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.
Brandon Gorin, David Piccolomini and Ryan Crawford are putting on Nervous Breakdown at PhilaMOCA this Friday, a show that will feature stand-up comics (Ryan Shaner, Chris Wood and Tommy Pope), live-tweeting (Steve Miller-Miller), and possibly angry tears. Read what Ryan has to say about the long, strange adventure it’s been to set it up, then be there on Friday to find out what happens. It sounds like it’s going to be a real shit show—in a good way, though.
WO: The description for this event is “a comedy show, but tonight it’s OK to cry.” Do you expect the audience to be moved to tears? Or are the comedians on the show really sad about something?
Ryan Crawford: At this point, I can make no confident predictions about the type of emotions Nervous Breakdown will dredge up for people. But I’ve come to a place of acceptance about that. Cry, cheer, make love in the aisles at our comedy show. Whatever happens I’ll be by the side of the stage smoking a cigarette, all like, “Cool.”
Here’s the deal. This is the first creative collaboration between Brandon (T.) Gorin and David Piccolomini, unless you count how Brandon used to get up on stage and explain to people why Dave was bad at comedy. (They keep telling me they’re friends, but I’ve never seen any proof.)
Around the time we started discussing doing a show, Brandon had been thinking a lot about contemporary art and watching too much professional wrestling. He earnestly wanted to put on something that was part Dadaist performance piece, part SummerSlam. On the other hand, all of Dave’s cultural references consist of podcasts produced by marginally successful comedians. He just wanted to make a fun, goofy Friday night out for people. And me, I’m a gambler. The prospect of combining these two visions and actually pulling it off made me all tingly and breathless, because it struck me as the longest long shot in Comedy Town.
So we booked some fantastic stand-ups like Ryan Shaner and Tommy Pope. That was a big win for Dave. However, Brandon is still dead-set on chewing razor blades while he screams about the meta-modern art of CM Punk. The last time he showed me this trick, he actually sliced himself pretty bad, so – I’m just going to let people have their own reactions. Go ahead, cry. No judgments.
WO: Can you explain the format for the show? There’s a line-up of stand-ups, but you mentioned in an email you also want the show to have a premise and arc.
RC: It’s a stand-up comedy show followed by a Billy Cosby dance party. For those without any game, Bill Cosby did record several musical albums. And yes, they are totally danceable.
We got ambitious with the parts in between stand-ups. We started asking questions like, why do you have to have an affable host keeping the crowd warm between acts? Why do skits? Why not have two guys working out their very real creative and personal differences, live in front of strangers? When we asked these questions, we were drunk, and they were rhetorical. And now it’s too late for anyone to answer, or stop us.
WO: What can we expect from the other component of the show: “The projected thoughts of Steve Miller-Miller”?
RC: All three of us are big fans of Steve Miller-Miller. Brandon is particularly a fan of Miller-Miller’s workman-like approach to mocking Dave. We’re having him live-tweet the event from the booth, and projecting the tweets onto a screen behind the stage.
WO: All three producers are going to share the hosting duties, correct? How will you guys be splitting that up?
RC: Well, initially Brandon and Dave were set to co-host. Honestly, I think three hosts is a bit crowded. But a few days ago Dave texted me and asked whether I’d be comfortable possibly replacing Brandon. The same day Brandon called and begged me to replace Dave. So yes, all three of us will be sharing hosting duties, and we will be allocating those duties according to who is the least butt-hurt at any given moment.
Full disclosure: Brandon and Dave aren’t currently on speaking terms. They had a blowup when we visited the venue, PhilaMOCA, the other day, in which Dave got so mad he stormed off into a North Philly sunset, abandoning his own car on Spring Garden with Brandon and me still sitting in it. Brandon said he was proud of Dave for finally standing up for himself. Then he stole Dave’s spark plugs, and we took the Broad Street Line back.
WO: Have you ever had a nervous breakdown? And/or do you expect/hope to have one by the end of this show?
RC: Do I hope to have a nervous breakdown? Sure, the same way I enjoy grinding my teeth in my sleep. Lady, this is my life. But yes, putting together this show has been a major stressor. Odds are that by show time we’ll all pull together under the symbol of mental instability for laughs, but I want it on the record that organizing this hasn’t been pleasant and the experience is getting filed under the broad category of suffering for one’s art.
Other odds associated with the show:
3.5-1 The comics band together and storm the projector to stop Steve Miller-Miller’s tweets.
4-1 Dave secretly hopes that Brandon cuts himself.
10-1 Brandon cuts himself.
15-1 Brandon cuts himself, and it turns out to be hilarious.
