The N Crowd is turning 8 this year, and to celebrate they’re throwing a special anniversary show and party at Ruba Club this Friday. Read on for more details and reflections on the Crowd’s history from Executive Director B.J. Ellis.
WitOut: How did The N Crowd form?
B.J. Ellis: The N Crowd was formed after a pair of auditions held by Ray Reese and Emily Dufton in February of 2005. Mike Connor, Jessica Snow, Brandon Libby and myself were the original cast from that audition.
WO: How has the group evolved over the years?
BJE: The group has evolved in a few ways over the years. Many changes were behind the scenes. As we all gained more experience over the years and as technology changed, we found easier ways to make the show run smoother. For example, the way we sell tickets went from cash-only that week to the ability to order tickets for shows 3 month out.. I honestly can’t imagine running the show now without the benefits of technology we now use. Our show is also way funnier now than it was in 2005. We came across some old archive footage of one of our first shows. After watching it I thought to myself, “Whoa…that… isn’t…very funny. Yeesh.” I feel that the quality of our shows has really evolved. The cast has also changed a lot over the years. I believe over the 8 years nearly 40 people have been in The N Crowd.
WO: What are some of your favorite moments in N Crowd history?
BJE: That is truly a tough question to answer. I enjoy just about every week I am here. My favorite moment nowadays is coming in on a Friday and knowing we have a sold out show. In the early years of The N Crowd, we would have weeks that no one came to the show. Today…I honestly couldn’t say when the last time that happened.
WO: Do you have any new goals or plans for the N Crowd as the group enters its 8th year?
BJE: A few goals, a couple of plans. Maybe a hair-brained scheme or two.
WO: What can fans expect from the anniversary show this Friday?
BJE: We are going to be at The Ruba for our anniversary show this year. Unlike our usual shows, this venue has a cash bar. We also will have some pizza there for consumption and after the show there will be dancing. The show starts at 8:30 pm, which is alittle later then usual, just in case anyone goes to The Actors Center [our typical home] accidentally.
The N Crowd 8-Year Anniversary Show is this Friday, April 26th at Ruba Club (414 Green Street). Tickets are $12, which includes the after-party.
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
runs on two bonus days—Wednesday and Thursday—and features Friends of Alcatraz, an improvised puppet show. Here are cast members Joe Sabatino and Kelly Vrooman with details on the history of the group, the format of their show, and what it’s like to play with puppets:
WitOut: Can you give a brief history of Friends of Alcatraz? What sparked your interest in combining improv and puppetry?
Joe Sabatino: I’ve been making puppets since I was a kid, and I was always too nervous to actually put them on display or admit to anyone that I like puppets. But when Kelly and I started dating…
Kelly Vrooman: By the way, we’re dating.
JS: When we first started, I knew we shared a common interest in puppets. So, I decided to do the creepiest thing for someone you’ve only been dating for a month and I built a puppet of Kelly’s cat Alcatraz. With it came the idea to do an improvised puppet show called Friends of Alcatraz.
KV: It was a weird yet endearing gesture…but mostly weird. He put the puppet in my arms and said, “I was thinking, um, maybe… you would want to create an improv puppet show with me?” I reluctantly said yes.
JS: We gathered a group of our funniest friends, that happen to also be some of the best puppeteers in the city: Dave Jadico, Jason Stockdale and Rob Cutler. It was a fascinating group of inventive people that know how to make a puppet come alive. Thus, FoA was born.
KV: I work with puppets on TV, so I knew I wanted to have monitors for the puppeteers, which led us to want a screen the audience could watch. Once the “impropputeers” (a mind-blowingly awesome name I made up) got used to working with the monitors, the show took off. We took it to the next level by adding an a capella opening number and musical edits (Music by Liz Filios, Lyrics by Kelly and Joe). Oh, and Joe designed and made a ton of incredible puppets for us to use. That should probably be mentioned.
WO: What would you say are some of the key differences/challenges between regular improvising and improvising with a puppet?
JS: I think the world is even more infinite than human improv. The things puppets can do is borderline scary in terms of bringing imagination to life. Especially the way we present our show. The puppets can literally do anything we want them to do: fly, twist into a pretzel, enter the scene from the side of another puppet’s head, eat another puppet whole, be as big as a building… The possibilities are endless and with a camera it makes the execution of these things more real. Because of all of these different elements to play with our minds need to be a clean slate away from reality, almost. We still play grounded scenes but our “If this, then what” mentality is stretched. One or two people have questioned this project in terms of legit scene work because we never interact or make eye contact with our scene partners. When in reality it’s the exact opposite. We are in tune with one another, watching every single nuance of the puppets and reading the body language of our human scene partners. It’s also easier because we, the puppeteers, have monitors we are watching which is the same image as the projection the audience is watching. This makes it MUCH easier to really know what is going on all around the puppets, and helps us create a scene that not only makes sense, but also looks good in terms of staging, spacing and scene action. Plus… your arm gets tired.
