Guilty Pleasures is a monthly found comedy show created by former Philly comedian and self-described silly misanthrope Brendan Kennedy, and co-hosted by beloved local comedian Roger C. Snair. Each month, a group of comedians is assembled for dramatic readings of the worst in scripts, YouTube videos, poetry and more. Roger often also submits his own plays.
This past December, Brendan handed over the hosting reins for the show in preparation for a January move to LA. Who’s the lucky dude who’s taking over for Brendan? Why, it’s Joe Moore, of “Pizza Pals with Joe Moore” and Dog Mountain fame! How’d he get the job? A grueling interview process, of course! Here’s a transcript of Brendan putting Joe through the ringer.
Brendan Kennedy: Are you familiar with what we do here at Guilty Pleasures?
Joe Moore: Of course! You get really talented comics from Philadelphia and have them read bizarre pieces of fiction, poetry or plays. Then, they bring it to life. It’s one of the strangest things I have ever seen done on stage. It’s about taking something that maybe wasn’t very good and turning into something hilarious.
The show is unique in that it has sketch comedians, improvisers and stand ups all on one stage interacting. I actually saw a LOT of performers for the first time on stage at Guilty Pleasures who I may not have seen otherwise.
The X-Factor is Roger C. Snair. Roger is one of the most talented individuals in the city, and the fact that he is on the show says a lot about how remarkable the show is.
Guilty Pleasures and TV Party was the one night of comedy I knew I could bring friends who had never been exposed to Philly Comedy and they could walk away satisfied and interested in seeing more.
Brendan Kennedy: How did you hear about Guilty Pleasures?
Joe Moore: You told me about it once, probably about 2 and a half years ago. I don’t remember when I first went but I haven’t really missed a show since. I think once when I had a migraine, but that was it.
Brendan Kennedy: What makes you qualified to host Guilty Pleasures?
Joe Moore: I’m pretty sure there is going to be free beer there. So that makes me qualified, I think. Besides it never looked like you were doing anything too difficult up there. Just get funny people on, and stand on the side of the stage laughing. I can do that.
The real leg work is finding the crazy stuff to read, and as a guy who spends a lot of time reading crap online, I can take care of that.
I also may be completely under-qualified. But let’s not get off track here. Free beer.
Brendan Kennedy: What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Joe Moore: I don’t feel too guilty about many things I like. For instance, I have Ace of Base’s “The Sign” in my car. I also eat a lot of pizza and chocolate. Some might say I should feel guilty about that, but I don’t. All of those things are great.
I also subscribe to a monthly digest of amateur science fiction/horror authors. It feels a little weird to say that out loud. So that might be it…
Oh boy, yeah, that’s it.
Brendan Kennedy: I understand you have experience working with the soon-to-be-prize-winning WitOut.net feature “Pizza Pals with Joe Moore.” What skills from that position do you think you will be able to bring to Guilty Pleasures?
Joe Moore: “Pizza Pals” is an ongoing adventure I take with WitOut.Net where I talk to very funny people about pizza instead of comedy. Talking about pizza can reveal more about a person than where they went to school, or what their first car was or whatever.
I am excited at the prospect that I might win an award for doing it, though I haven’t heard anything about that. That’s not why I do it. I like comedy and I like pizza. It’s also a great guise to use to just meet performers I really like.
It was through “Pizza Pals” that I first met Roger C. Snair. I’ve got to meet more of my heroes by talking about pizza since then.
But to answer your question, I will probably have pizza before the show.
Brendan Kennedy: Will you bring pizza to Guilty Pleasures?
Joe Moore: That’s a great idea that is also an expensive idea… so maybe someday. I also don’t know if I want people with their mouths full while there is funny stuff going on.
But, if someone was sitting in the audience and wanted to go in on a pizza with someone they just met who was also in the audience, I think that’s a beautiful thing and ought to be encouraged.
Brendan Kennedy: What aspects of your personality do you think will mesh well with Roger C. Snair’s style of working?
Joe Moore: Roger and I have eaten pizza together, taken the PATCO back to New Jersey together and talked on the phone a couple times. He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and is one of the most dynamic performers I’ve ever seen.
None of those are aspects of my personality. But hey, I think I’m a pretty cool dude. Roger seems to think so too, and that’s good enough for me.
Brendan Kennedy: What’s your five-year marketing plan for expanding the Roger C. Snair brand?
Joe Moore: I don’t want to bog this interview down with all the details, but “CBS” and “RCS” share two out of 3 letters. Look into that what you want, I’m just saying…
But lets think small for now. We could start by getting some more likes on the Facebook page for the show. It’s at 33 “likes,” I say we can get it to 70!
Brendan Kennedy: How soon can you start? I’m trying to ditch this town.
Joe Moore: Available immediately. Thanks for your time.
The next ‘Guilty Pleasures’ is this Wednesday, February 6th at Philly Improv Theater @ The Shubin Theatre (407 Bainbridge Street). Show starts at 8:30PM. Tickets are $10 at the door, $8 online in advance.