30-1 Dave gets his spark plugs back.
100-1 People make love in the aisles during the show.
1000-1 The people making love in the aisle aren’t two desperate comedians.
Even money someone cries.
‘Nervous Breakdown’ is this Friday, March 15th at PhilaMOCA (531 N. 12th Street) at 8PM. Admission is $10.
Like watching live improv comedy, but hate paying for it? You’re in luck, ya cheapskate! The first Tuesday of every month, Rob Gentile hosts Free Improv at Connie’s Ric Rac, which is an accurate name for an event that is a free improv show at Connie’s Ric Rac. And though the price is cheap, the laughs sure ain’t—some of Philly’s most talented, out-there and experimental groups have played on the show.
Tonight, head to Connie’s and catch Deleted Scenes; Those Two Nice Ladies; Cake Bear; Bad James; DupliCate; No Wait; Dennis, Frank, Caitlin, Stills & Nash; and Kait and Andrew+. But first, read on to find out what Rob has to say about the show:
WitOut: How long have you been doing Free Improv at Connie’s Ric Rac? What made you decide to start it, and why did you want to keep it free?
Rob Gentile: Free Improv at Connie’s Ric Rac has been going for about a year and a half. I started it mostly because I know a lot of performers and at the time there was a need for it. I base a lot of what I do on a free show I hosted at “The Spot” in Chicago. The mantra has always been the same, a free show where 8 improv groups each get 15 minutes to do whatever they would like.
Yes, the show is free. I know. I’m a crazy man!
This is definitely a point of controversy for some people. When I started putting this show together I had anticipated the audience would be mostly performers. At this point the show has become something people really enjoy. We have great crowds, great teams, AND I am going to keep it free. The original intention was to have a place where every improviser in Philadelphia could see a little bit of what everyone else was doing without having to spend so much money. That being said, I’m not some kind of crazy comedy communist. I pay to see shows all the time and I think everyone should support the scene as much as they are able to. This show is an interesting anomaly. Without help from Frank Tartiglia who runs Connie’s Ric Rac the show would not be what it is today.
WO: You typically have groups do shorter sets (15 minutes). Is that just so you can fit more acts on each show, or is there something you like in particular about shorter formats?
RG: I like the 15-minute sets for a lot of reasons but it’s no secret that this helps to bring a bigger crowd in. I think the audience appreciates the variety and I feel like it is a little more accessible for people who don’t regularly go to improv shows. It’s also a great length of time for groups to try something new or challenging. The other half of that is the networking aspect for performers. I’ve always wanted Free Improv to be a place where improvisers get better acquainted with other improvisers. SO, pack the place with improvisers.
WO: The show is known for hosting a lot of new groups and experimental material. Is that something you intended and encourage, or has it just evolved that way?
RG: I love the new and experimental stuff. I want the show to be a place where you can meet other performers, work on new concepts, push boundaries, and get “weird.” I encourage people to collaborate on shows or do funky one-off shows with large casts. It’s fun as well as funny. It definitely keeps me on my toes and I think it does the same thing for other improvisers. I’m always open to new shows and if you have an idea and ask me for a spot, I usually put you on stage. I think the relaxed atmosphere makes it easy for people to jump up and do something out of the ordinary. I love the stuff that seems like a silly gimmick, but then works. Funny is funny and taking the risk is one of the more exciting parts about it. There is always a chance you try something and it fails. However, when the crowd gets into the moment with you and everyone enjoys whatever weird thing may be happening, the pay off is amazing.
WO: What are some of your favorite out-of-the-ordinary teams/concepts/moments you’ve seen on the show?
RG: There is a lot of great weirdness this show brings out in people. For example, Rick Horner as Monsterlogues has done some amazingly weird improv as a werewolf in the dark and over the phone. Dave Piccinetti of Sleep Walker has done an improv “magic” show, dressed up as a Christmas present, and has done improv with a fish-shaped balloon as his scene partner. Alex Gross put together an Election Day collaboration in which some of the funniest improvisers in Philadelphia did a set dressed as our nation’s greatest Presidents. It is hard not to mention things like Skyrim-Prov, Kait and Shan-drew, and Placeholder (which is always random people selected last-minute). Every month I try to pack in as much as I can. I want the show to be an experience that people want to be at.
WO: What are you most looking forward to about this Tuesday’s show?
RG: This Tuesday is going to be awesome. In addition to all the teams, we have artist Elizabeth Reindl from Temple University. She will be drawing cartoon versions of some of the improv scenes over the course of the night and it is going to be great.
