Bunch of Improv is at the Grape Room (105 Grape Street) in Manayunk tonight @ 8pm. See what creator Sam Fran Scavuzzo has to say about his group, Cock Hat, his thoughts on improv comedy and memorable guests from the show.
WitOut: Would you mind telling us about the history and comedic style of your former group, Cock Hat?
Scavuzzo: I performed short-form improv during college. Once I came back to Philly, we (college friends and I) formed a long-chain group, Cock Hat. Stylistically we are high energy, and use a “shooting from the hip” approach. We don’t mind being raunchy or gutsy. Oh, and we are not too sensitive or politically correct either (laughs). Improv is a lot about breaking out of your comfort zone, sometimes you surprise yourself with your true feelings on something or say something you don’t expect yourself to say. You are an actor in a scene, you have to say what is logical, not necessarily something you would say in real life.
WitOut: What has Cock Hat been up to since you all went your separate ways?
Scavuzzo: We performed together for two years, which is a considerably long time. We still perform together from time to time. Tonight’s show is called “A bunch of improv at the Graperoom,” [Cock Hat member] Frank and I are performing alongside four other improv teams and a stand-up comedian.
WitOut: Who are the other acts on the show tonight?
Scavuzzo: Kid Twist is a silly team with very smart improvisers. All members are involved with the Philadelphia Improv Theater (PHIT). Demonikus Rex is a relatively newer team. Also performing are Bill Parks, Gross Reber and stand-up comedian Pat Dohony.
WitOut: Who are some memorable groups you have had on the show over the years?
Scavuzzo: Matt Holmes has an improv act called Matt &. He brings an audience member up and does an entire show with them. He is an absolute master at what he does. Stand-up comedian Dave Terruso is another one. Dave is a polished professional. He tours, he’s an author and he opens at the Helium for national headliners. He is really smart. The way he uses language is unique. Dave knows the English language very well; there is no wasted word in his set. How do I explain it? He knows exactly how to emphasize a word. He knows his stuff.
Cock Hat members demonstrate their name-sake.
Sam Fran Scavuzzo will be performing with Cock Hat alum Frank Farrell at tonight’s show. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $5.00 and event details can be seen at Graperoommusic.com.
CollegeHumor’s Streeter Seidell seems like the kind of upfront, no bullshit type of comic Philadelphia can appreciate. However, he admitted he’s a little nervous about making his City of Brotherly Love debut when we talked about his upcoming show at the Trocadero Theatre this Friday. The White Wine author is part of the CollegeHumor Live tour alongside Jake Hurwitz & Amir Blumenfeld–stars of the long-running CollegeHumor.com web series Jake and Amir.
WitOut: Will it be the first time performing in Philly for all three of you?
Streeter Seidell: I think Jake and Amir did a college show in Philly once. But I haven’t even been there until about a month ago, which was a great embarrassment for me. I was totally ashamed because I grew up in Connecticut and I’m a massive history buff and Ben Franklin fan. And I like eating fattening food so I was like, how have I not been to this city? But I thought it was a great city. I’m a little nervous because I’ve never performed in Philly and you do hear this terrible rumors about audiences in Philly being crazy mean.
WitOut: Yeah, it’s nonsense. Just don’t suck.
Seidell: Yeah, that’s what I’ve been banking on. The problem is though, that I suck.
WitOut: So how did you get in at CollegeHumor?
Seidell: I was writing articles for the site when I was in college and just got on their radar and got hired right out of school.
WitOut: According to Wikipedia you were studying communications, did you have any idea what you would’ve done after college with that?
Seidell: Uh, I guess I would’ve worked at a talent agency which is where I had been an intern for a while. But thank god CollegeHumor hired me because I would’ve been a terrible agent.
WitOut: What was the experience like when CollegeHumor had a show on MTV, The CollegeHumor Show?
Seidell: It was so much fun. We were probably all 25, 26 and, it was a blast. I grew up watching MTV so the thought of having a show on MTV that I was acting in and helping write was extremely exciting. If only anyone watched it! Maybe I’d still be excited. But it was exhausting, frustrating, and extremely fun.
WitOut I saw you recently got a puppy? Will you be leaving it while you’re on tour?
Seidell: Aw, I wish you didn’t put it like that but yes I am.
WitOut: What can we expect at the show? What’s the format?
Seidell: Well, I’m not all the way sure yet. Usually Jake and Amir come out and do their thing, I come out and do my thing. Then we’ll do something together at the end. What exactly those things will be is yet to be determined. I’ll do stand-up, which, if I can see the crowd, might involve making fun of a kid in the front row. But, I will guarantee you it will be very funny.
WitOut: Despite you sucking?
Seidell: I might suck, but the three of us together, our powers combined, can make one funny show!
WitOut: The Voltron principle.
Seidell: Exactly, or the Captain Planet principle.
WitOut: You’ve co-written some books but you recently published your first book White Whine (http://whitewhine.com, available in stores and online now) on your own, what was that like?
Seidell: Do you remember writing essays or papers for college? Imagine doing that 250 times. And that was kinda like what writing a book was like, except you can say whatever you want and someone will give you money for it. So it was pretty fun!
WitOut: You’ve done sketch, stand-up, television, books, is there a form you haven’t done yet but would like to?
Seidell: Yeah, I guess, a movie right? Like, a major motion picture? Or, I’d really like to explore what I can do on Pinterest. That’s a form I really have yet to conquer. It’s really impressive, in a nine year career I’ve failed in almost every medium, which, not a lot of people can say. I’ll try anything really.
WitOut: Right, like me pretending to be a journalist here. I just write dick jokes in Philly but, I’m talking to you now.
Seidell: Are you the Philadelphia Dick Jokesmith?
WitOut: You’ve heard of me.
Seidell: Dude, how did you get that job I applied for that, I sent in a packet and everything.
WitOut: Well I apprenticed under the previous Dick Jokesmith.
Seidell: Ah, nepotism.
WitOut: What advice would you give someone who is trying to find a way to a career writing comedy?
Seidell: There is no place to go to apply for that job so anyone who wants to be a comedy writer can just start being a comedy writer. I’ve always had kids ask me “I really want to do stand-up” or “I want to write videos” or “I want to make things on YouTube”, well you shouldn’t have to want that cause you can just do that. There’s really no excuse to not just start doing it and, you’ll be pretty terrible for a while but then, hopefully, you’ll get a little better. And maybe one day I can be threatened by you and do everything in my power to stop your rise to fame.
WitOut: If you could be any animal, what would it be?
Seidell: Besides “better human”?
WitOut: That’s fine.
Seidell: Otherwise I was gonna say “Swedish person.”
WitOut: That’s basically the same thing. Anyway, thanks Streeter!
See Streeter Seidell, along with Jake & Amir, when CollegeHumor Live hits the Trocadero Theatre (1003 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA), this Friday November 15th and 8:00pm. Get tickets here.
Dave Metter is a Philly comedian, check him out on Twitter @DaveMetter, and check out his fake local news show Your News, Philadelphia Friday December 6th at the Shubin Theatre.
I like people who can wear a chip on their shoulder like a badge of honor. Your grievances and grudges are what make you interesting. Why not own them?
So it’s not especially a stretch to say that it’s easy for me to love Greg Fitzsimmon’s first hour long special, Life on Stage. An award-winning writer, producer and stand-up comedian, his comedy unabashedly explores social and familial constructs. While seemingly provocative, Fitzsimmons is playfully clever in his approach to unearthing the absolute absurdity that is so often prevalent in modern American life.
You can catch him in Philadelphia November 8 and 9 at Helium Comedy Club. WitOut caught up with Fitzsimmon to talk about Life on Stage, podcasting and the past year (sort of) on the road.
WitOut: You’re out in LA now, right?
Greg Fitzsimmons: Right. I’ve been working in New York. I took the weekend off to come home for Halloween and Trick or Treat with the kids.
WitOut: How was Halloween?
Fitzsimmons: Great. It was very cute. We did trick or treating on one side of the neighborhood, changed costumes and then did the other side. My son is 13 so he’s off with his boys. You know, a real teenage party. I think that was his first one.
WitOut: I’m sure they just sat around and did their homework.
Fitzsimmons: They’re really on the edge. I don’t think they’re doing anything that wrong yet but they’re definitely thinking about it. They’re ready for it. They’re only in the planning stages.
WitOut: You’ve been all over the place this past year. How is tour?
Fitzsimmons: It’s not so much a tour as it is going out to places on the weekends, in between working on the show. This past year, I’ve definitely been on the road a lot doing shows to promote the special. But it’s been a lot of TV stuff. I was executive producer on another show earlier this fall and then just banging out these podcasts twice a week and a radio show once a week. It’s pretty exhausting. I haven’t had a moment.
WitOut: What show are you currently working on?
Fitzsimmons: I created a comedy talk show pilot for FX with this guy Josh Topaulski, who has a website called The Verge. It’s kind of a Daily Show format.
WitOut: How did podcasting make its way into your mix?
Fitzsimmons: Well, I was doing the radio show for just an hour. I was getting these really great guests and all of the sudden, the hour would go by so fast. So, my producer said that we could do another hour and put it out as a podcast. We did that for awhile and people eventually wanted more than one a week. I was on the road a lot of weekends so I started doing [podcasts] from the green room in clubs and now I pretty much just record interviews with people during the week. I’ll try to bank a few and then put those out.
This past week, I sat down with Colin Quinn and at the end I said to him, “How often do you and I get to sit down and talk, uninterrupted for two hours?” It’s very rare. It’s great. I think it started out casually–and it still feels casual– it doesn’t feel like a job. Now there is all of this advertising coming in, which is really just found money.
WitOut: It seems like you have you hands in a lot of different things. You have stand-up, podcasting and radio. You have your book [Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons: Tales of Redemption from an Irish Mailbox]. Does it feel different from when you were doing just stand-up?
Fitzsimmons: No. When I started doing stand-up, my Father was really supportive of me. He said, you know, just make sure you write. Write a lot. I think that he knew that it was going to be a tough business and that writing was something that I could always–I wouldn’t say fall back on, but something that I could do in conjunction with stand-up. I’ve always been focused on it.
I’ve always been doing something else. After I did stand-up for a couple of years, I moved to New York and did a two year acting program. So I did that and went out on the road on the weekends. Then I moved to LA and auditioned for acting stuff. I never had any luck but I did it a lot for awhile.
There have always been different directions that I was going in. When my son was born, I started writing for TV so that I could be around more. That’s been twelve years or so in between writing, doing stand-up and hosting stuff on TV.
On a good day it feels like, yeah, you have your hands in a lot of things. On a bad day you feel like you’re being pulled in too many directions. In this business, it’s a pretty good way to keep your sanity–to be able to not have all of your eggs in one basket.
WitOut: A lot of your new special deals with parenting, social class and race. Your kids go to school in LA and so you’re definitely surrounded by a lot of that. Can you speak to us about where that material comes from?
Fitzsimmons: I grew in New York and my Dad was a radio guy. He was very liberal. Very outspoken. Our family’s identity is very, I think, Kennedy Democrats. And I grew up in a place that was very economically and racially diverse.
My kids are in a Spanish Immersion program at a public school in LA. My wife grew up in the city in New York. We try to replicate something that has that same kind of diversity and we’ve been really luck with that. They’ve got a school that has very committed parents and the kids are great. At the same time–not to put down private schools–your kid can get a false sense of feeling like they’re the greatest fucking thing that has ever been born. I want my kids to feel like pieces of garbage that have to work their way out of it for the rest of their lives. That’s the drive they need.
A lot of my material comes out of guilt. I think I feel a certain white guilt with how fortunate I’ve been. Stand up, to me, is about [exploring] what are you thinking about, what makes you uncomfortable or angry, what is it that you can’t wrap your head around. For me, social class seems to be one that is just illogical. It’s the fabric of every society.
WitOut: What about the book? Is it a product of that guilt or is a way for you to kind of wear your mistakes on your armor?
Fitzsimmons: I was an English major in college and I had been writing my whole life. I wanted to write a book since I was five years old. I finally felt like I had lived enough to warrant writing a book about my life. It feel like there are two very different sides of my life and I wanted to explore that earlier part of my life. I wanted to show how it affected the second half.
I grew up very rebellious. The first half of my life, there was a lot of drinking and drugs, fighting and womanizing. It was very different from what my life is today. I just wanted to have fun and go down that road. It ended up being much more deeply about my relationship with my father.
My intention was probably much lighter than what the actual process ended up being.
WitOut: We know that you had a complicated relationship with your Father. Does talking about it so publicly affect that?
Fitzsimmons: He actually died 20 year ago. In a weird way, you still have a relationship with the [deceased] person. I think about him a lot. I think my kids feel his presence in a way. It didn’t end on good terms, really, and that’s sad.
WitOut: Does talking about it help your reconcile with that?
Fitzsimmons: I guess. On some levels, it is. I wish that I could I was that mature and that it was all reconciled. I’m still like a little baby. I definitely have more understanding [of him] now as a parent.
WitOut: You’re coming to Philly on this week. Are you looking forward to coming over here?
Fitzsimmons: (Laughs) Oh my god. Your voice just went up an octave when you asked that.
Yeah! I love Philadelphia! I think Philadelphia is great. It’s one of the few cities that I really enjoy getting up and walking around. The crowds are awesome. They’re really down to earth. There is that Italian-Irish thing there, which is always kind of rowdy and blue collar. It’s fun.
Colleen T. Reese is a contributor to Geekadelphia and Schmitten Kitten. You can follow her on twitter @CollTReese.
Editors’ note: We are the editors of WitOut.net. We are also starting a free, weekly, stand-up comedy showcase every Wednesday at Rembrandt’s Restaurant & Bar (741 N. 23rd St. Philadelphia). So we decided to take advantage of our editorial power for shameless self-promotion. Is that okay with you? Good. Here we go.
AZ Why did we decide to start this show?
AH: You know the answer to that.
AZ: Tell me again. I like hearing the story.
AH: I think this is the type of show that Philly needs. The scene has been growing in the past few years and there are open mics practically every night of the week, and there are a lot of comedian-run monthly showcases, and I think the next step up is a weekly show where comedians can work on longer sets. I would love to do this show every night if I could, and make it like a Philadelphia version of The Comedy Cellar in New York. But until I find a venture capitalist to back that business plan, I’m going to have to stick with once a week at a bar that will let us do it for free. Philly has a lot of great comedians, and part of the goal with the show is to expose more of the public to some of the great local comedy Philly has to offer.
What are your hopes and plans for the show?
AZ: I’m really looking forward to having a show that gives Philly comics an opportunity to perform longer sets, and hopefully perform them in front of a crowd that’s made up of more than just other comics–of course we love seeing comics support one another, but we also want a “real audience” for these shows. Which brings me to my other hope for the show: that people will come. So we’re working on some creative ideas for marketing and promotion, and reaching out to people who are good at getting the word out about events in the city, and hopefully we’ll be able to show a lot of new people that Philly has a really strong, talented crop of local comedians. And if they’re introduced to them here with a free show, hopefully they’ll continue to follow and support their work elsewhere.
Can you talk a little bit more about why we wanted to keep the show free? Are we just dicks who don’t want to pay people?
AH: Well first of all, I hate that money exists and I wish I could live in a hut on an island and hunt and farm and fish for food and just be free. That sounds like a joke but I’m being serious. But, in terms of the show, since one of our goals is to raise awareness about comedy in Philly we thought a great way to do that would be to have a free show, so it’s a low-risk access point for new audiences. Doogie Horner’s Ministry of Secret Jokes was a great free show that brought a lot of people out to Fergie’s in Center City on a monthly basis, and we want to build a consistent audience of people who know that there’s going to be a great show at Rembrandt’s every Wednesday night, and who can tell people they know that they can come to the show and it’s going to be free and it’s going to be great and they’re going to have a good time. Plus we want this to be a show that has a feel, for the audience, that it’s professional and the line-up is well put together, but is also a show where the comedians should feel free to experiment a little, and work out newer material during a longer set. At open mics where there are more comics and therefore sets have to be shorter, one new joke might be the only material a comic gets to do that night.
Since we’re not getting fat pockets off the big stacks of cash we’d make if we charged people to come and see this show, what are you looking to get out of it, as a comedian?
AZ: I think it’ll be good for me to get more experience hosting shows, and I also want to push myself to write a lot more frequently so I can have something new every week. I also like how much flexibility and trust the bar is giving us in running this show–I think it’s exciting that we’re building this from the ground up, and we’re going to have this challenge of making sure it’s successful. That also makes it a little scary, and I think we’re both going to have to think really creatively and work really hard to make sure it works and really have an impact on Philly’s knowledge of and interest in its local comedy scene.
We have some of the best comics in the city on the line-up for the first show, and we’ve actually booked the rest of the month already, and that’s pretty stacked as well. How do you think being on a show with all these really exceptional writers and performers will affect your performance?