Crazy Carol the Kenzo Mom with stand-up Carolyn Busa
If you weren’t at the 1st Annual Veggie Wing Bowl Comedy Spectacular this past Saturday, you missed one hell of an event. In addition to a great line-up of stand-ups and excellent hosting by Hillary Rea and Thunderfoot Larry, the Veggie Wing Bowl also showcased some brand new and recently created characters that have popped up in the Philly comedy scene, like Faberge Gregg (Gregg Gethard), The Necrosexual (Jimmy Viola), Some Penn Douche (Paul Easton), Andre (Andrew Jeffrey Wright), Despiria (Rose Luardo) and Crazy Carol the Kenzo Mom (Nicole Yates), who took home the competitive-seitain-wing-eating championship belt. Here’s Carol reflecting on her victory:
WitOut: You won the 1st Annual Veggie Wing Bowl Comedy Spectacular! How does it feel? And what are you going to do with your belt?
CCTKM: When GhostfaceHilla asked me to be in her eatin’ thing, there were two things I had to think out: 1. If my lucky pajama pants were clean and 2. If my boyfriend Frankie has weekend DUI jail that weekend because then who would watch the kids. The DHS lady says I can’t just leave them in the laundry room anymore with an electronic football game from 1981 anymore.
But it all worked out, my neighbor had time to kill before his methadone wore off and he crashed out and my lucky pajama pants were clean! The good feeling from that was nothing like the RUSH I felt when I won! It was like the day I drank 9 Arctic Splash iced teas. I couldn’t slow down!
I will be starting my parade of winning down Kensington Avenue starting Monday at 2pm (as soon as I get up) at K&A and walk down to my home at F and Allegheny where the short bus drops off my kids. From then on it is viewing by appointment.
WO: How did you train for the competition?
CCTKM: It was real easy ta train. My man Frankie has a hookup at the dollar store and I’ve been eating my weight in expired hot dogs for months. I recommend it to anyone who is attempting this. The date on that package ain’t worth shit.
WO: Would you like to comment on the efforts of your fellow competitors?
CCTKM: That Necrosexual guy needs to let me know where he gets his makeup. I like that he shows restraint with it. My competitor Some Penn Douche was a good eater, but that Thunderfoot Larry guy would have eaten me out of house and Access card if he lived with me. Ghostface Hilla really chowed down for a tiny girl. Girl got a hollow leg or some shit. That New Dreamz couple was some big thinkin’ smart people, Channel 12 stuff. Everyone tried their best but they ain’t gettin’ a piece o’ me!
Oh, also, I wanna give a shout-out to that Fastball Pitcher guy. That’s one hot mustache that he can rub on me anytime! Rock those shorts, baby!
WO You look just stunning in the photos from the match. Who were you wearing? Do I recognize that housecoat from the Alexander McQueen show at Spring/Summer 2013 Paris Fashion Week?
CCTKM: Actually, the housecoat was from the Spring/Summer 2013 collection at Forman Mills. The pajama pants were my lucky ones (purchased at the big clearance sale at the Delaware Avenue Walmart). Three out of four of my kids were a result of the luckiness (the fourth one was due to a bottle of Old Crow Whiskey and a hockey strike). I always said, Lucky got me into that mess and Luckys got me through the pregnancies.
WO: What’s next for Carol the Kenzo Mom? Do you have any comedy shows or eating competitions coming up?
CCTKM:I will be participating in the Kensington 9th Annual Soft Pretzel and Arctic Splash Chow Down on Valentine’s Day. I will also be in the Taste Of America Wawa 20-Foot Hoagie Eating Contest on the 4th Of July. That’s a one-person contest, where I sneak in after they close the tent and I go to town until Carl the Burly Security dude catches me and tries to throw me out. But, every year, my lucky pajama pants save me. Well, that and my flair for lunch meat seduction. And extra mayo. ALWAYS. EXTRA. MAYO.
We were also able to grab some post-game quotes from some of Carol’s competition:
Some Penn Douche. Photo by Gretchen Schwegler.
“It was difficult losing to Carol, but you just can’t compete with someone that has that kind of focus and desperation. I congratulate her for winning the Veggie Wing Bowl championship and becoming the most accomplished person to ever come out of Temple.” — Some Penn Douche
Andre and Despiria of The New Dreamz. Photo by Gretchen Schwegler.
“Art is subjective. How do you judge an art of eating contest? I do not know. It’s like trying to judge a wet legs contest, it cannot be judged, nor should it. It is simply meant to be appreciated, like a tea cup lined with animal fur.” — Despiria
And from Alejandro Morales, who won the Mr. Wing Man 2013 competition by appearing as his more voluptuous, buxom self:
L to R: Thunderfoot Larry, Alejandro Morales, Hillary Rea. Photo by Gretchen Schwegler.
“Going into the Mr. Wing Man 2013 competition, I knew that I’d be up against the sly brilliance of Robert X, the handsomeness of Todd Shaeffer, and the sly brilliance AND handsomeness of Fastball Pitcher Bob Gutierrez. The only way to come out on top was to do the Wingmanliest thing possible, and that thought process naturally led me to wear a dress and sing the Star Spangled Banner. Next year’s Wing Man has some pretty big shoes to fill now, especially if he’s trying to find them in a woman’s size.”
Yep, it was quite a night! See y’all there next year!
I haven’t been doing this for very long. I don’t know all the players in the scene. I don’t yet know all the venues or the history or the nuances of Philadelphia comedy—sketch, improv, stand-up, or otherwise. But I’m learning. One of the things I’ve noticed thus far is just how friendly and supportive it can be. Everyone seems to have a lot of faith in each other and want general success for the entire scene. This is what I was thinking about as Tara Demmy, experienced improvisor and lead actress in a new play by Nile Arena and Harry Watermeier Call On Mister Blue, generously stood with me after the play ended and briefed me on all the comedy credits and history of the cast in preparation for my interview with them.
Meanwhile, SHANNON HOUSE hasn’t been doing this for very long. In fact, as I was to learn, this is the company’s first production. SHANNON HOUSE is a collection of comedians, actors, directors and general theater-y type folks in its infancy. The thing that struck me most about SHANNON HOUSE is how they seemed to have that same faith in and enthusiasm for the Philadelphia comedy scene that I had observed elsewhere. The play itself was an example of faith rewarded, for the cast (Tara Demmy, Luke Field, Bryan Kerr, Brent Knobloch, and Craig Lamm) all delivered wonderfully.
Call On Mister Blue was set in apparently-modern Indianapolis, narrated charmingly and, at times, hilariously by a characterization of Southern Renaissance writer William Faulkner for reasons which aren’t immediately (or, arguably, are only intermediately) apparent. It focuses on the evolving lives and relationship of a young couple and how their lives and relationship interact. Additionally, how these things interact with the transforming sense of self and life goals that come with early adulthood. The themes run much deeper and the dialogue is rich, being both realistic and clever simultaneously. An entertaining play from start to finish, it was very thoughtful and sincere, with moments of sadness as well as some serious laughs.
After the show, the members of the cast who were available and director Harry Watermeier sat down and let me ask them a few questions.
Matt Aukamp: So how did you all get involved in this production?
Bryan Kerr: I did the Arden Professional Apprenticeship at the Arden Theater Company in Old City. Harry, Tara, and I were in the same year two years ago and so we got to know each other. Harry first asked me about nine months ago if I wanted to direct this, and I never responded to his email. I read the play and was like, “I don’t know what’s going on,” and then just didn’t respond and didn’t respond and didn’t respond… And then Harry moved to Philadelphia and so I couldn’t avoid him anymore. He said, “I know you’re busy, Bryan, so maybe you can just be in it and be William Faulkner.” So I said “sure” because I knew Harry and Tara and I support them.
Craig Lamm: I got involved because my girlfriend is now in the same apprentice program with the playwright [Nile Arena.] So I met them through my girlfriend and we got to talking about the show and they asked if I wanted to do it so I joined the team.
Tara Demmy: No auditions, just, “Hey, do you wanna be in this thing?”
MA: And Harry, you directed the show; how did you come across it?
Harry Watermeier: So Nile Arena wrote the show. We’re both from Indiana—we went to Indiana University—so we’ve known each other for awhile. He was living in Chicago and he was kind of looking for his next thing to do. I completed the Arden apprenticeship and I [told him about it]. He applied, and he got the apprenticeship and he moved out to Philly. I knew he was a playwright, and I knew he was working on something. I had come back to Philly from Indiana to sort of capitalize on some of the weight that the APA program carries, so I was looking to get into something and I liked the script a lot. I was hoping to act in it at first. I was hoping to play Russell, the male lead. That was the idea but then I thought it was probably best for me—in order to get it on its feet— to direct it. And I offered it to Bryan and I’m so glad he acted in it. I thought Bryan was fantastic.
MA: Had you directed before?
HW: No, not really. I mean, I directed some scenes in school. This is my first full-length thing that I’ve directed.
MA: So, I get the connection to Arden, but there’s a lot of Philadelphia sketch and improv people in the play. How did they come in?
HW: Well, Tara does a lot of improv. You know Tara is a FIXTURE of the improv community, I would say…
TD: Oh, shut up!
HW: And because of that, most people [in Philly comedy] just know me as “Tara’s Boyfriend,” which is WONDERFUL, and she knew Lizzie [Spellman, who opened the show] and I was lucky enough to do a show with [sketch group] The Flat Earth for the Fringe Festival, so that’s how I met Brent [Knobloch] and Luke [Field], and I knew how great they were.
MA: And were you worried at all about, coming from improv and sketch comedy, that the acting would be any different? That it might be a challenge for people stepping into dramatic theater?
HW: I wasn’t worried. That actually made me more confident in their abilities. You know, I hate auditioning, as an actor.
MA:That seems to be what you hear from every actor all the time.
HW: I just wish I could talk to the director and say “Look, I can do it, I promise I can do it.” So you know, I didn’t audition them. Luke and Brent, they’re both razor sharp. Everyone involved in the show is, and I was so confident in their abilities. You know, someone coming from a comedy background and an improv background, they’re very generous to their audience in ways that often dramatic or classically-trained actors are not. Improvisers are super aware of the audience and what the audience needs and how to play certain beats for the audience. That, I hoped—and I think did—bring the play into brighter lights. They really knocked it out of the park and they exceeded all my expectations.
MA: So do you have any other future productions planned with this group of people?
HW: I’d like to do more. I mean, we’re working on just a small thing. Nile and I are writing something…
CL: Name-drop the title. It’s great!
HW:Grime and Punishment. It’s an adaptation of Crime and Punishment. But I feel like I got really lucky with this cast. Just really really talented people. So I would jump at the chance to work with them again.
TD: We’re starting a thing called SHANNON HOUSE. That’s sort of the company. But I’d really like that name to still be on whatever Nile does, Harry does, Bryan does, Craig does…
MA: Was SHANNON HOUSE put together to be the production company for this?
HW: [Yes, and] the idea was that Shannon House would be the name of the sort of collective thing that we’re trying to work on. And we wanted Call on Mister Blue to be sort of a soft open for us.