The next ‘Free Improv at Connie’s Ric Rac’ is TONIGHT at Connie’s Ric Rac (1132 S. 9th Street) at 9pm. Admission is $FREE.99, obvi.
Tomorrow night, New York-based-but-Philly-improviser-at-heart Andy Moskowitz returns to our fair city to debut his new one-man show, Andy, Please! Here he is to talk about why he’s venturing off on his own, how he’ll do it, and what he’ll eat if it doesn’t go well.
WitOut: You’ve been in groups (Fletcher, ComedySportz Philly) and a duo (Jessica Tandy), and now you’re performing solo. What happened? Do you not like people anymore?
SELF-DEPRECATING ANSWER: Actually, it’s the opposite. I love my friends so much that I’m sparing them the pain of working with me. This show is an act of mercy.
NO, BUT SERIOUSLY THOUGH: I’ve been amazed by solo improv since seeing Jill Bernard in Drum Machine at the ’09 Del Close Marathon. She built a believable, fully populated world using only her voice, her body, and a few chairs. It was incredible and looked impossible, but it planted the seed. Since moving to New York, I’ve seen beautiful solo work from Andrew Yurman-Glaser (Upstate), Shaccottha Fields (One Deep) and many others at the Magnet Theater. Somewhere along the line, I decided to stop day-dreaming and start practicing. That was about five months ago.
WO: What’s it like working with Rick Andrews as your director? How did you guys find each other?
SELF-DEPRECATING ANSWER: Every second I spend with the brilliant Rick Andrews is a painful reminder of my own mediocrity. My mother picked him for me so I’d never forget my natural limitations.
NO, BUT SERIOUSLY THOUGH: I’ve known Rick since the first Duofest. He’s a true professional. As a performer, his work is consistently excellent. As a director, he’s really helped me get over bad habits like thinking and pre-planning. (You wouldn’t believe how easily solo improv can put you back in your head— even if you’re an experienced performer.) Working with Rick, I’ve been able to surprise myself just by reacting naturally to own my choices. It’s a great feeling, and apparently it’s pretty fun to watch, too.
WO: How many characters do you think you can handle playing at once? Do you have a certain number as a goal?
SELF-DEPRECATING ANSWER: I can do parodic and satirical versions of myself, so two. I can also do decent impression of me, but I don’t have the voice down yet. (It’s nasal and Jewy but weirdly feminine—a heinous mix.) So two-and-a-half?
NO, BUT SERIOUSLY THOUGH: There’s no set goal, but I tend to play five. In one practice set I managed six, although the sixth guy was just a river cop who sped by on a water-Segway. The show is a monoscene in a single location, but it’s structured like a Harold in that I start with scenic “beats” featuring pairs of characters. Ultimately I try to pull things together, and that’s usually when unexpected characters pop up.
WO: Why did you choose Philadelphia as the city to debut this new show?
SELF-DEPRECATING ANSWER: If the show bombs, I can drive to Geno’s and eat my shame.
NO, BUT SERIOUSLY THOUGH: I love PHIT and still feel deeply connected to the theater and its community, even though I don’t live in Philly anymore. Debuting this show anywhere else just wouldn’t feel right. Also, I’m only half-joking about Geno’s.
WO: What are you most looking forward to about doing a show all by yourself—and what about it most scares you (if anything)?
SELF-DEPRECATING ANSWER: I’m so relieved I won’t have to face any disappointed teammates after the show. (I’ve already covered up my mirrors!)
NO, BUT SERIOUSLY THOUGH: I’ve made a conscious decision to feel zero anxiety about the show. Looking back on my best practice sets, I was never worried about where the show was going—I was just having fun exploring my characters, listening to myself and responding honestly. As long as I do that, the show takes care of itself. As Jill Bernard recently told me about solo improv, “ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it.” It’s so true.
‘Andy, Please’ is this Tuesday, March 5th at Philly Improv Theater at The Shubin (407 Bainbridge Street) at 7pm. Admission is $5 online in advance; $8 at the door.
Philly Improv Theater sketch house team The Flat Earth will be performing a brand new sketch comedy revue at PHIT beginning tonight with four dates between now and Friday, March 8. Their first sketch revue premiered at last year’s Fringe Festival to much success, earning it encore performances at PHIT as well as a nominations from their peers for “Best Sketch Group” and “Best Short-Run or One-Time Show” at the 2013 WitOut Awards for Philadelphia Comedy. We asked the actors and writers of The Flat Earth to tease their favorite moments from their upcoming show to help whet potential audience members’ appetites. As you’ll see, they (and you) have a lot to be excited about.
