Signups have already begun for the second annual March Madness Comedy Competition. Comedians will compete in opening rounds held at various open mics throughout the city where audience vote will determine who moves on to the next round. To sign up, send an email with your name, phone number, email address, and how long you have been performing stand-up to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Improvisers can throw their names in the hat for the 2012 Troika tournament. Nine teams of three performers will be chosen at random to form new trios and compete to be named champion. Interested performers can send their name, contact info, and names of groups they have performed with (one interesting twist, the teams will be made of people who have never performed together before) to email@example.com.
Finally, this week marks the return of a full two-week schedule of shows at Philly Improv Theater. You can find their full schedule on the PHIT website and, as always, the shows are also listed on our calendar.
This sketch just debuted at Keep The Change Ya Filthy Animal: A Yuletide Variety Show – Secret Pants’ now annual holiday sketch show at Johnny Brenda’s. I stood in a room full of laughing audience members and fellow comedians who were amazed at the consistent, fresh, hilarious concepts and execution Secret Pants always brings to the table. This sketch is a prime example of that. Do yourself a favor and just enjoy this sketch, don’t do as I did and sit there wondering who plays the back of Paul Triggiani’s head (my guess is Brian Kelly).
Bird Text – The Real Househusbands of Philadelphia Occupy Philly
The Bird Text fellas combine their breakout characters with the hot-button-issue-of-the-later-half-of-the-year-that-disappeared-as-soon-as-the-cops-chased-everybody-out to make for some great moments in man-on-the-street comedy. This was the perfect third act for the Househusbands characters, a great way to keep the idea fresh and branch out to new territory.
Camp Woods – Detective Berry
Camp Woods has been killing it lately. Every show is packed with tightly written sketches that start with strong premises and are full of fearless performances from each of their members. I probably spend too much time over-analyzing comedy, and lately I’ve been thinking about Camp Woods and their group dynamic. The group is full of versatile performers who know how to write for each other and where they all fit in. They also know how to take a great premise and squeeze every laugh out of it with a combination of big, balls-out performances, and small nuanced hilarious moments. This sketch is a great example of that. The idea it self is laugh-out-loud silly, but the sketch is jam packed with little moments that make it great. From Billy Bob Thompson’s facial expressions to Brendan Kennedy’s reaction shots to JP Boudwin’s bewilderment to Sam Narisi’s great delivery of the line “it all makes so much sense”. Even the way Billy says the word “cum” makes me laugh.
I’m sort of cheating here by including The Feeko’s entire set from this year’s Philly Sketch Fest. Only “sort of” because the entire show ran together and was connected beautifully so it seemed like one complete sketch. The show started with a “body switch” premise, so I was hooked from the start. The set continued with a mix of new and previously seen ideas blended together to take us on a trip to see the Feeko Brothers’ British counterparts, watch Billy as he became possessed by a Demon hell bent on getting some marijuana, and watch as Billy and Christian frantically tried to return to their own bodies. Plus, the whole thing was sponsored by a quaint little restaurant on the corner of Market and Fifth.
For the rest of the year, we are going to run lists from you, our readers (and some that we wrote ourselves) of our Top 5 of 2011. You’ll hear from many Philadelphia comedians, as well as some fans of comedy about their favorite sketches, bits, shows, and moments of the past year. If you’d like to write a list – go ahead, do it! and send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our first list comes from Executive Director of the Philly Improv Theater, Greg Maughan, and includes his favorite $5 passwords for PHIT shows from the past year.
5. “Everything You Like Is Stupid Dot Com”: I can’t say this password was really all that funny, but I do read Luke Giordano’s website as a result of having it’s domain merciless pounded into my brain every time I went to his show. (By the way Luke, I’ll be sending you an invoice for this product placement).
4. “Meatspin”:Alex Gross‘ passwords for The Gross Show have taught me more about obscure – and in the eyes of religious conservatives, deviant – sexual practices than anything else since Steve Babcock’s asides in my 8th Grade Health class. For the love of God, please don’t say I didn’t warn if you decide to Google this one and end up offended.
3. “I am the Dread Pirate Roberts, there will be no survivors.”: I think there were actually people who came to TV Party‘s show dedicated to Fairy Tales just for the privilege of getting to say this line and then give us $5.
2. “Boehner? I hardly know her!”: It was hard picking my favorite Chip Chantry pun-based password, but the political junkie in me won out on this one (even if it does require you to mispronounce the House Speaker’s last name). A close second was August’s “So IRENE’S Over, and I Says to Him…” the day after the hurricane hit Philly.
