Rory Scovel plays a supporting character on the TBS sitcom Ground Floor, and has a new standup comedy album called Rory Scovel Live at Third Man Records. He’ll be performing this weekend at Helium.
WitOut: On Ground Floor, you play a character named Harvard, who, I think, is the most interesting part of the show. How would you describe Harvard for someone whose never seen the show?
Rory Scovel: Thank you. I appreciate that. I am very lucky with this character. He is definitely the weirdo of the show, a role I’ve been preparing for most of my life. I’m not sure how to describe him really because I’m not a professional actor. I sort of just pretended I knew what I was doing at the audition and for some reason they liked that about me. That’s kind of who he is, Harvard. He just goes through life pretending he knows what he’s doing and being an office weirdo. I love him. Yes, I said I’m in love with my own character that I play. Further proof I’m so ready to be this guy on camera.
WitOut: What’s the experience been like in general? Is it intimidating being on the set with John C. McGinley?
Scovel: It’s been great. I’ve really loved it and I’m excited to get back for a second season, fingers crossed. It’s a great group to work with so I want to go back and have some more fun and see what we come up with. McGinley is a champion. Not only of the show and of the craft, but of people. He has an intimidating quality because I think he wants everyone working as hard as he is. He makes me a better actor, so it’s great to be around him. He is a pro.
WitOut: How’d you get involved with The Life and Times of Tim?
Scovel: A buddy of mine, BJ Porter, wrote on the show and recommended me to come in for it. We were working on a pitch for a show and it just worked out to go in and become one of the characters. I wish it was still possible to go in and do that show.
WitOut: What are some of the responses you’ve gotten to your album Dilation?
Scovel: Pretty good I think. I try not to read reviews too much but with that being my first album, it was hard to avoid. I think overall people enjoyed it and anyone that reviewed it seemed to like it. I know there are some people that didn’t like it and I hope those people die an awful death. Not soon or anything, I’m not a monster, but when it does come time for them to die, I hope it’s awful.
WitOut: Your new album is available on vinyl only. What influenced that decision?
Scovel: I recorded it on Jack White’s label Third Man Records, it’s called Rory Scovel Live at Third Man Records. They primarily release stuff in vinyl format and I thought it would be cool to just release it as that. I’m sure it’s out there in digital form somewhere ILLEGALLY. We decided to do it as just vinyl since some of the material is going to show up in my upcoming special that I’m shooting in Charleston, SC on 2/21 and 2/22. Didn’t want to have the same material over and over in different formats.
WitOut: Have you been watching the Olympics so far? What’s your favorite event?
Scovel: I have not watched any of it. I’m not sure that I will. Maybe the hockey. I don’t know, I really haven’t thought about it. The pressure, it gets to me.
For tickets, visit www.HeliumComedy.com. After the late show Saturday, check out The Dirty Dozen at midnight. Twelve of Philadelphia’s most NSFW comics will regale you with stories too inappropriate to discuss on the internet!
We caught up with Philadelphia native Big Jay Oakerson before his show at Helium. Here, Big Jay explains how his crude, yet conversational, style was crafted by comedy heavyweights Patrice O’Neal and Dave Attell and how he became a fearless comedian.
Big Jay Oakerson
WitOut: What do you enjoy most about coming back to Philly?
Big Jay Oakerson: I come back once a year to do this club and maybe a few times a year to see family. My favorite thing every time is–I think I’m supposed to say the club–but it’s the goddamn food. I miss the food here. Even in New York, which has a wider array of cultural food, like, fuck that, I’ll eat cheesesteaks twice a day while I’m here.
WiOut:How long have you been doing stand up?
Big Jay Oakerson: 15 years. I started at the Laff House, that shut down recently, but me, Kevin Hart, and Kurt Metzger all started there together.
WitOut:What’s your favorite part about doing this job?
Big Jay Oakerson: The live performance. Going out there and interacting with the crowd. I like to talk to the crowd a lot. Mixing it up with them and trying not to do jokes for as long as possible.
WitOut: You talk to the crowd a lot.
Big Jay Oakerson: Yeah, as much as possible.
WitOut: When you’re writing, what’s your process?