TD: Before we’re on Broadway!
HW: Just something we could put together quickly and put up and just sort of get us started. So hopefully the next project we’ll take a little more time with.
[Then everyone started sighing and clapping their hands together and saying “goosebumps.” I have no idea why it was happening. I started to worry I'd stumbled into a murder cult.]
TD: I want to direct an adaptation of Goosebumps. But it will probably be with mostly improvisers. I really think improvisers make really great actors. And especially if they don’t have a theater background, just improv and comedy. I’d like to create a show that’s improvised, and then put to script. And it’s about Goosebumps! I don’t know where that’s going to go. But hopefully [it will debut] in the spring.
HW: Yeah, hopefully in the Spring. I don’t know how copyright laws work?
TD: It’s satire! You can do whatever you want!
If you’re a comedian interested in being part of SHANNON HOUSE’s next production, contact Tara Demmy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matt Aukamp is a writer, performer, and occasional improviser (The Win Show). You can usually find him bothering the world on Twitter at @mattaukamp.
If you read this week’s Philly Comedy Round-up, you already know there are a shit ton of shows happening this week. One of ‘em is the brand new Live, Love, Laugh showcase, presented by TheComedyCircle.com and Ken Jones. Here’s Ken talking about the show, his co-host, and why you should be there this Saturday.
WitOut: How did you get started doing comedy in Philly?
Ken Jones: Well I started out making crazy [status updates] on Facebook and someone told me I should make video blogs. I did the blogs then someoneone told me I should hit the stage. So I did my first open mic in December of 2010 at the Raven Lounge and did great, and I’ve been in love with comedy ever since.
WO: What’s your role in TheComedyCircle.com, and who else is involved with that?
KJ: I don’t really have a role in it, but my business partner Anwar started it to give young comedians like myself more exposure.
WO: What’s the history of Live, Love, Laugh? And is there a story behind the name?
KJ: February 2nd will be our first show and it will be every first Saturday at Eden, East 5600 Germantown Avenue, but we would like to make our show more than just a show, but an event that people look forward to going to every month.
“Live, love, laugh” is a common saying that not only comedians but everyone uses on a regular basis, and it just seemed to fit us so well. We are just regular people trying to live in the world, feel loved and laugh more than cry.
WO: How did you get together with your co-host, Shanell Renee? What do you like about her as a comedian?
KJ: I met Shanell busting jokes in a circle of comedians at a show and our vibe was great because she has the same drive and hunger for comedy as me. She can go joke for joke with the best and when she freestyles she is a monster.
WO: There’s a lot going on in Philly comedy for people to choose from this week, but your show is almost sold out. What do you think makes Live, Love, Laugh stand out for audiences?
KJ: The fact that we are genuine. We are just real people trying to provide good entertainment, versus the big businesses who just want money. We also personally invited our guests besides just posting our show on Facebook and handing out flyers. I mean those are great methods, but people like to be personal when they spend their money versus it just being a business transaction.
‘Live, Love, Laugh’ is this Saturday, February 2nd at East Eden Catering (5600 Germantown Avenue) at 8pm. Tickets are $9.
Call on Mister Blue, a new play directed by Harry Watermeier and performed by Tara Demmy, Luke Field, Bryan Kerr, Brent Knobloch and Craig Lamm will show this Thursday, January 31st and Saturday, February 2nd at The Arts Parlor. The show will also feature the comedic ukulele songs of Lizzie Spellman as an opening act. Lizzie put her ukulele down to talk about her comedic influences, musical background, and her parents hating her.
Dave Metter: What is your comedy background? Is musical comedy your first foray into comedy writing? Is your real name something garishly Eastern European and Lizzie Spellman’s your stage name?
Lizzie Spellman: Well I basically started in comedy through musical theatre. So I was always really into music and singing. I didn’t really know people sang comedy songs until my dad started playing me old comedic singers he used to listen to like Allen Sherman and Tom Lehrer. Lizzie Spellman is in fact my real name. Although my full name is Elizabeth Esther Spellman. Because my parents hate me.
DM:When and how did you end up learning to play the ukulele?
LS: I actually didn’t start ’til much, much, later in life. I was never that motivated to learn, but after I worked at the PA Renaissance Faire (I know, I know), where a lot of people played instruments, I thought I’d try to teach myself guitar. I was also unemployed and living with my parents so I had a lot of free time. I picked up the ukulele my second year at the Faire (I know, I know), in 2011.
DM: Do you ever perform sans-uke? (Note: Sansuke is the name of the help staff at a Japanese bathhouse.)
LS: I work as an actress (when I have work) in the Philadelphia area. I’m also an improv performer with the PHIT team Hey Rube and the indie team Apocalips. The Japanese bathhouse may account for those two years of my life that to this day I still can’t recollect.
DM: What was your first gig like?
LS: Frightening actually. When I first started writing songs I was so scared that they were terrible. It took me like two years to perform them. I was asked this past summer by Mike Marbach to perform in The Sideshow. I agreed and it actually went over really great but the whole time I was shitting my pants…not literally…I think.
DM: What led you to musical comedy?
LS: I had originally attempted to write “serious” music which only lasted a hot second ’cause it was awful. They were so cheesy, I might as well have written about rainbows and meadow frolicking. The first comedy song I wrote (“The Money’s on the Table”) was written as a joke that I had with a friend. After that I wrote a song for another friend (“The Text Message Song”) and I realized writing comedy songs was just a lot easier.