“The opening sketch of the show features Molly Silverman and Jacqueline Baker doing some of the most brilliantly subtle yet insanely funny acting I’ve seen in a long time. The ease with which they pull every possible laugh out of the script is incredible.”
“Really happy with the strong female roles in this show. A lot of sketch you see is all dudes, sometimes one chick. And if there is a chick she’s a naggy girlfriend/mom/boss. Our girls have some of the funniest moments in the show and I’m really proud of them and to the writers for giving them such fun parts to play.”
“My favorite part of the upcoming show is I get to eat during two sketches.”
“One of my favorite new additions for this show is the sketch Garrote. It’s got a smart yet silly vibe, with some good old fashioned slap-stick moments. It will definitely get laughs with Brent Knobloch and Luke Field dancing around on stage. The next prop would have to be for Molly Silverman in our opening sketch. I don’t want to say the title as it would give away some jokes, but she plays a mother consoling her daughter on her wedding day. Molly has some hilarious deliveries and we can all thank Sean Landis for writing one of the silliest yet hard to say lines in sketch… close parenthesis.”
“The opening sketch of the show makes me laugh every time. Molly’s delivery of the lines is perfect as a very specific retro mom. And I appreciate all references to the halcyon days of my tweenage years.”
“Our latest sketch revue has a lot in common with the Pesto Shrimp & Avocado Crostini appetizer from Romano’s Macaroni Grill: textured pesto bits, frou-frou shrimpy accents, a crunchy crostini restaurant battle, and a colorful and gooey avocado finish. The old Macaroni Grill slogan “Run By Chefs. That Explains Our Food” is our comedic ethos and a godawful slogan. Seriously, who coined that garbage? Not one of our writers, that’s who. ”
“My favorite moment is the way Molly Silverman performs the final line in our password sketch. The line itself is already a well-written final joke to the sketch. But the first time I heard Molly perform the line, I was so surprised by her choice that I laughed for, like, a minute straight.”
“I love the costumes in our opening sketch, and Luke Field’s drumming skills send my heart aflutter.”
“Its tough to play favorites, but I will say there is one sketch in particular that has tested my ability to keep a straight-face on stage. Jacqueline Baker’s kooky monologue cracks me up each time. I laugh every time, without fail.”
“My favorite part of the show is a sketch that Sean Landis wrote which stars Molly Silverman and Jacquie Baker. There’s so many great lines in it and Jacquie and Molly really hit each one out of the park. I’ve seen the sketch about 40 times during rehearsal, it still cracks me up each time.”
“My favorite thing about the show is the variety of styles in it, and how receptive everyone is (writers, actors, and our director Paul Triggiani) to each other’s inputs. That really takes the sketches to the next level.”
The Flat Earth’s Second Sketch Revue is February 28 – March 1, and March 7 – 8 at 8:30pm at Philly Improv Theater at The Shubin Theater (407 Bainbridge St.) Tickets can be purchased online.
by Chris Dolan
On Saturday, February 23rd, Comedy Corner at Broad Axe Tavern in Ambler hosted another show in its ongoing series of comedy showcases featuring regional comedians. The show, a sellout, was headlined by Andy Nolan, and featured performances from Jim Ginty, Caitlin Feeney and host Alex Pearlman. Each month also features a performance from Dave Topor, the show-runner of Comedy Corner at Broad Axe. A highlights reel of the show is available here.
Dave Topor sat down for a conversation the week before the show to talk about the evolution of Comedy Corner at Broad Axe Tavern and his personal comedy.
Chris Dolan: Talk about how you got started with shows at the Broad Axe.
Dave Topor: I guess it just stemmed from an idea that there just wasn’t enough comedy in the suburbs…at least, a traditional show that’s [performed] the way it’s done in [Philly], just, outside the city. I looked around and knew Broad Axe had done some renovations and got lucky.
CD: So do you know anybody at Broad Axe..?
DT: I didn’t. I saw the third floor [where the shows are performed] and kind of knew that was a space I didn’t want to pass up, and I set up a showcase before I set up an open mic. [Author’s Note: 'Comedy Corner at Broad Axe' has also hosted periodic open mics.] [Broad Axe management] were cool with it…luckily enough, they were like, “we’ll try it out,” and then, from there, it worked out really well.
CD: How long ago was the first show?
DT: April 27th of last year …and then the idea behind the first show was that it was gonna be a [one-time] thing and we’d see what happened. Just because of the success and the popularity, after I saw it come to life, I said that this is something I need to continue.
CD: Who was on the first bill and how did the show flourish?
