Monday morning, following this weekend’s season finale of Game of Thrones, visit MikeMarbach.com for an new episode of Stark Raven Mad. This cleverly titled podcast recaps each week’s episodes and features a panel of comedians from the Philadelphia improv scene.
Consisting of some book-readers and some TV-only viewers, the panel of mega-fans will break down each episode and select the episode’s winners and losers. Care is taken not to spoil yet-to-be-broadcast plot-lines; much gratitude to the well-read Westerati. The TV-only fans will make predictions, including Marbach’s Stone Cold Lock of the Century of the Week.
“My stone-cold lock of the century of the week from last week’s show was quite detailed: [editor’s note: If you are caught up on the show, the following predictions will not spoil anything. However, if you ARE NOT up to date with the TV show–as of the June 8th, 2014 episode–these predictions may spoil quite a great deal. Just to be safe: **SPOILERS**] This week we will see the end of House Clegane. The Mountain will be shown to still be alive, but quickly deteriorating not just due to the wounds inflicted by Oberyn Martell but also because the spear was coated with poison (there was a scene in that episode kind-of maybe sort-of showing that). The Mountain will die. Hopefully painfully. The Hound will die, not from his infection from the Biter’s bite, but by Arya in an act of “mercy”. The specifics here I’m not certain on… whether the Hound asks her to end his life because he knows he was on her list, or because Arya has just become so desensitized that she sees this as the best thing to do regardless of his wishes. End result is the same, she takes him off the list and then heads for Bravos to find Jakan Hagaar.”
This upcoming Monday’s episode will feature guest pannelists Frank Farrell, David Donnella, Whitney Harris, Corin Wells, Rob Alesiani, Kevin Pettit and Lizzie Spellman.
DuoFest closed out Saturday night with Vancouver’s Virginia Jack (Briana Rayner and Nicole Passmore) literally taking us where no man has gone before. Giving the audience suggestions more consideration than the other acts of the evening, the two eventually decided that “space ship” was the location around which they would build a one-act play.
If you’re unfamiliar with Virginia Jack, they’re one of the more erudite and fantastically bizarre duos working the fest, and their take on character development is uniquely weird in the best way possible. They start off by introducing us to the cast of characters, then sprinkling seedlings of ideas on top of them which germinate throughout the show.
On this particular evening, we had the privilege of meeting starship captain Reginald Aloysius Pump, a man’s man celebrated in Bill Brasky-like fashion. We also met his first mate, Jackson Malone, a huge cartography fan whose multiple lobotomies left him unable to say the word “vagina,”. Finally, the ship’s engineer, Piper Spaghetti was the bombshell dingbat who loves intercourse and her illegal houseplant she keeps in her cabin.
As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that Jackson Malone plans to usurp control of the ship as revenge for Captain Pump taking the ship into uncharted territory, rendering Malone’s cartography useless. Piper is shot in the attempt to save Captain Pump’s life/seduce him and the audience roared when Malone says they’ll, “never find the cure for his space bullets.”
Briana and Nicole’s unique way of switching roles really helps flesh out fully realized characters instead of simply place-holding comedic archetypes used to get to a punchline. They build on each other’s ideas well and have a knack for bringing the small details back around before wrapping up. Virginia Jack showed a full spectrum of what is possible with the Duo format.
Mike Muller has written for Phillyist and UntiedMag.com.
Philly comedians Mike Rainey and Tim Butterly were on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon last night. Tim answered trivia, poorly… And Mike paid the price in chest-hair. You know… just like Johnny Carson always dreamed!
Rainey hosts The Dirty Dozen show Saturdays at Midnight at Helium Comedy Club, as well as a streaming radio show “Rainey Sundays” on Laffcast.com. Butterly was a finalist in last year’s Philly’s Phunniest competition, and is a favorite going into this year’s contest.
NYC’s From Justin to Kelly (Justin Peters and Kelly Buttermore) were deliciously silly. They took the audience’s suggestions of “Chipotle” during their Saturday night show and built an ever-expanding world of heartbreak, homelessness, and food service.
Kelly and Justin have a frenetic energy and breakneck speed between bits without missing a beat. Their visual communication adds to the frenzied atmosphere as they quickly gesture to each other to move on or jump between characters. They use their sex to their advantage; switching characters mid-routine allows them to do some hilarious and creative things with gender identity.
As a harried Chipotle team member complains to her boss about her recent ex literally taking the bathroom sink with her, both Kelly and Justin play the jilted lover and they continue to have fun with all of the outgrowths of that initial absurdity.