AH: Not only do I want the show to be great top to bottom for the sake of the audience, but I think it’s a great opportunity for all of us as comedians to push each other to keep getting better. It’s healthy competition–not that it’s a contest and we’re going out there to try to outshine each other every week, but I know that personally I’m going to have to bring it in order to keep up with the talent that we’re going to book on this show week in and week out. I’m never going to be able to half-ass it and mail in a set if I don’t want to look like somebody who doesn’t belong on the show. That’s how you get better–when I was a kid and I played basketball, I didn’t get better by playing against kids I was already better than; I got better by playing against older kids who were a lot better than me, and having to work to keep up. Also I’m just looking forward to being able to hang out with all of these people on a weekly basis and see them trying out new jokes, and talking about new jokes, and getting their opinion on my new material, and just all working together at getting better. #Friendship.
You and I are big supporters of the local comedy scene and we know a lot about what’s going on within it. But at this point it’s still difficult to know about Philly comedy if you’re not IN Philly comedy in some way. What do you think we–or anyone else performing in the city–needs to do to get more of the general public aware of the local talent?
AZ: I think the main thing is that if you’re putting on a show, you should never be satisfied with just getting an audience that’s only made up of your friends and fellow performers. If you’re trying to do this seriously and not just as a hobby, you need feedback from and exposure to a real audience to be able to learn and grow. Of course it’s great to be supportive of each other, but I don’t think any of us will consider ourselves successful if we’re just doing this for each other all the time. So we should be looking for as many ways as possible to expose new people to our shows. List and promote your show on local online events calendars, send out press releases, get out on the street with flyers, whatever it takes. Find new audiences, bring them in, win them over and keep them coming back–whether that’s coming back to Free For All, or “coming back” in that they find their favorite comedians at our show, and then go seek them out to see them do more at other shows, too.
Also: We all just have to be really, really good. Put on a good show that’ll live up to or even exceed the hype you’re giving it when you’re promoting it.
The First Free For All Stand-Up Comedy Showcase is tonight at 8pm at Rembrandt’s Restaurant & Bar (741 N. 23rd St. Philadelphia). For more information on the show as well as original and shared content you can check out Free For All on WordPress, Facebook, and Twitter.
Brendan Kennedy has a dream. That dream includes getting drunk and making web videos in which he heckles people’s family photos while wearing a Batman mask. All dreams come at a cost; the price tag on Brendan’s reads “$10.00″. In order to help him achieve his goals of making Drunk Batman Heckles Your Family Photos a reality Brendan turned to Kickstarter, the online fundraising tool used by artists to raise money from people who support and believe in their projects. But Brendan was denied. The site that recently helped TV and movie-star Zach Braff raise over $3 million to produce a film told Brendan his project “…does not meet our guidelines.” Brendan once again is turning to the internet for help; creating a petition where he is asking supporters of his to tell Kickstarter to “stop acting like Drunk Batman Heckles Your Family Photos isn’t all that.” We contacted the former Philadelphia comedian by email to ask him about his current situation.
WitOut: Can you please take a moment to describe your vision for your project Drunk Batman Heckles Your Family Photos.
Brendan Kennedy: I’d like to make a webseries in which i get drunk and make fun of weird old family photos I find on google image search. When you’re trying to be a standup in LA, you’re just another face in a sea of almost good looking faces. So i’m gonna put a mask on and talk shit on people who I don’t know. I will make up backstories for these people and then claim they wronged me, or someone I know, who may or may not be real, depends upon the week.
WO: From my understanding after an initial proposal Kickstarter asked you to revise your campaign after which you were denied the opportunity to raise funds using their services. What were your thoughts on receiving news of your rejection? How have you handled it since?
BK: I thought it was predictable and disappointing. I revised my proposal per their suggestions (even though I was NOT in violation of their guidelines) and re-submitted. Then they just flat out rejected it, claiming that my project didn’t fit within their guidelines. Which would be fine if I was in violation of their guidelines, but I am NOT. They made a judgement call. Either my goal of raising 10 dollars to buy an adult batman mask seems too silly for their super serious website. (A website that people use to raise money to make board games and concept albums.) Or 10 dollars wasn’t enough money for them to waste their time, since after all, they take a percentage of the money raised. (Ya know, because they’re good people who want to help…)
WO: How do you feel about sites such as Kickstarter in terms of giving artists without an “in” to big-budget financiers an opportunity to raise funding to help make their dream projects become a reality?
BK: I think they are a money making scheme. Zach Braff is already famous, that’s why he’s able to raise almost 3 million dollars. They remind me of the commercials on tv where the old man asks you if you think you are good at drawing, and then for money he will send you a test to see if you really are good at drawing. The people themselves are the ones raising the money, it’s just an easier way to tell people about the project that you are trying to raise money for than making your own blog and paypal set up. I thought that maybe, even though they take some of the money you raise, they were still a good company that just needs money to operate. Now I just think that they are just a company that wants money.
WO: What are your thoughts on the recent wave of more high-profile celebrities and projects (Zach Braff, Veronica Mars) using Kickstarter as a way to raise funds from their fans to create projects? (To play Devil’s Advocate some would argue this lets fans feel like “a part” of the production – and that paying to see a movie in the theaters is even similar to donating to the cause – just after the fact…)
BK: It’s a publicity stunt. Which is why I wanted to use it! I figured that whoever gave me the 10 bucks to buy the mask would watch at least the first episode. Donating to help fund a movie is similar to buying a ticket, except that after you donate to help have the movie made, you still have to pay to go see it. I just checked, you have to pay 30 dollars to get to see Zach Braff’s movie without paying any more money. Also, letting people feel like they are part of something in exchange for their money has been part of many great scams in the past. For example, the whole buy a star and name it craze.
WO: Usually Kickstarter campaigns give some benefits or rewards to donators; if your project does eventually get approved what can those who give to your project expect to receive as tokens of your appreciation?