DT: I was just getting back into comedy myself, and my network was actually smaller, so I had to do a bit of research. So I went to Helium, and at that time they were having the finals of the March Madness competition. I saw Alex Grubard there, Gordon Baker-Bone…I picked them up. And I was going to open mics so [I approached] some people that I saw who were working consistently and had a polished look to them…again, a lot of luck involved, but the ones who I picked were able to bring it and did really well.
CD: How involved was the venue in terms of promotion and getting the word out versus you and your network getting the word out?
DT: At first, [Broad Axe] was kind of just “do your thing and we’ll see what happens.” I think when they saw what was developing, it didn’t take long for them to move quickly in terms of their involvement. They saw the benefits of having a show—a good show—and I think the first three shows they were letting me do my thing, then they started to do small things like put up table tents, send their own email…but they definitely are involved, they promote the show and they like it.
CD: How big was the audience for the first show?
DT: To capacity. We sold out the first show; I would say we probably had about 95 people in the room. Y’know I’m always fiddling with the seating and stuff, trying to get it just right.
CD: Any particular shows that stand out?
DT: I learned a lot after the first show. And maybe stuff that I knew but it wasn’t [top of mind]; I learned about what makes a strong line-up. Positioning comics…how positioning comics can make them have a better chance for success…the way you seat the room. Little things like that, that maybe audience members don’t really notice, but it really adds to the show. Once I was able to seat the room better, put my comics in better spots in a line-up to really make them succeed and really make all of the stuff run smoothly. Every show from there on was really great. Not that the first show wasn’t, but every show…I was lucky to have some of the best comics in Philly do the show. Tommy Pope, Chip Chantry…now I’m just trying to continue to grow, ’cause it’s gained a lot of momentum.
CD: Talk about the crowds. What do you notice about variability in age—local versus coming from a ways away…
DT: I’d say I’ve definitely been surprised. One thing stands out, I tend to tag a lot of the comics in posters and things like that. And David James had some fans that followed him out from Jersey. That was pretty cool. And there are a lot of people that attend from [the local] area. Some people have told me they’ve seen the promo inside [The Broad Axe], wanted to make it out to a show, and are glad they did. One lady came in September, October, November [...and all subsequent shows].
CD: So talk about your own comedy…you’d mentioned that you were in it for a while then got out. What took you away and brought you back in?
DT: I’ve been back at comedy now for about a year…putting a lot of work in since last February. And before that I’d been on hiatus since, like, 2006 or 2007. I’ve been on stage since then, but no real commitment. Between ‘04 and ‘06 I was on a real strong run, doing a lot of clubs and [performing] with a lot of guys like Chip [Chantry], Pat House and Aaron Hertzog. I guess the moment that got me to stop comedy at that point was I lost a booking, my first major booking. I got booked to do five shows, and the club I got booked at got closed down. And that took the wind out of my sails. I dropped out for a little while—well, not a little while [laughs]—came back last year and I’m glad I did. I started this show, and it started the gears moving quickly too. It gives me stage time, and allows me to perform with some of the better comedians in the city, see what they’re doing. If you’re on a great show it’s always a great experience.
CD: How has your material evolved from your first run at comedy to now?
DT: I think as a more mature comic now I try to pay a little more attention to joke structure. As a younger comic, I think my material was a little more all-over-the-place. Now I pay more attention to premises and punch lines…the science part of it. As well as staying outside the lines when it’s appropriate.
CD: What I’ve found is a lot of guys will—while it’s important to find your own voice—want to tell a story the way that you would standing around having drinks…versus developing the science, as you called it.
DT: I’ve tried to pay attention to how concise my ideas are, and that’s something I try to alert myself of, when I see an idea start to run on too much…and that ideology has allowed me to get better jokes, and I’ve even “refurbished” some old jokes.
CD: Cool. Anything else you want to say?
DT: Just thanks to the whole Philadelphia comedy community for supporting the Comedy Corner at the Broad Axe, and me…and I think this show is good for everyone; I’m excited to have a bunch more people come and perform.
The next ‘Comedy Corner at Broad Axe Tavern’ is March 23rd at Broad Axe Tavern (901 W. Butler Pike, Ambler). Doors open at 7:30pm; show starts at 8:30pm. Admission is $10 online in advance; $15 at the door.
Chris Dolan is a comic who lives in the Philly burbs. He’ll be performing at the Taproom Sportsbar in Morton PA on Thursday, Feb 28th as part of the Trulove Entertainment Totally Free Comedy Show II. Follow him on Twitter @CMDolan99.
