I am truly disgusted. That doesn’t happen very often, but High Dramma has managed to do it. I’m watching a man, in his desperation to get laid, lick and suck on a young woman’s parasitic twin as it leaks a milky fluid onto his face and into his mouth. “It tastes like hot Miracle Whip!” he says in disgust. But this certainly isn’t the first liquid I’ve watched squirt onto the stage this evening. That’s right, I had the privilege of attending Philly Sketchfest’s “Dirtiest Sketch in Philadelphia” competition.
Let’s go back, though, about an hour. This audience is giddy. We know the show is starting in about five minutes, and we cannot wait. We have no idea what to expect. Tales of seeing real vomit and human testicles at past competitions are circulating the seats, and all we know is that every sketch tonight will try to top those stories. See, “Dirtiest Sketch” has become a staple of Philly Sketchfest over the last few years, developing a reputation for getting both grosser and funnier each time. Here we go.
House lights go down, stage lights go up, and we are welcomed to the show. We explode with applause. We’re ready. The first bit is to warm us up; make sure our gross/funny bones are in good shape. The hosts call two volunteers from the audience, who proceed to read a script transcribed from a pornographic film, line for line, including phonetic interpretations of every moan. It’s brilliant. The stilted dialogue can only be made more uncomfortable by the awkward readings from two audience members who had no idea what they were getting into. The laughter is already rolling.
Our first sketch comes from Accelerate Into Oblivion. Two groups of homeless people are feuding over a strip of land under I-95 that seems perfect for setting up camp, until one crustpunk goes into labor. The two groups are reminded of how valuable life is, and decide to share the land. The baby, of course, is dead, but the vagrants are already partying, so they (literally) toss it aside and become friends. Gross. Riotously funny. And this is only the beginning.
Next, pus shoots across the stage in Kids With Rickets’ sketch, as a doctor lances the boils caused by a man who has been wearing his zip-tie cock ring for a week straight. (“I got a little bit in my mouth!”) Merilyn Jackson reads us a medieval curse, loosely based on the Lord’s Prayer, about clergymen molesting children. (“Our Father, who art on top of me…”) Specific Jawns invites audience members to take part in a Rape/Murder Mystery Party. (The killer, we learn, is obsessed with young girls, genital mutilation, and the Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes.”) This night is going disgustingly well!
On comes High Dramma. An amorous young couple is ready to sleep together for the first time, when the woman reveals that she’s got a strange sexual preference. She takes off her robe to reveal her parasitic twin, googly-eyed and growing out of her hip. She insists that her date plays with it for her pleasure. Desperate for some action, he reluctantly starts kissing it, licking it, and sticking fingers inside of it. (“There’s teeth everywhere,” she says, “you’ll get used to it.”) And, as previously described, it squirts all over his face. Delightful! The applause, laughter, and appalled faces are all at their strongest yet!
The Feeko Brothers, reigning “Dirtiest Sketch” champs two years running, come out to close the set and do not dissapoint. We’re taken to the old West, where two men exchange murderous threats and prepare to fight. The sheriff pulls his hands out from his poncho to reveal two whole, defeathered ducks as fists. The other, ready to kill the sheriff, reveals that his fists are actually two giant catfish. The two men exchange dramatic dialogue while slapping themselves and each other with raw meat for a few minutes, until the sheriff emerges the victor. Tragically disturbing. Incredibly funny.
The lights go down, and the crowd goes nuts. These performers have done their job, eclipsing past performances and turning gross-out into an art form. We all vote for our favorites. As we wait for the tally, we’re treated to another audience-read adult script. Then, finally, High Dramma is announced as the winner! We all cheer and try not to throw up!
Afterwards, I interviewed a very excited High Dramma. The members present tonight are Jackie Wolfson, artistic director; D.C. Fisher, head writer; and the sketch’s two stars, Sarah Brown and Curt Riedy.
Pat Reber: First of all, how proud are all of you of yourselves?
All: Way too proud! Super proud!
D.C. Fisher: I just told Jackie that I am more proud than I was when I graduated college.
PR: Why were you interested in doing dirtiest sketch?
