Upcoming Shows

  • July 31, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • July 31, 2014 9:00 pmThe Comedy Attic
  • August 1, 2014 7:00 pmThe Comedy Works
  • August 1, 2014 8:00 pmThe N Crowd
  • August 1, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • August 1, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • August 1, 2014 9:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • August 2, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • August 2, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • August 2, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • August 2, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • August 2, 2014 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • August 7, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • August 7, 2014 9:00 pmThe Comedy Attic
  • August 8, 2014 7:00 pmThe Comedy Works
  • August 8, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • August 8, 2014 8:00 pmThe N Crowd
  • August 8, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • August 8, 2014 9:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • August 9, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • August 9, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • August 9, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • August 9, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • August 9, 2014 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • August 14, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
AEC v1.0.4

Hey Rube Remembers Hey Rube

77649_369702319772818_2023223526_oHey Rube will perform for the final time as a House Team this Saturday night at Philly Improv Theater. The group made their debut in August 2011 and have since performed at venues all over the area and festivals including the New York Improv Festival, Del Close Marathon, and the Philadelphia Improv Festival. They were crowned Best New Group at the 2012 WitOut Awards for Philadelphia Comedy, and were nominated for Best Improv Group at the 2013 WitOut Awards. The members of Hey Rube and their director Matt Holmes took some time to reflect, and say some nice things about each other.

Aaron Hertzog on Dennis Trafny:
Dennis blows me away every time I see him perform. The only thing I know for sure when Dennis enters a scene is that at some point he is going to totally surprise me. He can take a seemingly everyday boring offer and come back with something that is (incredibly) completely off-the-wall but also somehow makes it easy for his scene partner to react to and build with. I don’t know if it’s a natural skill or something he’s had to work tirelessly on (or a little bit of Column A and a little bit of Column B) but either way I am completely impressed. He can also bring great intensity to a character (seriously, look into those eyes), and inject some much-needed energy in a show at a moment’s notice. Of course, this also makes for extra special moments when he decides to tone it down and show us his tender, soft side.”

Tara Demmy on Mark Leopold:
“Before Hey Rube, I didn’t know Mark Leopold. He was just one of those guys with a really great name. Now I know him as one of the most talented performers I’ve ever worked with. His character work is the best (Dr. Dandelion) and he is a super intelligent and creative player, knowing when to give a set that necessary plot twist. When I’m in scenes with Mark I have trouble not just hanging out and watching him work, laughing along with the audience. One of my favorite moments was when Hey Rube was doing one of our usual group scene orgies and Mark came on and just sensually untied Jen’s shoelace. The best. Catch up with Mark playing “5 Things” at ComedySportz or doing a “props made out of only cardboard” sketch show with The Hold Up or even doing a show in the Philly Fringe (his 2012 Fringe show Archdiocese of Laughter was one of the best comedy shows I’ve ever seen—he made a rap out of my favorite hymn: Gift of Finest Wheat! Genius). See you there—I’ll be the girl in the first row wearing my ‘I heart Mark Leopold’ T-shirt.”

Lizzie Spellman on Alex Gross:
The first time I really hung out with Alex, he took me to a gay club with a hot Asian chick. I’ve come to learn he is one crazy cat (and I’m not just saying that ’cause he owns way too many cat shirts). Alex is so fun to play with on stage. When he makes a choice he always fully commits to it. He can go super weird with a character, but it’s always grounded in truth. I think if Hey Rube were a rock band, Alex would be the guy smashing his guitar on an amp and flipping off the crowd. I tell him all the time and I really mean it, he’s become like a little brother to me. That’s why I forgive him for drunkenly walking in on me in the bathroom and proceeding to pee in the shower. But that’s another story…”

Mark Leopold on Aaron Hertzog:
“I first saw Aaron something like six years ago. I went to an open mic and did some terrible set where I impersonated Forrest Gump at one point, and I saw this big man with a big personality just own the crowd and receive their adoration with composure and charm. It was amazing. I then retreated to the suburbs for three years. When I got cast on Hey Rube, the only person I actually recognized was Aaron and I was immediately intimidated by the prospect of playing with him. My fears proved to be completely unfounded of course. Aaron is one of the sweetest, most open, gentle and loving people I’ve met. His ever-present playfulness is infectious and when you have the good fortune to be in a scene with him, it’s such a familiar feeling of silly frolicking that you can’t help but have fun. Fun. That’s really the best way to describe what Aaron is like. He’s just like someone who it’s always fun to be around and with. He has a gift for vulnerability. He is just so brave and so foot-forward, always ready to give himself to the show or scene. Whether it’s dark or emotional, serious or silly, Aaron commits totally and performing with him is so easy and simple because you know he is going to completely receive what you give and build with it. Some of the most satisfying moments of collaboration in my life have been with him. Aaron is wonderful and any city, town, or village that doesn’t leap at the chance to welcome him is just tragically stupid.”

Rob Cutler on Lizzie Spellman:
“Lizzie is commitment personified.  She’s an incredibly gifted performer, but the original characters she creates and maintains are nothing short of brilliant.  Whether she exhibits the child-like innocence of a three-year-old, or the decrepit bitter wisdom of a wicked crone, Lizzie will up the intensity with every passing moment.  She’s a multitalented performer, whose musical prowess is displayed often with her ukulele, singing some of the most irreverent, funny, and original songs I’ve personally ever heard.  She has a gift for character and her future on stage is limitless.  On the personal end, I’ve yet to meet a more patient and engaging personality.  She has kind words for everyone I’ve seen her interact with (even if they were complete assholes).  In short Lizzie is funny as hell, sweet as sugar, with talent oozing out of every pore.  We should all be so lucky as to have someone like Lizzie in our lives.  I’ll miss you Rubes!”

