Two of the smileyest dudes in the Philly comedy scene—T.j. Hurley and Alejandro Morales—have joined forces to produce East Coast Power Nap, which will explode all the fuck over The Trocadero this Wednesday, January 30th. Here they are chattin’ ’bout how kickass it’s gonna be and encouraging you to drink a bunch when you go:
WitOut: I like you guys. And I like that you’ve teamed up. What made you decide to put on a show together?
T.j. Hurley: I wanted to do something with Alejandro mostly because he’s funny and he’s motivated. He and I are very different on stage, so I hope we can make an interesting duo: me as the uptight curmudgeon and him as the fun-loving rube.
Alejandro Morales: Gregg Gethard recommended T.J. to me as a guest on the monthly stand-up showcase I used to produce, and he was a big hit, so much so that I brought him back a few months later. Then, this past fall, I was sort of pitching a stand-up show around to a few venues, and T.J. approached me at Laughs on Fairmount one night about working together. It was great timing, and so far we’re working very well together. He definitely brings a clear vision to the whole enterprise, which is great because it frees me up to be a fun-loving rube.
WO: I also dig the name—though I have no idea why. “East Coast Power Nap”? What is that? Where did it come from?
TJH: The name is just nonsense. I thought it sounded catchy and exciting, but it’s just a string of words. I’m glad you like it.
AM: T.j. had this whole elaborate story about the name being based on some kind of skateboarding move, and now that he says it’s “just a string of words,” I feel kind of betrayed.
WO: How were you guys able to hook up with the Trocadero? That’s a pretty snazzy venue.
TJH: The people at the Troc have been really nice and easy to work with. A buddy of mine was a bouncer there and put me in touch with the booker. I was stoked and surprised at how easy the whole thing was. I’m really excited about the venue. The Troc is beautiful and strange and full of good memories for me.
AM: I’m not sure you can believe anything T.j. says now. IF THAT’S EVEN YOUR REAL NAME, “T.j.”
WO: The line-up for this first show (Doogie Horner, Carolyn Busa, The Necrosexual, Sidney Gantt, Joe Bell, Dan King, Lou Misiano) looks pretty fantastic. How did you go about putting it together? Do you see some sort of common element between the comedians on the show, or were these just a bunch of acts you both like individually?
TJH: I know, right? The line-up is so good. We have some things planned to make the show different and special, but it will rule just based on the comics alone. We wanted to make sure the show wasn’t a monoculture, point of view-wise and stylistically. Every comic on the show has a very different point of view and comedy style and I hope that will make for a compelling experience. Our main goal in doing this thing is to put on a funny, well-put together show.
AM: We both made nominations and then whittled it down. He and I go to a lot of local open mics, and I feel like the talent lately has just gotten really outstanding. These past couple years the stand-up scene has been growing and expanding and improving by leaps and bounds. I think together we captured a great cross-section of what makes the scene so great.
WO: This show is being billed as “ONE NIGHT ONLY.” Why??? And any chance that might change?
TJH: We want East Coast Power Nap to be the last Wednesday of every other month. If this one goes well, if we make enough money to cover our costs (and hopefully pay the comics), and if the Troc thinks it’s worth their time, we’ll totally do more. If you come to the show and like it, buy lots of beer. That’ll sweeten our chances of doing it regularly.
AM: In the sense that there’s only one show featuring this specific grouping of comics on this particular stage, it is a one-night-only engagement! But if it does go well, and the folks at the Troc are happy, we absolutely want to move forward and make East Coast Power Nap a regular thing.
…I feel like I should end on something funny. Alison, could you be a lamb and put something funny here and attribute it to me?
And then Alejandro said something else that was just HILARIOUS! The hilarity doesn’t really translate in print, though. Here’s a promo video for the show to make up for it (featuring the videography talents of Jimmy Viola and the voiceover talents of ManiPedi’s Madonna Refugia):
Go check out ‘East Coast Power Nap’ on Wednesday, January 30th at the Trocadero (1003 Arch Street) at 8pm. Tickets are $5.
Description: Help comedian Mike Rainey celebrate the release of his book Terrible Advice and see comedy from Sean Clay, Joe Mayo, James Hesky, Tim Butterly, Tommy Pope, and more! Mike will be selling and signing copies of his book for $10 as well. A portion of all sales will be donated to St. Jude’s Pediatric Cancer Research Center. Free beer will also be provided.
On Thursday, Philly Improv Theater announced some staffing additions: Ralph Andracchio will be heading up a new artistic direction team, along with Jessica Ross (Variety Director), Emily Davis (Improv Director), Kristen Schier (Seasonal Director) and Brian Kelly (Sketch Director). Here’s what Ralph had to say about his new role, and his plans for the theater.
WitOut: You’re the new Artistic Director for PHIT! What exactly does that entail?
Ralph Andracchio: The Artistic Director’s job is to oversee the quality of the shows the theater is putting on, to ensure the theater is following its mission, and to connect with other performers and theaters to make us a bigger part of the performing arts community as a whole. My job is basically to make sure PHIT is turning out high quality shows that make us the number one spot for alternative comedy in Philadelphia.
