The growth of the Philadelphia comedy scene has not been limited to the city proper. Comedians are taking to the stage in greater numbers and, as a result, more mics and showcase opportunities are opening in the suburbs. Mics in Delco, Montco and Bucks serve both to bring comedy to suburban audiences who might not venture in to the city, and to provide stage time to the comics who seek it out.
Tuesday nights in Doylestown, the venue Puck Live hosts a comedy open mic at 8pm, presented by LawnBoys Comedy. LawnBoys co-founders Ben Fidler [who hosts the mic most nights] and Jimmy Williams [writer of LawnBoys Comedy videos] sat down to talk about the origin of their group and their early video work; the Puck Live Tuesday night open mic; and video collaborations with the B.a. Comedian comedy troupe.
Chris Dolan: Talk about LawnBoys…what the LawnBoys are, how LawnBoys Comedy got started…
Ben Fidler: Jimmy [Williams] and I went to college together. We were in the same fraternity and we never really hung out that much in college. Then I think we were talking on Facebook or something the year after we graduated and I mentioned I’d been trying to get back into stand-up [after college]… I’d been doing a couple sets at Helium once in awhile, and he had mentioned he liked making stupid videos for the Internet and I said, “Hey, me too!” And we met up. I had tried to start a comedy group with my buddy in college called the Jokers Wild but when I moved down here it just kind of fell apart.
[At this point the interviewer takes Ben & Jimmy through a brief, painful primer on the decades-old Jokers Wild game show.]
So Jimmy didn’t live that far away, he came over one day and we were just kicking around ideas. And the first thing we ever filmed was a Gatorade commercial [parody] with Keith Jackson.
Jimmy Williams: It’s a couple years old but it’s about the origins of Gatorade with University of Florida scientists…So we made “Baterade” for lonely university scientists…helps replenish protein and hydrates…
BF: And Jimmy did the Keith Jackson voice. I remember it’s a two- minute clip and we probably had forty minutes of tape. And when we were done I was just laughing so hard, and I was on this endorphin high. We just had a blast.
CD: So did you write it before the fact or did you write as you go?
BF: We had it written out, you [to Williams] had pretty much written it; it was his idea and he wrote it, and I was just sticking in [ideas] with some of the lines. And I was the actor. We started doing more and more…webisodes, with recurring characters, we were just screwing around, hanging out and having fun. Right around the time the webisodes ended was when we started doing the open mic here.
CD: Is it just the two of you, or are there more LawnBoys? Officially or unofficially?
BF: Officially there’s more but…one of our buddies Jerry lives in Scranton. And our other buddy Al left. But we’re like the two band members that are always kind of there.
CD: The Mick and Keith.
BF: Yeah. We’re the two that have just stuck with it. It’s been so much fun just getting back into it.
CD: How did the mic [Tuesday Nights at Puck Live in Doylestown] come to be?
BF: I could not afford to go to Helium. That was before they had the internet sign-ups, so I’d drive down. I’d have to leave at 4. I’d sign up, find out at 7:30 I wasn’t on, watch the other comedians, get home at 11 and have to work the next day. It was like forty bucks (per trip) for parking and gas. I’d been moonlighting here [at Puck] for awhile …in the back, cooking. And I thought the venue would really work for comedy, but [at the time] it was just music. After I stopped working here, my buddy still was working in the kitchen. He mentioned that new management was coming in and they were looking for fresh ideas, so a year ago this past August they said “We’ll give you one Tuesday every month, for three months, to show us if you got something. And if that works we’ll extend it for another couple.” So we got Alex Grubard, Alex Pearlman…I padded the first open mic with some names. Started the show with just the five comedians that were going on that night, but ten people ended up going up. Everybody had a great set and people (in the audience) left going “this is great that you’re doing this.” Facebook and social media were such a huge help getting the word out. It built up and this past July we started going every Tuesday. And just this past January we got the last Thursday of every month for showcases.
I find I really enjoy putting together the comedy [shows], organizing them. I don’t have as much time to write as I’d like but just being involved in any way is just so fun. Meeting new comics, getting comics to come in…seeing different styles.
CD: So you’ve done “city mics” and “suburban mics”…What’s the contrast there that you think about?