There are more jilted lovers living and working at the local YMCA, which just passed its third out of nine health inspections (“We’re batting .333!”), and having first dates at Alfredo’s, where the stereotypical Italian chef doesn’t understand why people don’t like “the eponymous I-ah put on everything.”
Slightly more successful lovers reminisce about good movie dates, where they had their minds blown by White Chicks. In fact, this show was chock full of lovers of all stripes. It all came back to Chipotle, though, when one of our heroes has to report to the big boss, Joel the Great and Powerful Wizard of Chipotle, who was Justin’s disembodied voice from behind the stage curtain.
When “Joel” told the homeless Kelly that, “There is no living in Chipotle!” it was one of the great bookend payoffs of the evening.
Mike Muller has written for Phillyist and UntiedMag.com.
Tomily Comedy were the second pair of out-of-towners on Saturday. The duo consists of Thomas Towell and Emily Holland out of Boston. The biggest, funniest scene they performed–to be called back later–involved two people who meet on Megabus.
What started as a chance meeting turns out to be fate. Emily’s character who is, for lack of a better word, outspoken… announces her love to Thomas and then makes a point to get the attention of everyone on the bus to inform them of it. She thinks this a match made in heaven and invites him to her grandmother’s funeral. She also believes they should make a baby right then and there. (She also announces this to everyone else on Megabus.)
The other scene I wanted to touch on, I call “the party-planning scene”. A daughter was telling was her father what she wanted for her quinceanera. It involved a stripper cake, a stripper, and, of course, a pony. She wanted the pony in the cake and she wanted the stripper to jump out of the cake, riding the pony.
She also wanted (and this destroyed me) for Ace Ventura to be playing, but on mute and she wanted two men to come in and dub the movie themselves. I don’t think I could overstate this enough. The scenes were good, but what made them great were the performances. Thomas and Emily had the timing and delivery down to a T. There was never a moment where I thought they were trying to think of the next thing, which allowed everything to feel a bit more real.
Tomily Comedy was a great addition to Duofest! Visit back for more DuoFest reviews as they come in!
Iguanatron, starring Brian Gray and Greg Gillotti out of Pittsburgh, kicked off Saturday’s DuoFest blocks in fine form. It began with a discussion about the ethics and ramifications of using loaded dice in a Dungeons and Dragons game. This would eventually lead to a humorous scene where the Pope is getting a ride from someone who doesn’t get how big of a deal being the Pope is (you know, like most D&D improv segueways).
The pope scene was my favorite from Iguanatron. Its genius really came down to their talking about the perks of being a Pope–getting private tours of museums, etc.–which seem obvious in hindsight but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone actually discuss it, let alone hilariously.
“You get a private tour? You know somebody?” “Me.”
The next scene had Saturday’s first appearance of someone playing an animal. What kind of animal would it be, you ask? And in what context?? The answer is a rat. A pet rat named Ferdinand, and this isn’t a Disney film where rats speak good English and sound like actors. This rat, to the surprise of the audience, screeches loudly. There was laughter when we heard the first screech, but it was the kind of laughter a crowd makes when while watching a horror film–when a loud noise turns out to be nothing. Ferdinand goes on to assist his creepy owner at a job interview, with great success!
Iguanatron were great. A perfect kick-off for Saturday’s shows.
Check back throughout the week for more DuoFest reviews as they come in.
The American Stage Theater Company in St. Petersburg, Florida sent Gavin Hawk and Ricky Wayne to Philly for DuoFest on Thursday night.
Their work-place suggestions yielded a scene in an attorney’s office and one in a work-from-home sales position. The very funny law-office scene switched back and forth in “upper-hand” position between the lawyer and jail-bound client. It culminated in the public defender offering the falling-apart criminal a state-sanctioned bro-hug, with optional shushing (pictured).
At the risk of offending snobbier Hawk and Wayne fans, there seems to be a “catchphrase” energy to their improvised interactions. But this aint “git ‘er done”, it’s more about their ability to find the right sub-topics and the right groove, and then escalate. They utilize repetition, emphasis and verbalized attack-and-retreat to comedic effect like linguistic swordsmen. This isn’t to say they are uncomfortable with negative space. They’re not overly wordy or unnecessarily verbose; they pick their moments to dig into each other’s characters with prodding interrogations or tirade mini-monologues, much to the delight of an improv audience which may or may not have more of a background in pensive circumspection than calculated brashness.