WO: What are some of the plans you have for the theater?
RA: Hoo boy, what plans DON’T we have? The theater has grown so much since we started back in 2005, and we now reach thousands of people each year; whether it be through attending a show, taking a class, participating in a corporate workshop, or performing on our stage. We have the opportunity to reach even more people now, so the Artistic Team is focused on streamlining our schedule and putting together a coherent, quality lineup of talent that will bring in even more people to experience what we have to offer. And we have so much talent to work with now, it makes our job that much easier (or tougher, depending on how you look at it).
WO: As evidenced by some photos of a roundtable meeting/pizza party, it looks like the artistic team has already gotten to work. What changes and new ideas have you guys talked about so far? Are there any projects the producers have proposed that you’re particularly excited about?
RA: Let me begin by saying this team is awesome. Jessica Ross (our Variety Director), Emily Davis (our Improv Director), Kristen Schier (our Seasonal Director) and Brian Kelly (our Sketch Director) are all talented performers who bring so much experience to the table. Our first meeting was really successful, and everyone brought some really great ideas. Our immediate goal is to look at what shows, schedules, and processes we have in place now and see how we can make it all work better and make more sense. As our 2013 runs begin, both the performers and the audiences will see many gradual changes that over time will add up to a better experience for all.
This new video, featured on Slacktory, was written and directed by Aaron Nevins and features appearances by: Elise Thompson-Hohl, Alejandro Morales, Dan Vetrano, Mikey Garcia, Robert X, Joe Bell, Sidney Gantt, Clay Hereth, and Chris O’Connor.
If you are a Philadelphia comedy performer that produces a podcast, web series, sketch video, humor column, or any other online content let us know by emailing us at email@example.com so we can share it!
And you know what that means—they’re entering the “terrible twos”! Actually, my mom always said age 3 was the roughest. So watch out next year, when this gang is toddler-aged. If the developmental patterns of early-stage humans are any indication of behavioral phases for improv groups, it’s gonna be tantrum city!
Anyhoo, in honor of their two-year anniversary, the members of Iron Lung have taken a moment to feel some feelings about one another:
Corin Wells on Kevin Pettit:
“Everyone who has had the opportunity to both befriend and improvise with Kevin can notice parallels in who he is on stage and who he is off stage. On stage, he supports his scene partners whole heartedly. He listens intently. He’s patient. And he’s a goof. But you can go to any of his shows to see what a great comedian he is (Hot Dish and Davenger at PHIT, Feb. 2nd at 8:30PM). I’m going to talk about Off-Stage Kevin. All of those on stage attributes come from who he is in real life: a supportive, caring, loveably huggable, hilarious teddy bear. He’s been Iron Lung’s keystone, making sure that we not only practice, but that we hang out and have fun together. He’s always the first to suggest we get a drink after practice or Bar-B-Q at someone’s house. He’s the first to volunteer to help you move, even if it’s for the 7th time, or suggest making turkey burgers for a Game of Thrones viewing night. He’s the first to offer a bottle of wine and a listening ear when some guy is being a douche. Kevin is a big part of the reason that I joined Iron Lung and being Jersey-ites, I think we both pushed each other to make the smart move to Philly. I am super lucky and blessed to have had Kevin on my first-ever improv team not only because he’s a fantastic improviser but because he’s an even better friend. I owe him so much. Watching him grow from amazing to phenomenal in these two years by getting cast on Witout Award-winning Best New Act Davenger and going back to school is so rewarding and inspiring. I wrote a Tanka/Acronym poem to better express all that I feel for him:
Kevin Petitt, oh
Even still I smell your brown,
Vinegar stained pants
In that small black box theater
N’er will I ever forget“
Kevin Pettit on Jess Carpenter:
“Jess Carpenter might be the nicest person I know. Literally. He is probably one of the most honest people I’ve met as well. The thing I love most about Jess is that he is always learning something, always trying to make himself better and trying new things. I’m so glad we got to spend the last two years cracking each other up!”
Jess Carpenter on Dennis Trafny:
“Dennis is one of the first people I met in improv class. He is very physical and can make anything creepy, ANYTHING. I am in awe sometimes when I see what he comes up with from the offer. He can take the most mundane scene and make it a roller coaster ride that everyone in the room can enjoy. The audience is always in on the joke when he is on stage and his playful characters are easy to like. Even the psychopaths…which are numerous.
My favorite thing he does is refers to his characters’ hair—and never a lack of it. [Editor's note: Dennis lacks hair.] I don’t think he’s ever actually played a bald character, but on the other hand, some of his female characters have had beards.
I am lucky to have shared the stage with him the many times that I have. Did I mention how creepy his characters can be? And funny fact: He loves to dance, but it’s in a kind of an interpretive style!”