Big Jay Oakerson: I don’t write. Sit and write on paper? I never do that. There’s a big chance that I’ll go out and have a bunch of things that I’ll just say just tonight, but there’s also a chance that, if I say something for the first time, off the cuff, that will take me on a tangent. That’s how I write. Kurt Metzger will call and bounce jokes off me and ask me for a punch, but I found that when I sat down when I was younger, I would sit and write simplistic jokes that a thousand other comics make. I think I’m very original in my genuine take on shit, so I’d rather just talk to them. I’m just not afraid of them not laughing.
Anyone who starts doing comedy who has any arrogance to them, the first time you say something to a crowd, that in your mind was guaranteed to be funny and they’re going to laugh, and they stare at you, there’s just no way to simulate that emotion. The thing I worked on the most in comedy was to be unafraid of that. I’m not afraid of the room being completely silent. Patrice O’Neal gave me the advice that you don’t go up there and say anything you can’t defend genuinely. You should defend your right to be funny and that comes with having no fear of the audience.
WitOut:You mentioned Patrice O’Neal, who else did you look up to when you started doing comedy?
Big Jay Oakerson: In Philadelphia, there was a guy name Turae, who ran the open mic at the Laff House. He was a big influence because of how smooth he was and his style and how comfortable he was. And Keith Robinson took me, and Kev [Kevin Hart], and Kurt [Metzger] out of Philly and to New York and got us acclimated up there. From there, Patrice took me under his wing and we became friends. I found my real mesh, in terms of opening for somebody for years, was Dave Atell. I went all over the country opening for him. I think those two guys are the two best at their type of comedy.
WitOut: I was actually warned that your act was kind of dirty.
Big Jay Oakerson: Kind of? That’s bad advertising. I’m trying to desensitize you and make you hear the message that I’m saying.
WitOut: What’s the biggest difference between the New York comedy scene and the Philadelphia comedy scene?
Big Jay Oakerson: Frequency. New York has between 8-12 pro clubs running 7 days a week. Dozens of rooms, comedy shows, open mics, one nighters, every night from 5pm to 3am. Philly, you can probably, if you hustle, get up twice a week. Because there are a decent amount of comics and we’re down to one club. If you’re going to get better at comedy, it’s repetition. Repetition will make you stronger at it. It’s part of not being afraid.
You can catch Big Jay Oakerson tonight at Helium Comedy Club (7:30p.m. and 10:00p.m.) with Mary Radzinski and Aaron Berg.
WitOut: Can you tell us a little bit about your early days in the Philadelphia comedy scene?
Spank: My early days were a little rough; I wasn’t taking comedy very seriously. I was just told I was a funny guy, so I would just go on stage and play around. After the first year, I got a phone call to do comic-view. From then on, I took comedy seriously. I started to dress a little better and market my own brand.
WitOut: Is that when you really fell in love with comedy?
Spank: I fell in love with comedy after my fourth or fifth year. After the sixth year, I got a call from Kevin Hart. He told me he had been watching my shows and wanted me to go on tour with him. After that I got really serious and went dead-hard. That was in 2007. I started in 2001.
WitOut: What do you consider to be some of the biggest achievements in your career thus far?
Spank: A standing ovation as an opener for Kevin Hart.,Iit was one of those shows where everyone was paying $40-$50 to see Kevin Hart and for me to come out and do my 15-20 minutes and receive a standing ovation, I thought, “I could definitely do this.” Kevin helped me get to where I am at. I used to be known locally, but now I am known world-wide.
WitOut: If you could perform comedy anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Spank: It is going to sound real cliché-ish, but I am going say my hometown, Philadelphia.
WitOut: I had a feeling you might say that…
Spank: I am so Philly, man. A lot of people say stuff about their hometown like, “Ahh no, you gotta get outta here,” but I have been here all my life and I am still flourishing.
WitOut: You were recently in the movie, Ride Along. How was your experience working with Ice Cube and Kevin Hart?
Spank: It was fun. Even though I worked with Kevin on the road it was completely different on set. And Ice Cube kept telling me I was doing really well. He made me feel as if I were a veteran. It was great; I had my own little trailer. I was the only actor with four lines that had his own trailer and I think that was because the producer and everyone thought of me as one of the boys.
