For my latest Coffee With Comedians, or CWC if you prefer abbr.’s, I sat down with Abigail Bruley, who is a member of improv group Nielsen and the creator and head writer of Down The Show.
Aubrie: When did you first get into comedy? Was there a specific moment? Cause you do improv and sketch.
Abigail: Comedy, always was there. I did impressions of all the priests from my elementary school. Improv is a very new venture for me. I did it because I thought that it was a great way to come up with ideas for sketches. And I do. I find it a great way to come up with ideas for everything.
Aubrie: Did you take a class through PHIT?
Abigail: My first improv class was at the UCB in New York, and then much later on, I decided to sign up for a class here with Andy Moskowitz, and he was amazing and adorable. My troupe formed out of that class!
Aubrie: Did you notice any differences between New York and Philly Improv-wise?
Abigail: Yes, sure, of course. My classmates were very different. Philly is more laid back and fun and experimental, New York is more traditional, everyone had an end goal in mind of being famous or whatever.
Aubrie: How did “Down The Show” come about?
Abigail: I was working for NBC in Philadelphia when I was asked to come up with some content ideas for one of their local shows. So, I came up with a comedy segment where we would bring local stand-ups into the studio and tape them doing a two minute bit. That went well, so I pushed a bit further for it to include original sketch. Ultimately, it didn’t work out with NBC, but I kept running with it on my own and Down the Show was born!
Aubrie: Do you do a lot of the writing per show?
Abigail: Well, I’ve taken a lot of stuff that was already produced like “Booty Shorts for Men” by Secret Pants. But, I do do a lot of the writing for other sketches in the show. I also try to collaborate with people that write stuff specifically for the show, just so I have a chance to get different perspectives on it from outside observers.
Aubrie: Have you always done this, or did you start it recently?
Abigail: I’ve done it since the beginning of Down The Show. I mean it’s so subjective. How do you know if it’s only funny to you and your friends, right? I don’t want to alienate people.
Aubrie: Are you inspired by anything in particular while writing or before an improv show? Do you have a pre-show ritual?
Abigail: I try to get lost and go on walks in the city and just be alert to things. I get a lot of great ideas that way.
Aubrie: What was the weirdest place you found inspiration?
Abigail: The most recent was probably a guy walking in front of me dry brushing with a tooth brush and he kept spitting, and I came up with a character based around that guy dry brushing.
Aubrie: Do you have a favorite comedy moment?
Abigail: I saw Louis CK when he played the Academy of Music and he had this bit that is about how he doesn’t drink that much or smoke or do drugs, and his one big vice is being able to sleep, And he was like, “You know what sleep is like to me?” and he went into really great detail about what it might feel like to get a really deep blow job from a tribal woman with devil tongues, and I was hyperventilating, I was laughing so hard. That is the hardest I’ve ever laughed. I love that guy so much.
Aubrie: Me too.
Abigail: And the show Louie – I think about that when I’m writing. The thing I admire most about the writing on that show is the slow simmer type of humor and the retching honesty. I don’t necessarily need something to be knee-slappingly funny. The first time I realized sketch comedy could be non-Saturday Night Live was The State and I was obsessed with it. A great deal of The State wasn’t funny, it was just bizarre and weird. And, that made me love it even more.
Aubrie: The State had a lot of recurring characters. Do you have a recurring characters or a through-line, or hope to have a through-line eventually?
Abigail: This episode I wrote a skit that I hope comes back in the next episodes. That’s the first one. Other than that the only thing that the first two have in common, and that I think I’m going to continue on with, is that they have stand- up comedy mixed with sketch mixed with original music and artwork. That’s going to be the standard.
Aubrie: Do you film live music or use recorded music in the show?
Abigail: My husband is a musician so he does all of the music. I’m going to have a new theme song every episode, and he always does the theme song. In the first episode the theme song is me and him singing in our closet. And for this theme song I wanted it to sound like a bunch of drunk sailors screaming at a bar so he got a bunch of his friends into this space to sing lyrics that he wrote- which are amazing- and I’m pretty excited about it. It’s gonna be awesome!
Aubrie: Do you have a favorite Philly stage moment?
Abigail: Asteroid is great! And The Kristen & Amie Show. They are just so good. They amaze me. The arsenal of characters they pull out is awe inspiring.
Aubrie: Were there particular moments from each show that blew you away?
Abigail: Asteroid’s edits in themselves are hilarious, and they are just so goofy and fun with each other. What I do remember was that every moment that blew me away in that show in particular were done by chicks, and I thought that was really interesting. I mean, how can chicks not be naturally funny? We are an absolutely ridiculous gender.
Aubrie: And outside of comedy, what are your hobbies and interests?
Abigail: Hmmm, I am at Fairmount Park almost every single day, so I guess you could say I’m the outdoorsy type. I like noodles. I eat noodles a lot.
Aubre: What kind of outdoorsy stuff?
Abigail: I used to be big into biking but I don’t do that anymore. I’m tired of trying to ride a bike because my bikes keep getting stolen. I don’t know, I guess I’m just a super girl- I’m really into skating.I go to the River Rink. I am also into logic puzzles.
Aubrie: ME TOO! I never meet anyone who is, and that is why I am so excited. Any other hobbies?
Abigail: My husband and I have a little music project we do. And I’m also a freelance illustrator.
Aubrie: Have they been published anywhere around here?
Abigail: The most recent was published in the City Paper.
Aubrie: Is the music project with your husband recorded in the closet?
Abigail: Yes! I stand in there with headphones on and a stocking over the microphone!
You can catch the screening of the 3rd episode of Down The Show on May 4th at Underground Arts with Dan St. Germain, and see past episodes at www.youtube.com/user/downtheshow.