Upcoming Shows

  • October 25, 2014Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • October 25, 2014Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Heliun
  • October 25, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • October 25, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • October 25, 2014 9:00 pmComedy Train Rek presents Awkward Sex and the City
  • October 25, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • October 25, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • October 25, 2014 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • October 29, 2014 8:00 pmComedy Masters
  • October 30, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • October 30, 2014 9:00 pmThe Comedy Attic
  • October 31, 2014 8:00 amNationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • October 31, 2014 7:00 pmThe Comedy Works
  • October 31, 2014 8:00 pmThe N Crowd
  • October 31, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • October 31, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • October 31, 2014 9:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • November 1, 2014Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Heliun
  • November 1, 2014Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • November 1, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • November 1, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • November 1, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • November 1, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • November 1, 2014 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • November 5, 2014 8:00 pmComedy Masters
AEC v1.0.4

Pizza Pals with Joe Moore featuring Angel Yau

What’s shakin’ pizza dawgs? Since we last spoke, I’ve been going crazy over Ricotta on pies – it’s underrated and awesome! Also, I got to talk to Angel Yau, my favorite funny-ist from New York City, about pizza. Talking Pizza with a New Yorker is always fun, because many of my favorite pizza places are in the 5 boroughs. My conversadventure with Angel encompassed all sorts of stops in the Pizzaverse.

Read this!!! :

Pizza Pal Joe Moore: So, how much do you like pizza?

Angel Yau: I like pizza like I like ice cream.
(Please read Joe’s ice cream blog to follow this analogy.)

PPJM: How often do you eat pizza?

AY: I eat pizza as often as I eat tacos…
(Gotcha! Probably once every 2 weeks.)

PPJM: What day is Pizza Day in your house?

AY: Definitely whenever I am lazy to cook, which is once or twice a week…
(But that doesn’t make sense with question 2… SHUT UP INNER ANGEL!)

PPJM: Any favorite toppings or do you prefer it plain?

AY: MEAT! Specifically sausage. The artificial looking, small poop kind, not the sliced ones.
I only prefer plain if I don’t have money and only if it’s a New York slice… otherwise MEAT MEAT MEAT. Sometimes if I do frozen pizza, I’d add my own pepperoni and mushrooms and extra cheese… defeats the purpose of a quick frozen pizza but it makes me feel like I made it ALL out of scratch.

PPJM: What is your favorite pop-culture pizza reference (TV, Film or music)?

AY: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ pizzas always look sooooooo delicious.
Also Give me pizza, by Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. Also Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, the song is great because I heart me some Taco Bell. I really love the Spicy Chicken Crunch Wrap Supreme but they fucking discontinued that or something! WHY!!??!?! IT WAS MY FAVORITE!!!!

PPJM: Favorite pizza place in New York City? Favorite pizza place anywhere else?

AY: I grew up with Pizza Hut. My mom hates cheese so the supreme pizza at the hut is the choice because of the other toppings/bread to cheese ratio. Also their tiny neon orange buffalo wings ARE DELICIOUS. I also grew up with Mama Celeste frozen pizza (supreme of course). I also grew up in Howard Beach, Queens… which is primarily an Italian neighborhood. The go to after elementary school pizza there is La Villa. Also I just remember this from writing about pizza is Singas pizza… it’s a New York chain. I only at there a handful of times when I was little, whenever I want to break my parents’ heart, denying their home cooked food. I always get the chopped sausage and onion pizza. I especially like those two toppings because the sausage was chopped into tiny pieces and was back inside… the cheese was on top! What a delightful surprise! And the onions were sliced super thin like string. It’s not a New York slice, it’s a personal thin pie kind of thing! Oh there’s also a place in Greenpoint, Bk where I lived for a few years in my adult life called Paulie Gee’s… it’s one of the those Brick Oven, bacon jam, dimly lit pizza places. Is the question what pizzas you grew up with Angel? NO! It was what is your favorite in nyc!!! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!? NO ONE IS GOING TO LIKE TO YOU ANGEL YAU!

PPJM: Anything else you’d like to add?

AY: Also can we talk about Italian Ices at these pizza parlors?!?!? Rainbow and Vanilla & Chocolate Chip! COME ON!!!

Boom! Awesome! Angel will be onstage here in Philly in a SUPER RARE performance tonight at Camp Woods + at L’Etage. Don’t miss it! This is your best chance to catch one of Angel’s mind-bending multi-media sets without spending $8 to cross a bridge!

Camp Woods: Humor Taken to a Whole New Level (Part Two)

By: Alexandra Levine

PART ONE HERE

In “Edwardo the Crab,” a guy wakes up on a beach to find that there’s a hermit crab living in his butt. “I play the crab,” Thompson adds proudly, eyes wide. In his black leather jacket and with hair slicked to the right of his forehead, I somehow imagined him differently when I heard his voicemail answering machine the day before. “Youuu’ve reached Biiiiilly Bob THOMPSON!” Beep.

Thompson attributes his comedic sensibilities to the Muppets. While growing up in Vermont, he was an avid Muppet-follower. “I was never the class clown because I was too shy,” he admits, which is partly why he started his career as a puppeteer in New York. He now does voiceovers for three Pokemon characters including Luke, Burgh and Shamus, “and a bunch of other little creatures.” He takes a sip of his drink, clears his throat, and when he speaks he suddenly sounds like a seven year-old boy. And then, for lack of a better term, like a “little creature.” I had to restrain myself from asking him to belt the Pokemon theme song. Although Rob probably would’ve been amused, eyes glazing over from one shot too many.

At 1AM, this now-snoozy-boozy Rob describes himself as a once-hyperactive kid. “I was annoying. Insanely annoying,” he says, shooting me a skeptical look from his side of the booth. “Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad – I’d say. For two minutes. Straight.” He never played House; he and his siblings did SNL parodies instead – a nice cultural alternative! “Whenever I think about sketch comedy, I think of Jan Hooks and Nora Dunn as lounge singers, singing ‘Clang, clang, clang with the trolley’ and laughing their asses off,” he remembers, nearly breaking the table lamp this time. And now, twenty-or-so years later, this once-hyperactive child has formed his own sketch group, Meg & Rob, moved on in 2009 to Camp Woods, and currently writes for the Animal Planet hit, Tanked.

Madonna, the only woman in the group, holds her own in the booth. From Baltimore. Wavy, black hair and thick, black eyeliner. “As a kid, I did whatever the fuck I wanted,” she says nonchalantly, the expression on her face not changing from one word to the next. “My parents didn’t give a shit and they still don’t, which is why I’m doing what I’m doing.” The beauty of having Madonna’s sass-and-circumstance (and her strong theater/sketch-writing background) in Camp Woods is that her style is no different than that of the men in the group. Having written JG Wentworth and Millionaire-Billionaire, “Madonna writes and plays some of the raunchiest stuff we have,” adds Thompson. Camp Woods saw Madonna perform at the Philly Improv Theater’s open-mic, “Sketch Up or Shut Up,” and it was love at first sight.

And then there’s Narisi, with his blue zip-up and a head of regal, JFK hair. “When I was a kid I was quiet enough that people were worried about me in school,” Narisi says. “People would ask me, ‘Why are you so serious and quiet all the time?’ I just didn’t like talking, so it’s strange that I’d now do these things on stage. I always wanted to write.” But Narisi does more than simply writing for Camp Woods; he also stars in a group favorite, “Narcoleptic EMT.” Self-explanatory: an ambulance driver who falls asleep all the time. Oh, and he’s also JG Wentworth 877-Cash-Now himself.

Kennedy, beneath a sea of curly brown hair, leans his back against the arcade machine and chimes in ever-so-politely and eloquently. He seems to be the wise, older brother of Camp Woods. “I was a good student. Very polite,” he says of his high school days – no surprise there. “I was an honors student and I played sports. I liked comedy but I kept it to myself.” Until he began doing improv and stand-up, that is. Hailing from Upper Dublin, Kennedy hit the Philadelphia comedy scene before sketch had really taken off. In the interim, he was a featured guest on comic radio shows, Opie and Anthony and KiddChris. But just a few years down the road, it’s now safe to say that Kennedy’s improv/stand-up background has come in handy as a great source of inspiration for Camp Woods. “Brendan’s was one of the first groups I saw doing stand-up, and I was like Yes! That’s what I want to do,” exclaims Boudwin. “All our short videos stemmed from Brendan – his stand-up style and the way he presented his humor added a whole new dimension to our group.”

As he continues to rave about Kennedy, Boudwin’s squeezed onto the end of the booth. He leans in. Eagerly. His long, black hair cascades out from beneath his black beanie, and a very becoming amount of stubble wraps around his mouth and chin. “When I was younger, I was sent to therapy in first grade for saying everything in my brain. I went to Catholic school so they thought that was bad,” he begins. God, this guy’s awesome. And he already reminds me of Jack Black. At his Upper Darby high school, he was the TV news anchor, intent on filming and producing a “better version” of Nickelodeon’s 1990’s hit, All That. “I wanted to call it Da Bomb. Like Rob, I was an obnoxious kid trying to be a star. But to be fair, two years later, Kenan and Kel tried to name their grocery-store-turned-nightclub ‘Da Bomb,’ so I felt validated.” The guys all raise their glasses and drink because they can relate: we’re talking about the 90’s here. If only I had ordered a “Ryan Gosling’s Bathwater” to clink with Camp Woods, or with Boudwin at the very least.

* * *

Greg Maughan, founder of the Philly Improv Theater (PHIT), met each individual member before they actually became Camp Woods. He’s seen them evolve from a flopped first-show at the PHIT to a highly ambitious sketch group that “can pack a show with a young, boisterous and hard-drinking crowd,” says Maughan. “They have matured a lot.” Since 2009, Camp Woods members have hosted PHIT shows and been through the theater’s writing workshops. A few have even given back by teaching those same classes. “What honestly makes them stand out to me is their ambition. They really want to go someplace with this.” says Maughan. “I think they want to be touring the country and on TV. I admire the hell out of that and want to do anything I can to help them achieve that.”

The Philly Improv Theater was one of the first theaters of its kind to hit the Philadelphia comedy scene in 2006. Camp Woods has been extremely supportive in the theater’s efforts to get a permanent space, according to Maughan, which in turn would generate more exposure for sketch groups like Camp Woods and might increase the chances of scouts traveling to Philadelphia to see them. Either way, “I think they will certainly be one of the top group in Philly as the comedy community here continues to expand,” Maughan adds.

As far as future plans go, the group will continue traveling around the city – putting on their longstanding, monthly shows at L’Etage. They’ll also be traveling across the country to gain exposure and build up their repertoire at large-scale shows and festivals in Boston, New York, Chicago and possibly Los Angeles. “Were a set seven and we don’t have auditions,” says Thompson, in case you were as interested as I was in joining them for the ride.

Any other recipes for success? “We need to write and perform what makes us laugh,” Madonna says. “It always goes better when we’re pleasing ourselves.”

* * *

Camp Woods’ most recent press release reads, “The group blends sharp absurdism and energetic performances with homemade props, sets, puppets, and costumes to create a memorable live experience that is sometimes smart, sometimes stupid, and always fun.” The humor is described as a mixture of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, The Kids in the Hall, Mr. Show, and Chappelle’s Show.

But Maughan puts it even better. “Their brains are not wired the same way as everyday people,” he says. His experience at an open mic/party at their house, ironically called Hate Speech Hall, pretty much sums it up. “You really don’t get their vibe until you find yourself drunk watching them do a sketch about taking Pickleback shots at 4:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning.”

Before I leave, I ask these funny guys to tell me a joke. Rob references a scene from Ghostbusters. Narisi recounts a scene from The Simpsons. Boudwin, a great line from Futurama. Thankfully, Kennedy throws in a Dumb and Dumber quote. And finally, Thompson comes up with a classic Fozzy the Bear one-liner. Ba-dum-chhh, and out goes Camp Woods from the Comedy Dreamz after-party to an after-after-party.

Camp Woods will be performing at their monthly sketch showcase Camp Woods Plus tonight at L’etage (6th and Bainbridge, Philadelphia)

Alexandra Levine is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, and she is now an aspiring writer living in New York City.

Camp Woods: Humor Taken to a Whole New Level (Part One)

By: Alexandra Levine

“They’re hilarious testicles you hang on back of your truck! Go truck nuts for Truck Nuts!” Billy Bob Thompson says in the voice of an over-enthused infomercial salesman. In this particular skit, he’s trying desperately to film a thirty-second spot for a local Truck Nuts dealership. His supposed acting coach, dressed in a tight white turtleneck and even tighter white pants, becomes borderline abusive as Billy struggles with his line: “Take it from me, you’ll go truck nuts for our Truck Nuts!” Take two after take three after take four, he still can’t strike the right tone or twist his face into the perfect expression. The acting teacher – strangely similar to Romanian gymnastics coach Béla Károly – loses his cool and brandishes a pair of plastic testicles in front of Thompson’s face. That’s basically it, but the crowd goes nuts – pun entirely intended.

“Truck Nuts” was one of four skits that sketch-comedy group, Camp Woods, put on that evening. Their fifteen-minute gig was the grand finale of Comedy Dreamz, a show featuring sketch, stand-up and improv comedians from across the greater Philadelphia area. This month’s Comedy Dreamz was hosted at The Barbary, a grungy late-night hotspot in North Philly. Think: hipster dive-bar meets eighties dance-party. The room was cozy and dark, except for a glowing EXIT sign and the red lights illuminating the sides of the bar. Oh, and the low-hanging, over-sized disco ball. Just before Camp Woods took the stage, the MC’s offered club-goers two specialty drinks: the ‘Panty Destroyer’ (one shot more than ‘Panty Dissolver’) and, my personal favorite, ‘Ryan Gosling’s Bathwater.” Circa midnight, Camp Woods made their Comedy Dreamz debut.

Catchy opera music drowned out the noise of clinking beer glasses. (Who knew opera music could be catchy?) It was an operatic jingle from a mundane insurance commercial: the song looped, “Call JG Wentworth, 877-Cash-Now.” As the song repeated, Camp Woods actor Sam Narisi removed his ill-fitting khaki pants, waddled across the stage in briefs, and began putting on stockings over stockings over stockings. Until he reached about ten pairs. Audience in suspense all-the-while, he finally exclaimed, “It’s pantyhose time!” Narisi was JG Wentworth himself, and when he finally received a call from someone who had heard his promising hotline jingle, he had no “cash” to give them. At least not “now”. Whoops.

Next, Camp Woods’ Madonna Marie Refugia and Patrick Foy took on the roles of Cassandra and Bartholomew in “Millionaire-Billionaire.” She, the millionaire, and he, the billionaire, they sexy-talked about net worth and got off just verbalizing their wealth. “Say it slow,” Cassandra demanded seductively, as Bartholomew responded, “Twenty…two…billion.” His net worth sounded so delicious that Cassandra had an orgasm. To return the favor, Bartholomew asked for her net worth: “Say it slow, and like you’re from the South,” he insisted. “Two-point-one…million…dollars,” she responded sensuously. She reached a second sexual climax when Bartholomew recited all the celebrities whose net worths were lower than his. “Oprah mother-humping Winfrey!” he added, last but not least, sending his lover over the edge.

* * *

Transcribing Camp Woods’ short, out-there stints just doesn’t do them justice. “We go for absurdist and weird stuff,” explains Thompson. “We try to stray away from what you’d see in mainstream comedy like SNL or Colbert-type shows where they lampoon politics.” The seven-person troupe boasts the witty-yet-quirky writing and acting of Billy Bob Thompson, Rob Baniewicz, JP Boudwin, Brendan Kennedy, Patrick Foy, Sam Narisi, and Madonna Marie Refugia. They’re all in their mid-to-late twenties, but Camp Woods is pretty young itself. Launched back in 2009 by Boudwin, Foy and Narisi, the group remains relatively new. But since then, the four others have jumped on the Camp Woods bandwagon after meeting at variety shows and comedy workshops around the city.

We’re all huddled in a booth upstairs at the Barbary, beers in hand. A vintage Pacman machine seems to enthrall Rob (who introduced himself to me as “Robot”), but he’s drunk and equally as excited to fondle the table lamp and twirl it around is finger. “We’re the good comedians in Philadelphia,” he proclaims, “and that’s exactly how we found each other. It was just that simple. Billy and I were in other sketch groups and Brendan’s a brilliant standup. Pat and Sam went to college together and did video and web-comedy. We all met Madonna in a sketch workshop and loved her stuff.”

When it comes to humor, the group shares the same sensibilities. “We all have the same sense of humor, just have different ways of writing it,” Rob explains. The group has no ‘one’ creative artistic approach; they come together with pitches and bounce ideas off each other. And it helps that Boudwin, Kennedy and Thompson live together. They even have a green screen set up to keep their creative juices flowing.

In fact, one of Camp Woods’ most publicized, hyped web-clips was produced at home in front of that green screen. The video, “Mystery Science Andre 3000,” remakes a one-minute excerpt from Satellite of Love with a raunchy voiceover from Outkast’s Andre 3000. The homemade video was re-tweeted by Questlove from The Roots, which bumped up viewership and scored Camp Woods some much-deserved attention both online and in the Philadelphia City Paper. “Mystery Science Theater has a cult following,” explains Thompson, “so Andre 3000 ended up being our most well-known work outside this city.” He and Boudwin conceived of the idea while high, and it sure is a short-and-sweet masterpiece.

Despite the popularity of Mystery Science Andre 3000, Camp Woods agrees that web-comedy doesn’t quite compare to live sketch and stand-up. “I was initially partial to video stuff because I went to film school,” says Thompson. “But part of the beauty of doing it live is knowing people’s immediate reactions, whereas online you can really only judge how much people like it through view counts. It’s just not as gratifying.”

To date, Camp Woods’ biggest and best live-shows have been at the Chicago Sketch Fest (January 2012) and the Boston Improv Festival. They have also performed at the North Carolina Comedy Arts Fest, Philly Sketchfest, Philadelphia Fringe Festival, New York’s ABC No Rio, and the Chicago Snubfest (which grants admission only to those who have been rejected from other festivals). But Thompson’s personal favorite was a performance at New York’s Upright Citizen’s Brigade (UCB) last fall. “We crushed that,” he laughs. “It was the best feeling I’ve had in a while.” At the UCB, Thompson starred in a Camp Woods favorite known as “Rude Sloth.” The premise? A rude sloth. Guy shows up to a hotel called the Rude Sloth Hotel. Guests at said hotel are given a rude sloth to hold onto during their stay. Said guest refuses the sloth, and the animal acts rudely. Easy enough. With Narisi as the guest, Boudwin as the concierge, and Thompson in a head-to-toe sloth outfit, “Rude Sloth” is generally a crowd hit.

It’s not always that easy, though – especially with a flat crowd. The group works effortlessly to predict and read its audience. “There are times when we do things like Comedy Dreamz at bars where people really are only laughing at the pussy/dick/fart jokes,” Boudwin says. “But then you go to a crowd in a theater and do that, they don’t pick it up as well. Knowing when and where to add it in is a big part of what we do. Our ideas are funnier than curse words or messy parts of the body.” So what to do with a dead crowd? “I start yelling my lines!” Narisi interjects. (“Shock them!” Thompson adds, shaking as if electrocuted.)