BK: I had it set up so that for 5 bucks, I’d let you pick a photo that i’d make fun of in one episode. And for 25 dollars i’d mail you an autographed photo of drunk batman. Despite the fact that I only wanted 10 dollars, kickstarter suggested 25 as a good starting point for rewards. (because they just want people’s money!!)
WO: How far do you think Drunk Batman Heckles Your Family Photos can go if just given the chance?
BK: I’m not gonna bullshit people and claim that this kickstarter will change the way webseries are made, because that would be stupid. Also, it’s stupid to claim that people donating money to get a movie made will change the way movies are made!! So i’ll just be honest, if given a chance, Drunk Batman Heckles Your Family Photos can go all the way to YouTube! Or maybe Funny or Die, I haven’t decided yet.
WO: Finally, let our readers know why they should sign the petition so Kickstarter will let you raise money on their site. And also why they should donate if you finally do get approved.
Cause fuck Kickstarter
. This site is bullshit, and people need to know it. They found a way to profit off of fundraising. It’s like if you wanted to buy a hot dog at a baseball game, and you handed your money down the aisle and a guy in the middle demanded one of your dollars, or he passed all of your money to the hot dog guy, but then took a bite of the hot dog that was passed to you. Kickstarter
is just a crummy middle man who only goes to baseball games to steal bites of other people’s hot dogs. But now they’ve tasted some big celebrity hot dogs, and no regular person hot dog is going to satisfy them anymore. Donate if you want to see me drunkenly making fun of weird family photos in a shitty batman mask. Probably I’ll just use one of their competitors sites that don’t take any of your money. But in the mean time, sign the petition so Kickstarter
gets an email from change.org
just to let them know they’re assholes.
Cait O’Driscoll: Ready, guys?
Andrea O’Driscoll (AKA Mom): Oh, here we go. We’re getting interviewed. I think I need a smoke first. So, you’ll have to wait.
Steve O’Driscoll (AKA Dad): Do I need to leave the room then?
SO: I thought we were doing it separately. I object. I want to do it separately.
AO: I’ll be right back. I have to get stoked for this.
CO: Do you think I’m funny?
AO: It depends on what day it is.
SO: Monday, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Not so much on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
CO: All right… That went well. Let’s move on.
AO: It depends on whether I’m being your mom, or going to see you in something.
CO: Was there a moment when I was growing up that you thought, “Hey, this kid might one day think she’s a comedian?”
AO: Every night at dinner from the time you were about… Oh, I guess a year… you would wait, everyone would sit at the dinner table, and you would stand up in your high chair and say, “It’s showtime.”
CO: Do you have anything else to add, dad?
SO: Always. Right from the beginning.
AO: Before you were even here, it was a joke. You were one of God’s little jokes. Should we get into that? Do you want to tell that story?
SO: No, don’t.
CO: Explain the Harold.
AO: Harold who? No. I know there’s beats. What do you know about it?
AO: The Harold.
SO: The Harold? I don’t even know what we’re talking about.
AO: The type of improv she does. There’s three sections and so many beats to each section, but I can’t figure it out from watching it. I need a drum to find the beats.
SO: Can I say anything about the other?
AO: Organic’s too noisy.
SO: I like it better than the other.
CO: How do you feel about improv?
AO: I like it. Some’s funnier than others. We can go back into that again…
SO: I think it’s really hard when you have 5 or 6 people on stage not to end up with one or two people who dominate… to be honest.
AO: I still don’t believe that you don’t use stuff that you did in rehearsal. If it’s failing and flailing and you have good stuff that you did in rehearsal. Why not use it?
CO: We don’t.
AO: Well, then I guess I just don’t get the rehearsals. But yeah, I like improv, I come see you all the time. Some nights are funnier than others, just like some days you’re funnier than others. I could have said it depends what side of the bed you woke up on.
CO: Do you have a favorite Davenger moment?
SO: I think there’s been a lot of funny moments. The only thing I can think of pointing to is always your first improv show is the best, because you don’t really know what to expect and it’s better than what you expect it to be. That’s the only way I can put it.
AO: The show where Hilary played Hans and you were in relaxation therapy, but you were afraid of rubber bands and they kept stressing you out with them; that was the therapy. Then you were doing bumper cars and Kevin made you kill a child, and the show ended with Hilary saying, “You’ve been Hans-ed.”
CO: When you brag about me to your friends, what’s the first thing you say? When answering, please remember this is a comedy article that all my funny friends will see (so maybe say something about how hilarious I am).
SO: I don’t know, I just say you’ve been performing on stage since as long as I can remember. What was she 7 or 8? And we’ve always enjoyed…
AO: I was always stunned when she started doing improv because I was always thought she was a drama queen.
SO: Oh no, I think she should do stand up comedy. That’s the natural extension.
AO: I’d always seen her in dramas and the first time I saw her in a role when she was funny, like overtly physically funny, all the physicality, expressions, timing. I was blown away by it. And the role in that play was dumb, so you took it to the absurd, and it was really funny.
CO: What do you think about me performing comedy?
AO: I’d like to see you push it more. You still look to me like you hesitate, and you allow other people to continue when I know there’s something hidden behind your little smile that’s probably funny.
SO: Well, I’ve always liked some of the more physical humor, like Dick Van Dyke, or people that do physical, Jack Tripper, people that do physical comedy. And I remember at the last show I went to, that was the remark I made to Dan the way, out of the blue, he does this contortion with his body. I think that the expressions and the actions are as important as what comes out of your mouth sometimes.
CO: Do you think I should try stand up?
SO: Yes. Absolutely. What are you waiting for?
AO: I think you should because I think you’re a good writer, and I think if you put your mind to it… but sometimes you’re lazy.
SO: A lot of people that do stand up comedy are afraid of the audience. A lot of them. I remember distinctly Johnny Carson was afraid of crowds.
AO: Oh boy, Dad’s gonna give you a history lesson. I think it’s hard for females. A guy can get away with any raw comment, but when a female does it…
CO: What do you think my opening joke should be?