1. “Friendship”:Aaron Hertzog completely ignored my rule that the $5 password had to be different each show all year long, but he was so friendly about it I didn’t have the heart to tell him he needed to stop. Now I’ve told him so publicly though, so if I had money to bet I would say that his next show will have a different word… but the root will still be “friend”.
Tonight The Sideshow returns to The Arts Parlor (1170 S. Broad St) for a night of improv comedy. Tonight’s show will feature a brand new team performing for the first time, Iron Lung will be debuting a new form, and Get a Room and Fowl Play will make their Sideshow debuts.
Next Tuesday, at L’etage (624 S. 6th St.) Camp Woods brings us Camp Woods Plus – an evening of sketch comedy featuring the group and two special guests. This month the show will feature Philly sketch group Local Holiday Miracle, and 2010 ECNY “Best Sketch Comedy Group in New York” award winners Murderfist.
Last week, TU Comedy, Temple University’s stand-up comedy club put on a show at Pub Webb on campus. The show featured six members of the club, plus James Hesky and Aaron Hertzog, two Temple alumni. City Paper’s Critical Mass blog wrote an article about the show here.
New York comedy/ sex show Paid or Pain is coming to Philadelphia and is looking for performers. Paid or Pain is a show where comedians perform and the crowd votes whether to pay the comedian, or have them tortured by their “house dominatrix.” The show will feature a burlesque act, sex toy giveaways, and sex therapy with a special guest comedian. Sound like fun? interested comedians can send their clips and info to email@example.com
Another reminder that voting is ongoing for The 2011 Witout Awards. Any member of the Philadelphia Comedy Community can take the survey and vote for their favorite performers, bits, and shows of the past year.
Unfortunately, video of this bit does not exist but his exasperation at the fact that a man could murder an entire building full of people with a hatchet, complete with out-of-breath act outs was the only bit Darryl did during his run to a second place finish at this year’s Philly’s Phunniest Person Contest. Check him out live to see the hilarious bit in action.
Rob and Paul get together on stage at Philly Improv Theater every month and have a TV Party. They find the best worst television from the past available and present it to a crowd full of often drunk and always eager fans waiting to laugh – both at the shows and with the hilarious commentary provided by the two.
Carolyn Busa and Mary Radzinski
Every Monday night Carolyn and Mary turn the back room at The Urban Saloon into one of the best open mics in the city, Laughs on Fairmount. The two take turns introducing acts and keep the show moving with their own charm and sense of humor. They often start the show with a short sketch that highlights the chemistry they have with each other and gets the audience ready for a night of great comedy.
Chip Chantry is a busy man. He is the host of two monthly shows at major Philadelphia comedy venues. Facetime with Chip Chantry is a talk show at Helium Comedy Club that features Chip performing sketches, jokes about the news, and conducting interviews with each of his guests. Chip Chantry’s One Man Show (with Special Guests) moved to Philly Improv Theater after its’ successful run at The Khyber and features Chip hosting for many of the best acts Philly Comedy has to offer.
Twice per month on Friday nights Aaron Hertzog hosts Hey Everybody! an evening of stand-up comedy at Philly Improv Theater. The showcase features many of the best stand-ups in Philadelphia and the occasional visitor from out of town. Aaron is known for yelling “Hey Everybody” at the top of his sets, and getting audiences ready for the show with his jovial invitations of friendship.
Doogie’s monthly Ministry of Secret Jokes has been one of the best nights of comedy Philadelphia has to offer for years. Doogie packs the show with not only great stand-up and sketch comedy but games, contests, and audience participation. The show is run like a meeting of a secret society, and Doogie often opens his shows by having the audience recite an oath that they will not reveal what they see to anyone. Judging by the packed in crowds upstairs at Fergie’s every month, many people have been breaking that oath.
Chip is a fixture in the Philadelphia comedy scene. He performs as a feature act at Helium Comedy Club (and clubs around the country) and is also the host of two monthly shows. Facetime with Chip Chantry is a variety talk show at Helium Comedy Club that lets Chip showcase his monologue and interview skills. Chip Chantry’s One Man Show (with Special Guests) is a Monday night variety show at Philly Improv Theater that features performances by many of the best acts in Philadelphia. Chip also recorded his first comedy album in 2011 at Helium Comedy Club. Chip seems to find himself a finalist in Philly’s Phunniest Person Contest every year and was named one of the top ten comedians in Philadelphia by Comedy.com.