Every month, the group discusses which sketches have worked with audiences and which haven’t. This Saturday, at the Walnut Street Theater’s F. Harold Festival, Camp Woods will be doing a “Best Ofs” set. In addition to the Rude Sloth, Millionaire-Billionaire and JG Wentworth shorts, they’ll be bringing back four more treats for the crowd. “Homeless Haiku” will feature three homeless men in a quasi-poetry slam, cursing their blunt, stream-of-consciousness thoughts ala haiku. In “Laser Arm,” a man who works for the mob realizes he’s invincible because he has…wait for it…a laser arm. In “Farting Magician,” Brother A tells Brother B that their father’s in the hospital, but Brother B is too distracted to care. He’s intrigued by a magician who, with a press of a button, will fart, and fart, and fart again. Finally, “Glitter Pocks” is about a coal miner’s family, wondering how they will deal with the father’s sickness, glitter pocks. He works at a glitter mine, and by God, he can’t stop coughing up glitter! (With Thompson as the miner, each time he sneezes into his hand, glitter explodes around his face. Obviously.)

Camp Woods will be performing at their monthly sketch showcase Camp Woods Plus tomorrow night at L’etage (6th and Bainbridge, Philadelphia)

Alexandra Levine is a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, and she is now an aspiring writer living in New York City.

Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 48

Tonight, the preliminary round of Helium Comedy Club‘s Philly’s Phunniest Person Contest continues, where 14 hopefuls will take the stage looking to move on to the semi-finals. Tonight’s show starts at 8:00 and tickets can be purchased online.

Tuesday night, Polygon Comedy at L’etage will bring the comedic stylings of Alejandro Morales, Cock Hat, and Grimacchio to the stage. Doors open at 7:30 and the show begins at 8:00.

Wednesday brings another Camp Woods Plus to L’etage, this month featuring guests The New Dreamz and Angel Yau and, as always, brand new sketches from Camp Woods. This show has become a can’t miss event in Philadelphia comedy – so don’t miss it.

ManiPedi hosts another Mani Party this Friday at Connie’s Ric Rac. The sketch group will be joined by stand-up Carolyn Busa and sketch group American Breakfast. Come for the comedy, stay for the free ice cream and dance party.

This Saturday, First Person Arts presents Stripped Stories – the “hilarious and unpredictable sex-themed story show” at Union Transfer. The show will feature hosts, Moth Grand Slam winners Margot Leitman and Giulia Rozzi; guest storytellers Elna Baker (The Moth, This American Life)Dave Hill (This American Life), and Dava Krause; plus musical guest Jessica Delfino. Find out more information and buy tickets online.

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.

Duofest Interview: Michael Loves Greg

By: Alison Zeidman

Full disclosure: The members of this duo were interviewed separately because Greg Maughan was busy prepping for Duofest and running our dearly beloved Philly Improv Theater, and Michael McFarland was busy with moving, starting a new job, getting married in the near future, and other grown-up things. I’ve Frankensteined their answers together here, and you can just use your mind thoughts to picture the two of ‘em sittin’ ’round a table, gabbin’ ’bout ‘prov and maybe sharin’ some snacks.

Alison Zeidman: How did you two meet?

Greg Maughan: Mike and I met for the first time in a workshop taught by Matt Holmes in 2005, and afterwards we sat down to talk about an improv group Mike was trying to start. Flash forward a few months and things came together to form a group called Industrial.

AZ: And then how did you decide to form your duo?

Michael McFarland: I moved to New York from Philadelphia about six or seven years ago, and then Jonathan Pitss and I, who runs the Chicago Improv Festival, stayed at Greg’s house during some improv festival in Philadelphia. I think it was during Duofest. And I was like screaming at Greg and drunkenly demanding that he get me food, and Jonathan was like “hey, you guys should do a duo,” and about six months later we decided to do it.

AZ: How long have you been performing as your duo?

GM: Just over a year, although we have performed together for just about 7 years at this point in various groups.

AZ: Where did the name “Michael Loves Greg” come from?

MM: I guess I always threaten to have sex with Greg, and I don’t want it to be…I want him to think it came from a place of love and not just lust. And we also thought on another side of it, after that, that it’s fun to explore the concept of love. Like the name’s open for interpretation: Does Greg love me back? Or am I just obsessed with him? What kind of love do I have for him? Is it as a brother, is it as a friend, is it as a lover? Am I deranged and think I love him but I really just want to get with him? It could be a lot of different things. It’s just a fun concept, and we like to explore the word “love” through our shows.

AZ: Do you perform a specific format?

GM: Not really. We tend to ask the audience for something they love, then maybe interview the person we get the suggestion from a little bit… and then promptly forget everything and just launch into a show. If there’s any underlying format it’s probably that Mike pushes to places he knows I’ll be uncomfortable with and then I get to deal with them.

AZ: Greg, what do you think are Mike’s greatest strengths as a performer?

GM: Mike is just naturally funny–he’s the type of guy you can point at and say “be funny!” and he’ll actually say something funny. He’s also really relentless, he just keeps coming at you in a scene and building the stakes or increasing the tension. It’s really easy to play with him onstage, because if I’m not having a great scene he can always turn it around.

AZ: And Mike, what do you like about Greg as an improviser?

