Upcoming Shows

  • August 29, 2014 7:00 pmThe Comedy Works
  • August 29, 2014 8:00 pmThe N Crowd
  • August 29, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • August 29, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • August 29, 2014 9:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • August 30, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • August 30, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • August 30, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • August 30, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • August 30, 2014 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • September 4, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • September 4, 2014 9:00 pmThe Comedy Attic
  • September 5, 2014 7:00 pmThe Comedy Works
  • September 5, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • September 5, 2014 8:00 pmThe N Crowd
  • September 5, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • September 5, 2014 9:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • September 6, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • September 6, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • September 6, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • September 6, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • September 6, 2014 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • September 11, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • September 11, 2014 9:00 pmThe Comedy Attic
  • September 12, 2014 7:00 pmThe Comedy Works
AEC v1.0.4

Interview: Twinprov

By: Becca Trabin

Twinprov is an improv duo whose show consists of forty-five minutes of improvised rapping and scene work.Twin brothers Clint and Buck Vrazel are in town from Oklahoma this weekend, performing tonight and teaching a workshop at Duofest tomorrow. I talked to Clint about how in the world he and his brother freestyle a forty-five minute improv show.

How did you come up with rapping as your format?

We like a lot of different things– we’ve done a Shakespeare show, relationship comedy, a musical, we even do a show that has no words, so rap is just one thing we do. But rap is just a thing that really took off. We did it through lots of trial and error.
We weren’t allowed to listen to rap music as children, because we’re from small-town Oklahoma, and that’s just the way it was. MTV was banned from the town. So we discovered hip-hop in eighth grade, and before that wed only heard Weird Al Yankovic. So our exposure to quick, intelligent music that rhymed was from that tradition of Monty Python and Weird All. And we were like, “Oh, you can make up your own words and it can be better than the original music.” So we’d make up songs.

I couldnt rap at all five years ago, and three years ago we couldnt keep any beats going. It was a lot of teaching ourselves and our friends. We thought, “We should be able to do this. We can do it for a few seconds, so we can do it for longer, right?” We did the wrong thing for a lot of years, cos we learned improv from watching Whose Line Is It Anyway?, until we finally got exposed to Chicago and the greater improv culture.

But we tried The Hoe Down and we would do Irish Drinking Songs and all these games, and it turns out that thats not how poetry or lyricism or shakespeare, thats not the best way to channel it. That’s not even how your brain works. My brother and I are very interested in patterns and psychology. I have a math degree, he has a psychology degree, and we love to teach. And so we discovered all these ways our brains do work. It was a lot of trial and error, a lot of research. And we can get people rapping now in about an hour and a half if theyre improvisors and about three hours if theyre not. So the exercises we came up with for other people became our own practice.
We didn’t know that we weren’t supposed to be able to do this. We didn’t know, you shouldn’t be able to do a forty-five minute improvised rap concert. We just loved it so much we just kept going. Now it’s like a language that we speak and teach.

You said you were exposed to Chicago. Was there a certain school or teacher who influenced you?

CV: It was 2005, we had a teacher who came down to Oklahoma from Toronto–he’s trained at Second City, he had a degree in Improv and English–you can study that, I guess, in Toronto. He came to Oklahoma for a literature program. He never thought he’d find improv in Oklahoma. He found us messing around in like a food court at the University of Oklahoma, and he said, “Oh, you guys are trying short-form. Here’s how to do it well and here’s how to make improv art.” He taught us long form and got us to go to the Chicago Improv Festival.
He got us to take a workshop, as part of a college thing, and I took a workshop from Andy Carey from the Beat Box, and that really inspired me, and I did a rap battle that really inspired me. Because I’m not mean at all but my first opponent was this little black girl who’s like 4’10”, and here I am, this nerdy, white-guilt oppressor guy, and I’m like, “What’s my suggestion?” And they’re like, “Your opponent is your suggestion.” And I can’t make fun of somebody. I didn’t get into improv and storytelling to strip all that away and make fun of poeple. And so I went down in flames but with my integrity intact, and I’ve since rapped circles around people who try to go negative. Definitely the Beat Box with Andy Carey was very inspirational.

How does freestyling feel different from just improvising regular scene work?

It’s not about thinking rhyme to rhyme. You can stump an improvisor by saying, “Say something funny.” There’s no improv exercise called the Say Something Funny Exercise. There’s a million exercises you can do, but there’s not one called Be Funny. In rapping there’s a million things that often you can do, but not like, “Rhyme.” Rhyming is like, “I have a wish, to eat a dish, that is my fish.” You can sell yourself out really quickly for a rhyme just like you can sell yourself out for a joke. The challenge and fun of rapping is you get to be very expressive and you actually have no time to think. In improv you can take pauses. With rapping that time is reduced so you get to paint more pictures with your words.
It’s great to move into that heightened realm– it makes it more magical and brings the ernergy up even further. As long as you don’t sell yourself out the rhyme can serve you and make something memorable.
Once we go out and we hit that first song, it feels pretty easy. We can’t do any wrong after that. The energy is so high. We’re still truthful, we have points of view, we have characters– you just can’t sell yourself out.

