Tomorrow night at Camp Woods Plus Meg & Rob will perform together for the first time in over a year. The sketch duo was a staple of the Philly comedy community for years until Meg Favreau moved to Los Angeles to further pursue a career in comedy. We asked Meg some questions about her time in LA, her return to Philadelphia, and her reunion with sketch partner Rob Baniewicz.
WITOUT: You’ve been in Los Angeles for a little over a year now, what do you miss most about Philly comedy, or have you forgotten about us completely?
MEG FAVREAU: I miss the sense of community the most. There’s definitely a great comedy community out here, and I’ve made a lot of friends through it. But because of the size of things, it’s a lot more splintered. I love how in Philly there is so much cross-pollination between stand up, sketch, and improv. Moreover, every time I went to a comedy show, I wasn’t just going to a show — I knew that almost no matter what the show was, I would walk in, and a bunch of my friends would be there.
I also think comedy in Philly tends to be more playful and experimental. I’ve seen a lot of great sketch since moving, but I’ve also seen so much samey sketch in LA. I think there are a few reasons — for one, a lot of people are trying to become part of existing teams and institutions, so they try to match that voice or style. And then, when they finally get on a team, it’s a bunch of people who (probably) haven’t worked together before, headed up by a director wrangling disparate voices. But I think stronger sketch often comes from what generally happens in Philly — when a group of friends decide to work together and just follow what makes them laugh the most in the way it makes them laugh the most.
To combine the two, I miss the hell out of Sketch Up or Shut Up. Not hosting it (although I did love that), but just getting to spend one night a month with a bunch of hilarious and supportive people trying things out.
WO: Tell us about the comedy projects you have going on in LA.
MF: I’m in a sketch group called Bone Mouth with fellow Philly ex-pat Alexis Simpson. It’s funny — I had moved out here so focused on meeting new people to do sketch with, and then I ended up forming a group with the person I’ve known the longest. I’m really happy with the stuff we’ve been doing. It’s super dark and absurd, and we have a great director, Brian James O’Connell, who really gets our sensibility.
I also just got cast onto a sketch team at the iO called DJ Faucet. We’ve only had a couple of meetings, but so far, it’s great — the director is really experienced and knows how to make a writers’ room feel really positive while still being critical and productive, and the other people on the team are pretty awesome too. I’m missing the first show while I’m in Philly, but I’m so stoked to write and perform with them more.
WO: How has being in LA for the past year affected your work as a comedian and writer?
MF: Overall, I think it’s made me a stronger writer and better at working with other people. I’ve had some really great experiences, and some really bad ones — for a little while, I was on a team that was just not the right fit for me, and the director wouldn’t put up a single sketch I wrote. It was really frustrating, but I came out of that surer of my own voice and the kind of work I want to do.
I’m also writing more long work — specs, and at the moment, a pilot — which is something I did a little in Philly, but always felt clueless about. I’d get halfway through a spec script and want to give up, convinced that my brain only understood short form work. But living in LA has made writing longer work feel both more necessary and more achievable, and I’m enjoying the process a lot more.
The biggest change, though, might be that I’ve moved from feeling like a career as a comedy writer is this amorphous “maybe that could happen” thing to a concrete, achievable goal. The path isn’t always obvious, but living here makes it seem very doable.
WO: How is the process of writing and working on a show when your partner is three thousand miles away?
MF: At this point, it’s actually not that different than when we lived close by. Shortly after Rob and I started working together, I switched jobs (we met when working together at QVC). We wrote almost all of our sketches at work, then emailed each other notes. Practicing will be another matter — there’s only about 24 hours between when I arrive in Philly and when this show goes up. And this is assuming that my flight isn’t delayed by East Coast Terror Storm 2012.
WO: Have you noticed a difference in Rob and his work since you’ve been gone. Do you think your absence has affected him in any ways (positively or negatively)?
MF: Well, shortly after I left, he was listening to the Pixies song “Cactus” a lot. You know, that one imploring the girl to get sweat and blood all over her dress and then send it to Frank Black. I would have sent Rob a dress, but he never offered to pay for it.
But I think that the split was hard for both of us. While we both did comedy in some form before Meg & Rob, so much of our development as writers and performers was together. It was scary to be let loose from that. The sketches I’ve read of his recently have been great though. Also, he has a wife now. I’m not saying that couldn’t have happened while I was there…but it did happen after I left.
WO: The November 1st Camp Woods Plus show will feature Meg & Rob, Secret Pants, and of course, Camp Woods — can you talk a little about what you think each of these groups brings to the table with their own brands of sketch comedy?
MF: Oh my goodness. I love both teams so much. When Rob and I started doing sketch, Secret Pants was already so strongly forged, and they’ve only gotten better. Well, I’ve been away for a year and a half, so maybe they’ve gotten worse in that amount of time. But I feel like with some groups, you see good writing hide shitty staging, or really wonderful staging hide shitty writing. Secret Pants writes smart, funny sketches and always has great acting and staging.
It’s been awesome to see Camp Woods become more and more of a super-group — they were already so good and different, and they’ve added some of my favorite comedians in the city. What I’ve seen from them recently has struck a really good balance between staying grounded and being batshit weird.
WO: What else are you looking forward to on your return trip to Philadelphia?
MF: Seeing friends and eating and drinking everything — especially 1,000 sandwiches from Paesano’s and real apple cider. Also, I’m going to do some touristy stuff I never got around to while I was living in Philly, primarily, seeing St. John Neumann. Did you know Philadelphia has a dead saint in an altar? How did I live there for six years and not go see that?!