DM: Who are some of your musical comedy and…atonal comedy influences?
LS: There are a lot of girls out there now writing comedy music, especially on ukuleles. I particularly like the NYC band Summer & Eve. But my favorite comedy duo is probably Flight of the Conchords. My big non-musical influences are Carol Burnett and Gilda Radner. They’re not afraid to make fools out of themselves for the sake of comedy.
DM: What comes first, the melody or the lyric? Or the joke?
LS: The joke definitely. The way I write songs, I always need the topic first before I can start writing the lyrics. A lot of my songs are just based on weird things I’ve heard other people say. Hopefully those people haven’t figured that out yet…oops.
DM: What is your dream gig?
LS: As a comedian, I have no idea. I’ve never really been in the category of stand-up before, so I’m still figuring things out. I figure if it’s a gig that pays, that’s freaking awesome!
DM: How did you end up as the opening act for Call on Mister Blue? Have you worked with any of the performers before?
LS: I was asked by my friends Tara Demmy (who is also my roommate and teammate on Hey Rube) and Harry Watermeier who is directing. They’re big supporters of my music so I was very flattered to be asked to open for their show. It’s gonna be a fun night!
‘Call on Mister Blue’ is TONIGHT, Thursday, January 31st and Saturday, February 2nd at 8pm at the Arts Parlor (1170 S. Broad Street). Admission is $5.
Dave Metter is a comedy writer from the Philly burbs. Follow Dave on Twitter @DaveMetter.
On a chilly Saturday night I made my way to the Conshohocken Café on Fayette Street to spend a few minutes talking with Sidney Gantt – Philadelphia comedian, founder and co-host of the Captain Action Comedy Show. Gantt was busy prepping the intimate room well before the 8pm showtime. Over the course of a ten-minute interview, he highlighted the uniqueness of the Captain Action format, shared some love for fellow Philly comics Mary Radzinski and Dave Terruso, and talked about a unique physical trait shared by multiple Philly stand-ups.
Chris Dolan: The name Captain Action Comedy Show kind of begs the question: are you “Captain Action”?
Sidney Gantt: Yeah, I am Captain Action … Captain Action is a comic book character that a few people say I remind them of. He’s a comic book character from the ’70s, and all he does is punch bad guys in the face and bang chicks. That’s his whole M.O. He’s more of a vigilante, like Batman, so he has no rules.
CD: So talk about the show’s format. Where it started, how it’s come along…
SG: What we do is bring up a stand-up comedian, they perform, and afterward we interview that comedian in a game show format, where they present two lies and a truth. The audience has to guess which of the multiple choice answers is correct…so [the audience ] gets to yell out, and they use lifelines, and it’s fun. And the reason for the format, honestly, is that as a stand-up one of my favorite things to do is crowd work. But crowd work unfortunately isn’t the craft of stand-up comedy, it’s just a tool. So this gives me an opportunity to do that. I usually start off my opening set by talking to the crowd…go up cold and talk to the crowd, then do four or five minutes of material. Then I bring up my co-host which is usually Dave Terruso, and then he does some time, and he gets to come back with me later on in the show and do some improv stuff with some of the interview questions. It gets pretty crazy, it’s a pretty wild show.
CD:It strikes me that the format you just described might be fun for comedians that don’t have a lot of experience doing crowd work…this would let them evolve toward it in a more structured sense.
SG: It definitely does ’cause it’s a very controlled environment for them to do crowd work…and it might not really even be considered crowd work, what they’re doing, usually I have them give me something personal, that people can’t tell just by looking at you. And when people are talking about their personal things they kind of just loosen up a little bit. Nobody has done badly in the interview portion yet.
CD: Has the show always been that way? Or did it start as like a straight-up show and kind of evolve?
SG: No, it started out as that sort of variety show right up front, the only thing that has changed is once Dave Terruso came on, about five or six months in, his skill set just gave me the opportunity to do so much more with the questions…like, sometimes we have him do a one-man play about what you just heard about.
CD: What’s an example of one of the questions, the “two lies and a truth”?
SG: A big one, with some of the comedians – you’d be surprised — is a lot of comedians have more than two nipples. So, tonight the guy who has more than two nipples, [Note: I didn’t ask who this was] his multiple choices are a) 4 nipples; b) 3 nipples; c) 0 nipples.
CD: How long have you been doing the show?
SG: A year and two months. This is the first time the show is going to be on a Saturday. Traditionally it had been the last Wednesday of every month. But we’ve been doing well, we’ve been filling the house, and [Conshohocken Café] is looking to serve dinner more consistently, and right now the only outlet for their dinner is this show.
CD: Any memorably great shows?
SG: Every show really has been better than the last, but if I had to say one stood out I’d have to say it was when Mary Radzinski was here…’cause that was the first time Dave Terruso, his value to the show, was absolutely obvious and I was glad that I had him come along. Mary gave her answers to her question, and each answer seemed like it was just a ridiculous fact that Mary wouldn’t want to reveal about herself. So what I had Dave do, is respond to that fact, as if it were the only fact in her online dating profile…so he had to, on the spot, come up with a response email about that fact and each one was brilliant. It was pretty amazing.
CD: And Dave comes from improv, sketch and stand-up?
SG: He does; and he just gives such a different flavor to the show ’cause even when he does his [stand-up] set…the vibe of performance that he gives off is just so different that it complements the entire show. You never know what’s gonna happen at the show. I don’t know if you get this but I love Dave Terruso.