What’s it like having your twin brother as your partner?

It’s as much an advantage as a disadvantage. I trust him to always be with me. But if I’m really out there, it’s like, “Wait I’m the same as you, where did that come from?” I don’t recognize that.” We also push each other. When I look at him I see myself. I say, “Oh, I should be able to do that”. Even though we know we have intrinsic differences. We know I’m the Andre 3000, he’s the Big Boi. Our competitiveness really helps. As far as life experience and stuff, it’s hard to be more varied. It’s like, “Oh, we covered that. He took mine.” We’ve always stolen each others’ stories as twins.

Your show has picked up a lot of steam lately. Do you have any plans for expanding your show beyond a stage show?

We are working on our first album right now. We have, as you might imagine, hundreds of improvised songs now– many demos. And every time we go to a festival we get super charged with energy and we rap in the car all the way there and all the way back. We’ll come with a musician who’s got a little banjo or ukulele or we’ll have Pandora or something. We have so many car recordings that that’s basically our studio. So we’re working on our first album, or albums really, because we have enough for multiple stuff, and we’re looking to start releasing that.
Our stage show, we’re looking to expand. We’ve gone in front of bands and freestyled with them– you know, “You be The Roots and we’ll be the rappers.” We’ll play parties. Sometimes we come in as motivational white rapper speakers and tell kids to stay in school. (Laughs). So we would love to have an album and have some cool music videos and travel more with it.

Duofest Interview: Gross Butler

By: Alison Zeidman

To teenage girls, they’re The Beatles. To Hasidic Jews, they’re lobsters wrapped in bacon burning  Israeli flags and eating cheeseburgers. To us, they’re Gross Butler. They’re not trying to offend you; they’re just gonna fuck with you a little bit. And in the end, they really just want to rock your face and steal your heart.

Alison Zeidman: How did you guys meet, and then how did you decide to form your duo?

Alex Gross: Like a year ago Greg [Maughan] would just ask me to ask improvisers to do a show that was supposed to never be seen again, just on Sundays if he needed a group to perform. And so the one day he asked me on Sunday, and I texted about fifteen people, and they all told me maybe, except for Mike; he was like, “YES I’ll do it!”

Mike Butler: I think it was the Saturday before, he asked me. And I don’t know how long before that Greg told you to put together a group. I just assumed that he told you earlier in the week and you just decided on Saturday to start putting it together.

AG: No it was definitely that Saturday, that day.

MB: So Alex said do you want to be in a group, and I said fine, because I knew Alex from Incubator. And he had seen my [PHIT] 101 show earlier in that year as well.

AZ: So you guys did that show together, and just decided to keep going?

AG: Yeah, it was actually a really really good show because uh…yeah, I was just really surprised and Greg was surprised, and we had this sixteen-year-old girl in the audience who was just non-stop laughing. And I was just like, OK, that’s our basic dmeographic.

AZ: Is that semi-serious? Do you guys cater to maybe…a less mature audience?

[both laugh]

MB: Oh no, actually our stuff really is mature, a lot of people enjoy it, but on some level I guess sixteen year-olds do really like it. Though Greg told us that at our first performance, there were four Hasidic Jews who had come to the Shubin to see the show, and then walked out in the middle of our performance.

AG: Like the second scene in!

AZ: Can you think of what you might have said or done that would have made them leave?

AG: We were going very religion-heavy at some point.

MB: I thought it was the scene where we were in prison and you peed on me.

AG: That might actually have been it.

MB: And they just kind of walked out, and they didn’t take their money back either. So we have that distinction: Our first performance ever, four Hasidic Jews walked out.

AZ: Is that typical for you guys, to have scenes that are more controversial, or maybe even vulgar at times?

AG: I think it’s a lot about how the audience is responding. Because we’re definitely very much reliant on the audience.

MB: Overall, it’s not like we go out and say, “hey, we’re gonna have the dirtiest show ever.” It’s just our personalities, and we just go wherever it takes us.

AG: Yeah, I don’t think we try to be dirty. I think our show is just dirty because we’re dirty people.

MB: And if you try to be dirty you’re going to fail at it; it’s going to seem forced. But if you’re just naturally…

AG: Fucked up.

MB: I wouldn’t say dirty or fucked up. I like to say aggressive.

AZ: Can you explain what you mean by that?

MB: Usually you see an improv show and if stuff starts to get dirty or raunchy, that wipe comes through, and with us we take the scene for another two or three minutes.

AG: Yeah we’re very patient. The majority of our shows are all five- to six-minute scenes.

MB: We’re lucky if we get to go back to our earlier scenes.

AZ: Do you guys follow a specific format?

MB: We don’t necesarrily have a format. We just start doing scenes and then if we feel like it we go back to an earlier scene.

AG: I feel like the one thing I want from this group is–Philadelphia is very fast. A majority, like my team Hey Rube, we play patient in the beginning but it’s still not long enough. I like to do slow improv, so the one thing I wanted from Mike and I was just to do like five- to six-minute scenes. So that’s our format; we just want to do long scenes. And that’s the only thing that I can say our format is, just being patient.