WitOut: What was different about working with Kevin Hart on set as opposed to working with him on the road?
Spank: On the road there was more “silly, silly, hey-hey, buddy-buddy.” The movie was serious [work]. He wanted to be in character. I was in my trailer before my lines, he was in his. On the road, we just wile out!
WitOut: Who are some of your comedy heroes?
Spank: Eddie Murphy, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Martin, Bernie Mac. I am a fan of all the greats and all of those that do open-mic. My number one would have to be Eddie Murphy.
***Spank married his long-time sweetheart in 2012 and still is a resident of the Greater Philadelphia Area. You can find him up in the township, arguing with his neighbors over parking spots “township style.”
The calm before the storm. The storm being when Gould runs around the stage attacking like a chimp.
Dana Gould has written for The Simpsons and Parks and Recreation. He currently acts in the TNT series Mob City. Gould will be performing at Helium for four shows from Wednesday through Saturday. We caught up with him to talk about writing for television and his career in comedy.
WitOut: What was it like working for Parks and Recreation? Can you tell us about a memorable contribution you made to the show?
Dana Gould: I wrote during Season 2 in the awkward years when it was taking a while for the show to gel. I coined the name “Duke Silver” for Ron Swanson’s saxophone playing alter ego and created his album name “Memories of Now.” It’s funny because Largo, a place where I perform stand up in L.A., has a framed copy of that album that they had made up and put on the wall.
WitOut: What was one of your favorite creative contributions to The Simpsons?
Gould: I wrote an episode from Season 16 called “Goo Goo Gai Pan” where Homer and Marge go to China and adopt a daughter for Marge’s sister which was based on my own experience of adopting my two daughters.
WitOut: Do you have any advice for comedians that want to write for TV?
Gould: My advice is to just do it. Don’t take a class or anything, just do it. A writer who isn’t writing isn’t a writer. It takes discipline. You have to make a habit of getting up every day and doing it. Make it your top priority and don’t leave the house until you get it done.
WitOut: What have been some of the highs and lows of your career?
Gould: When I first started out in stand up I was obsessed with Albert Brooks. Albert was at a Simpson’s Party later in his career and I had met him several times before in a professional setting, but one time at this “Hollywood Party,” all the sudden he just said, “Hi Dana.” He was always this hero of mine and in this moment I saw him as a peer. Oh and everything since then was a low.
“God only hits the Midwest with tornadoes because he’s really far away and he must think farmers look like lesbians.”
WitOut: Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions this year?
Gould: It’s strange because 2013 was terrible, personally. I got divorced. But, professionally, I released a new album that was number one on iTunes and I am getting to do amazing stuff on Mob City.
I’m just hoping for something in the middle this year.
WitOut: Any comments on the Chris Christie scandal?
Gould: I assumed the lane was blocked because Christie wanted people to know how it feels for him to squeeze down the aisle of an airplane.
Check out Gould tonight (7:30p.m & 10:00p.m.) and tomorrow (10:00p.m.) at Helium Comedy Club.
Brian Six, Jon DelCollo, Matt McCusker and Setoiyo sat down to talk about their new role as hosts of the Raven Lounge.
WitOut: Can you refresh our readers on the Raven Lounge and its history?
Comedy Attic: Absolutely. Center City Comedy (CCC) started comedy shows at the Raven Lounge five years ago. Raven Lounge follows a seniority format. The structure is performance-based, in terms of who gets to go first. It’s a place where you can earn your way up. Whoever gets the most laughs gets to go first.
WitOut: What is like to be the new hosts at the Raven Lounge open mic?
Comedy Attic: We are just four good guys keeping up the momentum that has been built over the last five years. In the beginning, when we took over the show we decided to keep the show the same format as CCC. Comedians start signing up around 8:30pm when they come in. We look at the list at 8:50-8:55pm. We have about 14-18 comics during the first half of the show. We take a ten minute break before the second part of the show and make a list of comics for the second half. The second half usually consists of 20-27 comics. Then, we have a third part for new talent where we try to squeeze in as many fresh faces as we can.
WitOut: What are some challenges of hosting a show?