AO: One time at band camp… No.vDon’t say the lawn mower joke, Steve.
SO: No, you don’t do jokes. You do more like something that happened to you on the way to the place… or…
AO: Let me tell you about my mother…? That’s always a good place to start. Here’s to the mothers, it’s their fault.
SO: You could open it with the two girls in diapers.
AO: No idea what you’re talking about.
SO: Dogs in diapers it’s a funny image.
AO: Oh, the girls.
SO: To me part of doing stand up is relating stories about people that you know.
AO: Well, God, you better know funny people than. She’s up shit’s creek then.
CO: Who’s your favorite comedian? Other than me guys, geeze, you’re making me blush!
SO: Uh, so I’m just gonna say you to get it out of the way then. Current comedian? Probably, Lewis Black. I like Seinfeld.
AO: I pick Robin Williams.
AO: Yeah, I like Robin Williams. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
SO: Oh yeah, Tina Fey.
CO: Anything else you want to add?
AO: I think you should push it. I think you should pursue it.
SO: You could create a character like um… what’s her name did… SNL… Gilda Radner.
AO: Oh, I know who I love, Gilda Radner’s husband, Gene Wilder.
SO: When you can develop something where you get into character, you can really go with it, rather than standing there and telling jokes, you can be in character.
AO: You do that well. I can see your acting experience. I like when improv has a connection to the acting.
Cait currently improvises with Philly Improv Theater house team Davenger directed by the amazing Maggy Keegan. She can also be seen in improv duos DupliCate and Mr. and Mrs.
If you are a Philadelphia-area comedian who’d like to interview one (or both) of your parents send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Go ahead, do it. You should really call your parents more anyways.
by Chris Dolan
Brian Six is a member of the B.A. Comedian comedy group (Six plus Dan King, Andrew Sposato and Tim Raymus). Along with Philly comic Jess Carpenter, they have taken the former R Open Mic and relaunched it as Comedy Under the Disco Ball at L2 Restaurant & Bar, 2201 South Street.
I spoke with Brian Six at their one-month anniversary open mic at L2 to talk about the new location and other B.A. Comedian projects.
Chris Dolan: Talk about the new space at L2 – how did you decide on it?
Brian Six: We came to this one because my roommate, who’s a bartender, was coming here on Sunday nights for reggae night. He was talking to Nate, the L2 owner, who expressed some interest in comedy. Then I talked to Nate and I was obviously blown back a little [looking at the room] cause I was like ‘This is different…” But we were on the same page.
When we were at RBar, we had an idea of our show, and they had their own ideas about our show. L2 seemed like a better fit for us. So we came here, and the transition’s been really smooth. It’s going great. The space is bigger….
CD: You got a couch.
BS: Yeah, we got a couch. The bathrooms are bigger.
CD: I swear to God, last time I was here I didn’t get up off that red chair [a very comfy IKEA ‘Poang’ model adjacent to the couch] until I had to perform.
BS: The only difference is [as of now] there’s no stage here. But we’re making one.
CD: But you have a disco ball.
CD: Anything else stand out about the room?
BS: Well, there’s the floor.you called it something…
CD: I can’t recall, it was a Mayor McCheese joke [Note: the floor looks like its colors were pulled directly from the color palette of original McDonald’s restaurants].
CD: Who was involved in the transition?
BS: I came up here, Dan King came with me. And all of us said ‘yup’. It’s a different room. We like it cause it’s unique, so we can have some fun with it. The location’s great; we have a lot more walk-through traffic than at RBar. Every comic has been really positive about it. Nate has been nothing but supportive in terms of advertising and helping us out. We feel like we’re gonna be here a long time.
CD: How did Jess Carpenter get involved?
BS: We brought Jess Carpenter in at RBar cause he had ideas for shows and he’s been [running shows] a lot longer. Comedian Deconstruction, Not Just Comedy…so we brought Jess in and he’s been only positive for the show, and the boys of BA Comedian have been all on board with Jess.
CD: Talk about your video collaborations with LawnBoys Comedy & Ben Fidler.
BS: What happened was Dan King, Tim Raymus and Ben Fidler had gotten together to do a skit: “Cards on the Table.” They did that and I loved it. I’ve known Ben since we started. So we started writing and it clicked. When B.A. Comedian and Lawnboys got together it was an easy thing…it was awesome. So now we developed a new idea that features Mike Logan; we’re working on that.
CD: Are all the scripts Logan-centric, or are there others?
BS: Right now we’re still on the Logan idea. But we have another concept which Ben, Mike DiAlto and Tim Raymus developed, which is more of a TV series type thing. It’s kind of like 3 different stories…Ben, Mike, and Tim and all of their stories converge together. That should shoot the end of May. Another is “Simple Answers with Ben Fidler.” Those are two-minutes interviews that comics have with Ben, and you have to give honest answers to simple questions.
CD: Wrapping up: any other shows or showcases?
BS: We’re gonna start a monthly show here at L2. I think that’s also where Jess comes in, he does a great job with monthly shows. And I think Jess will take the wheel for those. As for the mic at L2—I think everybody’s having fun.
Chris Dolan is a comic who lives in the Philly burbs. Follow him on Twitter @CMDolan99. You can also see Chris host the Totally Free Comedy Show on June 8th at Nineteen19 in Havertown, PA.
This Sunday, students from the latest PHIT Conservatory course will perform their first HYDRA, a format they developed over the eight weeks of the class. The group was instructed and directed by Steve Kleinedler, who also directs PHIT House Team Hot Dish. Back in February, Steve told us what he had planned for his students—now, here they are to talk about what they learned, and what we can expect from their four-show run.
WitOut: Describe the experience of participating in a PHIT Conservatory course.