Jackie Wolfson: We did the dirtiest sketch last year, and we didn’t come in first, but we got a really good feel for how funny and how dirty it was. This year, since we’re doing the Sketchfest for the first time on Thursday at 8, we decided to enter again because we were already doing the festival. Why not do as much as we could?
Curt Riedy: We really try to go for broke as often as we can. For our full shows, we try to give a nice balance of filthiness and good, clever, PG comedy every once in a while, too. We never really get to go full, full nasty, and this is just a great opportunity to make that happen.
PR: That kind of answers my next question, but I’m going to ask it anyway. How much of a stretch was this for you, as far as writing and performing goes?
CR: I think we just kind of let ourselves be more unhinged than we [usually] do.
JW: This is definitely further, what we did. [D.C., Curt, and I] sat around and tried to come up with an idea, and then Curt and I mostly wrote it, and then Sarah graciously stepped in to act in it with Curt, and D.C. was there to lend a hand…We really, honestly, haven’t done as much dirty, dirty stuff in a long time, so we kind of had to go back to a few years ago and think of what we think is dirty. But still funny.
JW: That’s the line that we didn’t want to cross: going too far into dirty, and not being funny anymore.
CR: Sometimes, when you’re trying to go as filthy as possible, you try to just get the gross laughs instead of trying to mix a little bit of creativity in it.
DCF: You’re almost going for more of just a straight reaction when you go for the real gross stuff. As opposed to “Hahaha, that’s funny,” it’s “Haha, that’s funny and gross!” We always try to aim for, when we’re doing something like this, a really unique take on the grossness.
CR: An amalgamation, if you will.
JW: I do think that this year, though, the other groups did a really good job of finding that balance, too. The other ones were really funny.
CR: All around, it was a really solid evening. Everyone just brought a great level of both gross-out and creativity. The Feeko Brothers, I thought, killed it. I was dying the entire time that was happening.
JW: We want to win Miss Congeniality, too.
DCF: We were especially proud of ourselves for being able to beat them, the guys who had absolutely dominated the last two years with incredibly gross stuff. That is another level of our pride, that we managed to out-gross the Feeko Brothers, at least on this one night.
PR: What was the parasitic twin made out of?
JW: That prop was actually made by Matt Gussie, who is not in the group, but he’s very artistic. It is styrofoam, molding clay, googly eyes, and very milky vanilla pudding. And plastic, of course.
Passer-by: I don’t know what you’re talking about, but it sounds good!
High Dramma will be appearing at Philly Sketchfest on Thursday, November 15th at 8pm at Prince Music Theater (1412 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia). They will also be at the Walking Fish Theater (2509 Frankford Avenue, Philadelphia) from December 5th-8th.
Pat Reber performs sketch comedy with the Win Show, and also has his hands in a constantly shifting menagerie of other projects. He’ll be on twitter @patreberyeah and he think’s you’re nice.
In the interest of full disclosure surrounding my influence as a WitOut editor on the nominations and voting process for the 2013 Witout Awards for Philadelphia Comedy, and in response to pressure from one Mr. Donald J. Trump, I have decided to publicly release the contents of my nominations form:
BEST STAND-UP COMEDIAN Alison Zeidman
I’ve only been doing stand-up for about two months, but I thought about doing it for two years before that, so.
BEST SKETCH GROUP Alison Zeidman
I’ve never been part of a sketch group, but I can see myself potentially doing that one day, maybe, and this award might just be the encouragement I need.
BEST IMPROV GROUP Malone, starring Alison Zeidman Steve Rogers is Dead, starring Alison Zeidman The N Crowd, starring Alison Zeidman
BEST STAND-UP BIT “Toilet Seat Pregnancy” by Alison Zeidman
This totally bombed the third time I did it, but so what? I had a lot of really rough conditions working against me (humidity, grilled cheese craving, middle class upbringing).
BEST SKETCH “Peanut Butter and Jelly in Divorce Court” by Alison Zeidman
This is not a sketch that has ever been performed, or actually written, but it is an idea for a sketch I had once.
BEST MALE IMPROVISER Alison Zeidman
I’m not struggling with my sexuality, I just think my work transcends gender.
BEST FEMALE IMPROVISER Alison Zeidman
When you’ve been doing improv for as little time as I have, you have every reason to think you’re the best.
BEST REGULAR SHOW
I’d like to nominate every show/theater I’ve performed with in the last year, but I’m only allowed up to three (3), so I’ll have to combine them: The PhillyImpSideNTheaterShowRookiePolyCardGonRicRac
BEST SHORT-RUN OR ONE-TIME SHOW Myths & Monsters presented by Philly Improv Theater for the Philly Fringe Festival, starring Alison Zeidman
BEST PODCAST OR WEB SERIES
Does WitOut count as a web series? It’s on the web, and it has a series (se·ries [seer-eez] noun, plural se·ries 1. a group or a number of related or similar things, events, etc., arranged or occurring in temporal, spatial, or other order or succession; sequence) of posts.
SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT IN THE FIELD OF TWEETING Alison Zeidman (@alisonzeidman)
I tweet occasionally. It’s all gold. And when it’s not, I just delete it later, unless I forget to.
BEST OPEN MIC
Again, I would like to nominate all open mics I have appeared at in the last year, combined: LaughsonFairJamHeadHouseCenterCityAccidentsWillNoche
BEST NEW ACT Alison Zeidman as Alison Zeidman and/or in any joint involving Alison Zeidman
All jokes aside, may the best performers, writers, producers, etc. win! (But also all jokes aside aside, I plan to sweep the whole thing and I will close nominations early if it looks like that isn’t going to happen.)
Nominations are now open for the 2013 WitOut Awards for Philadelphia Comedy. Performers may nominate up to three choices in 13 different categories for the awards, which will be held on January 13, 2013 at World Cafe Live. Nominations will be open until November 30.
The 2013 WitOut Awards for Philadelphia Comedy will be held at World Cafe Live on Sunday, January 13th at 6pm, with an after-party in the venue immediately following the show.
This year, awards will be given in the following categories:
Best Stand-Up Comedian
Best Sketch Group
Best Improv Group
Best Stand-Up Bit
Best Male Improviser
Best Female Improviser
Best Regular Show
Best Short-Run or One-Time Show
Best Podcast or Web Series
Special Achievement in the Field of Tweeting
Best Open Mic (Stand-Up, Sketch Open Stage or Improv Jam)
Best New Act (Improv Group, Sketch Group or Stand-Up Comedian)
WitOut will be accepting nominations for these awards categories from November 12th-30th via an online nominations form. Nominations are open to all performers in the Philadelphia comedy community. Each performer may submit up to 3 nominations in each of the 13 awards categories.
One of the things that’s so fun about comedy is that feeling that anything can happen. Anything can be said; anything can be done. Surprise and uniqueness are your friends; the mundane is your enemy. Bradley Beck seems to be a man who understands this. The other night at Accidents Will Happen, I watched him co-host (with Sarah Morawczynski, the latest in what is apparently an ever-increasing lineup of co-hosts) what was essentially a stand-up showcase where, throughout the night, he became increasingly drunker, progressively lost layers of clothing until he was shirtless, and rattled off Polish jokes at Sarah’s expense while reading tweets from a Twitter fight he’d had on election night with numerous citizens of the states of Indiana and Kentucky.
And it’s not just Bradley’s hosting that drives this idea. The performers were just as unexpected a mix of stand-ups as one could imagine. We drifted from the storytelling of Brady Dale, to the character-based black metal comedy of Necrosexual, to the more traditional stand-up of the energetic Alex Grubard. The only thing tying the six performers’ styles together was their strong talent and a sense of originality.
Of course, the other side to comedy is structure. Don’t let me mislead you: Accidents Will Happen is certainly a well-structured show. Bradley Beck is more than competent as a host, regardless of where he is on the spectrum of intoxication. And the show, while at times chaotic, has a sense of cohesion. It takes place in the back room of the Adobe Cafe, a Southwestern-style restaurant & bar. With a small laminate wood-tiled stage (though the comedians all perform on the floor in front of it) facing a square room of tables and wire-framed, vinyl-coated chairs, you may feel like you’re watching comedy in a sort of Tex-Mex themed bingo hall. But with the dynamic stage presence of the comedians, clear and professional sound, and a generally supportive audience, you will feel lucky to be there.