Comedy Attic: The hard part is putting the list together. We know everybody and we have to make decisions for the crowd and make sure they enjoy the show. It is an intimidating show to host. Even though it is once a week, it is a long night. We just have to make sure we promote the show, and keep the comics as well as the audience happy.
WitOut: Are there any changes in the structure of the show?
Comedy Attic: Every Thursday we have a variety of acts coming big and small. The most consistent people are the ones that go first. Apart from that, the structure of the show will remain the same as it has the past five years.
WitOut:Any new faces or comedy acts coming to the Raven Lounge?
Comedy Attic: Us four (laughs). It is hard to single out one person, there are about 20-30 really good comics. We have all different types of acts, big and small. It is great for the younger guys to see. We have a headliner from Helium come in. We try to make it a good show for everybody.
WitOut: What are your comedic styles?
Comedy Attic: Well Matt talks about relationships, Setiyo likes to talk about himself (laughs), DelCollo talks about the Olive Garden and I (Brian) am trying to prove that Mayor Nutter is an alien and not from this planet.
WitOut: Well, so much for being politically correct!
Comedy Attic: He passed a law banning outdoor feedings for the homeless, a plan that hates homeless people!
WitOut: Fair enough! What advice would you give to aspiring comedians?
Comedy Attic: Well to aspiring comedians in general, write everyday keep writing. And to those that perform at the Raven Lounge, keep coming out and don’t ever think the hosts aren’t watching. Keep coming out, it’s gonna happen!
**The Comedy Attic hosts weekly comedy shows at the Raven Lounge every Thursday. Sign-up starts at 8:30p.m. and the show starts at 9:00p.m.
The Waitstaff are one of Philly’s longest running sketch-comedy groups. Their “Real Housewives of South Philly” characters are a bona fide classic. “Breaking Bad Santa” runs Friday 12/20 and Saturday 12/21; both shows at 8pm. Tix are $15, available at the door or online. We got some scoop from staff waiter Sara Carano…
WitOut: Has The Waitstaff done Holiday shows before?
Sara Carano: The Waitstaff has done many Holiday shows in the past and we hope to continue the trend into the future. We LOVE delighting our audiences all year round but the Holidays are a special time of the year to spread joy to others – what better way to do that than with a Holiday show!
WitOut: How about that ending to Breaking Bad? Can fans expect plenty of Walter White references?
Carano: This year’s Holiday show Breaking Bad Santa has plenty of Breaking Bad references and “spoiler alert” – if you haven’t watched the last episode you might want to see it before coming to our show. The Real Housewives of South Philly are known for their big hair as well as their big mouths and we couldn’t keep Marie from spilling the beans about how Breaking Bad ends.
WitOut: What have the members of The Waitstaff been up to since last we talked (like, way back!)?
Carano: In the Waitstaff’s over-a-decade-long existence we have never done a fundraiser for ourselves. We decided this year to try a KickStarter Campaign to raise money for our 2014 season! Our campaign will end January 6, 2014 so don’t delay – donate today!
WitOut: Will the Waitstaff be continuing their fine tradition of serving food and drinks to the audience members DURING their sketch comedy show?
Carano: Breaking Bad Santa is being performed at L’Etage Cabaret so our patrons can dine and drink during the show (drinking before, during and after the show is highly recommended!) But this weekend is the last chance to see the show so come, laugh, drink and get into the Holiday spirit!
WitOut: Which classic Waitstaff characters can fans looks forward to seeing this weekend?
Carano: Well I don’t want to give the show away but characters you will see during Breaking Bad Santa: Santa, Rudolf, Hermey, Jesus H. Christ, Mary Mother of God, Speiderman and The Real Housewives of South Philly! We will delight folks of all religious backgrounds and Santa will be giving away some fun gifts too! Please note however that Waitstaff shows are not for children – 21 years of age and older please! Ho, Ho, Hoe!
The N Crowd has a weekly Friday night show at 8pm at the Actor’s Center. This April marks the 9th anniversary of their short-form improv show (think: ‘Whose Line’ games). This February, the N Crowd will be performing at the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival. Visit their website phillyncrowd.com.
WitOut: Who is your comedy inspired by?
Vegas Lancaster: Lewis Black, I think I was trying to emulate him when I first started. The political humor always makes me laugh. He has this way of building energy that is really impressive. His timing is amazing. He starts down low and builds up to a crescendo of emotion. A crescendo of anger. I have a smile on all the time, so I don’t know if angry works best for me. But the building of emotions up to the level of fireworks for something as silly as candy corn is really cool. Comedy in front of a live audience and the shared experience of laughter is what I really like. I think it is very special.
WitOut: Who are your other favorites?
Lancaster: I would have to say Steven Colbert and John Stewart. They take such a dry, otherwise boring material and make it super entertaining. The make things people should know about interesting to hear about. Comedy is such a silly field and they are doing important work at the same time. Other than that, I would have to say I also like Flight of the Concords.
WitOut: What is your favorite type of comedy?
Lancaster: I watch comedy cartoons late at night. I also really enjoy live comedy. The experience of laughing with an audience feels really special. It is easy to stay home and watch YouTube videos, but I hope we always have live entertainment because I think it is really special.
WitOut: What is the main difference between The N Crowd and Whose Line is it Anyway?
Lancaster: We can say dirty words. It’s also really special about The N Crowd that the majority of our audiences every week are people who have never been to an improv show.
WitOut: What do you think is The N Crowd’s success mantra for bringing new people and turning them into improv lovers?
Lancaster: Everything we are doing is based off of audience suggestion. At the beginning of the show we will ask for a relationship between two people, or a word. We try to get on their level and take their verbal and non-verbal feedback. Whatever they are responding to, we hit on and keep doing.
WitOut: What is your favorite controversial issue to talk about?
Lancaster: I really like hitting on current events. Whatever is on people’s mind in the past week; some things I don’t want to gross people about by talking about it soon. It is really easy to do that during improv because you have to make stuff up. But I also like to do it in standup.
WitOut: Is there any particular show or topic you can remember when you really pushed the limits?
Lancaster: We do so many shows, I forget what we did after we are done. The audience hopefully remembers forever. A couple weeks ago I was doing jokes about Rich Incognito and his racial jokes. We Occupy Wall Street. Election season is also a fun time for us.
WitOut: What side is The N Crowd on?
Lancaster: As a group we do not take any political affiliation. The demographic of the N Crowd, I think, aligns pretty well with the political demographics of Philadelphia. The N Crowd, LLC has no political affiliation.
WitOut: If it weren’t Philly, what city?
Lancaster: That is really difficult to say. The N Crowd is a Philadelphia grown show; we are an independent comedy group. We are close to NY, there is a lot going on up there. In a city like NY, or LA you have got a whole industry for entertainment and a whole industry preying on them; there is a lot of
nonsense. You don’t have so much of that in Philly. The comedy scene has been growing steadily for the past few years. It is more of a niche to fill here. There is a lot of great stuff in Philly. There is room for us to do our thing.
WitOut: What are some of your favorite comedy groups in Philly?
Lancaster: Suggestical, they make up a musical on the spot.
WitOut: Anything else you would like to leave our readers with?
Lancaster: We put on a fun show, if they haven’t seen it. It is all about coming out and laughing!
Tonight is Polygon’s Holiday Spectacular at L’Etage (624 S 6th Street). Doors open at 7:30pm, show starts at 8pm. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online or at the door. There will be ample parking and booze available. That’s right folks, booze. If that doesn’t motivate you to put on your scarf and gloves and come out to a comedy show, I don’t know what will!
WitOut: Can you tell us about the formation and history of Polygon?
Rick Horner: Sure! I would say it is a collection of people more interested in comedy than their egos. We are promoting comedy acts with members that have a passion for comedy. A few years ago, Improv duo Rosen and Milkshake did a show and the audience loved it. The audience asked for cards, but they didn’t have any. They reached out to me and we got this idea to not only make cards, but start a website to promote comedy. We have been doing monthly comedy shows at L’Etage ever since.
WitOut: That is a unique way to start a….comedy group? If you could describe Polygon in one or two sentences, what would it be?
Horner: A passion driven machine of comedic talent; an optimus prime built out of sketch, improv and stand-up. It is a collective, like a bee-hive where all bees go but there is no Queen Bee.
WitOut: Can you tell us more about tonight’s show and the line-up?
Horner: Sure. The show will be hosted by Rosen and Milkshake. The line-up includes Cecily Chapman, Bill Parks and Demonikus Rex. So, improv, stand-up, improv, improv [laughs].
WitOut: Anything else you would like our audience to know about Polygon?
Horner: Look forward to 2014, because Polygon comedy has a lot of big plans on the horizon. We had a terrific year in 2013, and I feel lucky to work with people that are funny and talented. We have had most major Philly comedy groups perform at our shows such as The N Crowd, PHIT house teams, ComedySportz and Figment. However, if we haven’t had you, we would love to have you. Improv is like a team sport, you don’t have to be Babe Ruth, you just have to swing the bat.
WitOut: Is Polygon involved with any other regular events?
Horner: In addition to monthly shows at L’Etage, Polygon runs and improv incubator in West Philly at the Community Education Center on 35th and Lancaster. Whether you want to try it for the first time, get back into it or practice it more, they would love to have you. They simply ask for a small donation to pay for the room.
**Small chance of cancellation due to weather conditions. Please check polygoncomedy.com for updates.
Philly native Todd Glass is coming to Helium Comedy Club this week for a string of shows with Chip Chantry Chip Chantry. Todd asked me to write it twice because he thinks Chip will get excited. [Scroll down for Chip's reaction!]
WitOut: Hi Todd! Where in the world are you?
Todd Glass: Hey, right now I am in Kansas performing with Jim Gaffigan.
WitOut: What’s a comedy crowd like in Kansas?
Glass: Well if you’re with someone as big as Jim you’re drawing his audience and they’re good. But the city doesn’t make the audience, the club does. If you have a good club it doesn’t matter where you are. Granted, there are cities that are more beautiful than others but as far as the way the audience acts it’s based on how the club operates. In my opinion, the best comedy club in America is Acme Comedy Club in Minneapolis. Who’d think Minneapolis would have the best club? But when a club has high standards and respects the comedy, the audience will follow. They train the audiences. Helium, I give them an A++. One of the best clubs in the country. When Marc (owner of Helium Comedy Club) wanted to start Helium he went to the Montreal Comedy Festival and asked comics, “What’s your favorite club?”, and they kept saying Acme. So, Marc decided he had to check this place out. He went to Minneapolis, met with Louis Lee (owner of Acme Comedy Club), and made it happen.
WitOut: Do you have any memorable stories about shows you’ve done here in Philly?
Glass: It made me proud whenever I’d come to Philly with other acts. Once I was on tour with Louis C.K., Sarah Silverman, and David Cross, and when we came to Philly I so didn’t want it to be a bad crowd. The crowd ended up being unbelievably great. So great. And I was so proud.
WitOut: I know you’ve shot a couple pilots over the years, is that something you’d like to do again?
Glass: I just sold a pilot to Comedy Central actually, I’m very excited about it. It’s called The Todd Glass Situation. My character owns a college bar/restaurant–which is one layer of the show but it doesn’t consume the whole show. It also deals with me being in the closet all those years…gosh I hate that term but what the fuck else am I gonna say? There’s never been a show about hiding in the closet. Like, what does it REALLY mean to be in the closet on a day-to-day basis? It’s important to who I am but I didn’t want it to be the A slot of the show so, it’s a layer, never the primary story. At least I hope it’s that way in the show.
WitOut: I’m curious, what is it you don’t like about the phrase “in the closet?”
Glass: “In the closet,” ugh, I don’t know, it’s probably my own issue. It’s just so…flamboyant. Maybe that’s not it.
WitOut: Is it because it’s sort of a pithy way to describe it?
Glass: Yeah, see, you said it better than me. But also, ya know, sometimes you just don’t like something and ya can’t even explain it? It’s hard to explain but, obviously one day we won’t have that expression because we won’t need to.
WitOut: I was actually not going to ask about last year’s WTF announcement unless it came up naturally since it seems interviewers always ask about it .
Glass: As far as the Maron thing goes, I don’t mind talking about it, I like the mix. I didn’t talk about it my whole life so I’m good talking about it. But yeah, I appreciate your thought to not ask. But, it’s a gigantic part of my life. If we pull it off right on the show it won’t be a gigantic part of the show. It was very rarely the A plot of my day. Mostly B or C slot. It’s not gonna drive the show. But I’ll say this, it’ll be funny obviously, but it’ll also hopefully shed a lot of light on the issue and make people say, “I never fucking thought about that.” Like, how to handle it when your parents are in town, or, if you’re in a diner and three people there know but the fourth doesn’t. If you’re smoking pot and worry, “Shit, did I just misspeak and say something I didn’t mean to?”
WitOut: Do you remember where your first set was?
Glass: Absolutely. It was at Comedy Works on 2nd and Chestnut. It was an amazing place. I first went when I was in high school. Some friends and I went to see comedy and I was completely unaware that there were comedians that weren’t household names but had followings. Established, really great comedians. It was a 300 seat room, we saw so many greats: Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Gilbert Gottfried, Richard Lewis, Tim Allen, Roseanne Barr, Eddie Murphy, Stephen Wright, just amazing comics. Eventually I went up there. I was almost 16, I had a very frenetic energy. Everyone was very kind and told me I’m funny but that I gotta calm down. Then, and I’ll never forget this, [The Legendary] Wid comes up and says to me, “You don’t have to change anything, you’re funny just the way you are.” I have a special place in my heart for him. He’s very supportive and that’s so fucking important.
WitOut: What do people most often recognize you from?
Glass: Good question, times have changed with social media and podcasts. So, either a show like Comedy Bang Bang, podcasting or Jimmy Kimmel since I’ve done that show quite a few times. But people still remember me from Last Coming Standing too.
WitOut: How do you view the Philly comedy scene now compared to when you started?
Glass: Right now there’s a really good scene in Philly. There wasn’t for years but now there is, basically since Helium opened. It re-sparked excitement for comedy in the city. Between Helium and lots of niche one-nighters at bars or music venues or theatres, it’s great. And there are a lot of new, really funny people in the last 7, 8 years. I love watching stand-up comedy and if I get to a town a night early I’ll go to the open mic night. Some people are there for the first time, some have been there 7 times, but there’s also established really good acts who just live in Philly and go down there. You see a lot of funny new people which is exciting.
See Todd Glass (with Chip Chantry) this Wednesday (11/27), Friday (11/29), and Saturday (11/30) at Helium Comedy Club (2031 Sansom St., Philadelphia, PA 19103) .
Response from Chip Chantry:
Excited? Here’s what I would be excited about.
1. I’d be excited if I was working with a headliner that does NOT belittle me in front of the staff, customers, and management on a nightly basis.
2. I’d be excited if I was working with a headliner who does not insist on having the venue pay HIM my check for the week, and who then takes a 40% “mentoring fee”.
3. I’d be excited to work with a headliner who doesn’t throw glasses of whiskey at me when I forget to get extra pickles with the panini that he likes from the deli all the way across town at midnight. And who screams at me about how he’s friends with Jim Gaffigan, and how “friends with Jim Gaffigan get extra pickles, Goddammit!” And then he burns me with a cigarette and screams outdated racial slurs that don’t even apply to me.
4. And I’d be excited to work with a headliner who doesn’t force me to do wind sprints in front of the club right before I go onstage, so I’m all out of breath for the first minute of the four minutes he lets me do. And most of those four minutes are announcements he makes me read about how great Todd Glass is, and how Todd Glass is best friends with Jim Gaffigan, and how Todd Glass is so much funnier than I am, and how I should just quit comedy altogether and get a job cleaning up monkey shit at a monkey zoo. THAT’S NOT EVEN A REAL ANNOUNCEMENT, DAVE! AND I DON’T THINK THERE IS ACTUALLY A THING CALLED A MONKEY ZOO! IT’S JUST A ZOO!
I’m dreading this week.
Dave Metter is a Philly comedian, check him out on Twitter @DaveMetter, and check out his fake local news show Your News, Philadelphia December 5th and 6th at the Shubin Theatre.
Frequent late-night guest and Last Comic Standing alum Gary Gulman, headlines at Helium Comedy Club (2031 Sansom Street) tonight through Saturday. Gulman is stopping in Philadelphia during a six week tour and promoting his new special, This Economy. He takes a unique approach to long-format jokes in the clever articulation of entertaining (and often handy) storytelling.