CD: Anyone that you’re looking forward to having on the show that you haven’t had on yet?
SG: Anton Shuford…I think he was 2009 Philly’s Phunniest…originally I didn’t have him on right away because he’s my closest friend and I want to avoid the idea of just putting your friends on. But we’re gonna have him for the February show. He gave me the verbal okay in between arguing about whether or not the Sixers would be good this year.
CD: Any closing thoughts?
SG: I just hope people find this type of show intriguing enough to come out, and if they want to see not only comedians that they wouldn’t expect to see on a bill together, but comedians that have something to share that you would never think they had to share, [this is the show].
Love wings, crowds and competitive gorging but not so keen on the Wing Bowl? Or are you just a big fan of alternative comedians eating way too much and talking trash on each other as they do it? Man oh man, have Hillary Rea and Thunderfoot Larry got a show for you.
WitOut: Who came up with this amazing thing?
Thunderfoot Larry: Hillary Rea has had a burning urge ever since she was a young lass to be a competitive eater. Unfortunately, she does not eat the flesh of the beasts therefore she was shunned from many eating competitions as a youngster. Then the revived vegetarian movement of the late 1990s came along enabling many militant veggie groups to start their very own binge eating competitions. Within the last year, the burning urge has returned to her. She voiced her desire to train for competitive eating on the social network. Whenever someone says they want to try something challenging my first instinct is to personally challenge them in whatever it may be. I really don’t know why, I’m an idiot. I once burnt my eyebrows off because my friend wanted to be a sword-swallower/fire-breather for the circus… So I challenged Hillary to an “eating duel.” She accepted—well at first she didn’t reply, then I cornered her at a gallery art auction. I spat out all the weird (Double Dare game show influenced) daydream ideas I had for if we were to put together our own eating competition. We both love comedy and eating stuff so much and we wanted to make our Veggie Wing Bowl event the complete opposite of the original stadium stripper Wing Bowl in South Philly. So after some emails and Facespace messages we had a meeting at this awesome place that sells coffee and beer at the same time. As we both left the meeting a beautiful sparrow flew over our heads in a figure-eight formation. At that point we both made eye contact and simultaneously blurted out “1st Annual Veggie Wing Bowl Comedy Spectacular!” Then we held hands and skipped down the street (to the tune of the Perfect Strangers theme song) to Adobe Cafe and booked the muthafuckin’ show! That’s the long answer.
Short answer: Hillary secretly always wanted to be a competitive eater; I secretly have a weight problem and love food. We both are involved in and love comedy. Put ‘em together and what do ya get!?…Sprinkle in a Man-Pageant, Alagazambo! The Veggie Wing Bowl Comedy Spectacular. HOLLA!
Hillary Rea: The 1st Annual Veggie Wing Bowl Comedy Spectacular started as a bit of a joke. I am not jokingly obsessed with the real Wing Bowl and this year tickets went on sale and sold out in the same day. I was so upset. I missed it last year because I was performing at the NCCAF. But the previous two years I went and was horrified/amazed/excited/impressed/obsessed with what I saw. Larry joked about doing a veggie wing-off one day on Facebook and then I contacted Adobe Cafe on a whim (they have wonderful seitan wings) and the owner was super agreeable to our idea.
WO: Why veggie wings? Is real chicken too expensive?
TL: If we went with real chicken wings there might have been a strong concern there for a minute.
Hilla is a vegetarian person and I wanted to be able to eat the same thing she is in the competition. Good news, no bones to worry about. Plus it goes with being the total opposite of the original Wing Bowl ,which uses real chicken wings. It does not bother me; I’ll eat anything as long as it will not kill me. Can’t eat strawberries, I am allergic; if I were to eat strawberries my throat would close up and I would get plate-sized welts on my body. That sucks. Other than that I’ll eat anything: vegetables, unknown aquatic life, bugs, cow eyes, duck hearts, pussy, pig intestines, exotic fruits, the list goes on.
HR: According to the owner of Adobe Cafe, Mariano, seitan is actually incredibly expensive. He was concerned initially with the number of wings we were going to eat.
WO: This show has a lot going on—rounds of competitive eating, stand-up sets, hecklers, a beauty(?) competition…how do you plan to bring all these things together for one beautiful, continuous flow of delicious entertainment?
TL: A.D.D and the power of funny people.
HR: I’d like to think the event will just ebb and flow organically. But Larry and I as hosts will make sure that everything weaves together into a seamless show. Well…there might be some seams. But they will be funny seams. Seams that burst at the seams with funny.
WO: Who is judging the wing bearers for the Mr. Wing Man 2013 competition? What sort of criteria will they be using, and what do you think the individual competitors can do to make themselves stand out?
TL: You should be the judge. Mr.Wing Man should be a sophisticate, a charmer…The Man should be able to clean my pool thoroughly without fucking my wife. And the guy has gotz to have talent.
HR: The Mr. Wing Man 2013 competition will have both a talent portion and a Question and Answer portion. The individual competitors should really look to the Wing Bowl’s Wingettes for advice and inspiration.
WO: Follow-up question: Who came up with the term “wing bearers”? And why do I love it so hard?
TL: Ghostface Hilla came up with that one, she’s so smart.
HR:Ha! The term popped into my head one day and I asked Larry if he thought it was cool. And he said yes. I am glad you love it!