Steve is a former Philly’s Phunniest Person Contest winner and a feature act at Helium Comedy Club as well as clubs around the country. He was also named one of the top ten comedians in Philadelphia by Comedy.com. He is the writer and producer of several short sketches that became popular online this past year including “New Age Medic.”
Aaron was the third place finisher in the 2010 Philly’s Phunniest Person Contest and performs as a host at Helium Comedy Club. In addition he hosts his own stand-up comedy showcase Hey Everybody! at Philly Improv Theater. In 2011 he performed in the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival and the Out of Bounds Festival in Austin, Texas. He too was named one of the top ten comedians in Philadelphia by Comedy.com. Aaron is also a member of improv groups Hate Speech Committee and Hey Rube.
Brendan was a semi-finalist in this year’s Philly’s Phunniest Person Contest and hosts his own show, Guilty Pleasures at Philly Improv Theater where he finds horribly written scripts and performs stage readings of them along with some of Philly’s best comedians. Brendan is also a member of sketch group Camp Woods and improv group Hate Speech Committee. He was most likely best described by comedian Kent Haines as “a silly misanthrope.”
Tommy was the winner of the 2011 Philly’s Phunniest Person Contest at Helium Comedy Club, where he also performs as a host. He is a member of Bird Text, a group that produces sketch comedy and live stand-up shows. Bird Text was behind the popular sketch series “The Real Househusbands of Philadelphia.” Tommy also produces regular comedy shows in Philadelphia and the surrounding area.
Mark Leopold is a Philadelphia improviser, sketch comedian, employee, driver-who-talks-on-his-cell-phone-but-is-constantly-scanning-the-road-for-police-officers-because-then-he’ll- totally-just-drop-his-phone-into-his-lap-and-pretend-he-was-just-resting-his-head-on-his-hand- and-they’ll-never-even-have-a-clue, and a friend. He is a member of the PHIT house team Hey Rube as well as a new addition to the cast of Comedysportz and he does sketch comedy with his group The Hold-up. When he isn’t doing one of these things he is busy doing other things, like working and laundry, and so while he sincerely wishes he was able to be a real interviewer, the best he is able to do is interview people in his head while he drives different places. Today, while on 476 north, Mark took some time to sit down in a very quaint coffee shop in his head with Philadelphia comedian, improviser, sketch guy, and Hey Rube teammate Aaron Hertzog.
MARK LEOPOLD: Hey Aaron, it’s me Mark!
AARON HERTZOG: (laughing) Hey Mark.
ML: I’m glad you took the time to sit down with me today.
AH: I’m happy to do it Mark.
ML: So let’s just dive right in, who are you and what have you done with my son?
Aaron laughs and Mark joins him. Aaron stops laughing and looks at Mark expectantly.
ML: Do you want money? Is that it?
AH: I don’t have your son, I didn’t even know you had a son.
ML: I don’t in real life, but I do here.
AH: Here in your head?
ML: Yes. Here in my head at the coffee shop which, now that I stop and think about it for a second, is just the coffee shop from Inception where Leonardo DiCaprio explains the premise of the movie to Ellen Page.
AH: You want to make everything explode? This is your day dream after all.
ML: Get real Aaron! That would be so derivative.
The coffee shop explodes but, since my memory isn’t great, the way it is rendered leaves a lot to be desired.
AH: That was fun.
AH: You didn’t think that was fun?
ML: The whole thing just felt forced.
AH: …okay then.
There is a moment of uncomfortable silence as Mark looks at a speck of something that is floating in his coffee. He hopes it’s just a coffee ground, but with all the explosions and everything, it seems more likely to be a piece of debris. He picks it out of his coffee and wipes his fingers on a napkin. Aaron tries to force small talk.
AH: I don’t drink coffee.
AH: No, I don’t like the taste.
ML: Yeah, I could see that.
AH: I guess I’m not an “adult.”
ML: Do you still like the smell of gasoline?
ML: Me too, but not as much.
AH: That’s weird how you grow to like some smells when you grow up and you stop liking others. You always hear about acquired tastes, but you don’t hear much about acquired smells.
ML: Like body odor.
AH: I don’t think that’s true.
ML: I think I read somewhere that Matthew McConaughey doesn’t wear deodorant because he thinks women like the way he smells naturally.
AH: I bet he smells like vanilla.
ML: …but like, really manly vanilla.
AH: That wouldn’t work out as well for me.