Their second scene, about two brothers working from home, contained a rant which got the audience roaring. I’ll butcher it for you but something to the effect of: the quieter brother says to the louder brother with frank honesty, “I always knew you’d go to a good jerk-off highschool, become president of the jerk-off student council, editor of the jerk-off school newspaper and graduate with a 4.0 as jerk-off valedictorian… maybe go to a jerk-off university, graduate, join a jerk-off firm and make partner…”. Of course you had to be there, but it was reminiscent of the energy captured in the classic Upright Citizen’s Brigade sketch, “Ass Pennies“.
Stay tuned for more reviews from DuoFest 2014 as they pour in throughout the week!
Ranger Danger and the Danger Ranger are from Los Angeles and consist of Luis Cortes and Drew Coolidge. These partners of ten years are laser-sharp storytellers with a muscle for punch-lines that amazingly manages not to cripple their professional-grade plot and character development under the weight of their comedic chops.
In front of a packed house on Friday night, they took the suggestions “subway” and “basement” and weaved a should-be humdrum tale of two guys trapped in the basement of a subway restaurant which had us all secretly begging for blackout to wait until the characters reached freedom. Silent prayers for a distracted tech-person filled the narrow cracks between grand mal convulsions of laughter.
It was up there with the hardest I’ve ever heard a theater audience laugh (nearly matched, to DuoFest’s credit, later that night by Magnet Theater’s Trike). Ranger Danger and the Danger Ranger managed to elicit a mania so frothing that upon blackout, I nearly expected everyone in the audience the start indescriminantly punching each other’s grinning teeth out.
I caught up briefly with Cortes. When I asked some version or another of “How do you guys do it?” he replied, “We just always try to tell a good story. When you tell a good story and let the audience help guide you, it’s really not that difficult.”
By contrast with our other DuoFest favorite–Boston’s Two Gentlemen, who wielded deft irreverence for the conventions of improv to create a psychedelic masterpiece–Ranger Danger & The Danger Ranger capitalized on every classic improv trick in the book. They operated with scene-economy, resource-optimization and infectious confidence, making the 60-seat PHIT space feel like a fucking stadium, in which we were watching a pair of rock-stars knock fastballs out of the park with upside-down guitars and illegal pyro.
What started as a gaffe–Arie Stern sitting lonesome on the stage with his partner in absentia–soon spun into a nearly metaphysical narrative which exploded the improviser/audience contract in the best and most unexpected ways possible. All while keeping a half dozen characters so stable and grounded that I felt like I was in the middle of season six of The Two Gentlemen Show.
“I’m sure he’s just fucking with me, so I’ll get started without him,”Arie says confidently.
Soon enough, an anonymous audience member in the form of second gentleman Greg Hernandez hits a beat seamlessly with comments about the attractiveness of Arie’s on-stage dinner companion (up to this point, of course, invisible). We are then treated to tales of jealousy, pirates walking the plank, and meetings with Jane Austen’s literary agent until members of the audience (Two Gentlemen, themselves) start commenting rudely about how offensive and sexist the show is. They are challenged by the performers on the stage (Two Gentlemen) to do THEIR OWN improv show.
Did you ever see improv so impossibly funny, with a chemistry simultaneously stable yet reactive… That you’re certain it must be rehearsed?
I’m not entirely convinced it isn’t.
I managed to get a few words from them after the show. I asked Hernandez–somewhat speechlessly–what’s their “form” or “style”. He replied, with some obviousness, “There is none.”
“The only thing we try to do every time we perform is to make sure we play with what improv is capable of.”
If there’s one thing that settles my suspicion that Two Gentlemen may be a scam… That these guys may simply be a traveling pair of avant garde sketch comedy geniuses, it’s in the chemistry.
“What are your favorite things about Jane Austen?” Greg’s character asks Arie’s character on stage, the first of three subtle “Does my partner know anything about literature?” quizzes exchanged subtextually during the scene–as if the two dudes are shooting the shit in a dorm room while rendering hilarious scenes for an improv festival in real-time.
“I don’t know what I would have done if he HAD known anything about Jane Austen,” admits Greg after the show, “Cuz I don’t know anything about Jane Austen either!”.
(Spoiler Alert: Their show contains NO Jane Austen spoilers.)
I have binding family obligations, but if you’re even considering going out tomorrow night, start your evening off with an improv set from a couple of guys addicted to risks, addicted to character-commitment, addicted to exploring the theater space, and compelled against all reasoning-with to supply you with hilarious intellectual and emotional adventures at any cost.
It’s unlikely that their set will be anywhere near as funny as it was last night–how could it possibly be? Don’t worry about it, just scoop up your tickets quick! Philly improv fans should be excited that Boston has produced a male answer to The Amie and Kristin Show.
Two Gentlemen talk during the show about the Two Gentlemen show. [better images coming to PHIT’s Flickr]