One of the newest open mics in town, Comedy is Liberty, is expanding next week to become a full-on Saturday night stand-up showcase. Here’s creator Mike O’Donnell talking about the mic, as well as the upcoming show with headliner Tommy Pope.
WitOut: You’re heading up a new open mic and stand-up showcase, Comedy is Liberty. Can you give a brief history of how it got started?
Mike O’Donnell: I went to the Philly CAM (Community Access Media) Christmas party. I was talking to a film producer friend of mine, Sonny Vellozzi, and he told me that a local promoter wanted to get more into the comedy scene because it’s really growing. The promoter was consulting the new owners of the bar Liberties in Northern Liberties, so we scheduled a meeting to look at the room and agreed we could work with the space. Comedy is Liberty was born.
WO: What’s the philosophy behind the name of the show?
MOD: It’s one part marketing, one part philosophy. The name of the bar is Liberties (705 N 2nd Street 19123) and the section of the city is called Northern Liberties, so I figured it would be easy for people to remember if I called the show “Comedy is Liberty.” The philosophy part is based on a quote from Oscar Wilde: “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.” Recognizing that stand-up comedy is truly one of the purest ways to express freedom of speech is important. Comedy is liberating because it often gives the audience a brief moment to suspend all of their preconceived notions and see things from a different perspective. Plus you’ll hear better dick jokes than the censors will allow on T.V.
WO: A bunch of new Philly open mics have popped up recently. What are the advantages of dropping by Comedy is Liberty?
MOD: The room and the people. I’ve been doing stand-up comedy since 2000. I’ve seen a lot of people start rooms and not every space can make it work. I would have never started this room if I did not think the space would work. And it works. The feedback I have gotten from the comics has been positive and we’re still trying to improve. We are working with the owner to provide a “set of the night” gift certificate to the comic that has the best set. I also plan on offering interesting services down the line like recording sets and animating a comic’s bit.
Most importantly, the people that are involved with the show are why people should come down. Besides doing stand-up comedy, I have acted and worked in film, and there is still a wide margin of networking that needs to happen between sections of the Philadelphia entertainment community. I have been reaching out to my writer, actor, animator and filmmaking friends to come to shows. People like Stephanie Yuhas and Matt Conant from the Project Twenty One film festival and Loren Lepre, who runs a bi-monthly short film festival out of the Trocadero. I want everyone who is involved in the arts in Philadelphia to check out the room. You’ll enjoy a great show, and just maybe end up collaborating with someone you meet there on a future project. The fact that I started the room with a film producer and a local promoter is a perfect example of this. I look at it as continuing the road that WitOut started when you organized sketch, improv and stand-up into one site that people could look for.
WO: Who are Starman and New Jack, and why do you think they’ve taken an interest in promoting the mic? [Editor's note: see promo video below]
MOD: New Jack and Starman are professional wrestlers and comedians. New Jack has been known as the craziest wrestler to ever step into the ring. Plus he scared kids straight on Maury Povich. New Jack has begun to run out of new wrestlers to kick the shit out of, so he is getting more into stand-up comedy. He has some epic stories and will be dropping by Comedy is Liberty to hone his jokes and tighten up the delivery of hilarious New Jack adventures.
Starman is a wrestler from spacewho was featured on one of Nintendo’s first Pro Wrestling games. Starman decided to make a comeback after seeing a movie called The Wrestler. He is getting back in shape to provoke the Amazon into a match and New Jack is his mentor. Starman knows that cutting promos is a big part of getting popular as a wrestler, so he plans to stop by Comedy is Liberty occasionally and work on his microphone techniques.
WO: The first Comedy is Liberty weekend show is next Saturday, February 9th, with headliner Tommy Pope. How did you book Tommy?
MOD: I met Tommy through comedian Mike Rainey and we hung out personally before I really saw a lot of his act. We were just having fun joking around over beers and then a week later I saw him do 30 minutes and was really blown away. Then he follows that up with the Bird Text videos, which are amazingly funny. Sonny Vellozzi loved his act too, and when we were starting the room he asked if I could reach out to see if he could headline the first weekend show. I called Tommy and luckily he was available.
WO: Give us your top 3 reasons why people shouldn’t miss the February 9th show.
The talent. Besides Tommy Pope I have booked Darryl Charles and Mary Radzinski, who are also hilarious. I am very proud of the talent I was able to put together. Everyone is a seasoned comedian and some of the best that Philadelphia has to offer.
The timing. It is the weekend after the Super Bowl, which is a notoriously blah weekend. Instead of being depressed that we are in the grips of winter and football is over, take control of your situation and see a show that will really make you laugh and get you involved in an amazingly fun experience.
The atmosphere. Liberties has on old time feel to it that I really like. Both the upstairs and downstairs bars are gorgeous and after the comedy show ends a DJ will start. It is going to be a party and we’re going to have a lot of fun.
Two of the smileyest dudes in the Philly comedy scene—T.j. Hurley and Alejandro Morales—have joined forces to produce East Coast Power Nap, which will explode all the fuck over The Trocadero this Wednesday, January 30th. Here they are chattin’ ’bout how kickass it’s gonna be and encouraging you to drink a bunch when you go:
WitOut: I like you guys. And I like that you’ve teamed up. What made you decide to put on a show together?
T.j. Hurley: I wanted to do something with Alejandro mostly because he’s funny and he’s motivated. He and I are very different on stage, so I hope we can make an interesting duo: me as the uptight curmudgeon and him as the fun-loving rube.