Meredith Weir: The PHIT Conservatory course gave me the opportunity to work with Philly improvisers I’d never shared a stage with. A decent number of the students in class had traveled through the PHIT curriculum over the last year together, so some chemistry was already there and I think that really helped move our team/class along. There was a lot of emphasis on group mind; we created our own warm-ups (that sometimes ran over an hour), and did 40-ish minute runs during the first couple weeks just to get accustomed to each other. It didn’t take long for those that already worked together and those that hadn’t to gel.
Tomás Isakowitz: Working on developing our own performance and more than that, performance style, is challenging, fun, frustrating, exciting, scary… all of that simultaneously. I have grown tremendously improv-wise. At Conservatory each participant is given very specific pointers on what works, what does not, and how to improve. If you can take the criticism, it will force you to grow. And then, there is the fun exploration of creating our own style. It is a fantastic prelude for on-stage performance, especially for someone who has not performed on a team before.
Josh Depowell: Conservatory class is a really great transition from graduating from PHIT’s core curriculum to establishing your own comedy troupe. The conservatory encouraged us to think about different forms that our group of improvisers would be good at doing. The guidance of a PHIT instructor helped us to realize which things worked and which didn’t, and they guided us through the thinking process of getting to a place where we would have something to put on stage. I think that this is a great opportunity for people planning on putting together improv teams in the future.
WO: What was the most important thing you learned from your instructor, Steve Kleinedler?
Danielle Klaiman: To try to think of the most important thing I’ve learned from Steve is almost impossible. He has helped me hone my listening skills and in class we really focused on the relationship between two characters and how that relationship effects them. Probably the most important thing he’s left me with is, “Don’t drag the fucking chairs or I will come onstage and break that chair over your fucking head!” [Kleinedler adds: I didn't say this until week 7. But seriously, don't drag your chairs when editing, people!]
WO: The course is culminating in you and your fellow students performing your own original improv show, the HYDRA. Can you describe the format?
Mike Butler: Without giving too much away, it’s a fast-paced, multi-headed beast of a format. If the Armando is a revolver, we’re a full-auto mini-gun. I’m pretty sure the Hydra will set a Philly improv record for scenes in a show during its run.
Joe Coughlin: With an audience suggestion, we each state a brief line inspired by the suggestion. Then one of us will restate our line and that will inspire three brief scenes. We repeat this until all of us have performed our monologues at which time we will go into a run incorporating many of the ideas we’ve generated throughout the set to that point. It’s fast and it’s furious and it really fits the people performing it.
WO: How did you guys go about creating this totally new, unique form?
Mike Butler: It came together rather quickly. Steve figured out our individual and collective strengths from the first class, specifically through a warm-up session that was only supposed to go 15 minutes but kept going for over 50 minutes. In the next couple classes we found the root of the form through a monologue exercise that the group latched on to. After that, we spent the remaining weeks refining the format and getting accustomed to playing together.
Meredith Weir: Talking, talking, and more talking. After the first four weeks we spent a lot of time focusing on what we noticed our strengths were as a group, and what we each prefer individually. There was so much to pull from because even though we had only been together for a short time there was a lot of repetition in those first couple weeks. Steve, although a great director, really left it up to us. He was there to guide us but for the most part we developed “The Hydra” entirely on our own in an organic fashion. (Even though it’s not an organic show at all—we all like structure!) We took what worked, “yes, and”-ed it and developed a show that PHIT audiences will enjoy.
WO: How do you think the show will evolve throughout its run? Does the group anticipate making any adjustments to the format from performance to performance?
Joe Coughlin: I think the biggest thing is adjusting to playing it in front of an audience. We’ve become comfortable with the format over the past few weeks, it’s just time now to get it in front of a crowd. I’m sure we’ll be up to tweaking it a bit depending on what seems to play or not, but the format is made of some pretty solid building blocks that are arranged in a different way for this show. I’m confident in our ability to adapt.
Danielle Klaiman: It will be very interesting to see how things play out over the run, mostly because not all seven of us will be there for every show. Whenever someone is absent from the group the dynamics automatically shift. Thankfully the format we have created is not reliant on the number of people we have and still works well when someone is absent. We’ve been rehearsing so long without an audience that I think all of us are pumped to reveal all the hard work we’ve been doing and to see how the audience responds. Maybe we’ll tweak a few things here and there, but I feel like we’ve got a real solid format that showcases our individual talents.
Josh Depowell: Throughout the last couple of classes we saw that the pacing of the show picked up and we realized that this helped the performance. I believe that their is a possibility that we will continue to see this throughout the run as well. I do not expect that there will be any major changes to the actual format that we are using. I think that what we have right now is working and that any changes that may be made will be focused on how we are playing within the format.
WO: What aspect of the show do you think will be most exciting for audiences?
Tomás Isakowitz: Experiencing our new style and figuring out how it works! We mix monologues with auto-prompts. The audience is smart and will feel remunerated as the show unrolls and they can see how the fabric is gently produced from the threads they have seen develop.
The PHIT Conservatory ‘HYDRA’ will be performed on May 19th at 7pm, May 26th at 5pm and 7pm, and June 2nd at 7pm at Philly Improv Theater at The Shubin Theatre (407 Bainbridge Street). Advance tickets are available online.
This Saturday, stand-up comic Rachel Fogletto brings Comedy-Gasm back to The Irish Pol for another round of comedy from “the city’s edgiest and unashamed performers and comedians.” Read on for more about Rachel and the show.
WitOut: How long have you been doing stand-up? What got you started?
Rachel Fogletto: I’ve been doing stand-up for about 7-8 months. I had been doing other forms of open mics like spoken word and storytelling for some time, and I had recently been branching out to other types of performance and was in a Fringe show. I had numerous people tell me that I made them laugh when I would tell sex stories that were often uncomfortable and emotional situations. One woman I worked with in a show said, “You remind me of a comedian.” I thought that was funny for some reason, and I had always wanted to do stand-up but never really felt that I had the balls. So I finally tried it and realized that I had it all wrong. It took balls to get up there, yes, but I had actually had to grow a dick to stay up there, and keep coming back.
Stand-up was the most challenging form of performance I had ever done, and I feel like anything you do that you love should challenge you. Once I started I knew I couldn’t stop.
WO: When and how did you decide to start Comedy-gasm?
RF: I started to notice that as with anything else in life, there seemed to be a “majority” voice even within comedy, which always seemed to me, to typically be an art form of struggle. There are not a lot of women, most obviously. But I also wanted to see more comedy that was pushing boundaries from other perspectives. Not to get all affirmative-action, but I wanted to see more comedy from females, or people of color or from a queer perspective or even from a place that was not typical or already “acceptable edgy” comedy, like porn or jerk-off jokes. Not that I don’t love a good dick joke. I love a good dick…………joke.
WO: Can you explain the theme for the show? What do you mean when you describe it as comedy “by the unashamed, for the unashamed”?
RF: Following up on my last answer, I noticed there were actually a good amount of comedians that had a generally rogue sense of humor, or who were coming from a totally different walk of life that weren’t as present at the more crowded open mics. Different perspectives allow for different voices, different authenticity and ultimately, jokes no one has heard before. I felt myself gravitating toward comics who tended to make themselves vulnerable onstage even if their jokes were risky. I feel like the best art comes from the ability to be unapologetic even if it riles people. And of course, it has to be good. It has to be especially good when you’re ruffling feathers.
WO: How do you choose the line-up for these shows? Are you looking for a specific type of comic, or a comic with a certain type of material?
RF: Thank you for asking! Everyone’s biggest question is “Do all the jokes have to be about sex” Um, definitely not. The format thus far has been one “non-intentional” comedian, which is someone outside of stand-up performance but still is 90% comedic. Then follows 4 stand-up comedians. For the show’s debut, this created exactly what I wanted, which was a cross audience from different scenes like The Erotic Literary Salon, so the performers were able to actually tell jokes to a fresh audience. I also arrange the lineup according to joke style and tempo, rather than experience to create a cohesive “set of sets” I guess you could call it. It could be in my head, but it seemed to work well the last time. Everyone had a blast.
Because I personally tell a lot of sex jokes, I have a way of looking at the world through sex. I think that art and comedy and the relationship between the performer and the audience is a power struggle, like sex. We go up…we try to make people laugh. We do this in different ways. Sometimes we get emotional, sometimes we try to relate, sometimes we just try to entertain. Everyone is turned on by different things. But after a while, crowds, like people, get used to the same type of “foreplay” …they are desensitized to things that used to make them aroused, surprised, offended….and most importantly, impressed. I think that when you can craft a joke, especially a risky joke, in an unconventional way and make people piss themselves laughing, it’s like you gave them an orgasm. Ta-da!
WO: If you had to narrow it down to one thing, what would you say is the funniest thing about sex?
RF: I feel like I’m supposed to make a joke here. Sex is always funny…if you can’t laugh at yourself as a sexual being, you’re doing it wrong. I work out a lot of my sex life on stage, because I owe it to people to talk about something that means a lot to me.
The funniest thing? Colored condoms.
The next ‘Comedy-Gasm’ is this Saturday, May 18th at The Irish Pol (45 S. 3rd Street). Admission is $5.
Throughout April, High Note Humor (based in Haddonfield, NJ) ran the South Jersey Stand-up Championship at The Taproom Grill. On April 26th, Paul Welsh took home the championship belt. Here’s Paul with more about his stand-up history, writing process, and upcoming shows.
WitOut: How did you first get into stand-up?
Paul Welsh: I was always the one to crack a joke or a funny line but about ten years ago my wife signed me up for a stand-up comedy class at Mercer County Community College as a Christmas present. She said “You think you are so funny…now go and learn how to do it properly.” I got the bug and a group of us from the class continued to work together, writing and performing wherever we could.
WO: What’s your joke writing process like?
PW: I was born in England and I tend to notice little differences between England and America. I then use these ideas to develop material. The process isn’t always the same, sometimes I get an idea and write the joke within minutes…other times the idea languishes in a notebook for months or even years.
WO: How did you prepare for the South Jersey Stand-up Championships? Did you write a totally new set specifically for the contest, or was it all tried-and-true material?
PW: To be honest I had forgotten about the semi-final until the afternoon of the show…I was cleaning out my garage when I got a reminder email from the High Note guys so I scrambled to put my set together. So for my semi-final I used all tried and tested material…but I was a bit better prepared for the final and wanted to do a different set so I threw in some new stuff…it seemed to work.
WO: Winning this contest probably felt pretty good, but since you’re a comic, I’m assuming you’ve had plenty of onstage experiences that felt pretty miserable, too. Describe your worst onstage moment, and how/what you learned from it.
PW: I think the most difficult one was when I was starting out and was asked to host a show at a hotel in North Jersey. They hadn’t promoted it very well so nobody showed up…I mean nobody! At show time the room was completely empty. So the show’s promoter was out in the hotel lobby pleading with people to come in…no cover…no drink minimum. He persuaded two couples to come in and so I opened the show to those four people. I learned that whatever the circumstances to perform my set with the same enthusiasm…it was my job to keep those four people entertained so they wouldn’t leave. They eventually did leave but not until after my set!!
WO: What’s next for Paul Welsh? Any upcoming shows or other projects in the works?
PW: I am in the process of refreshing my material so I am in writing mode right now.
I have some shows coming up:
5/18 Hornets Nest, Browns Mills NJ
5/31 Hibernian Club, Hamilton NJ
6/1 German American Club, Hamilton NJ
6/7 Sandi Pointe, Somers Point NJ