BF: City mics, for me, when I was at Helium…[it's a great room, but] coming down from outside the city, I kind of felt like a stranger. Everybody knew everybody. Here [at Puck] I’ve tried to cultivate an atmosphere of, like, anybody who wants to go up, give it a shot, try it. I don’t think we’ve ever cut anyone from the list.
JW: It’s a great place for people to try stuff that they might not be comfortable taking downtown. We get a lot of first-timers who come out and say, “Hey, I want to try [stand-up],” and they might not want to try it in front of people who are doing stand-up every day.
CD: It’s funny, there are more and more younger people doing stand-up, and the first time they make the sign-up list at Helium it’s a big deal.
BF: The first time I made the list [at Helium] I was just like “Oh, shit.”
CD:[to Williams] So do you do stand-up too?
JW: No, I don’t perform on stage. [Both laugh.]
BF: He’s the funniest bastard I know. His stories just kill me. He can’t get up on stage though.
JW: Maybe one day, we’ll see.
BF: He’s said that if he goes up on stage, we’ll have to have an ambulance on standby because of the amount of alcohol he’d need [to go through with it].
CD: How’d the B.a. Comedian video collaboration come about?
BF: Tim Raymus was the first one to come up to the mic. I thought he was funny. He started bringing Dan [King] and Brian [Six…Andrew [Sposato] came up a couple of times. And they’re just really cool guys. And I’ve always wanted to cultivate a bunch of people getting together and being creative. And one of our problems, even when we were a [bigger] group [as Lawnboys], was just limited numbers. One of us would have to play two roles, or we didn’t have someone to hold the camera. Dan mentioned that he had a sketch…
CD: “Cards on the Table.”
BF: Right. We filmed it in a day. He edited it and threw it out there and that was it. And I find, with those guys, it’s almost like the more cooks you have in it, the better the broth, just because you keep each other rolling, you don’t procrastinate.
And [for the latest video, "Magicians are Dicks"] Lou Misiano came in. And now the ideas are coming faster and now that we’re producing stuff a lot of other guys are willing to jump in and try stuff out. Tonight we’re filming something that Daren Martinez wants to try out so people have been calling up and asking if we want to help out. I just love getting out there and working. It’s just fun.
CD: Anything else?
BF: Come on out, check out Puck. I’d love to see new comedians and get people for our showcases.
Check out the LawnBoys open mic at Puck Live (1 Printers Alley, Doylestown, PA) every Tuesday at 7:30pm, and their showcase show every last Thursday of the month.And now, for your viewing pleasure, here are “Cards on the Table” and “Musicians are Dicks.”
Last night at Helium saw the return of The Bird Text Comedy Show, which featured a brand new Bird Text sketch as well as stand-up performances by Mary Radzinski, John McKeever, Doogie Horner, Tommy Pope and headliner Mike Lawrence. After the show I sat down with John McKeever and Tommy Pope of Bird Text for an enlightening conversation about comedy, the future of Bird Text and a big exciting new break for Tommy. Oh, and Doogie Horner showed up about halfway through and delivered a strong endorsement of Bird Text’s approach to comedy.
Dave Metter:What are some things that go into choosing what sketches you want to produce and whether or not you release them?
Tommy Pope: We’re not the kind of people who just rush shit out so you can see it. We want it to be good. If it’s not good we don’t put it out.
John McKeever: We won’t just rush to film something just so you can see something.
TP: Yeah, we don’t want to put a weekly video out but it’s also detrimental to our progress. Like, I also think we overthink things sometimes.
JM: We’re both busy and Luke [Cunningham, fellow member of Bird Text] is extremely busy now so production is not that easy, and we have ideas but unless they’re really good and we think it’ll make our name look better I don’t think it’s worth filming them and putting them out. A lot of people, especially sketch groups, have this idea that, “Throw enough shit to the wall, see what sticks.” We throw a lot of shit to our own wall and we’re like, “Just get rid of all the shit.” We’ve got a lot of shit that nobody’s ever seen because it’s not good enough.
DM: That you’ve shot or are only written?
JM: That we’ve shot but are not good enough.