KV: Well put Joe! In addition, improvising with puppets is one thing, improvising with puppets for the camera is another thing. And doing it well, is yet another thing! It’s kind of like singing and dancing while acting and juggling. A bunch of skills have to come together for it to be good. Sometimes a great improviser can put on a puppet and feel restricted. Sometimes, an inexperienced improviser can put on a puppet and become great.
WO: What’s the origin story of Alcatraz the Cat, the star of the show?
JS: Kelly knows how the cat got his name and what not, but I’ve always felt like Alcatraz the real cat is a little bit of a dick. I’ve NEVER been a cat guy. In fact I’m comfortable to say that before I started hanging around Kelly’s cat I hated cats. But Alcatraz always fascinated me. The defining moment for me was when I made a delicious dinner, one night. I dressed the plate nicely, set the mood and it smelled wonderful. I locked eyes with Alcatraz and he walked over to where I was sitting and eating, which was all the way on the other side of the room. He slowly walked over, climbed into my lap and put his asshole right into my food. He got up and walked away. He made a statement. So, I made a puppet of him.
KV: I adopted him off the street and held a naming competition with my family. My sister was in the lead with “The Great Catsby” or “AlCATraz”. Then, that night, the cat escaped out my second story window and got wedged in the bars of the first story window. Therefore…Alcatraz won. I really wanted Joe to perform Alcatraz the puppet because I heard Alcatraz’s voice in my head as a deep man’s voice, but Joe insisted I was the person who should do it. I reluctantly gave in. He ended up with an ambiguous European accent that hurts my throat to perform, but it’s worth it. We started to joke around about Alcatraz being a sophisticated world traveler, incredibly popular with everyone he meets, the most desired cat in the world. And if he’s that amazing, he’d totally be able to gather a group of weirdos he’s met on his travels and convince them to perform in a show, right? We discovered that he shouldn’t even perform in the show because he’s too much of a character to be able to pretend to be anyone else in a scene. So, he introduces the show, the cast of characters and gets the suggestion.
WO: Can you give some details on the format and staging of the show?
KV: Friends of Alcatraz is a long form improvised puppet show. We don’t stick to a rigid format, but we look to play out several scenes then see how those stories intersect. And spice it up with a happy dose of randomness and frivolous puppet-y fun.
One side of the stage is the “show”—a projected image of the puppets’ world. It’s like watching a puppet TV show. The other side of the stage is the behind-the-scenes creation of that show. You can watch the finished product projected on the screen while you simultaneously watch the puppeteers create the show.
JS: Our format is very catering to the puppeteers/improvisers.
JS: It was important for me that the presence of our powerhouse improvisers didn’t get upstaged by a big screen. People love to see improvisers’ minds work and the audience rarely gets to see what it’s like beneath the camera of a puppet show. We’ve really nailed it on the head in terms of being able to allow the audience to split focus. It’s great to be able to see all the work that goes into the projected image on the screen: shuffling around getting the right puppet, making a prop for a puppet to use, someone helping one puppeteer manipulate their puppet so it can do something specific…etc. Plus we are a great group of people who are really good at making each other laugh, so the audience gets to see how much fun we are having. It was important to me to really showcase the humans. It’s an experience to see our show. It’s almost like seeing five shows at once: a puppet show, a TV show, an improv show, a blooper reel and a musical.
KV: That should be our tagline.
WO: What can audiences expect from your upcoming ComedySportz Presents run of shows?
JS: They will see a group of people stretching themselves between skill sets that are difficult, yet work harmoniously with each other. We’ve found a system that works and we will keep perfecting it.
KV: This run, we have some new improvisors (Rachel Whitworth and Caitlin Weigel) who are a GREAT addition to our cast, new AMAZING puppets, and maybe Alcatraz will dance this time.
In our series, “You Should Call Your Parents,” comedians interview their parents to find out how they feel about their offspring’s pursuit of the stage.
Jeff Soles: Did you ever think I’d become a comedian?
Kitty Soles: No because it’s too scary. Getting up in front of strangers and having to think of jokes real quick. What if they don’t laugh?
JS: Have you seen me bomb?
KS: One time. Down in Philly. I was with Aunt Mary and was like, “They’re not laughing!” when you first started. I wanted to cry. Nobody was laughing. I thought, “Let’s laugh real loud and then they’ll laugh with us.” I wasn’t embarrassed, I was scared for you. My hands were all sweaty.
JS: What was your first reaction when I told you I wanted to do stand up?
KS: I was surprised. I thought you were crazy. You’re so quiet. To get up in front of people you don’t know and try to make them laugh.
JS: Do you think I’ll ever get married and have kids?