Tonight, Tight Six returns to Chris’ Jazz Cafe for the third edition of Not Jazz, the monthly showcase supplement to their weekly Sunday open mics at Fergie’s pub. Not Jazz 3 will feature John McKeever, Alex Pearlman, Omar Scruggs, Jon Delcollo, Caitlin Feeney, Chris O’Connor and a super secret special guest, plus house band Starwood and the members of Tight Six (Aaron Nevins, Joe Bell, Mikey Garcia, Elise Thomson-Hohl, Dan Vetrano and Becca Trabin). Here’s Aaron with more info on the show, and Joe, Mikey, Elise and Dan agreeing with everything he says:
WitOut: Tight Six started as a weekly open mic, but shortly thereafter you guys started putting on your own shows. What made you want to expand?
Aaron Nevins: The mic was going really well and we got an opportunity to do a monthly show, which had a lot of potential benefits. It allowed us to rebook our favorite bands from the open mic and pay them a little more money, and to let our favorite comedians do longer sets to new audiences, and it gave us a chance to branch out into writing short sketches and more interactive bits. Also, we wanted to expand.
Joe Bell: Yep.
Mikey Garcia: Uh-huh.
Elise Thomson-Hohl: Yeah.
Dan Vetrano: That’s right.
WO: It seems like your relationship with Chris’ Jazz Cafe is going well–this is the third edition of Not Jazz. How did that partnership get off the ground? Were they actively looking to expand beyond jazz shows, or did you seek them out?
AN: We were hooked up with the venue by our PR guy—our Puerto Rican guy (Mikey Garcia). When we first met the owner of Chris’ Jazz Cafe, Chris S. Jazzcafe, we sort of convinced him it would be a jazz show. When he found it was a comedy show that featured no jazz, he was not pleased. However, once he saw how good the turnout was, he came around and is slowly starting to try to understand what comedy is.
DV: That’s all accurate.
WO: I’ve been hearing a lot of great things about Starwood’s performances as house band at the mic. How did you first book them, and what is it about them that you think makes them such a good pairing with comedy in general and/or Tight Six in particular?
AN: We book a different band every week for the open mic, so we scour a ton of different resources to find them. I think in the case of Starwood, Joe Bell just happened upon them, and after we booked them, we were all unsure if they were going to be a good fit. As it turned out, they were phenomenal beyond words and blew everybody’s minds all over the walls of Fergie’s. So we booked them immediately for Not Jazz, and they’ll be doing a full set at the show. Trust me: they are an experience you need to have in person.
MG: I agree.
DV: For sure.
WO: The Facebook event says there’s one special guest on the show you can’t name, but you’ve given the hint that he’ll be in town from LA. Is there anything else you’re willing to disclose?
MG: No, sorry.
ETH: [shakes head to indicate "no"]
DV: You’ll have to come to the show to find out.
‘Not Jazz 3′ is TONIGHT at Chris’ Jazz Cafe (1421 Sansom Street) at 8pm. Admission is $10; $5 with student ID.
If you’ve been paying attention to Philly’s improv scene in the last few years, by now you’ve probably heard of Bed Savage. Starting out as an independent team coached by Kristen Schier (The Amie & Kristen Show/The Kristen & Amie Show; Director of ZaoGao; Artistic Director of The N Crowd), they’re now the house team for two shows produced by stand-up and improviser Jess Carpenter: Comedian Deconstruction and The Not Just Comedy Show. If you want to learn more about the team, their form, and recent additions Claire Halberstadt and Jeff Kremzier, read on.
WitOut: How did Bed Savage come together?
Bed Savage: A bunch of us met in PHIT classes together (Grimley 101 and Edmondson 201). We included Dan Jaquette before he got all famous with Beirdo and Mayor Karen then retired like Jordan at the top of his game to become an adult, get married, and start a family (lame). RJ Payne was into it because he just broke up with his girlfriend, and everyone knows chicks dig comedians. Steve Klarich (retired) was into it because it was an excuse not to hang out with his girlfriend at the time. Anthony Fedele (retired) planted the seed, along with Sean Landis and Caroline Rhoads. They helped secure a great coach and consummate professional in Kristen Schier. Kristen’s experience and insight as a coach made the group easy to launch. Although some of the original cast retired/furloughed due to personal commitments, we have had the good fortune of bringing in other talented performers (Claire and Jeff). The team is now a 6-person totem pole consisting of Sean Landis, Caroline Rhoads, Nick George, R.J. Payne, Jeff Kremzier and Claire Halberstadt.
WO: You guys are the house team for both Comedian Deconstruction and The Not Just Comedy Show. How’d you land those gigs?