We caught up with Gulman to talk about his particular brand of comedy and stand-up life.
Witout: You’ve been on tour for some time now. Where are you now?
Gary Gulman: I’m on the road for the next six weeks. I’m in Boston right now, doing a show at Boston University with Denis Leary and Jimmy Fallon. It’s for the [Cam Neely Foundation for Cancer Care]. It’s a tradition in Boston, I’ve done it the past 18 years. Originally–I think–it was just comedians from Boston. Now, they bring in famous comedians. Anyway, it’s very well attended. There were probably like 10,000 people there. It’s an honor to do it.
WitOut: Where are you headed over the next few weeks?
Gulman: After Philadelphia, I’ll be in New Brunswick for the following weekend and then I’m going to Atlanta and San Francisco. There is another stop somewhere–maybe Houston. But, I’m very busy the rest of the year.
WitOut: That’s a good thing. Are you going to be making anymore television appearances?
Gulman: Sure. I was also just in a movie that premiered at the Toronto Film Festival called Lucky Them with Toni Collette. But yeah, I usually do the late-night shows every six months or so. And then I usually do a Comedy Central special every year or two. The most recent is on Netflix, called This Economy.
WitOut: Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Gulman: Sure. It was basically inspired by the recession in 2008, which I was affected by. Not so much by the economy as I was affected by bad choices in my love life. I bought a house for this woman I was engaged to and it didn’t work out. I was stuck with the house by myself so I was broke. Money was a real issue. It sort of happened at the same time that everyone else in the country was struggling so I was able to find a lot of common ground with the audience on the effects of money and keeping [money] in perspective–and also some of my favorite ways to save money, which involved a lot of cutting back and some stealing.
Well, not bad stealing. When I went to the movies, I would always put in the senior discount. I also once stole a muffin from Whole Foods when the line was really backed up. Nothing the way of major crime but I did save some money.
WitOut: What is up next for you in terms of the comedy that you’re delivering?
Gulman: I don’t talk about [money] as much anymore, probably because I’ve weathered the storm and I’m financially stable again. I still talk about certain aspects of the economy, mostly the ridiculous disparity between the wealthy and the rest of us. I would say that I turned more on my personal life than my financial life. I mostly just tell really long stories about things that have happened to me. That’s sort of my style–making really long stories with digressions and stories within stories. That’s my niche. It’s unique but it’s not like I invented anything. There just aren’t too many people who sound like me.
WitOut: Do you think this type of anecdotal comedy is gaining traction these days?
Gulman: I don’t think that’s the case. I think there are more one-liners and topical jokes out there. It’s because the shows are giving comedians five minutes to perform and you can’t really build a long story in five minutes. I’ve found that to be the case.
WitOut: So what is it that draws you to that long format, then?
Gulman: Uhm. I’m great at it.
WitOut: Fair enough.
Gulman: Yeah, and the audience loves it. If the audience was turned off by it, I’d probably shy away from it but I’ve been able to pull it off.
WitOut: Are you ever planning on slowing down your stand-up schedule for TV?
Gulman: No! I love it so much. I really resent having to occasionally do an audition or a meeting because it takes away from stand-up. It was fun to be in a movie but it was 16 hours of standing around to do about a half an hour of work. I prefer stand-up. It’s just so much fun and the audience is great.
I’m at a point where I’m performing in front of good audiences at good venues. [Stand-up] was hard for a long time but now I can’t think of a better way to spend my time.
WitOut: That’s awesome to hear. I think a lot of comedians are moving onto so many other things.
Gulman: [Laughs] I appreciate that because the more time they spend making TV and movies, the more room there is for me to take their shows.
WitOut: Why do you prefer live performance?
Gulman: It’s instant feedback. You’re creative. You feel like you’re a creator and a performer. It’s ideal. I don’t know how people stop doing it after they get TV shows. The only reason that I would want a TV show is to get more people at my shows.
WitOut: So, your show in Philadelphia… Are you excited to come visit us?
Gulman: I love Philadelphia. I’ve been coming down there since about 2005-2006 to perform at Helium. They are some of my best shows. I have a big crowd there. It’s perfect. If I could find a theater there to do my next special in, I would do it. I love it.