By: Alison Zeidman
In preparation for next week’s Duofest – Alison Zeidman has done a series of interviews with some of the groups performing in the festival. First up is Philadelphia favorites Rosen & Milkshake. Keep an eye out for a cameo appearance from another Duofest performer (I won’t ruin the surprise).
When their two other compatriots from Mr. Lizard (a 2008 Troika team) abandoned them for new lives and families down south, founding Improv Incubator members Charles Rosen and the beloved player best known simply as Milkshake decided to continue performing as a duo. After lengthy debate over what they’d themselves, they settled on a straightforward, purely descriptive new name: Rosen & Milkshake.
Alison Zeidman: So how did you guys meet?
Milkshake: I was taking a class with ComedySportz and so was Charles–I was level two, I think Charles was level three, and we met at the class show. Two and three had their show the same day I guess.
Charles Rosen: And then soon after Incubator started. We’re founding Incubators.
AZ: Is that when you decided to form your duo?
M: No, the duo didn’t start as a duo. How did Mr. Lizard start?
CR: That was a Troika group.
M: Mr. Lizard was a Troika group with Charles and two other players, both of whom have moved south. It was the three of them and then they asked me to play in one show, and then I just kept playing in other shows, and then one by one they moved off and it was just me and Charles, and I was like, this is no longer Mr. Lizard anymore. [phone rings]
M: I meant to shut this off! This is Kristen Schier, calling during an interview, and that’ s my fault, entirely. Entirely my fault, that’s terrible. [On phone] Is eveything OK?
Kristen Schier [on speakerphone]: Yeah everything’s fine. I didn’t catch what you said because a bus went past.
M: We’re doing an interview. Rosen & Milkshake are being interviewed for WitOut, at this very moment.
KS: Oh OK, well I don’t want to interrupt that!
M: Is everything OK? Can I do anything for you before I click back over to our interview?
KS: Oh no I just called to idly chat, so I will let you go.
M: OK, I’ll talk to you soon. [hangs up] …Adorable.
Alison Zeidman: So how long ago did Mr. Lizard start, and then how long have you two been together as Rosen & Milkshake?
Charles Rosen: Mr. Lizard was 2008 Troika, and that was the year that we could all pick our own groups.
Milkshake: [We've been performing as Rosen & Milkshake] I believe at least a couple years. How many shows do you think we’ve done as a duo? That’s what I want to know, because I remember the first show that we did and it was just the two of us, and I was concerned because we were expecting John Bussman [of Mr. Lizard] to be able to be there, and it went surprisingly well. I remember being very calm and relaxed, because the audience was dynamite. The audience was very receptive to whatever we were doing.
AZ: Did that influence your decision to become a duo later on, when the other members of Mr. Lizard had all moved away?
M: Well not necessarily, because we also had a really shitty show. The next time we did the duo it was not very strong, to me. I’m very critical of my own performances, and if I don’t like most of the things that I’m doing, I’m really not happy.
AZ: When you guys perform, do you have a specific format or structure?
M: We pretty much stick to a monoscene.
CR: But with a lot of ghost characters in there.
M: By ghosts we mean like, because there’s only two of us, if over in the corner someone is sitting down watching TV, and whoever’s playing that character needs to run over to the other side of the room to portray another character, that guy’s still there down in the corner watching TV. That’s what we mean by ghost characters. Not…ghosts.
CR: Yeah, that would be like the Scooby Doo format.
AZ: Charles, tell me what you think are Milkshake’s greatest improv strengths.
M: Oh, do go on.
CR: Well, he’s very good at reacting to the shit I give him. And object work, his object work is excellent. Which is definitely not the case with me.
AZ: And Milkshake, what would you say about Charles?
M: Charles can say things that nobody else could make funny. And oftentimes it doesn’t even need to be a fantastic character choice, and all I have to do is just lob things, just put objects in front of him to kick out of the field–to knock out of the park. To be specific, there was one character where we did a show at the library [as Mr. Lizard], and I’ve watched this scene over and over and over again because it was captured on video. Charles was a momma’s boy, and John was scanning items at a checkout counter at a Pathmark, and I was operating another scanner, and I was like “Oh, look who’s here, it’s the momma’s boy!” and we were like “Oh, are you here with your momma?” And he said, “actually, yes, she’s buying groceries.” And the way that it comes out of his mouth, nobody could deliver lines like this and get his kind of reation, because of his emotional quality and his cadence, the rhythm with which he speaks. There are things that are completely innocuous if they were said by somebody else, but when they come out of the mouth of Charles Rosen it’s just–it makes my job a lot easier because I just have to kind of wait for him to find something to say.
AZ: What do you guys like about performing in your duo versus performing in a group?
M: The cool thing about doing a duo is that you’re in every scene–and sometimes twice, because you have to do more in every scene. And it’s a lot of work, but that’s a lot of fun. And with Rosen & Milkshake, I think I feel particularly…in control, and not needing to be in control at the same time. It should be that way of every group, but I don’t always feel that way. So I get to be in every scene, I get to be in every scene with this guy, and that’s as close as I can get it–I feel a sense of control, without needing to be in control.
CR: It’s definitely different being in a duo. I don’t work with groups that often. I was on a group called Atomic Love which is on hiatus, and now I’m doing the [PHIT] Conservatory show, and it’s a lot different. You have a backline, and I’m so used to not being on the backline; I’m always in every scene.
AZ: Are there any challenges that you guys have as a duo?
M: It’s difficult doing one another’s character. I find Charles inimitable, and so any endearing qualities that he has, if I try to do them, I just sound like a narcissistic asshole. Every time I think the audience is going to love me doing his character, and it just doesn’t work. They don’t care. They’re pleased that the scene is still happening, but they are not pleased with my impersonation.
CR: And in our last F Harold show Milkshake was doing a Russian accent, and I don’ t really have a Russian accent, so when I was being his character–
M: Can you try? [in Russian accent] Can you do a Russian accent right now?
CR: [in "Russian" accent] I will try to do Russian accent.
M: That was probably more Ukraine. Or Ottoman Empire.
CR: So [in the show] it kind of became a little game that I couldn’t get the accent exactly right.
AZ: What are you guys looking forward to about performing in Duofest?
M: How’s our slot in Duofest? Let’s comment on that.
CR: We’re opening slot. It’s like 8 o’clock on Thursday.
M: Not a bad slot. Not a bad slot.
CR: Yeah, that’s a good slot. And it’s actually really good because my mom is giong to be able to come for it. So it worked out well. But Duofest is always a lot of fun, it’s such a great weekend. There are so many great duos coming in.
See Milkshake & Rosen perform in Duofest at the Shubin Theatre on Thursday, June 7th at 8 pm. Get advance tickets (or full weekend passes) at http://duofest.ticketleap.com/duofest-2012-thursday-8pm.