BS: Jess invited us to do Comedian Deconstruction and we absolutely loved it. Then we deconstructed him for the F Harold festival last year. It was around that time Jess decided to put a ring on it, and make Bed Savage the house team. Jess was initially looking to form a house team for the Not Just Comedy Show, and asked us to fill in until he did that. We did the first show, loved it again, and Jess and Bed Savage got married for a second time! Jess Carpenter is the mastermind behind these gigs. His energy and effort to find local comedy legends and get buns in the seats make the shows work.
WO: For those shows, you deconstruct a stand-up comic’s and a musician’s set, respectively. When you’re not deconstructing, do you have a regular improv form that you use, like a Harold or Armando? If so, how did you choose that form, and which do you prefer—that form, or deconstructing?
BS: When we’re not deconstructing we perform a Leonardo, which is a loose Armando mixed with some Harold. So that entails a monologue from one of us to start the show, then some follow-up questions on the monologue (mostly just to make fun of whoever told the story), some scenes, some games, some more scenes, some more games then a blackout.
Every one of us really likes deconstructions. It’s probably because our parents never let us take apart our Legos after we’d built something. If you wasted a set on some stupid block tower, oh well, you had to live with that forever. Now we’re making up for all that pent-up aggression to break things down by deconstructing amazing comedians such as Chip Chantry and Mary Radzinski. Doing the deconstructing is really fun because you have the advantage of seeing the audiences’ reaction to different jokes and you have the freedom to put your own spin on the scene and incorporate the stand-ups’ punchline or premise. It also allows for some great callbacks to jokes that the audience may have overlooked or didn’t quite catch. Oh—and our deconstructions are not “classical” deconstructions as known by many in the improv world.
WO: Claire (of Suggestical and previously ZaoGao) is the most recent addition to the team, correct? How was she recruited, and how has it been working with her so far? What do you think she brings to the team?
BS: We don’t know how we landed Claire. We kinda fell ass-backwards into that one. It was like wait, she’s into it? Really? Why?? She brings so much to the team though, like a creepy basement with a mattress in it, or huge bags of snacks that have both salty snacks like chips AND sweet snacks like chocolate, or bags of wine for us to slap. Oh, and she’s an amazingly talented improviser and performer who brings energy, creativity and general awesomeness to the team. She provides a great level of intensity onstage and really commits to each character and scene. She brings her “A” game every night and it’s fun trying to keep up with her.
Jeff Krezmier is also a recent addition to the team. Jeff has some great characters and voices that often end up sounding like Kermit the Frog. Sometimes things get a little weird on stage.
WO: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m assuming your name has something to do with Ben Savage. So…Can each of you describe either your favorite episode of Boy Meets World, or the influence the show/Ben Savage has had on the team or its members personally, spiritually and/or comedically?
BS: Our name is a play on the duality of man, reflecting our animalistic origins, while commenting on our addiction to materialistic comforts and predetermined departure from nature. Who the hell is Ben Savage?
But Jeff is definitely a Fred Savage fan. He’s still trying to unlock the secret of how Fred landed Winnie Cooper.
You can see Bed Savage next at ‘The Not Just Comedy Show’ TONIGHT at The Grape Room (105 Grape Street, Manyunk) at 8pm. Admission is $5.
Philly comedians aren’t just funny—they’re consistently up on current events and super well-informed on what’s going on in local and national news. Or at very least, maybe they bone up a bit when they’re about to be guests on Jim Grammond’s monthly panel show Reasonable Discourse with Jerks. Here’s Jim with more details on the concept, how he puts the show together, and this month’s jerks:
WitOut: To be honest, I get most of my news from your Twitter feed. What drives you to turn current events into jokes?
Jim Grammond: The misguided belief that I can turn making jokes about news into money.
WitOut: Is some of that joke writing “research” for topics that will end up on Reasonable Discourse with Jerks?
JG: Honestly, the joke writing process for the show is so much better than how I write for stand-up or anything else. I take a news story or interesting bit of trivia, try to come up with a funny headline for the PowerPoint presentation, and then make bullet points that are jokes about the topic. It’s methodical, whereas my regular, daily joke writing is more stream of consciousnesses, which means a lot of my regular, daily writing is garbage.
WitOut: This month’s panel is Jess Ross, Alex Grubard, Paul Triggiani and Mike Rainey. How did you assemble that line-up? And what makes each of them a jerk?
JG: Actually, Paul Triggiani had to cancel because he has a prior engagement that probably involves him dressing as a Nazi, so Philly’s Phunniest™ 2012 James Hesky will be taking his place. Jess is a fellow member of The Flat Earth and a stand-out funny improvise, Alex is a very funny, very loud comedian, Rainey is one of the best of people with one of the darkest (and best) of senses of humor, and Hesky is a dynamo in the sack.