ML: Yeah, me neither, I’m an Old Spice man now. I made the switch. It took a little while for my armpits to stop burning when I put it on, but I think the nerve endings are dead now. So it was tough, but hey, I really like their commercials.
How and why did you get into comedy? I started doing stand-up in 2006 after a long flirtation with the idea of doing comedy. I always wanted to be a writer, and still do – and started because I had a friend (Pat House) who had been doing comedy for about two years who finally made me get up and do it. I thought stand-up would be a good place to meet people to write with and work on sketches and other projects. I started improv earlier this year because I thought it would be a good place to work my mind muscles to help come up with stand-up material, and it also looked like a lot of fun. So far, it’s been both.
How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? I would say my style is silly. I think anybody who’s ever seen me perform would say I’m pretty much a big, silly, idiot. I like that. I’d also like to say it’s smart idiocy, but I can’t say that about myself. If somebody else would like to say that I would appreciate it. No? OK.
Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? Philly has a lot of different great places to perform, and I like them for different reasons. A packed, jazzed-up crowd at Helium might provide the most energy – but there’s also something awesome about the kind of response at an alt room, like a PHIT show, or The Ministry of Secret Jokes. I think, for me, my style is more alternative, so in a way it feels better when I do well in a more mainstream room. I expect people in an alt room to like what I do – I write for them – but when I make a room full of people I don’t think I have anything in common with laugh – it makes me feel good – and also a little like a judgmental asshole because I doubted them.
Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? There are moments every now and then that stand out, and they always involve some sort of variety show where a lot of people are on it, and we all hang out after the show. Like when Chip had the Moon sketch contest, or any of the roasts, or Doogie’s bachelor party Ministry of Secret Jokes. That’s the best part about doing comedy here, the #friendship!
Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? For stand-up, I like to write about things I think are weird, or things that scare me or confuse me (which are a lot of things.) I like to explore a topic and keep adding stuff to it to the point where my joke is way too long. I think I’m the same way when I write a sketch (which is less often). I’m still too new at improv to say that I have a process – my process right now is observing other people and trying to figure out what their process is and what I like about it that I can try to incorporate into my performance. I like to “reverse engineer” material. If I see a joke someone else does that I like, I try to think of how the person wrote it, where the idea came from, and how they got from the observation to the joke – then try to apply that line of thinking when I’m trying to come up with material.
What is it about improv (or stand-up, or sketch, whatever you do…) that draws you to it? Making people laugh is what has always drawn me to comedy. It’s an incredible feeling, and I’ve always searched for it. It’s how I tried to get people to like me when I was younger and it’s how I try to get people to like me now. Sometimes it even works.
Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? My favorite stand-ups are Brendan Kennedy, Doogie Horner, Chip Chantry and Luke Giordano (does he count anymore?) Brendan is my favorite to watch because he’s just an animal – you never know what he’s going to do and he’s just so quick and that kind of silly-stupid-smart (I hope you know what I mean by this…) that makes up my favorite kind of stand-up comedy. Doogie and Chip are inspirations because they are just constantly working and writing and coming up with great material. Luke is a great writer, and his ideas are always ones that I wish I thought of – thoughts that I’ve had that I just didn’t recognize to turn into bits. I think his style as a stand-up is closest to mine so the fact that I like him a lot might also be a bit narcissistic. The Feeko Brothers are my favorite sketch group, and I think they make me laugh more than anybody else in the world. My favorite improv groups to watch are Medic!, Matt&, Mayor Karen, and any other team that starts with the letter “M” apparently.
Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? Bombing is always terrible, it makes me feel dead inside – but my worst show experience was when I had to take the side of Inspector Gadget against Batman in a “who is the better detective” debate at the Raven Lounge. I won the debate, and then picked up the microphone and berated the audience for being persuaded that in any universe Inspector Gadget could be considered a better detective than Batman. I felt like I betrayed myself. I don’t know how I’ve been able to sleep since.
What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow? Like most people will probably say, we need a permanent space – a place that’s going to be open every day that the public will know is a place they can trust to come see great comedy all the time. The performers are here, we have great people doing great things, we just need to build an audience of non-performers who trust local comedy. There are a lot of comedy fans in Philly, people go out to see shows of big-named acts all the time. We just need to get them to know that the local acts are good, and worth coming out to see.
Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy? Ultimately, my goal is to make my living from comedy, so my short term goals are all doing things to work towards making that happen. Which is really, just getting on stage as much as I can and writing and working on material all the time. Not a bad way to spend my time.