MM: Greg is constantly aware of what my state is and what I’m doing, and if I’m not doing it he’ll do it. If there’s something that needs to be done in the scene and I’m not doing it for some reason or not feeling up to it, he does it. And if I’m exra energetic he’ll lay back and let that extra energy come out of me and then respond to it, and justify it.

AZ: What do you think makes you two work well as a duo?

GM: Honestly, I think it’s just a lot of shared history and trust between us. You have to trust that your scene partner is going to make you look good, and then you have to know your partner so you can tee things up for them. We can do both those things. We’re also very different players. I’m more of a slow burn, and less obvious. Mike likes to put it all out there. It’s a nice ying and yang.

MM: I think it’s a very honest show. I think that we both try and really be as honest as we can in our improv. I use a lot of personal life experiences to guide what my characters do, and I think that Greg does that as well. I also think Greg’s [personality is] a little bit more reserved, just in general, and a little bit more clean-cut and kind of wholesome, and I’m very gregarious; I like to talk about everything, and be very even like, shocking on purpose. So I think onstage it’s really fun to see the contrast of those two personalities, where we’ll always find a common bond for our characters. It’s fun to see two different perspectives be in the same situation onstage.

AZ: What do you like and/or dislike about performing with a duo, as opposed to a team?

GM: Well, I think it’s the same answer for like and dislike: the challenge. When you’ve got a duo you are in every scene and you have to carry the show. It’s really exciting when it’s working, but it’s torture when it isn’t.

MM: Performing with a duo is really great because as a performer, I love stage time, and I love to be out there. And when you have six or eight people you have to share the stage with them, which is just what you do, but with two people you’re in every scene. I’m a big attention whore and it’s just a huge rush to be up there and have every scene involve you. It’s also easier to organize with one person.

AZ: Can you tell me a favorite moment you’ve had as a duo, onstage or off?

GM: Last summer Mike and I got pretty drunk at the Baltimore Improv Festival and he started begging me to take him to a strip club–actually a whole area of strip clubs just off the inner Harbor called “The Block.” He had just recently gotten engaged, and I have never set foot inside a strip club… so I didn’t want to go, and kept giving him drinks at the bar we were visiting until I knew the clubs were all closed. Then we got in a cab and went down there. It was a madhouse. People were everywhere milling around in the street, and there were probably a hundred cops in the three blocks just pushing everyone towards the bus stops, parking lots, etc.

MM: I think we actually just got sandwiches and went back to our hotel room.

AZ: And to close, what are you most looking forward to and/or least looking forward to about Duofest?

GM: Well I’m most looking forward to our show, of course! I’m also looking forward to seeing a lot of friends from all over the country and having the time to hang out with them. Festivals are kind of like weekend-long parties and that is always a lot of fun. But I am certainly not looking forward to the lack of sleep… that will be rough come Monday.

MM: Duofest is great because the audiences are so enthusiastic. And it’s really fun because most of the duos are very close friends, and there’s a really nice bond between all of the groups in general.

See Michael Loves Greg in Duofest at the Shubin Theatre on Friday, June 8th at 7 pm. Get advance tickets (or full weekend passes) online.

Video Round-up, Vol. 2

This Week’s Spotlight: Secret Pants

Well hello there! Lisa here with my weekly video round-up! This week I checked out the marvelously talented Secret Pants! Secret Pants is one of Philadelphia’s oldest and continuously active sketch comedy troupes. So I have put together three of their videos that I thought you might thoroughly enjoy!

 

 

1. Murder Knife. The incredible new knife that is definitely, absolutely, one hundred percent not for murder. Except it probably is.

 

2. The Dark Ages Faire. The newest in the Secret Pants archive! Why visit the Renaissance Faire when you re-live a time in history when life was really terrible– the Dark Ages Faire! It’s going to be off the mace and chain.

 

3. Clone Baby. The world’s first human clone is a charming little guy; let’s hope he grows up to become a painter.

 

Still like Secret Pants?! Want to see more?! visit http://secretpants.net/

Duofest Interview: Half-Life

By: Alison Zeidman

Half-Life is Steve Kleinedler and Nathan Edmondson, two seasoned improvisers playing two scotch-drinking secret agents. They don’t get drunk onstage. They don’t give each other notes. They did not meet in a bathhouse. But they do have a subtitle (full name: Half-Life: Requiem for the Cold War).

Alison Zeidman: How did you guys meet?

Nathan Edmondson: It was at a bathhouse.

Steve Kleinedler: No. At the the Philly Improv Festival. That was the first time I saw you onstage.

NE: The first time we hung out though, it was after that one Troika.

SK: So we’ll back up. Besides the bathhouse. Did not happen. I saw him perform at a festival, and about a year and a half later some of my troupe in Boston came out to do a one-off Troika night. It was one Philly person and one Boston person and one out-of-town person, and I was on a team with whoever and he was on a team with one of my teammates, and that’s where we met.

AZ: And when did you decide to form Half-Life?