Alejandro Morales: Gregg Gethard recommended T.J. to me as a guest on the monthly stand-up showcase I used to produce, and he was a big hit, so much so that I brought him back a few months later. Then, this past fall, I was sort of pitching a stand-up show around to a few venues, and T.J. approached me at Laughs on Fairmount one night about working together. It was great timing, and so far we’re working very well together. He definitely brings a clear vision to the whole enterprise, which is great because it frees me up to be a fun-loving rube.
WO: I also dig the name—though I have no idea why. “East Coast Power Nap”? What is that? Where did it come from?
TJH: The name is just nonsense. I thought it sounded catchy and exciting, but it’s just a string of words. I’m glad you like it.
AM: T.j. had this whole elaborate story about the name being based on some kind of skateboarding move, and now that he says it’s “just a string of words,” I feel kind of betrayed.
WO: How were you guys able to hook up with the Trocadero? That’s a pretty snazzy venue.
TJH: The people at the Troc have been really nice and easy to work with. A buddy of mine was a bouncer there and put me in touch with the booker. I was stoked and surprised at how easy the whole thing was. I’m really excited about the venue. The Troc is beautiful and strange and full of good memories for me.
AM: I’m not sure you can believe anything T.j. says now. IF THAT’S EVEN YOUR REAL NAME, “T.j.”
WO: The line-up for this first show (Doogie Horner, Carolyn Busa, The Necrosexual, Sidney Gantt, Joe Bell, Dan King, Lou Misiano) looks pretty fantastic. How did you go about putting it together? Do you see some sort of common element between the comedians on the show, or were these just a bunch of acts you both like individually?
TJH: I know, right? The line-up is so good. We have some things planned to make the show different and special, but it will rule just based on the comics alone. We wanted to make sure the show wasn’t a monoculture, point of view-wise and stylistically. Every comic on the show has a very different point of view and comedy style and I hope that will make for a compelling experience. Our main goal in doing this thing is to put on a funny, well-put together show.
AM: We both made nominations and then whittled it down. He and I go to a lot of local open mics, and I feel like the talent lately has just gotten really outstanding. These past couple years the stand-up scene has been growing and expanding and improving by leaps and bounds. I think together we captured a great cross-section of what makes the scene so great.
WO: This show is being billed as “ONE NIGHT ONLY.” Why??? And any chance that might change?
TJH: We want East Coast Power Nap to be the last Wednesday of every other month. If this one goes well, if we make enough money to cover our costs (and hopefully pay the comics), and if the Troc thinks it’s worth their time, we’ll totally do more. If you come to the show and like it, buy lots of beer. That’ll sweeten our chances of doing it regularly.
AM: In the sense that there’s only one show featuring this specific grouping of comics on this particular stage, it is a one-night-only engagement! But if it does go well, and the folks at the Troc are happy, we absolutely want to move forward and make East Coast Power Nap a regular thing.
…I feel like I should end on something funny. Alison, could you be a lamb and put something funny here and attribute it to me?
And then Alejandro said something else that was just HILARIOUS! The hilarity doesn’t really translate in print, though. Here’s a promo video for the show to make up for it (featuring the videography talents of Jimmy Viola and the voiceover talents of ManiPedi’s Madonna Refugia):
Go check out ‘East Coast Power Nap’ on Wednesday, January 30th at the Trocadero (1003 Arch Street) at 8pm. Tickets are $5.
On Thursday, Philly Improv Theater announced some staffing additions: Ralph Andracchio will be heading up a new artistic direction team, along with Jessica Ross (Variety Director), Emily Davis (Improv Director), Kristen Schier (Seasonal Director) and Brian Kelly (Sketch Director). Here’s what Ralph had to say about his new role, and his plans for the theater.
WitOut: You’re the new Artistic Director for PHIT! What exactly does that entail?
Ralph Andracchio: The Artistic Director’s job is to oversee the quality of the shows the theater is putting on, to ensure the theater is following its mission, and to connect with other performers and theaters to make us a bigger part of the performing arts community as a whole. My job is basically to make sure PHIT is turning out high quality shows that make us the number one spot for alternative comedy in Philadelphia.
WO: What are some of the plans you have for the theater?
RA: Hoo boy, what plans DON’T we have? The theater has grown so much since we started back in 2005, and we now reach thousands of people each year; whether it be through attending a show, taking a class, participating in a corporate workshop, or performing on our stage. We have the opportunity to reach even more people now, so the Artistic Team is focused on streamlining our schedule and putting together a coherent, quality lineup of talent that will bring in even more people to experience what we have to offer. And we have so much talent to work with now, it makes our job that much easier (or tougher, depending on how you look at it).
WO: As evidenced by some photos of a roundtable meeting/pizza party, it looks like the artistic team has already gotten to work. What changes and new ideas have you guys talked about so far? Are there any projects the producers have proposed that you’re particularly excited about?
RA: Let me begin by saying this team is awesome. Jessica Ross (our Variety Director), Emily Davis (our Improv Director), Kristen Schier (our Seasonal Director) and Brian Kelly (our Sketch Director) are all talented performers who bring so much experience to the table. Our first meeting was really successful, and everyone brought some really great ideas. Our immediate goal is to look at what shows, schedules, and processes we have in place now and see how we can make it all work better and make more sense. As our 2013 runs begin, both the performers and the audiences will see many gradual changes that over time will add up to a better experience for all.