By: Alison Zeidman
Dutiful fans of Philly’s favorite pair of half-Italians prone to playful bickering and off-beat tangents braved Monday night’s drizzle for the premiere of The Grimacchio Variety Hour, and the dynamic duo (Jason Grimley and Ralph Andracchio) did not disappoint.
The lovely Sue & Cait (caitblack.com) opened the show on acoustic bass and ukulele, respectively, with Sue jangling the jingle bells around her ankle in time to to the music while Cait crooned silky, smokey vocals into the old timey microphone at center stage.
After two songs, Grimacchio strolled out from behind the curtain—dressed in suits for the occasion—to applaud the two ladies, compliment Cait’s gold shoes, and go off on a riff about a Buck Rogers television special which revealed the actor’s staggering weight gain and declining health, forever marring their memories of their childhood hero. Then, they acknowledged the audience and welcomed us all to the show, blushing (Ralph) and sweating (Jason) with gratitude that everyone came. To warm up the crowd, they improvised some banter around current news items suggested by the audience, speculating on how Barack Obama decided to come out in favor of gay marriage (“fuck it, let’s do this”) and relating the Devil’s Breath street drug sensation to the campy Wes Craven flick The Serpent and the Rainbow.
They cut themselves off long enough to bring storyteller Hillary Rea onstage (“you will love her, damnit!”) for a brief conversation about her current projects and an adorably confusing explanation of her multiple online aliases. Rea told a fun and wonderfully detailed story about her first frenemy, a frizzy redhead with an in-home elevator who slutted it up through an Our Changing Bodies video in the sixth grade and ruined Rea’s retro-themed seventh grade birthday party with a Nirvana mixtape and an illicit game of Spin the Bottle, which young Rea excused herself from by hiding in the bathroom for thirty minutes.
Rea was followed by a Grimacchio sketch interlude, featuring the fellas as hipster record store employees (complete with “douchebag hats”) ignoring their customer to challenge each other with obscure music trivia. Sue & Cait followed, returning to the spotlight to literally sing the praises of Theodore Roosevelt, accompanied by a goofy framed black-and-white portrait of the President.
After a brief telling of the origin of the Grimacchio name (Jason didn’t know how to pronounce “Andracchio,” and Ralph didn’t correct him), comedienne LaTice took the mic to talk about the lack of joy in marriage, race relations in the suburbs, reality TV, and Flo the Progressive girl’s insensitivity to racial stereotypes. There were a number of slyly hilarious jokes worth quoting, but I wouldn’t want to ruin the punchlines for you.
Maureen Costello and Corin Wells of Ebony and Ivory closed the show, joined by Grimacchio for an improv set inspired by an interview with an accountant sitting in the audience. Highlights included Grimley as a talking dead goldfish in Costello’s cocaine-induced hallucination set in a cubicle in the ’80s; Wells as a five-year-old demanding apple juice before getting to work saving the company’s finances with her prodigious knowledge of QuickBooks and TurboTax; and a final scene with a Grimacchio-led game of double-speak, where Andracchio opposite hired Grimley from the accounting office, leading Grimley to threaten that he would opposite sleep soundly that night, forcing Andracchio to opposite tell security not to come upstairs and opposite let Grimley leave of his own volition.
After the blackout, Grimacchio invited all of the night’s performers back onstage to receive another round of applause, Sue & Cait played one last sweet little tune, and everyone filed outside praising the evening’s entertainment. For future editions of The Grimacchio Variety Hour, be sure to check the PHIT schedule and look for updates at facebook.com/Grimacchio.
Alison Zeidman lives in South Philadelphia, has a superfluous second Facebook page for work, and spends her evenings running around with the new indie improv team Malone.