Tonight, Center City Comedy at The Raven Lounge is celebrating its fourth anniversary. The open mic has consistently provided a full room for comedians to work on their acts and test new material in front of always-eager crowds. The spot has earned a reputation from out-of-town acts visiting Philly as a place to hang out with local comics, or even get a late-night set in after their shows. The Center City Comedy crew (Chris Cotton, Conrad Roth, H. Foley, Tom Cassidy, Ryan Shaner, Kevin Ryan, Chris Whitehair) have branched out to working on producing online video content (Babe Ruth Time Traveller, We Rent). We asked H. Foley, one of the early members of Center City Comedy, some questions about the past four years, and the future.
WITOUT: At a time when open mics come and go within a few months, you have kept Center City Comedy at The Raven Lounge alive and kicking for four years – what do you think are the keys to your success?
H. FOLEY: Well, we always put the audience first. We promoted the show as much as possible and we were very lucky to be surrounded by so many talented comedians. It was really built on a lot of hard work and dedication, not just from us but the community as a whole.
WO: What are some of your favorite moments from the open mic over the past four years?
HF: I asked the boys this question, and everyone said all the anniversary shows really stuck out in their minds. Plus, the night Patrice O’Neal came by, and the night we had to pull Conrad from hosting because he got so wasted and took his balls out.
WO: Do you think Center City Comedy has had an influence on the Philly comedy scene? How do you think you’ve left your mark?
HF: That is a tough question. I hope so, but you would have to ask the comedy community that. It was never our intention though. We just wanted to create an environment where the city could see how funny the Philly comedy community is, and it worked because it is.
WO: You’ve passed the hosting duties of the weekly mic down to new groups of comics a few times – how do you decide who you’d like to take over as hosts and when do you feel like it’s time to bring in new blood.
HF: We look at who is working hard, and who really wants it, and who we think would fit into this little dysfunctional family. Right now Ryan Shaner is in charge, and we recently brought Kevin Ryan into the mix, and it is really working out. Tom Cassidy has ran it for the last year and did a great job. Tom has been a big part of our group, and he is someone I love and consider to be a part of our family.
WO: How did you transition from hosting open mics and shows around the city to producing comedy videos for the web?
HF: It was always our plan, we were never just about running an open mic. We know what we want to do and just keep taking steps to make it happen. We now film all the time and are writing scripts and trying to just keep moving forward.
WO: Since the show has started, some of you have moved to other cities, but have stayed loyal to your roots, what keeps you coming back to Philly for more?
HF: I mean that is what it is all about, remembering who we are and where we are from. We love Philly, and realize how lucky we are to be a part of the Philly scene.
WO: What’s next for Center City Comedy?
HF: We just want to keep working hard and chasing our dreams. I do want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has performed with us over the last four years, and especially want to thank Alex Gross of Superdps.com who is helping us to take the next step. I also want to wish you, and all of our friends who have the heart to push to the next level, the very best of luck.
The Center City Comedy Four Year Anniversary Show is tonight, at 9:00pm, at The Raven Lounge (1718 Sansom St. Philadelphia).