Upcoming Shows

  • December 20, 2014Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Heliun
  • December 20, 2014Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • December 20, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • December 20, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • December 20, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • December 20, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • December 20, 2014 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • December 23, 2014 9:00 pmSecret Pants Presents: Cuban Tinsel Crisis
  • December 24, 2014 8:00 pmComedy Masters
  • December 25, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • December 26, 2014 8:00 amNationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • December 26, 2014 7:00 pmThe Comedy Works
  • December 26, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • December 26, 2014 8:00 pmThe N Crowd
  • December 26, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • December 26, 2014 9:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • December 27, 2014Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • December 27, 2014Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Heliun
  • December 27, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • December 27, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • December 27, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • December 27, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • December 27, 2014 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • December 31, 2014 8:00 pmComedy Masters
  • January 1, 2015 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
AEC v1.0.4

Comedy Around the Web, Vol. 11

Remember how we told you that former Philly comic David Ray Agyekum was one of Comedy Central’s “Comics to Watch” for 2012? Well, now you can watch the show from the New York Comedy Festival online.

Bonnie McFarlane and Rich Voss have a new film with a new look on the tired old topic that “Women Aren’t Funny.”

Fred Armison and Carrie Brownstein have released a new book: Portlandia: A Guide for Visitors.

Seven years after his death, a feature-length movie about iconic Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, is in the works.

Anchorman Two might be a musical. That’s pretty awesome.

In honor of Movember, here’s some mustache motivation from Nick Offerman.

Cracked shares six insane (but convincing) theories about kid’s shows.

The WitOut Caption Contest – Win 2 Free Tickets to The N Crowd!

Once a month, the WitOut Caption Contest will give you the opportunity to win two free tickets to a local comedy show. This month’s prize tickets are generously being donated by The N Crowd.

To enter, submit a caption for the photo below in the comments section of this post, and check back on November 30th at Noon for a post revealing the winner. The author of the winning caption (as determined by the editors of WitOut.net) will receive two free tickets to an N Crowd show of their choice.

Photo courtesy of The N Crowd
Photographer: Katie Reing
Pictured: BJ Ellis, Mike Connor, Brendan Norton

The N Crowd is a short form improv comedy troupe that performs every Friday in Philadelphia. Founded in 2005, The N Crowd has performed over 400 times in the Philadelphia area… including appearances at the Philadelphia Improv Festival, Bethlehem First Night on New Years Eve, and the Philly Fringe Festival. Every week, The N Crowd produces around 80 minutes of completely unscripted comedy. Every show is different and and every show is filled with hilarity. Tickets are available at http://www.phillyncrowd.com/.

Is your theater interested in providing a photo and prize tickets for a WitOut Caption Contest? Email alison@witout.net to set up your sponsorship!

Interview with One-Man Sketch Group The Clay & Calhoun Sketch Comedierie

by Peter Rambo

If you didn’t know ahead of time, you wouldn’t guess that The Clay & Calhoun Sketch Comedierie’s first show was Monday night. Despite tech problems that plagued each of the night’s performances, Clay & Calhoun put on 15 minutes of tight, well-acted sketches and videos that featured faces familiar to anyone who follows comedy in Philadelphia. Perhaps that’s because the man behind the outfit, Vincent DiCostanzo, isn’t new to Philly comedy. He’s been part of the city’s sketch scene since 2003, and in addition to Clay & Calhoun, he’s one of the writers for Philadelphia Improv Theater’s house sketch team, The Flat Earth.

Vincent led the night with a sketch that tested the limits of an NPR presenter’s willingness to stay true to the source material during banned book week. Awkward moments continued through sketches that touched on dating, the news and birthdays, before the set wrapped with Secret Pants’ Paul Triggiani on stage to help with a new take on the bit made famous by Abbot and Costello, “Who’s on First?”

I spoke to Vincent after the show and then again on Tuesday.

Peter Rambo: How do you think the debut went?

Vincent DiCostanzo: I think, all in all, the show went well. There were some tech set-backs, but you have to accept that some things are out of your control. I jokingly told Hillary [Rea] downstairs that “my set is 90% awkward silence—so the crowd will be nice and warmed up for ya.” I didn’t realize how accurate I would be. One GOOD thing, though: There was an outro and a credit sequence set to play after “Huckleberry Finn,” then I added “Happy Birthday” at the last minute to pad for time and give myself time to change clothes. The tech skipped the credits and jumped right to “Happy Birthday,” so it’s a good thing I took my shirt off before my pants or the next sketch would have been very awkward, or—awkwarder.

PR: What kind of prior sketch experience do you have?

VD: I started doing sketch comedy back in 2003—or thereabouts—with a group called SKITSoid. It started as part of the Fringe Festival and there were only a handful of shows after that, and I didn’t start writing until late in the game. As SKITSoid wound down, I started writing and producing my own work as part of The Gentlemen’s Rotary Auxiliary.

PR: And how long have you been working on Clay & Calhoun?

VD: Clay & Calhoun started making its way into my brain just over a year ago. I had a stack of sketches left over after the Gent’s Rotary’s demise and ideas just kept populating in my brain. I kept going to shows and really missed making comedy. I jumped at the chance to write for a PHIT House Team, now known as The Flat Earth, to get my legs back under me. Unfortunately, halfway though the process, my hours at work changed and I couldn’t make as many meetings, rehearsals, etc. That panic and anxiety over the loss of control over my material—which I expected to an extent—lit the fire under my ass. I had challenged myself to start writing sketches that could be performed by one person, but ended up failing at that pretty quickly. I think the only two good ones I came up with were performed Monday night. I’ve always preferred performing with other people, plus, there are too many voices in my head for a one-man show. I applied for Philly SketchFest on the last day submissions were being accepted to sort of force my own hand.

PR: What are some of the benefits and/or pitfalls of running things by yourself?

VD: Well, I haven’t been doing everything myself. When I sat down to start to dive into the work for SketchFest, I invited a few friends over for B.S. sessions. Matthew Schmid, whom I met while working with The Flat Earth, has been at my side the whole time—acting as a sounding board, cheerleader and helping hand. Also, as corny and cliched as it is to say, the comedy community is very supportive. Anyone and everyone I approached for a hand was happy to offer.

PR: So, how many people did you end up working with on Monday’s show?

VD: In total, I was able to harness the talents of nine different people—10 if you include Miss Nikki Black whose sketch was cut at the last minute.

PR: Where did the name come from?

VD: Anyone who knows me knows that I am a history junkie. Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun were the two polar stalwarts of 19th century American politics. When he was leaving the Presidency, Andrew Jackson said he had “but one regret: not shooting Henry Clay and not hanging John Calhoun.”

PR: Is it hard splitting your time between two sketch entities?

VD: It hasn’t been hard yet. The Flat Earth is on a hiatus—which gave me time to work on Clay & Calhoun material. But rumors (and email threads back and forth) have it that The Flat Earth will be starting back up soon. I don’t expect it to be too difficult, because as any good parent knows: It’s easy to tell which of your children you want to raise on your own, and which you want to give away to be someone else’s responsibility. Disclaimer: I am not a parent.

PR: What are some of the difficulties of living in New Jersey and performing in Philadelphia?

VD: Honestly—the parking.

PR: Are you looking forward to any other Sketchfest events?

VD: Unfortunately, I have to work every night this week. So here’s what I’m looking forward to regretting that I missed. Specific Jawns: watching Chip Chantry’s transformation from stand-up to sketch comedian is like watching a butterfly turn into a butterfly. ManiPedi: Their No More Wire Wangers set blew my mind. What I’m really looking forward to is when I finally have Friday and Saturday nights off: grabbing a seat 15 minutes before the first act of the night and not leaving until after the last.

PR: Do you have any upcoming shows, or anything you’d like us to plug?

VD: Currently, nothing. But I’ll let you know ASAP.

You can watch Clay and Calhoun’s videos at vimeo.com/vdicostanzo.

Peter Rambo writes and performs with American Breakfast. (Catch them at the next Camp Woods Plus on Thursday, December 6th.) You can follow Peter’s quiet Twitter feed via @gunnarrambo.

Orny Adams at Helium Comedy Club

Description: American comic Orny Adams first rose to international prominence after co-starring in Jerry Seinfeld’s documentary “Comedian.” He has made several appearances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman. In 2010, Orny followed up his critically acclaimed debut comedy DVD/CD “Path Of Most Resistance,” with a powerful and poignant one hour special “Orny Adams Takes The Third” which aired on Comedy Central. And in 2011, Orny can be seen on MTV’s “Teen Wolf,” a one hour drama created by Criminal Mind’s Jeff Davis. Early in his career Orny was named in The Hollywood Reporter as a favorite comedian to watch. He has written jokes for Jay Leno, Garry Shandling, and many other top comedians. He has twice written for the Annual Emmys Broadcast and has become the “go to” guy when a celebrity needs a funny line. In July 2000, Orny made quite an impact at the Montreal Comedy Festival, which resulted in a development deal with Warner Brothers Studio, and his appearance on Letterman. In 2010, Orny was thrilled to return to the festival in Montreal working alongside one of his favorite comedians Steve Martin on a taped televised stand up show Martin hosted. Orny garnered rave reviews for his performance and was called a “Stand-out act” by The Hollywood Reporter.