After the show, I sat down with a slightly drunk Bradley Beck and started off by asking him what his show was all about:
Bradley Beck: It’s a show where we showcase some of my favorite young stand-ups and improvisers and storytellers and sketch groups from Philly. We also get performers from all over the Northeast. We also have a story that will play out over the course of the night—in between the acts—with me and a kind of a rotating team of co-hosts that usually involves me being the fool of some kind for the audience’s enjoyment.
Matt Aukamp: How long has the show been running?
BB: It’s been about nine months. This is our tenth one.
MA: How do you go about selecting all of your guests and features?
BB: Some of them are just people that I’ve been watching evolve over the stand-up scene and the storytelling scene for the last two years that I’ve been doing comedy. But some of the other acts come from [co-hosts] Alex J. Gross and Dan Vetrano. They know a lot of people from the improv and sketch scene so they’ll recommend a lot of people and I think, between the three of us, we’ve been able to get people in the room that have never worked with each other before—so many people from different genres of Philadelphia comedy come together on one stage. It’s very different from a lot of other shows.
MA: Is there an over-arching theme of the show?
BB: The over-arching theme of the show is alternative comedy. There’s been a backlash in the last couple of years, I’ve noticed, against alt. comedy. They say that stand-ups should be able to go into any room and these alt. comedy rooms kind of coddle performers, but I put this show up in defiance of that. Like, I wanted these different performers to come together under the banner that we’re doing something that’s different. We’re taking risks. And I want people to get together and it doesn’t matter what genre you are, as long as you’re doing something different, something new, something that’s going to excite the crowd—that’s the people that I want.
MA: What sets Accidents Will Happen apart from other shows in the city?
BB: I think that it’s a mixed show. I think what sets it apart is that I’m trying to foster connections between the performers, where some of the people that do the show, or even performers that have been on the show before, who maybe aren’t performing tonight and are just here, will see some of these different performers – people that they’ve never met before but live in the same city – and say, “I want to work with this person.” That’s how it started with Alex J. Gross. I’d never met him before, and I had him on the show, and I absolutely thought he was fantastic and then decided to bring him on as a full-time co-host. If it wasn’t for the show, I wouldn’t have really gotten to know him.
MA: The second half of the show is an open mic. Do you ever look at that as a place to cultivate talent for your showcase?
BB: Yeah, there’s definitely been a few performers that I’ve booked specifically because I’ve seen them on the open mic. But also I just really enjoy watching some of the younger guys and girls in their early 20s perform at the open mic. Some of the comedians that are performing tonight have been performing for just a few months and watching them every two weeks here, I’ve seen them grow as comics. And once I feel confident that they can do at least six minutes of their best material then I’ll have them on the main show in front of a bigger crowd.
MA: What are some of the stand-out moments of the show?
BB: The first time I had Necro[sexual] on. He brought up someone to do a Black Metal makeover. The first time I had Lisa Yost on. I’d been watching her perform for two years and I felt like she just put so much emotion into her performance she really threw the crowd for a loop. There’s just been so many. I’ve seen so many performers in Philly put forth a great performance in front of our crowd. These are people that I really love and…I don’t get to go out much. I’ve got two kids at home, and this is the show I would want to see. If I saw these six performers tonight on a bill, I’d say “This would be a great bill.” And this way I get to host. It’s like watching a comedy show for free.
MA: Any particularly bad moments?
BB: There was this one show I remember where I got really drunk and was shirtless by the end of the show—it was just like ten minutes ago.
MA: What, ultimately, would you like the show to become?
BB: I like the concept of having a story play out in between the acts. We’ve been doing that for a while. We had one story where we had a Battle of the Sexes. We’ve had an episode where I was fired and tried to get my job back. Tonight, obviously, we were talking about my Twitter wars and I was getting progressively drunker on stage. I want to give people something in between. I want it to be almost like a behind-the-scenes look at the drama that goes on at comedy shows but brings it to the front.
MA: Anything else you want to talk about?
