. It was quite a show.
My favorite moment that I wasn’t a part of involves Mary Carpenter, both in Dangerous Minds at Duofest 2, and in Matt Nelson’s Stage Fright. I can’t narrow them down, but it’s a joy to watch her act.
Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? Not a conscious one. By now, it’s just sort of ingrained and I just sort of do it.
What is it about improv that draws you to it? When it’s on fire, it’s one of the most gratifying things to watch as an audience member. As a director, when you see your cast hit it, it’s also immensely gratifying.
Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? Right now, I’m going to say the entire cast of 24 (the fringe project I’m directing for PHIT).
Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? I did this outgig — a Christmas party at the police union up in Boston. They were in a mood to party and they were NOT in a mood to watch a show; additionally, the three guys I performed with had gotten into an accident on the way there. (I got a call from them — I was stuck in the traffic behind the accident they were a part of!) When we saw how hostile the site was to us, we immediately cut our 45 minute set down to about 20 minutes. We played ‘Interrogation’ — and when we asked for a crime that had been committed, one person responded from the back of the room: “Ate a crap.” That pretty much sums up the night. It was awful.
What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow? I moved to Philadelphia four months ago because I’m completely jazzed about the scene. When I decided to move on from Boston, I could literally have moved anywhere in the country I wanted to, and I chose Philadelphia in large part for the comedy scene that so many people from so many backgrounds have worked hard to create. The opportunity to perform here is greater than in most cities (mostly because rental spaces are so plentiful and relatively inexpensive), and it’s so nice to see performers and producers take advantage of that.
As the different groups and organizations work together more and more, the stronger the community will become. A rising tide lifts all boats. I see so many encouraging signs that everyone wants a vibrant comedy scene in Philadelphia. There’s plenty of room for all of the existing organizations (and then some). The movers and shakers behind PHIT, PHIF, ComedySportz, to name just three, all deserve a huge deal of credit for bringing the city to its current level of comedy offerings, and the addition of newer umbrella organizations like Polygon just point to the vibrancy of the scene. I can’t imagine doing this in any other city. The trajectory is definitely on an upswing.
Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy? My only goal ever, was to be in an opening credits sequence. I did some video sketch comedy in the late 90s, so I hit that goal. I am fortunate that I have a good day job, which leaves my evenings and weekends free to pursue theatre. My focus is on directing and coaching, so what makes me happy is helping other improvisers continually improve.