TP: We also have stuff that’s written that we know is good enough but production…takes money. But we see other sketch groups and other people in Philly and, it’s a catch-22 because, if you don’t consistently put out people won’t seek you, they won’t subscribe, but they also won’t want to find you and what you’re doing next if you’re not consistent with quality. The next thing has to be better than the last.
DM: With most of the people coming to a show like this they’re probably expecting just stand-up, though some attending know you from your videos. I’m curious about your thoughts on how the audience adjusts between going from stand-up to a film sketch during a show.
TP: This thing we showed tonight we were looking at each other going, “That killed.”
JM: I think you’re right, it’s a curveball, and when you throw it into the middle of a show: stand-up, stand-up, stand-up, video, everyone’s like, “What the fuck?” ya know? But you get to see how an audience receives it before you release it on the internet. The first time we showed “The Real Househusbands of Philadelphia” it was here during a show and we were all in the green room and we thought, “If this doesn’t go well here then this isn’t seeing the light of day,” and that was our first real sketch and…it killed. We put it out a day or so later and it got like fifty-thousand views. So, it can be a good barometer.
TP: We were like, “What are we gonna do with all the money?! Let’s go to Wildwood and get weird!”
JM: We got Tommy and John airbrushed on a couple T-shirts.
TP: We have a lot in the pipeline always but we are very hesitant to release because we are always fearful that it’s not good enough, and to that point, it kind of hinders us and our progress. So I think we could be bigger but ya know, I think we’re a little too under the microscope.
DM: When you have an idea or premise, what’s the process of how you decide whether it’ll best fit as a stand-up bit or as a sketch?
JM: I think it’s so differentiated in my head that I know the difference between a bit, what would be good on stage, and what would be better in a sketch, and a lot of times when we think of a sketch we have 100% confidence in each other and we text each other, “Sketch idea, high-end premise” and it’ll be just the premise and if everyone’s like “haha” then we start. As far as stand-up goes, the way I’ve always written bits is I write about stuff that interests me and attaches to my other bits. But I think sketch has to be more quickly palatable.
TP: Sketches are popular because they’re popular to masses. With stand-up it’s like, it’s something popular but the intricate way of going about it makes it just yours. So for sketch, in order to break out to the masses you have to find something that people are interested in and it can’t be about some goofy fucking story about your wife or your girlfriend. You need something that people will immediately click with. There are so many [YouTube] channels doing like hacky Ke$ha parodies. We could easily find advertising dollars by being a hack-ass sketch group but we don’t want to do that, and we’re cutting our nose off despite our face, but at the same time it’s like I refuse to be that group who does Britney Spears and how it relates to the Super Bowl or whatever.
DM: How did you link up with Mike Lawrence?
JM: Mike knows Luke from stand-up in New York. Luke lived in New York for a while doing stand-up and did well there.
DM: How does Luke being back on the east coast, now that he is writing for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, affect Bird Text?
TP: Luke’s always been like the foundation of the structure of the sketches we write. He was in LA for a year but we’re excited he’s here and, it’s weird, no one recognizes his face or name from Bird Text which is unfortunate but he does a shit load of the creation of many of our sketches.
[Doogie Horner enters.]
Doogie Horner: Bird Text courts controversy wherever they go; they’re not going to apologize for being outspoken.
[Doogie Horner exits.]
DM:So you guys are thinking of doing a monthly Bird Text show at Helium?
TP: Yeah. We did a monthly thing here for four months during a summer on Tuesdays, but we hit all of the summer holidays that year which was rough.
DM: And when you’re doing monthlies you’ll be incorporating sketches?
TP: Yeah, we’d like to do three but this show date was short notice.
DM: Why was that?
JM: I don’t know, I think it’s because they always had an interest in bringing us back plus another comic cancelled the date and, I don’t know, I think they probably contacted a few headliners before they contacted us.
DM: Oh don’t say that.
JM: Oh no, in reality we were probably like sixth or seventh on the list.
TP: I love how optimistic you are, like, “Oh don’t say that.”
And the big announcement…
JM: So Luke got this thing with Fallon which is huge for us but also, Tommy is flying to LA soon to do voiceover work for Disney. He flew out for an audition, this woman saw him perform in Montreal and thought “that guy can crush voices,” brought him in, they asked him to do this mobster voice and he crushed it and they’re bringing him back.