MB: Yeah, we’re very patient. We just take scenes and go right up to their logical end, even if there’s something dirty in a scene, it isn’t over. It’s like no, we’re going to explore that some more.

AZ: And can you talk about your Krav Maga-inspired inspired opening?

AG: One night I was at home and I was reading an interview with The Vines, and when they were a shitty band and they were just starting out, most of their shows would end with all the bandmates just getting in fistfights, and the audience loved it. And I was like man, I want to get in a fistfight! And so I just was like oh, I’ll do that with Mike, forgetting that he’s trained in MMA.

MB: Yeah, he messaged me at work one day and says “Hey Mike, do you own boxing gloves?” And I said “why yes I do, why?” “I wanna do something where we start off the show boxing each other. ” And I’m like, “OK, that’s fine,” and we worked out how it would work, where we do the clover leaf while we’re punching each other, and I’m like, “OK great, which show do you want to do this on, Tuesday night? Usually I can’t do Tuesday night because I have Israeli Krav Maga class, but that’s fine.” And then he Wikipediaed it really quickly and said “oh my god, you’re a killing machine!”

AG: It’s awful, I hate it. There’s nothing like getting to your first scene and you’re already out of breath and your face hurts.

AZ: So you guys are really boxing each other?

AG: Oh he hits me pretty fucking hard.

MB: I hit him hard enough. I don’t want him to be knocked out and then I have to do the rest of the show alone. But we’re not tapping each other. I’m looking to put a little mustard on each punch and let him feel it, and the crowd gets into it because apparently everybody loves watching Alex get punched.

AG: The first part of the clover leaf is just like warming up, the second one’s really
vicious, and then the third one I’m losing my breath, my face hurts, and most of the time
by the third one my helmet’s ripped off.

MB: Yes, I provide him with a helmet, because I’m used to getting punched in the face and he’s not. So by that third one he’s forgetting the words and I have to remind him which word we’re on.

AZ: So it sounds like even during that you’re still very supportive of each other: You’re helping him remember words, you’re offering him a helmet. What other things, once you get into the meat of your show with scenes, do you think make you guys a good pair?

AG: I like to throw like curve balls–and just for the record we do shows way better when we’re not fighting each other at the beginning, because I sort of…nothing’s like doing an improv scene where your whole left side hurts, and you’re just sort of like fuck you, Mike. I don’t want to be onstage with you anymore, I fucking do not feel like doing this anymore.

MB: But yeah, he likes throwing me curve balls. At our last Grape Room show we were doing a father son bonding scene and he’s like, “yeah, now give me fifty pushups!” and I proceeded to do fifty push-ups onstage, with everybody counting.

AG: And me shooting my hunting rifle in the air. A funny thing about that, it shows you that in improv it’s not all about comedy, it’s just doing the task at hand. You “yes, and”-ed my fifty push-ups, and it ended with the whole crowd fucking applauding the shit out of you for like thirty seconds. They fucking loved the shit out of you after that.

AZ: Is that a recurring thing for you guys, to set your partner up in a scene for something that’s going to be challenging, and maybe even impossible? Is that a conscious game, or does that just happen?

AG: It just happens.

MB: Yeah I don’t think we try, it’s just the way we were trained. I took [PHIT] 201 with Mike Marbach and the main thing I took out of that class was, as Mike would say, “go out on stage and fuck with people.” And that just means go out and have fun with your partner, have fun with your team.

AG: I also know that Mike isn’t going to bail on an idea. If I tell him to be King Tut, he’s gonna be the best King Tut that he can be, and that’s really good. It shows….definitely shows a certain kind of maturity. A lot of [beginner] improv students, you’ll tell them to do something, and they’re so self-conscious, that they’ll either be a really shitty King Tut or they’ll just be like, “I’m not King Tut, I’m an astronaut!” [It's like saying] fuck you man, I hate your decision. And Mike always accepts it, no matter what.

AZ: Are there any challenges that you feel in performing, either just by the very nature of being in a duo, or for your duo specifically?

MB: The challenging thing about being in a duo is you’re in every scene; you’re always working. I think being in a group, if you’re on the side you can pick up patterns or little extra things more easily, but then when you’re in a duo you’re doing everything at once. But that’s what makes being in a duo fun. And I guess that’s why we have Duofest.

AZ: What are you guys looking forward to about this upcoming duofest?

AG: Free shit. T-shirts. Drink tickets at the bar.

MB: I wanna rock peoples’ faces. I want people coming out of our show going “yeah, fuck yeah, I like these guys.”

AG: Yeah, it’s nice [to be a part of it]. I tried to get into the first Duofest and I didn’t get in, and it’s nice getting into this one, and I appreciate all of the producers for picking us. But it’s just another show. It’s not like I’m more nervous to do this show than any other. Just time to play.

MB: Yeah. Just go out and have fun, just go out and play. That’s what Kristin Schier taught me in [PHIT] 101. So go out and play….go out and fuck with people…and now in the 301 class [with Greg Maughan], don’t throw chairs.

AG: Yeah, Greg Maughan’s a wet blanket.

AZ: Is it OK if I print that?

AG: Add that I love him, too.