NE: Well Steve moved from Boston to Philadelphia 13 months ago, and Greg had him shadow my [PHIT 201] class, which was kind of funny.

SK: Yeah. I’d been teaching in Boston for seven years and I was gonna teach here. So the first class i shadowed him just because it’s a different curriculum and everything.

NE: So we did that, and about halfway through we decided to do a rehearsal and then we did a show as—what was it, Kleinedmondson?

SK: Yes. Kleinedmondson(sinjin). It’s a reference to A Fish Called Wanda. Anyhow. We did that rehearsal where we were just dicking around after class, and we did a show, and we realized that a lot of our scene work had in common this sort of Twilight Zone element..like we’re being watched, or there’s an “others” quality to it.

NE: They were really serious. And some of the shows we did there would be some of that spy element, kind of. And then we actually had an espionage scene. It just happened and then Steve called me one day and said I know what we should be doing instead of this show that isn’t really working yet.

SK: I identified—and this is what I would do with any troupe that asked me to direct them. I see what they do and then I identify their strong points and base the show around them. Obviously our strong point was this espionage style thing. So we developed this format around that.

AZ: Can you describe your format?

NE: Steve’s smart, and I’m kind of stupid, and we’re both spies, in the Cold War era. It’s pretty much a monoscene.

SK: We get from the audience an event that happened during the Cold War. It can be a real political thing, or—this hasn’t happened yet, although we allow it to be like, “oh my grandfather got married,” or anything. We take that and we put ourselves in that situation, and go from there.

NE: Another thing that’s fun about the way we’ve been doing this is we always play the same two characters, so any backstory that develops, we try to hang onto it.

AZ: How do you keep track of that?

SK: You just do.

NE: Steve remembers everything.

SK: But it’s basic stuff.

NE: But it helps us because it gives us stuff to pull form.

SK: He has a wife named Sheila who he fools around on.

NE: Yeah and I have a kid. Although we’ve never decided if that was a boy or a girl.

SK: So yeah, every show builds on the other, and they’ve been really well received.

NE: Yeah, they’ve been really fun. And we drink whiskey during it. Scotch?

SK: Scotch.

NE: We drink scotch.

AZ: Can you explain that decision?

NE: Well, I think Steve had the vision of us just being onstage in a spotlight. If we were to produce it on our own it’d be like a dark stage with us in a spotlight. Not a lot of movement. So we started the show with the idea that we’re just standing there, and I think we did a rehersal where we just had drinks in our hands?

SK: I think so.

NE: But it fit. It made sense to the era.

AZ: Are you drinking enough alchohol to impede your abilities onstage?

SK: It’s real alcohol, but over the course of a show, it’s maybe a shot.

NE: Maybe two shots.

SK: At most, but over twenty-five minutes. And we start completely sober.

AZ: So drinking isn’t a pre-show ritual. Are there any others?

NE: Bathhouses.

SK: What?

NE: We go to a bathhouse. Nah, we don’t really do anything. We dress up. We wear ties.

SK: We wanted to go with the black and white look. The footage we’ve shot for the web is black and white, just because it evokes that era. And a shirt and tie…

NE: We’re just like company men, from the ’50s and ’60s. But no, we don’t really have any pre-show rituals.

SK: We don’t even warm up. We just hang out and connect. When you find the right scene partner and it just kind of clicks, the warm-up comes from us knowing each other, and our weekly banter whenever we see each other.

NE: And in shows where things didn’t feel like they were going well, I’ve noticed it’s because we aren’t looking at each other or checking in. As soon as we actually look at each other, and make eye contact, it’s like oh fuck, ok, it’s easy. And the show gets better.

AZ: Do you guys have any sense of what’s behind that connection? Or specific strengths that you each have that make the two of you a good fit?

SK: I think it’s idiosyncratic. I think it’s just the personalities.

NE: Yeah, I think we complement each other well. I ‘m not a total idiot, but Steve knows so much factual information, it’s mind-blowing, and I don’t remember that kind of stuff, so he’s kind of the brain of the group, and—

SK: He’s the sex symbol.

NE: [Laughs] Yes, I’m the sex symbol. Embarrassing. But yeah, it’s a good dynamic, because I personally always love the “Joey” character from any show, the dumb guy, so this is my opportunity to play that. Although I wouldn’t say that my character’s totally dumb.

AZ: It seems like you guys have given a lot of thought to this act conceptually, visually…have you thought about doing something more with it, doing a Fringe show, or something like that?

SK: Well we’re doing Duofest, and we’ve applied to Baltimore and Detroit. We’ll apply to some other things. We’ve done some web shorts.

NE: I would like to do more of those, too. We’ll probably get two or three videos out of our first footage.

SK: I live in a loft building, so we spent a day there.

NE: We shot like twenty-five minutes of footage, and we’ve just been mining it for little thirty-second skits.

AZ: You’ve both had the experience of being on a duo and also on a team. Can you talk about things that you prefer about being in a duo, and/or things that you dont like as much about being in a duo, if there are any?

SK: It sounds silly, but honestly it’s huge: Logistically, it is so much easier to arrange stuff when you only have to deal with one other person instead or five or six other people.

NE: From rehearsals, to who’s in the next scene.

SK: I’ve been in a fair number of troupes, and I love them dearly, but when there’s a lot of people you have to take all these schedules into account. On the flip side, I know I have a very narrow range. I’m primarily a teacher and a director. One reason I like Half-Life is the character I play is about the only character I can play. That’s not exactly true, but it’s close enough.

NE: Well it’s playing to your strength. And it works really well.

SK: So in that regard, something like this suits me better than a team that is doing montages. I think what’s key for any improviser is to find a group that plays to your strengths, and the fewer the number of people in the cast, the more you have to find a structure that plays to your strengths.

NE: Yeah. And just to go back a little bit, I don’t think we responded to [your earlier question] much, we did think about what the show was going to be like. There was a lot of thought put into it over a long period of time.

SK: Our first rehearsal was last summer, and then we goofed around for a couple months before we had a show.

NE: As soon as we had a concept that fit, it made everything so easy. And I think it’s good to put that work in for groups, like, “what are we doing? what are we trying to accomplish?” It’s just easier.

AZ: How much time do you guys spend discussing things and working out details for the show?

SK: For regular shows and festivals and stuff, it’s just taking into account what space we’re in, and making tweaks, but as we’ve done it the show has been tweaked here and there, and before the first show we did a couple rehearsals where we would just run twenty minute scenes and see how it felt, and we would just try different techniques. Originally we were going to have a certain number of flashbacks done in a certain style, and it’s kind of morphed into this thing where there’s probably one flashback in a twenty-minute scene.

NE: Every show we learn, and we talk about it right afterwards.

AZ: Can that be difficult, when you’re sort of directing your own show and maybe even critiquing each other’s performance?

SK: A lot of people in the community have heard me rail against improv troupes that don’t have a director or a coach, and as a general rule I think that’s absolutely [necessary]. Improv groups need a coach. This is a little different. You have a little more leeway when it’s a two-person show I think, because when you get more than two people a tiny bit of ego gets in the way, whereas when you’re paired up with someone you work well with that’s less of an issue. And I’ve done this long enoguh that I kind of have a sense about what we’re doing. I still encourage people to have coaches, but I’m just not following my own advice. And we don’t really give each other notes. We talk about what we like and what didn’t work and we’re usually in agreement.

NE: I think also, we’re very self-critical. So we’re giving ourselves notes constantly. A lot of the note-giving is me talking about my stuff, and then him giving response, gauging whether my interpretation of what happened is right or not.

SK: And vice versa. I’ve been doing this off and on for thirty years, and after about the ten-year point, things just kind of click in a way, and then after you start directing and teaching it clicks even more, and the more you direct and the more you teach, the easier your work becomes.

NE: And also at a certain point you realize if you get your hands too much in it, you’re just gonna screw it up. You just have to let it breathe and let it happen.

SK: And that’s what I do when I direct groups too, or scripted plays. I just come up with a format and let them loose. After the first table read I get them up ontage with a script and have them move around and I write down what they do, and a lot of that works its way into my blocking. So I guess I’m giving myself—oh no, I’m not going to say that, that sounds so pretentious.

NE: Giving yourself a blowjob?

SK: No, giving myself the trust that I give other actors.

NE: Oh OK. That is pretty pretentious.

AZ: So just to wrap up, what are you guys looking forward to about Duofest?

SK: I did Duofest two years ago [when I still lived in Boston], and it’s a lot of fun, and there’s a lot of really great groups, and it’s nice to be in Philly representing Philly.

NE: I’m looking forward to being interviewed by WitOut. And I’ve missed every Duofest, because I’ve been either out of town or had other commitments, so I’m looking forward to just seeing shows, and being a part of it. And I like that it’s specific. Are there other Duofests?

SK: No. There are so many improv festivals, but this is something—every city has a festival, but this is a very specific thing unique to Philly.

NE: And duos are an important part of the improv world, so I think people that do them appreciate it. I think it becomes this thing that happens to most improvisers if they stick with it, so it’s a different kind of show than a group of even three or four. It’s a whole other entity. It’s nothing really special, but it’s something.

See Half-Life perform in Duofest at the Shubin Theatre on Thursday, June 7th at 10 pm. Get advance tickets (or full weekend passes) online.

Video Round-up, Vol. 1

By: Lisa Galperin

This Week’s Spotlight: Camp Woods

Lisa here with this week’s video roundup. After searching through the Camp Woods archive, I found these three hilarious videos you might want to see!

 

 

 

 

1.  Mystery Science Andre 3000. This is perhaps the best MST3K parody out in the internets.  Can’t wait to see Big Boi as Crow T. Robot.

 

2.  Detective Barry. The Detective Who Cums in His Pants Every Time He Hears Mariah Carey. Enough said.

 

3. The Perverts. With the internet being down, two perverts try not to “lose their grip”.

 

 

Want to check out more?! Visit http://campwoods.net/