TP: This is why everyone needs a best friend. That couldn’t have been delivered any more smoothly.
Dave Metter is a comedy writer from the Philly burbs. Follow Dave on Twitter @DaveMetter.
Hey there, podcast fans! Looking for something new to listen to? Mike Baurer and Garrett Smith have just the thing for ya: the Trailer Trash Podcast. But don’t take our word for it—here they are to tell you all about it.
WitOut: The Trailer Trash Podcast, eh? How did you guys settle on that name? Should we infer that the two of you are trailer trash, or is it strictly a reference to the fact that the podcast focuses on movie trailers?
Garret Smith: Well anyone that has ever seen Mike knows that he’s probably more of a hillbilly than he is trailer trash. I don’t wanna insult the guy by saying he lives in a trailer, ’cause he actually has a shack that he built for himself out of scrap metal and stolen Home Depot supplies. And I myself am far too cultured to be considered trailer trash, even though I grew up on a tractor trailer, endlessly making its way from Oregon to Pennsylvania and back again. Due to a federal mandate, I’m not allowed to speak of its cargo, but let’s just say if you’ve ever found yourself standing in the middle of a field holding a bloody shovel and an empty bag of angel dust, you have my family to thank. We actually named the show after my mom’s favorite wastebasket on our trailer.
Mike Baurer: Actually, the name came about after a night of drinking. I was at the El Bar with a few of my friends and I was throwing out names and ideas for a new podcast I could start. Trailer Trash happened to be one of them. The idea was to rate upcoming movie trailers as if they were the movie themselves. Trailers are supposed to sell you the movie and get you to the theater, but some trailers are so bad that I can’t fathom why people would go see them at all. So I tossed the idea around for a bit and finally pitched it to Garrett back in June of 2012 and we recorded our first episode on The Perks of Being a Wallflower and threw it up online just too see what would come of it. After a few months of not recording anything I went to check the stats of the episode and to my surprise we had almost 700 downloads in like four months. I sent Garrett a text and said we need to do more.
WO: How did you come up with the format for the show? And whose idea was it to have local comedians on as your guests?
GS: The format is a mash-up up of all of Baurer’s favorite podcasts because he’s completely devoid of original ideas. However, the brilliance of that is our podcast is actually better than any of the podcasts we rip off, because it’s all the best elements of your favorite shows wrapped up into one much shorter show. I can’t tell what you’re implying with the second part of this question. If the implication is you like the guests, then I came up with that. If you find it annoying that you hear the same 30 people you’re out with every night of the week, then it was Baurer’s idea.
MB: Okay, I guess I’ll just put it out there…The show was all my idea. The title, the format and the idea to have the local comedians on the show, it was all my idea. Garrett kind of rides on my coat tails when it comes to this but it’s quite all right because I can make him do whatever I want while we are recording. Have you heard his impressions? No? You should because they are horrible.
WO: You’ve had some really fantastic comedians on the show: Chip Chantry, Alex Grubard and Sidney Gantt, just to name a few. Who else do you have coming up on the schedule, and how did you select ‘em?
GS: If you’ve listened to the show, you know that Baurer and I will lock our guests in our studio for an entire week and record a new episode every two days or so. We find that the best comedy comes from starvation and utter desperation. What we haven’t let the audience in on yet, so this is quite the exclusive, is we’ve actually been kidnapping comedians for the last 6 months or so and housing them in Baurer’s scrap metal shanty. So if you’re curious as to who our upcoming guests will be, just take a look around at your next open mic, if there’s someone you’re not seeing who you expected to, they’re probably an upcoming guest on Trailer Trash.
MB: Coming up we have Joe Bell, Alex Pearlman, Aaron Nevins, Robert X, Doogie Horner, oh and Alison Zeidman! We don’t really have a way of selecting our guests. We kind of just grab people that we find interesting to get to know more about them!
WO: Mike, you also run Folk You Philly, a blog that covers the folk music scene. Do you see the Trailer Trash Podcast as an extension of and/or complement to that site?
MB: I don’t really see Trailer Trash as an extension of Folk You Philly. At first I was posting the episodes on both sites to get more downloads but it started to become too much work for one person. I do see in the near future both sites working together again, when I have the time to redesign the website.