Style: Stand-up

Date: January 2-5

Time: 8pm (Wed, Thur) 730pm, 10pm (Fri, Sat)

Admission: Tickets Available Online

Location: Helium Comedy Club, 2031 Sansom St. Philadelphia

Contact: Website

Ian Bagg at Helium Comedy Club

Description: Ian Bagg is the first name in this sentence, and chances are it will be the last. Ian started comedy in a small country off the coast of Japan called Canada. He proceeded to do all the show business things that every successful Canadian entertainer does. He went to a “Hockey Night in Canada” game on a Saturday night performed at the “Montreal Comedy Festival,” kissed a fish in New Foundland and did a “Comedy Now” special on CTV. So what does a Canadian do when he has done all? He boards a train to NYC, lives in youth hostel and ends up on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “The Late Late show with Craig Ferguson” and “Tonight Show with Jay leno.” It is not always fun and games. He was forced to do “Make Me Laugh,” “Showcase Comics with Louie Anderson,” “Fridays” on NBC and the “Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn.” Acting, although not his first love, has been fun. Bagg has acted in Tim Robbins’ “The Cradle will Rock,” “MVP 2,” and “MXP” and a cut out of the movie “Coyote Ugly.”

Style: Stand-up

Date: December 19-22

Time: 8pm (Wed, Thur) 730pm, 10pm (Fri, Sat)

Admission: Tickets Available Online

Location: Helium Comedy Club, 2031 Sansom St. Philadelphia

Contact: Website

Awkward Moments with Hilary Kissinger – “I Don’t Get the Reference”

“Awkward Moments” is a monthly column that asks comedians, “What do you do when…” In this installment we talk about references and improv.

Improvisers are often expected to keep a lot of stuff in their heads, all while being encouraged not to think. Some of this stuff has been put there by the process of learning improv, and “rules” that we’ve learned or had to unlearn. (Read a great piece about these so-called rules in Matt Holmes’ new column, “Discussing a Bit.”) The rest of this stuff is what all of us have in our heads all the time—the accumulated scraps of information, trivia, observations, etc. that comprise our knowledge of the world. And dipping our little improviser bucket into that well of references can lead to wonderfully specific and idiosyncratic choices in scenes, like making a movie that’s a literal blockbuster, or the development of the progressive metal concept album Operation: Mindcrime II. (Wikipedia -> Random Article is your friend.) But what do improvisers do when their reference well doesn’t match up with their scene partner’s?

Most improvisers will find themselves in this situation at some point. Your partner has just endowed you with a character trait, maybe even a name, and you hear titters from the crowd. Your Spidey sense is tingling (that’s from Spider-Man) and you realize that they’re in on a joke that’s left you in the dust. You realize it’s because your scene partner is making a reference, and the little editor inside your brain is screaming “Why didn’t you watch more Inside Edition?!” How does an improviser move forward when they feel left behind?

First off, it’s important to mention that it’s good to be informed. Everybody won’t understand everyone’s references all of the time (I think Lincoln said that  while he was slaying the undead), but improvisers should cultivate a hunger for information and insight that they can bring to the stage, and that includes participating in an intertextual world (I learned that in college). Here’s what Alex Newman, member of PHIT house team Davenger and known referencephile, has to say about arming oneself with knowledge:

“If you are an improviser, I think it’s super important to be a diligent consumer of pop culture, even if you feel like it’s killing you inside. Read everything, browse Wikipedia, and watch an episode of Real Housewives of New Jersey (one is definitely enough). Even a basic working knowledge of pop culture will arm you with enough references to survive. That being said, if you don’t get a reference: fake it. Play it real, agree, commit and even if you get it wrong you’ve just created something that’s true within the scene. If you think Hunger Games is a competitive eating tournament then in the world of your scene, that’s what it is. The worst thing you can do is ignore it or try to make it not important.”

I think Alex enters most scenes as if going into battle.