BB: I just hope people come out. There’s a lot of really talented performers in Philadelphia. And I guess I look at this show, ultimately, since it’s free, as a way for people that are interested in comedy to sample what is available in Philadelphia. Since I am putting up every different genre of comedy, this is a way for you to come and say, “Oh, this is pretty interesting. Maybe I want to go to some other shows and pay for them. Maybe I want to see these performers at other shows.” And it’s a way for the performers, since it is a free show and no one’s making any money off this, it’s a way to put themselves out to people who maybe haven’t seen them before. I started the show in South Philly to see if a show could work in an area that was a little off the beaten track. I wanted to bring the show to the young, hip people that live in that neighborhood, and make it a pain in the ass for performers to come down. I wanted them to want to do this show. Since there’s no money on either side, I feel it’s a way for people that have never seen an indie comedy show to discover the alt. comedy scene in Philly. For the performers it’s a place to try new things in front of a really respectful audience. I love when people take a risk on my stage. We try to book a mix of newer acts that are excited just to get booked, and will bring their friends, and more seasoned performers who can use it as kind of an extended open mic to prep for their weekend gigs.
Accidents Will Happen occurs on the 1st Wednesday of every month at 9pm with an open mic at 11pm. South Philly Comedy Jawn, the open-mic-only spinoff of the show (open to any comedic act, with an emphasis on stand-up and storytelling), occurs on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at 10pm. Both shows are held at at the Adobe Cafe (1919 E. Passyunk Avenue). Admission is free!
Matt Aukamp is a writer, performer, and occasional improviser (The Win Show). You can usually find him bothering the world on Twitter at @mattaukamp.
The end of the year is a time for remembering. It is a time to think back on the past months and reflect on both the good and the bad times. The good times are to be cherished, and hopefully, the bad times can be learned from. On the internet this means it is a time for lists!
As you think back on what moments, shows, comedians, and bits stood out to you in 2012 in preparation to make your nominations for the 2013 WitOut Awards for Philadelphia Comedy (which open this Monday, November 12) take a moment to consider writing a Top Five of 2012 list. Your list can be about anything related to Philadelphia comedy (moments, comedians, groups, shows, quotes, #friendship moments, etc.) and will help us round up the past year in Philadelphia comedy. You can click here to check out some Top Five of 2011 lists for inspiration.
Top Five of 2012 lists will run throughout December, and are open to everyone both performer and comedy fan! So think about what you’d like to write about and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to pitch us your idea. We (and the entire, memory-loving Philadelphia comedy community) thank you.
Description: Join the best of Philadelphia’s stand-up comedians and improv teams in a celebration of Philadelphia Comedy Month, as well as the kickoff fundraiser for comedian Alejandro Morales’ original film project. Featuring T.J. Hurley, Julia Scotti, Sidney Gantt, Ben Fidler, house improv team Bed Savage, and improv duo Sad Trombone (Ralph Andracchio and Steve Kleinedler)
It may look effortless, but keeping WitOut running takes hours of focus, concentration, and sitting. Our editors and writers put their cold little hearts and dark, empty, unfeeling souls into everything they do for the site, in the hopes that readers like you will laugh at, learn from, and/or passive aggressively comment on their work. The rewards are few and far between, but the false sense of importance that comes with being part of the WitOut team is certainly worth it!
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the making of one our most popular new features, “Tweets of the Week,” curated by editor Aaron Hertzog:
Featuring Aaron Hertzog
Professionally Filmed by Alison Zeidman
Musical Score by Greg Maughan
And wait a minute, don’t you wish that could be YOU? Wait…yeah…hey wait, yeah, you do! Email email@example.com to pitch your own WitOut feature or column, or to start receiving weekly emails of assignment opportunities.
Description: Come join Collaborate Philly for a night of some good old-fashioned movie heckling! It’s sure to be a hilarious time as three local Philly comedians take to task the classic film, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians! Old St. Nick gets kidnapped and brought to Mars. Can Santa survive the Red Planet? Let’s see what some very funny people have to say about this solid premise! The Comedians: Kait and Andrew. Alex Grubard. Rick Mirarchi.
Style: Movie Heckling
Date: Thursday, November 15
Time: 7:30 pm. The movie is about 80 mins.
Admission: $5 at the door.
Location: The Pearl Theatre. 1600 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19121. Across from Temple University’s main campus.