WO: Folk You Philly recently announced that you’re trying to raise money for a new recording studio space, which would also benefit the Trailer Trash Podcast. Can you talk about some of the plans and goals you envision for that space, and what other ways people might be able to help the site and the ‘cast, if they can’t afford to throw you any greenbacks?
GS: Well the plan right now is to continue kidnapping our favorite comics from around the city. I’m personally hoping that I’ll be able to buy back my family’s old tractor trailer with some of this money and use it to branch out to other city’ and grab up some of their best open micers. If people would like to help us in this endeavor but can’t afford to donate, we’d really appreciate any kidnapping materials they might be able to send our way. Duct tape, chloroform, rope, unmarked vans, letters cut from magazines to assemble ransom notes with. This would be a big help.
MB: The goal of trying to set up a small in-house studio was to produce more audio entertainment, not just Trailer Trash. I wanted to bring back the Folk You Philly podcast and to bring on new local comedy podcasts. I am a huge fan of the Earwolf network, which is produced by Scott Aukerman of Comedy Bang! Bang! His network produces so many great shows and I wanted to follow in his steps and do that for Philadelphia. I think this city has so many wonderful and talented artists that can produce amazing content.
Podcasts are a blossoming format and it is the easiest way to provide free entertainment to a large audience. So why stop with only one? What I gathered since I started hanging around comedians and musicians is that everyone helps each other as best they can, and I would love to expand on that by producing shows and promoting anything and everything I can.
Since it doesn’t look like we are going to make our goal of raising the money I would have hoped to raise, Garrett and I are going to drop some cash to get started and I will be adding equipment as we go. That way we can produce a better sounding show each week. We spend so much time behind a mic recording, from three episodes for each guest to sometimes recording back-to-back days. The time adds up, but if we don’t have the quality sound we can lose listeners and that isn’t something anyone wants.
As for supporting us, I can only ask everyone who listens to the show to keep listening and sending us feedback on what they like or don’t like, and to listen to every episode, even the ones of guests you may not have heard about before. For example we recently had on comedian Patrick Graves, who I’ve never spoken with prior to recording the episodes, but we had some amazing discussions about growing up and battling inner demons and they will end up going down as one of the best conversations I have ever had. And I think Garrett would agree.
Jp Boudwin is a former member of the already-sorely-missed sketch group Camp Woods. This Thursday, he’s debuting a new monthly sketch show at L’etage. Guys, the time is here. The time is now. It’s NOW TIME.
WitOut: It’s awesome to see you continuing with a monthly sketch show at L’etage now that Camp Woods Plus! has been retired. What made you decide to keep at it?
Jp Boudwin: Thanks. Helping run Camp Woods Plus once a month was the most fun I had this past year. Too hard to give up. There are also a ton of new Philly sketch groups and they are producing a lot of solid material. They need more shows and more stages. NOW TIME is for them, myself, and anyone who wants to be entertained.
WO: What’s the general format of this show going to be like, and who’s on this first one?
JpB: The first show will be incredible, because it features ManiPedi and The New Dreamz. I’ll also be hosting and doing some sketches. Hopefully not in a boring asshole way. I’m very excited about this show, so probably not.
The format will pretty much be the same as Camp Woods Plus. Two local acts and an out-of -town group is the goal I’m working back to. For the first couple shows it’ll be three local acts. Especially since there are so many. I also don’t alone have the following Camp Woods did. It will take time to build it back up and take on some identity of its own, but I don’t think it’ll take too long.
WO: What qualities do you look for in a sketch group when you’re deciding who you want to book?
JpB: Funny and available. Is this you? Email today! Mostly I want to see something silly, with heart, that’s genius or just anybody trying sketch. If a group is completely new, seeing them at Sketch Up or Shut Up, The Theme Show, or anywhere else helps. I’m already booking in advance so just ask me and I’ll give you some dates. Everyone can email me at email@example.com or call me at 911.
[Editor's note: Please don't call Jp at 911. That number should only be used for emergency purposes. Try Jp at 311 for non-emergencies.]