Dennis Trafny on Maureen Costello:
“M is for her alter-egos, Marlene and the Million Dollar Man
A is for aficionado, of the donut variety
U is for umlaut; she has an amazing German accent (and a lot of others as well)
R is for ratty; in most of her solo photo sessions she morphs into disgusting characters
E is for eccentric; you know she’s about to say something weird when she starts laughing to herself and then you can’t understand her for the next 2 minutes while she laugh-speaks her idea.
E is for ebony; she is very pale.
N is for number 1! She is a great improviser, friend, blogger, tweeter, lady, American, human, stalker, photographer, vegetarian, Jack Russel owner.”
Maureen Costello on Tara Demmy:
“Tara Demmy and I first bonded over our mutual love of cheese fries and I like to think that we haven’t looked back since. Over the last two years I can fully state that I’ve learned a lot from her as an improvisor and not just a lover of cheese and potatoes. Tara is definitely a pirate. She is fearless on stage and will commit to the most ridiculous of scenarios. Whereas if I was playing a dinosaur with daddy issues, I would probably say “Maybe I won’t dye my head scales pink and pierce my dino navel,” but not Tara—Tara would go all the way. Tara would go out with her dino friends and steal cigarettes from an improvised 7-11, then give you the finger when you’re trying to use the crosswalk like a normal dinosaur just trying to get to work on time. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that Tara can commit to what she starts and when she does it, she’s like an improv tornado, both majestic and beautiful but with the intense power to turn scenes upside down (in a good way, not a natural disaster way, maybe I shouldn’t have compared her to a natural disaster). Tara is a lot like the Lincoln assasin—OK, I’m done. Tara is spectacular. I’ve learned so much from her and am glad to not only call her a teammate but a friend. I don’t know what I’d do with out her. Tara, never leave me!”
Tara Demmy on Carly Maurer:
“Carly is the master of commitment. That girl knows what she wants in a scene and she gets it. She is a super intelligent and cognitive player, but does not let that get in the way of her yesAND-ing her fellow Iron Lungers’ outlandish initiations. Carly’s facial expressions (whether it be a tired kitten or a disappointed yoga teacher or a young teen boy picked last for basketball) are the best, especially when they are accompanied by a long pause—genius. Watch out Harold Pinter!”
Carly Maurer on Simon Burger:
“Simon is all about commitment. When he steps out with a character or physicality you have to jump on board because you know he’s going to stick with it. He has a way of really engaging his scene partner which helps bring the scene to life. Simon also brings his own brand of wit and intelligence to the group which keeps us all on our toes.”
Simon Burger on Corin Wells:
“I took my first improv class with Corin, and she has improved more than anyone else in that class, by far. Corin is a fountain of hilarious experience and a powerhouse on the stage, and I would put her on my improv super band.”
Is there such a thing as a sophomore slump for improv teams? We may never know, because clearly these guys love each other and have their ish together, and I’m sure we can look forward to spectacular scenes from this group for years to come! Decades, even. They could be the Rolling Stones of improv groups! Only with less drug use. Or maybe more! Time will tell!
See Iron Lung this Friday at ‘Sideshow Presents: Iron Lung’s 2-Year Anniversary Show/PARTY’ (featuring a special announcement—hopefully it’s not that they’re breaking up, or I’ll have to take back everything I just wrote about their potential to be an immortal supergroup!). Show is 8pm at the Arts Parlor (1170 S. Broad Street). Admission is $5.
Are you producing a comedy show in Philadelphia? Bedtime Stories creator Gregg Gethard has some ideas he’d like to try to make Philly comedy more attractive to new audiences, and he’d like to see the rest of us trying ‘em out, too. Read below, and feel free to add your own opinions and suggestions in the comments.
by Gregg Gethard
The Holiday Inn in East Somerville, MA is located in the absolute ass end of greater Boston. Do you know where the car rental return places are down near the airport? That’s essentially where this Holiday Inn is located.
However, this past weekend, it was the home of a joint comedy show between The Union Square Roundtable and The Chris Gethard Show. Over 80 intrepid comedy nerds made the trip to a part of the area that is a vortex of nothing. And while both the USRT (which is to Boston comedy what Bedtime Stories and The Theme Show are to Philly) and The Chris Gethard Show have their followings, the main selling point for the show was the swimming pool.
The USRT folks rented out the hotel’s pool area, which also has wall-climbing, ping-pong, foosball and a basketball hoop. It also had space for a video projector and for a band to play. It was a comedy show in one of the most bizarre venues imaginable.
It also taught me a valuable lesson: We need to do a ton better in marketing our product to the Philadelphia audience. And one of the ways to do so is in our choice of venues.
We often complain in Philly comedy about our audiences, which are in most cases other performers and family and friends. We’ve complained at length about a lack of media attention (although that has gotten a LOT better) but we really need to do a lot on ourselves to market our shows beyond “Facebook invites/e-mails/press releases.”
Here are some thoughts. I plan on doing a lot of these with Bedtime Stories but feel free to steal them (or give me ideas to steal) because it’s for the greater good: