Corey Cohen is a comedian and show promoter in Philadelphia. His new weekly comedy talk show The Big Show premiers tonight at 8:00 pm at Underground Arts (The Wolf Building – 12th and Callowhill). Tonight’s show features comedians Mike Logan, John McKeever, and Jim Grammond and music from Joe Hardy of Sherman. We caught up with Corey to talk about his new show.
Witout: Tell us about the idea behind The Big Show and the planning stages.
Corey Cohen: I’ve been milling around the idea since back when I was in the Sixth Borough, and in some ways it’s another version of Steal This Show, which I did a handful of time over at Connie’s Ric Rac a couple years ago. Once I got involved with Underground Arts, I went back and thought about what kind of show I would want to do, what I hadn’t seen in Philly thus far, etc. I ended up deciding on the talk show after the Late Nite Cabaret during the Fringe, which was a blast and a really fun experiment in comedy. We just had stand up comics perform, sat down and talked a little about their bits and their personal lives, and in the end it was a really special night. After that I knew it was worth getting into this kind of show, and I started to develop it as a weekly or bi-weekly comedy revue and chat show.
WO: What’s your role going to be in the show? (Are you strictly a host or are you going to be performing bits or showing videos or anything like that?)
CC: I’m doing it all, possibly to my own detriment. My main role is host and producer for the show, but I’m planning on being kind of the driving force of the program, and I want it to reflect my personality. That is to say the show will also be weird, neurotic, inquisitive, funny (you’d hope) and a little esoteric. Even if that makes me sound like a douche-nozzle, I stick by it.
WO: What’s the format of your show? How is it going to stand out from the other comedy shows around the city?
CC: I think the venue is going to make the whole show feel different. It’s a pretty big room with cabaret seating and staging, not to mention the bar and food, so my hope is this environment will initially change people’s idea of what a comedy show like this can be. Hopefully it will surprise and intrigue people, especially new folks who might have never seen a local comedy show.
The format is pretty much a regular stand-up show, with music, some fun segments, comics, and some interviews. I like to interview the comics a lot because everyone is different, and I just think that comics tend to be unusual, original thinkers. And even if they are assholes, there is something to that, too. I like people, and I want that to come through in the end. Like, check out these weird ass people who want to make you laugh. Now eat that cheeseburger.
WO: Producing a weekly show is a big endeavor – do you have help with the production of the show or is it all you?
CC: I have a couple people helping with writing segments and making some new content, but the main brunt of producing and writing the thing is on me. That being said, the show is also very dependent on outside performers, and my genuine hope is that more people will become involved over time. As time goes forward the show may end up bi-weekly, but even so, I will always be on the lookout for help. I’m trying to encourage people who are doing comedy in Philly in some capacity to look at this show as being friendly to them, and that it’s a great place to try something new.
WO: What kind of guests are you looking for on the show? What kinds of bands are you looking to book? Is there a certain style you are trying to present with your choice of guests or are you just trying to pull from the full spectrum of Philly comedy?
CC: I’m looking for stand-ups mostly, but I’d like every show to have some other comedy element, whether it be a segment I write for myself and my co-host that night, or someone coming up and doing a sketch. We’ll also be able to show video easily, and obviously music is going to be a big part of it, too. I wanted to have music to keep the show moving, and because every band has it’s own kind of vibe that can add a magical quality to the night. There a couple of bands I’ve always wanted to work with, and that’s what got me into the idea initially. I think the music is key, though, and I’m psyched to have bands coming through, and to be able to talk to them about their art.
I’d say in the end though, I’m looking for any act that is funny, unusual, and genuine. I also have “serious” guests in the works, mostly because I want to expand the spectrum to include local people who have interesting ideas. I also figure if I play my cards right, nationally touring headliners would want to stop through from time to time.
WO: One of the cool things you do with Corey Cohen Comedy is bring in out-of-town headliners and have them perform in some alt rooms around town. Where did the idea for that come from? Will you still be doing it now that you have a weekly show to produce?
CC: That came from getting more involved with booking a couple years back. I did a couple of these national comedy shows at Connie’s, and it was actually a comic named Kenny Zimlinghaus who suggested I look further into bringing down guys from NYC and LA. I did, and he was absolutely right, there were a lot of awesome comics who never came here, because they have these kinds of routes they usually stick to. After a couple years though, I have some great relationships with a lot of amazing comics, and my intention is to keep them coming and actually step things up a notch. Headliners coming in soon, like the return of Eddie Pepitone on May 25th, will hopefully be some of the biggest shows I’ve been able to put on so far. I have an enormous amount of help from Underground Arts, who believes in what I’m trying to do, and has been supportive to the point that I can really bring some cool acts now.
In the end, I want to see Underground Arts, The Big Show, the headliners and all the local guys who work so hard to receive a boost from one another, and really widen the range of who knows about and goes to see comedy in Philly.
Also it would be nice to maybe get laid out of all of this.
Comics who are interested in performing can contact Corey Cohen by email, email@example.com, put THE BIG SHOW in the subject.