KS: Probably not. Cuz you’re too fussy. Too picky. You have to be nice to a girl. And you don’t like to do that for very long. You’d be a good father. But I don’t know about married.
JS: What if I just knocked somebody up and brought home a baby and asked to move back home?
KS: Oooohh. After I got over the shock and went to confession to see the priest (laughs). You know I’d accept your baby because it’s my grandchild. But don’t expect me to raise it. I’m getting too old for that. I’m not taking care of your mess.
JS: What if I start going to NY by myself? To make it?
KS: I know, but it’s better than Philly. I watch the Philly news. I don’t watch the NY news. So I won’t know.
JS: Are you ashamed to tell your friends and family that I do comedy?
KS: No. I love it. They always ask me what jokes you do and what you talk about on stage. I try to do your jokes but I will either forget how it goes or mess it up. Then they just laugh at me. But you were on Comcast on demand and we went to Aunt Anne’s to watch it and I thought she was going to piss her pants laughing. You did a joke making fun of us for watching the lottery and all that and she was laughing because she does the things you were making fun of. She got a kick out of that.
JS: Who do I get my humor from?
KS: I think both sides of your family. Our side always jokes around and laughs and has a good time. Your dad always likes telling jokes. Whenever we visit relatives they always ask him if he heard any new jokes. But he just tells the same jokes that we’ve heard a hundred times. But we still laugh.
JS: Do you remember the first joke I ever told?
KS: Yes you were about 5 or 6 years old. Out of nowhere you came up to me and said, “Have you seen Dolly Parton’s new shoes? …. Neither did she.” And I was in such shock and I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t yell at you. My little baby was telling a dirty joke. That coming out of your innocent mouth was just too funny. You always went around telling people jokes from your little joke book. Your favorite one you told during dinner was, “What do you call a fish with two knees? …. A two-knee fish!” It was cute. We had a good laugh.
Jeff Soles is a Philadelphia-area stand-up comedian and member of sketch comedy group IdRatherBeHere. He can be seen performing at a fundraiser show for CONCERN on Friday, May 17 at the Willow Grove VFW.
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.
WitOut: How did you get started doing comedy in Philly?
Jay West: Well I have lived in Philly my entire life, and had always wanted to try comedy, so there was always that urge in the back of my mind. Like many, I didn’t start before I was 26. Opposite of the trends, I actually was doing a podcast called Eclectic Shock BEFORE starting comedy, and I would have comedians and musicians come on. Through this, I became friends with many local comedians like Anton Shuford, H Foley, Conrad Roth, Chris Cotton, Joe Murdock, and (the one who became a very good friend) Michael Rainey. Eventually, Rainey and I had a podcast together and I met so many other great local comedians through him, and when I felt comfortable enough that I should give it a shot I did, on July 26th, 2011.
WO: Why did you decide to start this new show?
JW: I missed doing a monthly booked show; I haven’t had one since my Comedy: Period show at the Tritone. I had other opportunities to book rooms, but Voltage Lounge was the first place that got me excited to host a show I book again. The name of the show is just named after one of the most positive expressions in the world, that isn’t sexual in nature. Donkey Punch Variety Show would have been too much. It’s also a small play on words because there are 5 comedians performing, and I like to get high before shows…
WO: You also run an open mic on Tuesdays at Headhouse. What do you think will be some of the differences between how you host the open mic and how you’ll host your showcase?
JW: Hosting an open mic is like working on an assembly line: attention to detail isn’t as important as the mass production. Get as many people on and off stage as you can. You dont want to waste time telling material if you are hosting an open mic. In a showcase setting, its more like I am hand blowing glass. There is more tact to it and you are exposed (because of how few chances you have) if you dont know what you are doing. I’ll work in material and improv between acts. Hosting for people you KNOW are going to be funny is much more intimidating than hosting for people who may have performed a handful of times.
WO: How would you describe the comedians on this show for someone who’s never seen them before?
JW: N.A. Poe: The Godfather of comedy. Not that he was around for a long time, but he handles all the shady business practice and racketeering. You like fingering jokes, right?
Mikaela Hamje – One of the many great young female comedians in Philly today. She isnt afraid to talk about personal shit on stage and I have always respected that in stand-up.
Andre Johnson – Mr. Content. Very funy stand-up material, but you can also see his many different characters on Youtube. He’s like Tyler Perry with self-respect.
Dan Scully – A smart funny comedian who even dumb funny people can keep up with. The only time I’ve ever seen him not do great was in front of a room full of lobotomized stoners.
Aaron Hertzog – The Mayor of Friendship! One of the nicest guys in Philly comedy. And that’s not easy because he is also one of the funniest observational comics I’ve seen. Despite my exhaustive efforts, I could not find anyone to say any bad words about him.
‘High Five Comedy’ is this Wednesday, April 17th at Voltage Lounge (421 N. 7th Street). Show starts at 7:30PM. Admission is $10.
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.