Everyone in comedy is a jerk in one way or another. Either we think we’re better than most people, or we use humor as a weapon on people who don’t deserve it. A lot of us are paranoid and insecure, which makes us lash out in weird, jerky ways. Liz’s high school reunion episode of 30 Rock is the best reference material for this.
WitOut: I don’t want to ask you to give too much away, but can you give us a preview of what might come up at this Wednesday’s show?
JG: You can’t give away what you don’t know. I almost never come up with the topics until the day before and the day of. I’m always putting the presentation together up until near show time.
WitOut: Are there any news items that have come up between the last show and this one that you’d love to talk about, but aren’t recent enough? If so, can you give it the RDWJ treatment here? Or just pick any historical event you want—e.g., how would RDWJ break down the War of 1812?
JG: One story that broke earlier this month that I would’ve been all over but is too far gone is that Vladimir Putin hired Boyz II Men to play concerts in Russia explicitly to get Russians in the mood to procreate. I don’t know if it’s 100% accurate, but that doesn’t matter because it sounds so great and believable. I can just picture Putin getting on the jumbotron at the concert, taking his shirt off and having women oil him up, saying “Da, you in crowd, you do like me now, okay? Pants removal now. Go on, Moscow, get freaky.” Also, unlike his policies on breakaway Russian republics, I guarantee in nine months we’ll see that this plan worked.
The next ‘Reasonable Discourse with Jerks’ is this Wednesday, February 27th at Philly Improv Theater at The Shubin (407 Bainbridge Street). Show starts at 8:30pm. Tickets are $10 at the door; $8 online in advance.
Captain Action Comedy Show‘s Sidney Gantt and Center City Comedy‘s Kevin Ryan have joined forces to bring you their very own show—and possibly also to publicly embarrass some of their best friends and favorite comedians. Here they are to tell you all about it!
WitOut: Kevin, you co-hosted Sidney’s Captain Action Comedy Show last month. Is that where the idea for this partnership got started, or have you guys been wanting to work together on something new for awhile?
Kevin Ryan: We actually decided to work together a couple months ago when we realized we were both looking to do a monthly show in the city. There were a couple months of leg work to find the right venue—so I know we’re both happy that the show is this week.
WO: The promo materials for the show say each comedian will do their set, then tell their most embarrassing story. How did you develop that concept?
KR: I actually have to give credit to Sidney for this twist. He plays a quiz show with his comics on the Captain Action Comedy Show—and when I was on the show, I had a lot of fun and the audience loved it—so we are trying to create the same fun atmosphere.
WO: Do the set and the story have to tie together? And are you guys more interested in one over the other—hearing the jokes vs. getting to know the comedian on a new level?
KR: They don’t have to tie together necessarily, but I feel like they are going to. I just think it’s cool that the audience gets to see two different sides of the comics that are performing on show.
Sidney Gantt: The comedian performs first so you get a sense of who they are through comedy. So even if the story is different from their set it will still be an extension of what we just learned about them. No matter what, we will learn more about them as human degenerates.
WO: As they tell their story, the two of you will be breaking it up with some comedic analysis. Can you explain what that means, exactly? Will you be pausing them to make jokes and offer different perspectives? Or maybe pointing out which parts of the story might lend themselves to a new bit?
KR: All of the above. I’m good friends with all the comics on the show, so I’m really excited about making fun of them in front of an audience. For the most part I’m sure we will just be questioning and judging them for their actions in the story—but I hope that someone is able to write a bit about their story.
SG: It’ll be more structured than comedians sitting around riffing because we have a goal which is to get through the story. But it’ll be a lot looser than conventional storytelling because all those times in a story when you think, “Why in the hell would a person do that?” you get to find out the answer.
WO: This first show’s guests (Alex Grubard, Mary Radzinski, John Nunn and H. Foley) are a mix of Philly and New York comedians. Is it a goal for you guys to continue to draw in acts from other cities?
KR: I would love if each month we were able to get talent from other cities—but I think in the near future we will probably focus on our friends in Philly and New York. Booking the first one was tough because there are so many awesome comics in the city—I started to get excited about the line-ups for the next few months.
SG: The Philly comedy scene has a diverse group of high-level talent so we want to showcase that as much as possible. But when we have the opportunity to bring a talented comedian from other places we’re not going to pass it up.
The first ‘Tough Stuff Comedy Show’ is this Friday, February 22nd at The Headhouse (122 Lombard Street) at 8PM. Tickets are $10.