Most of the performers I talked to agree that sticking with and exploring what you’ve created is essential. Aaron Hertzog, of Hey Rube fame and soon-to-be-famous L.A. comedian, describes how having “your own deal” is an asset when dealing with reference:

“Hold on to whatever idea you came into the scene with. Lets say  you come into the scene as somebody who LOVES kitty cats, but your scene partner wants to make you Superman. They are dropping hints that you are Superman but you’re just not picking it up. Don’t worry about trying to find out the specific reference—just play the scene with your love of kitty cats! Eventually you (or maybe just the audience, but that’s ok) will get that you are Superman, and now, you’re a Superman that loves kitty cats—which has much more depth and comedic hook than just plain old Superman.”

Michael Tomasetti, of Mayor Karen and now of the great city of Los Angeles (really guys? L.A. is like Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Season 5 Big Bad Glory and Philadelphia is her brain-sucking victim…wait I have to go cry about Tara now), also uses strong character choices in response to an unknown:

“I usually get away with it by playing someone foreign. I like to use accents and whenever someone drops a Dr. Who, Star Trek, or sports reference I usually play someone not from this country or an alien.  Or if I can get away with it, I play something literally.  One time Alan Kaufmann and I were in a scene and he mentioned me playing Super Mario 3. I played the game once or twice, but knew enough to go along with the scene. At one point in the scene he said something like, “Get the frog suit and wear it.” I stood up and reached under my chair, and mimed putting on a full length frog suit. Everyone started laughing hysterically, and I just figured it was because it was so bizarre.  It was only after we got off stage that Alan was like, “the frog suit is what Mario wears in Super Mario 3.”

THIS JUST IN: MARIO IS A FRENCHMAN.

Greg Maughan, Executive Director at the Philly Improv Theater and all-around comedy fiend, has a couple alternatives when dealing with reference:

“I’ve handled this situation in two different ways. In the first, I play a character who would never get the reference and just breezes past it innocently. In the second, I address the problem head on, admit I don’t get it and make a lame joke at my own expense: ‘Wait, are we both talking about the same Young Jeezy? I was thinking of Teddy Roosevelt’s puppy.’”

Silly Greg. We all know TR’s dog was named Slick Pulla.

No matter what, remember that you know everything you need to know to have a successful scene. As long as we listen, play and communicate, reference doesn’t need to be scary. Kristen Schier, clown, comedian, and improv goddess who can be seen in The N Crowd and The Kristen & Amie/The Amie & Kristen Show, reminds improvisers to keep having fun:

“First off, I would keep doing what I have been doing trusting that [my scene partners] noticed something about what I was doing that made them go that direction in the first place. That having failed, within the context of the scene, I might try the following:

  • Let them know I have no idea what they are talking about
  • Have fun guessing what they might mean
  • Give them the title of an obscure person or pop culture reference myself

What I would NOT do is start to worry or change up my character… Its perfectly okay to show your ignorance or stupidity onstage.”

Referencing the obscure or the trendy can be immensely satisfying whether or not everyone on stage “gets it.” As an audience member, it’s really gratifying to watch performers who imbue their scenes with the specific—if you see a lot of improv, you see a lot of the same scenes over and over again. But when improvisers come together and gift each other with their idiosyncratic knowledge, unique things happen. Of course, reference initiators should do so in service of the scene, not for the sake of dropping some sweet Reddit-curated knowledge for their own fame and glory (save that for political debates around the Thanksgiving table!) And reference receivers should do their best to listen to what was offered and honestly join their scene partner in whatever they’re playing, rather than fight against it or judge themselves.

So tell us in the comments below: have you had an awkward moment of not getting the reference on stage? What do you do when something’s over your head? (Like the legendary HGTV series hosted by Eric Stromer???)

Hilary Kissinger is a writer and improviser splitting time between New York and Philadelphia. She performs with Philly Improv Theater house team Davenger and writes about movies for FilmMisery.com. Chat with her on Twitter @HilaryKissinger.

What Awkward Moment in comedy would you like to see Philly’s comedians tackle? Ask “what do you do when…” by emailing alison@witout.net.

Ewwwww Grossssss – Photos from the 2012 Dirtiest Sketch Contest

Photographer: Peter Rambo

Animosity Pierre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Feeko Brothers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

High Dramma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kids with Rickets

 

 

 

The Specific Jawns

 

 

 

 

 

 

Accelerate Into Oblivion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Rambo writes and performs with American Breakfast. (Catch them at the next Camp Woods Plus on Thursday, December 6th.) You can follow Peter’s quiet Twitter feed via @gunnarrambo.