by Chris Dolan
On a chilly Saturday night I made my way to the Conshohocken Café on Fayette Street to spend a few minutes talking with Sidney Gantt – Philadelphia comedian, founder and co-host of the Captain Action Comedy Show. Gantt was busy prepping the intimate room well before the 8pm showtime. Over the course of a ten-minute interview, he highlighted the uniqueness of the Captain Action format, shared some love for fellow Philly comics Mary Radzinski and Dave Terruso, and talked about a unique physical trait shared by multiple Philly stand-ups.
Chris Dolan: The name Captain Action Comedy Show kind of begs the question: are you “Captain Action”?
Sidney Gantt: Yeah, I am Captain Action … Captain Action is a comic book character that a few people say I remind them of. He’s a comic book character from the ’70s, and all he does is punch bad guys in the face and bang chicks. That’s his whole M.O. He’s more of a vigilante, like Batman, so he has no rules.
CD: So talk about the show’s format. Where it started, how it’s come along…
SG: What we do is bring up a stand-up comedian, they perform, and afterward we interview that comedian in a game show format, where they present two lies and a truth. The audience has to guess which of the multiple choice answers is correct…so [the audience ] gets to yell out, and they use lifelines, and it’s fun. And the reason for the format, honestly, is that as a stand-up one of my favorite things to do is crowd work. But crowd work unfortunately isn’t the craft of stand-up comedy, it’s just a tool. So this gives me an opportunity to do that. I usually start off my opening set by talking to the crowd…go up cold and talk to the crowd, then do four or five minutes of material. Then I bring up my co-host which is usually Dave Terruso, and then he does some time, and he gets to come back with me later on in the show and do some improv stuff with some of the interview questions. It gets pretty crazy, it’s a pretty wild show.
CD: It strikes me that the format you just described might be fun for comedians that don’t have a lot of experience doing crowd work…this would let them evolve toward it in a more structured sense.
SG: It definitely does ’cause it’s a very controlled environment for them to do crowd work…and it might not really even be considered crowd work, what they’re doing, usually I have them give me something personal, that people can’t tell just by looking at you. And when people are talking about their personal things they kind of just loosen up a little bit. Nobody has done badly in the interview portion yet.
CD: Has the show always been that way? Or did it start as like a straight-up show and kind of evolve?
SG: No, it started out as that sort of variety show right up front, the only thing that has changed is once Dave Terruso came on, about five or six months in, his skill set just gave me the opportunity to do so much more with the questions…like, sometimes we have him do a one-man play about what you just heard about.
CD: What’s an example of one of the questions, the “two lies and a truth”?
SG: A big one, with some of the comedians – you’d be surprised — is a lot of comedians have more than two nipples. So, tonight the guy who has more than two nipples, [Note: I didn’t ask who this was] his multiple choices are a) 4 nipples; b) 3 nipples; c) 0 nipples.
CD: How long have you been doing the show?
SG: A year and two months. This is the first time the show is going to be on a Saturday. Traditionally it had been the last Wednesday of every month. But we’ve been doing well, we’ve been filling the house, and [Conshohocken Café] is looking to serve dinner more consistently, and right now the only outlet for their dinner is this show.
CD: Any memorably great shows?
SG: Every show really has been better than the last, but if I had to say one stood out I’d have to say it was when Mary Radzinski was here…’cause that was the first time Dave Terruso, his value to the show, was absolutely obvious and I was glad that I had him come along. Mary gave her answers to her question, and each answer seemed like it was just a ridiculous fact that Mary wouldn’t want to reveal about herself. So what I had Dave do, is respond to that fact, as if it were the only fact in her online dating profile…so he had to, on the spot, come up with a response email about that fact and each one was brilliant. It was pretty amazing.
CD: And Dave comes from improv, sketch and stand-up?
SG: He does; and he just gives such a different flavor to the show ’cause even when he does his [stand-up] set…the vibe of performance that he gives off is just so different that it complements the entire show. You never know what’s gonna happen at the show. I don’t know if you get this but I love Dave Terruso.
CD: Anyone that you’re looking forward to having on the show that you haven’t had on yet?
SG: Anton Shuford…I think he was 2009 Philly’s Phunniest…originally I didn’t have him on right away because he’s my closest friend and I want to avoid the idea of just putting your friends on. But we’re gonna have him for the February show. He gave me the verbal okay in between arguing about whether or not the Sixers would be good this year.
CD: Any closing thoughts?
SG: I just hope people find this type of show intriguing enough to come out, and if they want to see not only comedians that they wouldn’t expect to see on a bill together, but comedians that have something to share that you would never think they had to share, [this is the show].
The next ‘Captain Action Comedy Show’ is Saturday, February 23rd at 8pm. And here’s a highlights reel from last week’s show: