A new comedy show is coming to the Philly ‘burbs this weekend: It’s McGilliCOMEDY at J.P. McGillicuddy’s in Manayunk, hosted by Sylis P. Here’s Sylis to talk about how he got started doing stand-up, why he’s interested in taking comedy outside the city limits, and what you can expect on his show:
WitOut: For people who might not be familiar with you, can you give a brief history of your comedy background?
Sylis P.: Like most comics, I started doing stand-up out of jealousy and contempt for the comics I’d watch. I’m still a newbie since I’ve only been doing this for a year, but my soul has been dead for most of my life, so I think that’s an applied credit towards my resume. If you’re a recluse like me, you can find me on Twitter @SylisP and facebook.com/SylisP.
WO: Is this the first time you’ve hosted your own show?
SP: It is. I’m still expecting a call from McGillicuddy’s when they realize what they’ve done by giving me a show. Not that I’d disagree with them.
WO: What do you think makes a good host, and/or just a good show in general?
SP: I think having myself, Keane Cobb, Dan Scully and Sidney Gantt on your show is crucial. Luckily I have exactly that!
WO: This show is in Manayunk—there are a few other shows out in the Philly burbs as well, but we don’t often hear a ton about them. What do you think are some advantages of doing comedy showcases outside the city proper?
SP: I live in Manayunk and I think it’s a prime area for comedy for that very reason: There are so few shows here. There are a ton of young professionals (and unprofessionals) looking for something to do and a reason to get out of the house. Conshohocken, where Sidney does his show, is very similar. The proximity to Main Street is also a strong draw.
WO: Describe the styles of the other three comedians on the show (Sidney Gantt, SP: Dan Scully and Keane Cobb), in three words each.
Sidney: Hair. Sweaters. Dangerous.
Dan: Ticking. Time. Bomb.
Keane: Hates. Stains. Glasses.
The first ‘McGilliCOMEDY’ is this Saturday, April 13th at JD McGillicuddy’s (111 Cotton Street, Manayunk). Show starts at 8PM. Admission is $10.
Tomorrow night, stand-up comic frenemies Mike Alloy and Oliver Yu debut their new monthly showcase at Silk City, Head of the Class. Here they are with more info:
WitOut: For people who may not already know you, can you give a brief history of how you got into comedy and how long you’ve been performing in Philly?
Oliver Yu: I’ve been doing stand-up in Philly for a little over 2 years. I started out as an audience member, watching open mic guys of all levels at Helium. The ability to connect with a room full of strangers, even for a few minutes, is something I decided to pursue and make a part of my life.
Mike Alloy: I was actually inspired to start doing stand-up about a year ago after I saw Oliver first perform. Seeing him command the room was really riveting and made me want to try my hand at this craft.
WO: How did you come up with the name for this show?
MA: Originally, I was going to call it Smooth Comedy Showcase because it’s being held at SILK city, get it? But then Oliver told me that was stupid. He told me to change it to Head of the Class since we are trying to attract a young adult crowd, many of whom are students, and we are showcasing what we believe to be the best comics in the city. He is truly a brilliant man!
OY: Thanks Mark.
MA: It’s Mike.
OY: …Are you sure?
MA: Yeah, but do you think I should change it?
OY: No, Mike Amoy is a fine name.
MA: It’s Alloy.
OY: Like the metal composite? You know, a change might not be so bad.
MA: I’ll call the clerk’s’ office after the interview.
WO: In the show’s description, you guys describe Silk City as “one of the most popular and best reviewed venues on Yelp in Philadelphia.” Was it hard to convince them to let you do a show there?
MA: I tried for a very long time to get the venue to host a comedy show, but to no avail. I showed up unannounced to concerts with my own microphone; in the middle of the set I would hop on stage and start telling joke to unsuspecting patrons. Eventually, Oliver sat me down and we put together a promotion plan with which we approached the management.
OY: Actually, I had Mar—I mean Mike, wait in a car while I spoke with the management. They still don’t know he’s involved with the show.
MA: He is a genius!
WO: Your publicity for the show also mentions “prize giveaways.” How will that work? Are you running some sort of contest throughout the show?
OY: The management at Silk City was kind enough to provide some really cool prizes for us. We came up with a contest that we think will be really entertaining for the audience and the comics as well. You’re going have to come out to the show to see what it is.
MA: Yeah we asked every comic to sub—
OY: Shut up, Mark!
MA: I am so sorry!
WO: There are five different comedians on the line-up. Can you explain why you chose each of them, and what makes you think they’ll work well together in one cohesive show?
OY: We wanted to put together a show that people who have never really been exposed to Philadelphia comedy will enjoy. We also wanted to give newer comedians a chance to perform in a great room in front of a solid audience. Bobby Lorello and Mikey Garcia are a couple of young guys who already have some really funny material and are comfortable onstage. Omar Scruggs and Jim Ginty are two comics that can always win over a crowd. Last but not least, our headliner, Chris Cotton, is one of the most respected comedians in the Philadelphia scene; we were so excited to book him for this show.
MA: Oliver is so wise.
OY: Hey buddy, do you have ten bucks I can borrow?
MA: All I have is a twenty.
OY: That’s fine.
The first ‘Head of the Class Comedy Showcase’ is this Tuesday, April 9th at Silk City (435 Spring Garden Street). Show starts at 8:30PM. Admission is $10.
This Wednesday, local comedians Jimmy Viola and Jon Lalu kick off a new monthly show at Adobe Cafe, Chaos Comedy. Here they are with more info:
WitOut: The name of your show is Chaos Comedy. Does that mean you’re planning for it to actually be chaotic? How will you organize your chaos into a show?
Jon Lalu: We plan on having a controlled chaos theme. The audience will witness the CHAOSPHERE in action. It’s totally unpredictable.
Jimmy Viola: The random audience members we select to perform in the line up, the sketches we perform between acts, and how we host the show itself, all of those variables will be selected through the CHAOSPHERE. So we’re not entirely sure how every aspect of the show will play out until showtime. The audience will be present to witness and partake in our journey into calculated chaos.
You can tweet us your names @SummonChaos for a chance to perform on the card. The open mic afterward will also be selected randomly, straight from the CHAOSPHERE. It might be the fairest open mic night after a free show in Philly, or a really terrible idea. We’ll see how our experiment turns out.
WO:You’re taking over the night at Adobe Cafe previously held by Accidents Will Happen. How did you get that spot? Was there a hostile takeover, or were you more polite?
JV: The official story is that Accidents Will Happen host Bradley Beck was killed when he drank a poisoned beer from Necrosexual at the final AWH show, signaling a new era of chaos. Truthfully, for someone who seems to pride himself on being difficult to work with, Bradley has only been helpful. Jon and I co-hosted his AWH show in January and we had a blast.
WO: When the two of you guest-hosted Accidents Will Happen, you performed original sketches between stand-up sets. Will Chaos Comedy have a similar format?
JL: We plan on having a mix of sketches and being ourselves, but ultimately it’s up to the CHAOSPHERE.
JV: The spirit of Chaos Comedy is to expect the unexpected, so we have surprises in store for the audience.
WO: Jimmy, probably one of the best things you’re known for in Philly comedy is your Necrosexual character. Will The Necrosexual fit into Chaos Comedy at all, or is that something you’ll continue to do as its own thing?
JV: I can’t speak on the Necrosexual’s behalf, but again, anything can happen at a Chaos Comedy show.
WO: There are 7 performers on this show. Please say one nice about each of them, and also one thing to illustrate how/why their comedic style fits the theme of chaos.
JV: We’ve assembled two Helium hosts, two New England guys, a pot-dealing robot and a slew of other characters for the show. It’s rare to find such an eclectic line-up in one room at a free show anywhere else in the city. And of course, we also select at least one audience member at random to perform in the middle of the card.
JL: Doogie Horner was the first comedian I saw in Philly, and I thought to myself “this guy is a natural comedian.”
JV: Doogie Horner was the first comic I ever performed with in Philly. I organized these rowdy stand-up comedy shows at Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar back in 2008 when I was underage, utterly horrified and unprepared to tell jokes to a dive bar full of drunks. So we’ve definitely had a few chaotic comedy shows in our history.
JL: Dave Terruso has a book coming out. That’s a big deal.
JV: I’m really excited to see Pot Bot, the drug-dealing robot with a heart of gold and copper wires, who was constructed in the mind of Chris McGrail.
JL: Pot Bot. So glad to see my two favorite loves personified.
JV: Last we saw of Pot Bot, he splattered Dan Vetrano’s spleen at Pro-Mania2k12, and Vetrano will return with vengeance on his mind and a score to settle.
JL: Dan Vetrano is eccentric and vibrant, always has the crowd’s attention and is an all-around funny guy. He lives comedy.
JV: Nicole Yates might not be present, but if not, we’ll be graced by 2013 Veggie wing bowl winner Carol the crazy Kenzo mom. We’ve also got RA Bartlett and James Creelman in the mix. They’re from New England and I haven’t met either guy. From what I’ve seen of them online, they seem like funny dudes. Creelman prints funny bumper stickers. That we’re performing with strangers at face value is another dance with chaos.
‘Chaos Comedy’ is this Wednesday, April 3rd at Adobe Cafe (1919 E. Passyunk Avenue). Show starts at 9PM; open mic at 11PM. Admission is $FREE.99.
by Joe Moore
What’s ups, Pizza Nuts?! So my entire life I have never liked black olives. I don’t know why, but they just tasted like high-class garbage to me. For some reason this all changed…and that reason is pizza. I called in an order to pick up and out of nowhere just blurted out “A large pie with peppers, onions and black olives.” The pie changed my life…and now I can eat olives.
Well enough talk about miracles, let’s talk about Beirds. Philly improv group Beirdo features Dennis Trafny, Kevin Pettit and Daniel Jaquette. Dan moved to Minneapolis a few months back, but these gentlemen are still together in spirit. The power-trio will be physically reassembling for this year’s Chicago Improv Festival and they are holding a fundraiser TONIGHT at 8PM at the Arts Parlor, which will feature one metric ton of fun from a bunch of great acts. In order to celebrate the event on Friday, Beirdo let me inside their inner circle to talk a bit about pizza.
Ever wonder what would be on a “Beirdo” pizza? Answer below:
Pizza Pal Joe Moore: How much do you like pizza?
Dennis Trafny: This much (Joe, if you could include a picture of a person holding his or her arms like shoulder-width apart)
Kevin Pettit: A whole Bunch!
Dan Jaquette: I like it like a mountain man likes bear traps and being alone with his thoughts.
PPJM: You are going to Chicago. What are your opinions on “Deep-Dish Pizza”?
DT: I think there should be a giant layer of sausage patty on everything.
KP: Deep Dish Pizza I view as the fat cousin of East Coast Pizza. I haven’t seen him in awhile and I’m very excited to rip into his saucy middle with my teeth.
DJ: I have a high opinion of them because they look more like pie, and I also love pie. Especially pizza pie!
PPJM: What day is/was “Pizza Day” in your house?
DT: I lived in a home so not sure about house. (Joe, I lived in an apartment complex. If you reword it I can maybe answer better.)
KP: Pizza day was Fridays and I assume my parents still order pizza for five every Friday to fill the void me and my two brothers have left.
DJ: For a long time, every Friday was pizza and movie night for my wife and I. Now we are trying to be more spontaneous, so it could be any night.
PPJM: If there were a pizza named “The Beirdo” what kind of pizza would it be? What kind of toppings?
DT: sawdust + maple syrup + chainsaw oil + arm hair
KP: The Beirdo SHALL be a pizza. I’m upset it isn’t already. It will have bacon, pepperoni, jalapenos, and sweet BBQ rib meat on it and should be served with a side of ranch for dipping.
DJ: It would have extra sauce because we are so saucy and also extra cheese for the same reason. Also, a stuffed crust.
PPJM: What is your favorite appearance of pizza in pop culture (music, TV, movie, etc…)
DT: It’s appearance in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game was beyond unrealistic but notable.
KP: Pizza’s best role in television would have to be in the cartoon series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Michelangelo sure loved his pizza and that love was contagious!
PPJM: What is your favorite pizza place?
DT: Gino’s East in Chicago. Kevin, would you like to go there with me? No? Dan, do you want to go there with me? I did ask you first.
KP: Tacconelli’s has been one of the greatest pizza experiences of my life. AND it is BYOB so, you can have as many balloons as you want! This ensures a fun pizza experience.
DJ: In Philly it was Little Italy, here in Minneapolis it’s Pizza Luce.
PPJM. Anything else you’d like to add?
DT: Add to what? The pizza? Our statements? Have you ever conducted an interview before Joe? You need to be more specific. (Also, don’t include any parathenicals; those are for you only.)
KP: There is a midnight showing of TNMT at the Ritz or somewhere the night of our show. I propose we party after the show, get some pizza and go see the movie!
DJ: I lived in Japan for 2 years (no big deal) and they put strange things on pizza. Once I had tuna and corn. Tuna wasn’t great, but corn was surprisingly good. Also, I always think I’ll like BBQ sauce on pizza, but then I never do. I do not like “white pizza” because I like sauce a whole lot. I’ve tried gluten-free pizza before and I don’t like that either, but I’m glad that those with gluten intolerance still have a pizza option that won’t terrorize their innards. I once saw a squirrel eating a pizza like a human and I laughed at that, I think my wife took a picture, but I don’t have access to her photos so I can’t send it along, but I’ll describe it for you. First, to set the scene. It was in Madison, WI. For those that have never been to the Midwest, I’m sorry you won’t be able to accurately envision this anecdote. Anyway, there was a tree with bark and everything. In this tree there was a squirrel. He had in his little squirrel hands a piece of pizza and he was holding it by the crust and eating the cheese parts like a human. I sometimes wonder if it was a human who was Kafka’d into a squirrel but didn’t want to give up pizza. I hope that squirrel survived the winter and lived to eat more pizza the following spring.
Awesome! One of the best groups of Pizza Pals a fellow could ever ask for, hands down. Be sure to come out and wish them well TONIGHT at the Arts Parlor at 8PM!!
On the last Friday of every month, ComedySportz
is bringing in original outside acts for their 8PM time slot, ahead of their 10PM adults-only The Blue Show
. This month, ComedySportz Presents
features two groups: Til Death Do Us Part, the improv duo Mary Carpenter and Steve Roney (both ComedySportz players), and Wisdom Teeth (Alli Soowal, Maggy Keegan, Kristin Finger and Mary Carpenter again). Here’s Mary to talk about what it’s like to improvise a marriage:
WitOut: How did Til Death Do Us Part form, and how long have you and Steve been performing together as a duo?
Mary Carpenter: I guess we started about 3 years ago. We’ve been in ComedySportz together for over 10 years. I just always loved watching and performing with Steve. He’s incredibly selfless and brilliantly funny. He is always 100% present and working with him is effortless. We often talked about working on something outside of ComedySportz, and we realized that we often wound up playing couples on stage. So, we decided to take our improv relationship to the next level. I got down on one knee, and the rest is history.
WO: Your show is described as “an improvised take on wedded bliss.” Is it always “bliss,” or do you also explore other states of marriage—like unhappy, stressed, etc.?
MC: Oh, we explore all the fun, stress, awkwardness. Those are the juicy nougat-y parts of marriage. And we don’t always play a couple, we try and hit it from all angles.
WO: Can you describe the format for your show? Do you play two-person scenes as a couple, or create a wider cast of characters?
MC: We use this brilliant book that Steve’s in-laws gave him: How to Start Your Marriage from the Catholic Church. We give it to a member of the audience and have them skim through it until we say stop. They then read a few sentences from the page they’re on and we use that to inspire our scene. We have them read 3-5 times during a typical show. Sometimes we revisit characters if the opportunity arises.
WO: How does being married in real life (though not to each other) inform your performance?
It informs everything. Between the two of us, there’s years of marriage to draw on. The good, the bad, the surprising, the weird. It’s not a conscious choice to include what we know, but what comes out in the moment is inevitably filtered through the experiences we’ve had. And since we’re not married to each other, there’s no fear of potentially offending the other person and ultimately sleeping on the couch that night.
Catch Til Death Do Us Part at ComedySportz (2030 Sansom Street) this Friday, March 29th at 8pm. Tickets are $12; $5 for improvisers who use the password “I Do.”
New improv production company Figment Theater kicks off their season this Thursday with the first edition of the Vagabond Sessions, a show that’ll be put on every two weeks, but never in the same place twice. Here’s Figment Artistic Director Maggy Keegan with more about this show as well as other plans for the theater.
WitOut: What do you think are some of the advantages of doing a series of pop-up shows like this, as opposed to a regular show at a set location?
Maggy Keegan: One of the reasons we chose to do pop-up shows is that we liked the idea of improv being ephemeral; something that we create for a moment and then it’s gone. So we wanted that concept to echo throughout everything we did from our venues down to the name of the theater itself. It’s the idea that what we do—from our longer-running season to our one-night shows—all have this sense of being in the moment.
WO: Will the format for the Vagabond Sessions always be the same—AD Showcase, then a special guest, and then the Table?
MK: We wanted the Vagabond Sessions to be a place for improvisers and ensembles to take risks so the structure of the line-up hopefully pairs risk-taking and exploration along with really fun, strong work. For the Table, I wanted to bring together a group of improvisers who I really admire and who I thought might work well together in a particular form to anchor the night. And the AD Showcase is the Artistic Director’s Showcase, which essentially is just me playing with different people each time. There are tons of improvisers in Philadelphia that I really would love to play with so the AD Showcase is my selfish wish to do that in action. I don’t know that this will always be the same structure. Mostly I am in for whatever makes sense for the night and whatever is feeding that sense of pushing the boundaries of what we think we can do and how it can make us better at what we do.
WO: The group you’re playing in for this session’s AD Showcase is Rowbit. Was that a group formed just for this show, or do you guys plan to perform regularly?
MK: Luke Field, Alex Newman, Emily Davis and I formed Rowbit because we all love game-based improv and we wanted to put together a group that could study it together. We have our first performance Thursday and then we are going to get to perform again in May at PHIT. I am incredibly excited. I have admired the three of them for a long time in terms of their intelligence and moves they make on stage and so I can’t wait to play with them.
WO: This is the first official show for Figment Theater. Can you describe the mission of the theater, and some of your long-term plans?
MK: The official mission statement of the theater is: “…to cultivate and nurture quality improvisational theater with artists and audiences through shared experiences rooted in fearless performance and nimble innovation.” We see comedic improv as an art form so for us this means that we want to provide a place for improvisers to explore whatever this art form means to them through different improv forms (such as the Deconstruction or Close Quarters), with people they’re interested and excited about working with, and within constructs that we find interesting to us, such as an Improvised Slasher Movie or by pairing improvisers we would love to see together with our Courtship Series in the Summer. I would also have to add that for me the audience is an integral part of why we do what we do. So, with all the risk-taking and boundary-pushing we’re interested in doing, we’re equally interested in creating work that is accessible to the audience. I am proud to be an improviser and I would like to introduce more people into that. It’s one of the major reasons I moved back to Philadelphia from Los Angeles.
WO: What are some other things coming up for Figment that you’re excited about?
MK: I’m really excited about some of the projects improvisers have sent me for the Vagabond series. There is some really cool innovative stuff that is happening. I also am excited for our season; Matt has some wonderful things planned for that in terms of the summer and fall. I can’t wait to see and be scared by the improvised Slasher movie.
But mostly, I have to say that I am incredibly excited to be working with some wonderful people. Matt Nelson, who is the Managing Director for Figment, is an incredibly talented producer and he’s wonderful to work with. We have a wonderful Board who has been helping us shape who we are more fully—Mary Carpenter, Jen Curcio, and Brian Rumble and their thoughts and insights into how we do what we do have been really important. We also have Hilary Kissinger and Kate Banford helping us with Marketing and Kate Banford and Cait O’Driscoll have been finding us really fun spaces to play. The fact that they take time out from what they’re doing to be a part of this is incredible and what they bring has been integral to the launch and the vision of what we’re doing. Theater is a collaborative art and being able to work with talented, committed people is what energizes and excites me about the theater.
Figment Theatre’s first ‘Vagabond Sessions’ is this Thursday, March 28th at Fleisher Art Memorial (719 Catherine Street). Show starts at 8PM. Admission is $5.
Tomorrow night, comedians, friends, roommates and ragtag group of rapscallions Alex Grubard, Joey Dougherty, Lou Misiano and Tommy Touhill bring you three shows in one: Comedy Bonfire at The Fire. For seven greenbacks, you get a stand-up showcase hosted by Alex (featuring Ryan Shaner, Mary Radzinski and Dave Topor); a live taping of the Trailer Trash Podcast (with Joey and Tommy as guests); and to close the night, the ComeDIYorDIE open mic hosted by Lou. Here they are answering some questions about Comedy Bonfire, comedian-produced comedy shows, and living together:
WitOut: Alex, you used to do a different show at The Fire, right? What’s bringing you back?
Alex Grubard: It was called All Ages Comedy. Why you gotta bring up old shit? The Fire is a simple, solid rock venue so their showroom is separate from the bar. We thought Northern Liberties could use more comedy. Also it’s down the street from the house we live in so it’s easy to get to for all of us. What Joey doesn’t understand is that some of us don’t have bikes.
WO: Is this going to be an ongoing show? And if it is ongoing, will you always do the three-shows-in-one format?
Lou Misiano: March 26th is a one-off show to start out, but the idea is to keep the three shows for $7 aspect. It’s a comedy night at a rock venue. The shows could change, sure. We’ll likely first play around with the 11PM time slot, but who knows what kind of unique but done-to-death show it could wind up being? What Tommy doesn’t understand is that there are plenty of open mics and no one will miss one that doesn’t exist yet.
WO: You live with the other three producers of this show. What’s it like living in a house full of comedians? Do you think working with the people you live with will put any stress on your home life?
Joey Dougherty: Living with comedians is great as long as you’re also a comedian. Non-coms are always like, “Why does every ‘touring comedian’ seem more like a ‘homeless person crashing on our couch for two weeks?’” What Lou doesn’t understand is that comedy is hard, shelter is harder.
WO: The open mic portion of the show is called “ComeDIYorDIE.” Can you explain why/how you feel a DIY aesthetic/attitude lends itself to stand-up comedy? What do you like about independent comedy and comedian-produced shows?
Tommy Touhill: There’s pros and cons to doing things yourself. There are four of us running Comedy Bonfire so it’s more like just a great pun to call it an open mic. Stand-up comedy does have the benefit of making comedians feel like individuals and a part of a community at the same time. Writing and performing stand-up comedy is about as DIY as you get, but finding people who you work well with is important. A comic’s ability to bounce around projects and try different things with different people besides performing alone on stage is a powerful resource. What Alex doesn’t understand is that it’s more than an image; it’s a business model.
WO: Please pick a soundtrack for the evening using only songs that have the word “fire” in the title and/or lyrics written around the theme of “fire.”
“Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash
“We Threw Gasoline on the Fire and Now We All Have Stumps For Arms and No Eyebrows” by NOFX
“If You Love Someone Set Them On Fire” by Dead Milkmen
“Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis
“Firestarter” by Prodigy
“Light My Fire” by The Doors
“Fire On The Mountain” by The Grateful Dead
“Lake of Fire” by The Meat Puppets
“I’m On Fire” by Bruce Springsteen
“Sleep Now In The Fire” by Rage Against The Machine
“Sex On Fire” by Kings of Leon
That Billy Joel song.
“Into The Fire” by Bruce Springsteen
“Fireflies” by Owl City
“Dig For Fire” by Pixies
“My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” by Willie Nelson
‘Comedy Bonfire’ is this Tuesday, March 26th at The Fire (412 E. Girard Avenue). Show starts at 8PM. Admission is $7.
by Chris Dolan
Dave Terruso is a genuinely funny guy; he hosts at Helium Comedy Club in Center City and performs stand-up frequently around the Philadelphia area.
He is also an inquisitive guy, asking his married interviewer, “Where is your wedding ring?”…and, in doing so, getting a story about the ring’s whereabouts and inscription.
We met at Urban Saloon in Fairmount to discuss his latest project, an office murder-mystery novel he’s written entitled Cube Sleuth. The book draws on elements from Terruso’s own (admittedly hated) former office job, and revolves around the main character’s search for the killer of his best friend/coworker, set against the backdrop of a typical corporate cubicle farm.
Chris Dolan: A book is a big endeavor. How did you decide to write a book, and settle on the subject matter and whatnot?
Dave Terruso: I’ve been writing books since I was 11. I wrote a short story—it was both sides of one page—about vampires. I read it to my parents and they clapped. So I said “This is what I’m gonna do for my whole life.” And then I got my own typewriter and wrote my first 100-page novel. I wrote six more before the one I just published. So it’s always been y’know, what’s the next project? When I started my job, the job that I talk about in the book, I started writing screenplays. I wrote five of those. This novel was the first one I wrote after the screenplays, so I was kind of going back to my original form. And the idea for the book just came from hating my job so much and being bored there and just thinking this would be a really strange place to set a murder mystery. Murder mysteries are usually about exotic things and characters, locations…interesting people with dark secrets. I wanted to write about boring people without anything to hide.
CD: Were any of those books you wrote when you were younger murder mysteries or was this your first?
DT: I wrote a book after Cube Sleuth which is another murder mystery. I’ve written a bunch of different things but this is the one that I feel at home with the most. As a kid I liked murder mysteries and watching all those movies. Presumed Innocent was like a big inspiration for me. It’s partly an inspiration for this book.
CD: Greta Scacchi….whoa.
DT: It’s a good movie. As a kid I recognized it as a good movie and as an adult, I read the book and knew this was something cool. I did write a murder mystery when I was 13 or 14 and I made my mom the main character. So this is kind of the adult version of that. I won’t always write mysteries. I write straight comedy things and I like sci-fi and stuff, but in general I think I’m a mystery writer. Even if I write a sci-fi thing it’ll be a sci-fi mystery. I think that’s the way the human mind works. You’re trying to figure out the puzzle of something. You go on a date with someone, you’re trying to figure them out. And you ask them questions and you listen to their answers and you learn from what they ask you.
CD: Did you solve the Cube Sleuth mystery in your mind and then work your way back? Or did you evolve the story to the point where you ended it the way you wanted?
DT: I’ve heard some mystery writers don’t have the ending when they start writing; I don’t understand that. I know. I do a ton of planning before I sit down. I knew the ending first. I have five main events that I know are going to happen that flesh out the story, and then I outline, and I leave the rest to the moment. The five events remain the same, but there are other little twists and turns. That’s the fun part for me. I’ve got to let the characters go where they want to go.
CD: There’s a line that describes a female character’s voice “like tiny marshmallows melting in hot chocolate.” Do you have turns of phrase that are in your head and you apply them to specific characters? How do you know when you want to use simile or metaphor?
DT: I try to just write the way I speak. And I usually speak in a visual sense…even the stand-up that I do I’m trying to get an idea into your head, so I compare something to something else. I could never explain how that woman’s voice sounded to me…the key or the tone of voice, but I could say it sounds to me like tiny marshmallows melting in hot chocolate. And hopefully the reader’s brain can put that together. But no, I don’t have anything prepared ahead of time.
CD: Do you have an editor?
DT: I’m an editor myself. So I do that myself. I read somewhere that you never finish a book, you just stop revising. For me, I write the rough draft, I revise it to where it’s readable and then I give it to a bunch of people that I trust—I have a lot of English major friends and editors—I let them read it. And [as it relates to the mystery] I see what they figured out and what they didn’t, and then try to scale back. I think I err on the side of giving too many clues. People [reading the draft] are like “I’ve figured it out already”…So then I scale it back.
Then there’s this thing of…like knowing you’re in love or something, you just go, “it’s done.” So I get this settled feeling in my mind.
CD: You’ve mentioned you have another book project or projects in the queue?
DT: I just finished the rough draft of the new book 3 weeks ago. So now I’ll revise it to where it’s readable and give it to my friends. I quit my job and I need to sell the book soon so this will be like a faster thing.
CD: Will you have a launch event?
DT: I will probably do an event. I was thinking about doing a show where people would pay $15 for the show and get the book for coming.
CD: So you do sketch, stand-up, writing…improv too?
DT: I did improv. When I was 24 I joined an improv group for a year. I did sketch for eight years, and then five years in I started doing stand-up ’cause I kinda knew I’d be going off on my own at some point. And now stand-up has been my sole comedy thing for the last four years.
CD: Do you still watch sketch or improv?
DT: I’m still into all forms. I’m probably going to be doing sketch again soon. Kevin Regan and Alli Soowal asked me to do something with them. Sketch is my number one love, comedy-wise. It combines the things that I do the most which is write, act and perform. Stand-up does it, too, but I like to be a character. Sketch gives me that. I’ll always come back to sketch.
CD: Apropos of nothing, I interviewed Sidney Gantt recently about the Captain Action Comedy Show and he just raved about you. Your sketch and improv abilities have definitely helped you in terms of thinking on your feet, in that particular forum.
DT: I feel like every comedian should do improv because it just informs everything you do. If you get heckled you’re like “I got this.” You can’t really throw me on stage. Because for a year I got on stage with nothing in my head except for what the audience yelled out. It’s a different kind of confidence.
CD: Who are the comics that you like and have influenced you, from any genre?
DT: My big five of living comedians right now are Patton Oswalt, Louis CK, Bill Burr, Paul F. Tompkins and Dana Gould. I got to open for Dana Gould and he was amazing. I begged the club to let me open for him. You don’t get to ask who you open for. I said I’d work for free, and I didn’t get it, but the guy who was supposed to do it was in LA and they called me. The manager of the club, Jeff, who likes to give me shit, came back stage and told the [Gould] how much I idolized him. [But] I try never to be starstruck I don’t want to make them uncomfortable.
CD: People say it’s a bummer to meet your heroes. What was that like?
DT: It’s not true. Dana Gould does this huge bit about meeting Bob Hope and how it was terrible and how Hope was a shithead to him, and [Gould] said “Don’t meet your heroes.” When I heard that I laughed, ’cause he was so nice to me, he’s a writer, he [at the time] was writing a pilot for a show…
CD: He wrote for The Simpsons, too.
DT: Yes, he’s amazing. And I was sitting backstage and editing my new book ’cause there’s so much down time. And he saw me and asked what I was writing and he said “that’s a really good idea for a book.” So he was totally cool. I haven’t been disappointed by anybody [who I’ve hosted for].
CD: Any last words about Cube Sleuth?
DT: It’s dirty in a fun way; people should know that if they decide to buy the book.
‘Cube Sleuth’ is on sale in paperback at createspace.com and for the Kindle via Amazon.
Chris Dolan is a stand-up comic who lives in the Montco burbs. He’ll be appearing in the Comedy Showcase at Puck Live! (1 Printers Alley, Doylestown) on March 28th.
This Saturday, Mike “Trailer” Bauer and Garrett “Trash” Smith bring you All Bets Are Off, a comedy showcase they threw together at the behest of the good folks over at World Cafe Live. Here they are to tell you more about it and teach you some new hashtags and emoticons.
WitOut: Putting on a show at World Cafe is a pretty sweet deal. How were you guys approached for it? Why do you think they wanted you to do something, and why were you only given two weeks?
Garrett Smith: It is a pretty sweet deal It’s a pretty lucky, sweet deal, LOL. World Cafe had a cancellation last minute that they couldn’t fill because every band from Philadelphia is on the road finishing up their SXSW gigs (ROFL), and it just so happens Baurer and I are friends with one of the ladies that books their shows. I guess she figured we couldn’t possibly put on a show that was worse than them not putting on a show at all, even if we did only have two weeks to put it together ) And that’s how Baurer came up with the name, ’cause with only two weeks to book great Philly comics, All Bets Are Off, OMFG!
Mike Baurer: What Garrett said.
WO: You’re doing a live taping of Trailer Trash for Comedy Bonfire at The Fire on March 26th, but not for this, your own show. Why not?
GS: Well we already had the show at The Fire booked a week or two before we got offered the World Cafe slot, BTW, so we wanted to set it apart from that show. 8====D~~ We also thought, we just got offered this big, great venue, let’s give some comics we love who are far more experienced than us the opportunity to get on that stage and stretch their legs a little.
MB: What Garrett said.
WO: Will the two of you be on this show in any other way, e.g. as hosts?
GS: Baurer is going to introduce the show and then I will host the showcase, sure to be full of many ROFLcopters.
MB: What Garrett said except I will be behind the curtain when I introduce the show but OMG am I nervous.
WO: I know you were originally hoping to get some live bands on the show to supplement the comedy showcase. Have you been able to book anyone?
GS: No Due to the aforementioned SXSW tours, we weren’t able to find any bands that would be all, BRB, we </3 comedians and gotta play this comedy show, LOLz. So instead we’re having a short open mic hosted by Joe Bell (Nyan Cat!), featuring some more comedians we like after the showcase.
MB: What Garrett said.
WO: The downstairs stage at World Cafe is pretty huge. How would you encourage the comedians on the show to use/take advantage of that? Lots of pacing?
GS: We hired Rick M0ranis to bl0w them up s0 that they’re more appr0priately sized for the stage, haha jk.
MB: What Garrett said but also drink lots of water and eat your veggies. NOTE to all the comics on the show: The time it takes to get from backstage to the mic also counts towards your time. Thanks. -Staff
WO: The room itself is pretty huge, too. Do you think you can fill it? What have you been doing to encourage people to come, and what would you say now to get WitOut readers there?
GS: Ermahgerd, we haz lot$ of flyRz, upcoming pre$$, and memeZ for the interwebz, LOLcatz.
Your #readers will be happy to see the great line-up of #comics we have: Dan Scully, Sidney Gantt, Alex Grubard, Alex #Pearlman, Aaron Hertzog, and Doogie Horner. And they’ll be #happy to see a #cheap $7 ticket for World Cafe Live. RT!
MB: In all seriousness, this show is going to be so much fun! Why not spend a Saturday night at a new venue for us to do a comedy takeover at. World Café Live is a great spot and they have amazing food and drinks, so make a night out of it. This might be our only chance to do something like this so I would love for it to be a speical night for everyone involved. I think we gathered some of the best comics for the showcase and have put together an amazing open mic to follow. There is no possible way you will be disappointed when you leave this show.
‘All Bets Are Off’ is this Saturday, March 23rd, Downstairs at World Cafe Live (3025 Walnut Street). Doors are at 7:15PM; show starts at 8:00PM. Admission is $5 plus a $2 ticketing surcharge, and tickets can be purchased online.
OK, here’s the situation… Anyone familiar with the DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince hit song (or Leslie Knope’s tribute to it in Parks and Recreation) knows that it is generally believed that “parents just don’t understand.” This can seem especially true for comedians and other people that choose to pursue their interests in the arts. But maybe some of our parents understand us a little more than we may think. In our new series, “You Should Call Your Parents,” comedians will interview their parents to find out how they feel about their offspring’s pursuit of the stage.
Kristen Schier: What did you think when you found out I was performing comedy?
Marilyn Schier: My first thoughts when you said you wanted to perform comedy were: “Gosh, I hope she doesn’t want to move to New York,” closely followed by, “she still needs a ‘real’ job to buy food.”
KS: Are there things you remember about me growing up that explain why I became a comedian. Or is it a total surprise to you?
MS: When you were growing up I knew you were destined for the stage. I remember one time when you and your sister (you were about 3) performed a rain dance on a piano bench for everyone at Doris’ house. Your sister played the piano (not well, she was 4) and you interpreted the music through dance. Then there was the time we were driving back to Emerald Isle from Wilmington, NC and you had me laughing so hard in the car that I missed the turn and ended up on a very dark road in Camp LeJeune with guys dressed in camouflage and carrying M-16’s. I told you not to say another word until we got back to the beach house.
KS: In your own words, explain to me what it is you think I do?
MS: I am pretty sure I know what you do, I am just not sure how you do it or where it came from. Neither your father or I are very funny, but you, my dear, are hysterical. Even when I come down for breakfast or lunch, you usually say something while we are driving around that is either mildly offensive or makes me laugh.
KS: Who are some of your favorite comedians?
MS: Well, I love early Bill Cosby. Lots of those older comedians whose names I can’t remember and they are all probably dead now anyway.
KS: What do you wish I was doing with my life?
MS: My dreams for you have come true. You are doing something that you love doing and that’s the best job in the world. I am, have been, and always will be very proud of you.
Kristen Schier is one half of the Philadelphia-based improv duo The Amie & Kristen Show/The Kristen & Amie Show, as well as a Philly Improv Theater instructor; improv instructor at University of the Arts; director for PHIT House Team ZaoGao; and Artistic Director for the short-form Philadelphia improv group The N Crowd.
If you are a Philadelphia-area comedian who’d like to interview one (or both) of your parents send us an email to email@example.com for more information. Go ahead, do it. You should really call your parents more anyways.