‘NOW TIME’ is this Thursday, February 7th at L’etage (624 S. 6th Street) at 8:3pm. Admission is $10, or $FREE.99 if you’re currently enrolled in a sketch class at Philly Improv Theater.
It’s that age-old fairy tale: A comedy nerd leaves his hometown in pursuit of Colorado snowboardom, and winds up becoming a full-fledged comedian himself. The nerd-turned-comic in question, Matt Monroe, is back in town this week and putting on a special Philly edition of his Denver comedy showcase Propaganda!. He’ll be bringing locals Alex Grubard, Alex Pearlman and Doogie Horner to the L’etage stage, along with Denver act Brett Hiker and NYC comics Ray DeVito and Scott Sharp. Here’s more about Matt and this Sunday’s show:
WitOut: What’s your comedy background, and what took you away from Philly to Denver?
Matt Monroe: I’m pretty green, I’ve been doing stand-up now for almost two years. That being said, I’ve been a huge comedy nerd since I was 21. Before Helium opened, I used to go to NYC a few times a year just to see shows at the Comedy Cellar, and the now-defunct Dangerfield’s. I would disguise the NYC trip as taking whoever I was dating at the time “on a romantic weekend in New York,” but it was really just an excuse to go see shows.
I left Philadelphia in 2009 before I ever tried stand-up, and my reasons for leaving were pretty boring. I had been here for 27 years and never lived anywhere else. I didn’t go to college, so I never even got that experience. A lot of my friends were starting to get married, and have kids, and I had started to get into snowboarding. So I used that as an excuse to move to a spot that is more conducive to a longer season. I hadn’t really planned on living in Denver as long as I have. After being there for almost two years, I had already made plans to move back to Philly (I let my job know, sold my SUV and bought a smaller car to prepare for Rittenhouse parking) and then 6 weeks before I left I stumbled across the Denver comedy scene accidentally, did an open mic, and that was it.
WO: What’s the comedy scene like in Colorado?
MM: It’s incredible. For such a small place there is so much stage time, and so much talent to fill it. We have 5 clubs in a 50-mile radius, and that doesn’t include improv theaters, cabarets, or other performance venues. Just comedy clubs. We have a comedy festival (Laugh Track Comedy Festival) every summer. There are open mics every night of the week, and there are at least a dozen comedian-run showcases that are spread throughout the month. There is a lot of stage time, and the scene is incredibly supportive. Not to mention Denver’s Comedy Works is one of the best clubs in the country, and they are very supportive of the up-and-coming scene.
WO: Describe a typical Propaganda! show. What makes it unique?
MM: To be honest, Propaganda! is more or less a typical showcase. What makes it unique is the venue. The show in Denver runs monthly in a really cool room in the basement of the historic D&F clock tower. It’s a cabaret/burlesque showroom called Lannie’s and it’s got a really great vibe to it, and it’s absolutely perfect for comedy. We were very lucky to get that venue, and it’s why I chose L’etage for the Philadelphia show, as it seems to be in that same vein. What I try to do on a monthly basis, is have some out-of-town comedians on the show if at all possible. We’ve been very fortunate to have some incredible comedians come through town and do the show including Sean Patton, Ron Funches, Kyle Kinane and Rory Scovel.
WO: What brings you back to Philly for these few weeks, and what made you decide to do an edition of Propaganda! while you’re here?
MM: Family, mostly. I try to come back a few times a year to see family and friends. I’ll be at the North Carolina Comedy Arts Fest, so I decided to schedule a couple weeks back home right afterwards since it’s a pretty short drive. I decided to put on the show because I thought it would be a good opportunity to get my family and friends together who have never seen me perform before. I also have a couple Denver friends that have recently relocated to NYC, and thought it would be fun to have them come down and perform with me and some Philadelphia comics.
WO: What do you like/miss the most about Philly comedy?
MM: The open mic scene in Philly is a lot of fun. I didn’t get to perform much the last time I was in town, so I’m looking forward to getting out to some shows I haven’t been to yet. Also, Helium is an incredible club that I miss a lot. I’m looking forward to checking out a show, and maybe being able to perform at the open mic.
‘Propaganda!’ is this Sunday, February 10th at 8pm at L’etage (6th and Bainbridge Streets). Admission is $FREE.99.
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.