Jen Curcio on Tara Demmy:
“I will never forget the first time I met Tara.  It was at Hey Rube’s first practice. I was really jealous of her because she was prettier, cooler and funnier than me. Then I got over it. Tara is a total improv pirate and for those of you who are not familiar with the term that means she attacks the scene. She is fearless in her choices, yet fully commits to and supports her scene partners’ choices. Tara is able to play characters that have a sharp contrast in stage presence. She will support anything and add value to it. I feel so lucky to have been on a team with her, I learned a lot from watching her be an awesome improviser!”

Alex Gross on Jen Curcio:
“Oh, geez. Jen is the worst. I’m just kidding! I know that really freaked you out Jen but seriously, I’m just kidding. I swear! Jen is one of the kindest and weirdest people I know. She is always thinking of others before herself and she’s given me countless car rides home. Her paranoia and craziness are right on par with mine, which makes me feel like she’s my improv twin. I’ve done some of my favorite scenes with her and she is always a joy to work with, no matter how many times she initiates scenes with hints of a gangbang starting. Jen is an improv powerhouse who isn’t to be fucked with and I’ve had a blast working with her. Rubes for life.”

Dennis Trafny on Rob Cutler:
“Rob is the ‘Phil Hartman’ of Hey Rube: really solid in every scene and he reigns in the crazy. He never gets scared on stage and is always cooler than the other side of the pillow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him hesitate. Not once. Never. Not even for a second. No ‘uhhhh’s or ‘ummmm’s. Nothing. He’s a beast. He also plays characters smartly, and on many occasions, very cleverly ties all the preceding scenes together.  He is no one-trick pony either.  He has a gift with puppetry and is awesome in Friends of Alcatraz . (If you haven’t seen it, you should!) Good luck with your future projects Rob!”

Matt Holmes on Hey Rube:
“It’s sad to see Hey Rube end, but things that burn brightest snuff soonest.

I got more out of directing Hey Rube than I ever thought I would. First, I learned to get past your perfect idea for how things should go. It’s better to be flexible and make it work. It took us a few months to all get in the same room together at the same time, but that didn’t matter much.

Then, I learned all kinds of insights about improvising, telling a story in a visual medium, teaching people, using people’s strengths and working together on their weaknesses, building something together in small steps, and creating a show (style, format, framework) that is a signature.”

 

Hey Rube’s final show will be Saturday, February 9 at 10pm at The Philly Improv Theater at The Shubin Theater (407 Bainbridge St.) Tickets can be purchased online.

Duofest Interview: Gross Butler

By: Alison Zeidman

To teenage girls, they’re The Beatles. To Hasidic Jews, they’re lobsters wrapped in bacon burning  Israeli flags and eating cheeseburgers. To us, they’re Gross Butler. They’re not trying to offend you; they’re just gonna fuck with you a little bit. And in the end, they really just want to rock your face and steal your heart.

Alison Zeidman: How did you guys meet, and then how did you decide to form your duo?

Alex Gross: Like a year ago Greg [Maughan] would just ask me to ask improvisers to do a show that was supposed to never be seen again, just on Sundays if he needed a group to perform. And so the one day he asked me on Sunday, and I texted about fifteen people, and they all told me maybe, except for Mike; he was like, “YES I’ll do it!”

Mike Butler: I think it was the Saturday before, he asked me. And I don’t know how long before that Greg told you to put together a group. I just assumed that he told you earlier in the week and you just decided on Saturday to start putting it together.

AG: No it was definitely that Saturday, that day.

MB: So Alex said do you want to be in a group, and I said fine, because I knew Alex from Incubator. And he had seen my [PHIT] 101 show earlier in that year as well.

AZ: So you guys did that show together, and just decided to keep going?

AG: Yeah, it was actually a really really good show because uh…yeah, I was just really surprised and Greg was surprised, and we had this sixteen-year-old girl in the audience who was just non-stop laughing. And I was just like, OK, that’s our basic dmeographic.

AZ: Is that semi-serious? Do you guys cater to maybe…a less mature audience?

[both laugh]

MB: Oh no, actually our stuff really is mature, a lot of people enjoy it, but on some level I guess sixteen year-olds do really like it. Though Greg told us that at our first performance, there were four Hasidic Jews who had come to the Shubin to see the show, and then walked out in the middle of our performance.

AG: Like the second scene in!

AZ: Can you think of what you might have said or done that would have made them leave?

AG: We were going very religion-heavy at some point.

MB: I thought it was the scene where we were in prison and you peed on me.

AG: That might actually have been it.

MB: And they just kind of walked out, and they didn’t take their money back either. So we have that distinction: Our first performance ever, four Hasidic Jews walked out.

AZ: Is that typical for you guys, to have scenes that are more controversial, or maybe even vulgar at times?

AG: I think it’s a lot about how the audience is responding. Because we’re definitely very much reliant on the audience.

MB: Overall, it’s not like we go out and say, “hey, we’re gonna have the dirtiest show ever.” It’s just our personalities, and we just go wherever it takes us.

AG: Yeah, I don’t think we try to be dirty. I think our show is just dirty because we’re dirty people.

MB: And if you try to be dirty you’re going to fail at it; it’s going to seem forced. But if you’re just naturally…

AG: Fucked up.

MB: I wouldn’t say dirty or fucked up. I like to say aggressive.

AZ: Can you explain what you mean by that?

MB: Usually you see an improv show and if stuff starts to get dirty or raunchy, that wipe comes through, and with us we take the scene for another two or three minutes.

AG: Yeah we’re very patient. The majority of our shows are all five- to six-minute scenes.

MB: We’re lucky if we get to go back to our earlier scenes.

AZ: Do you guys follow a specific format?

MB: We don’t necesarrily have a format. We just start doing scenes and then if we feel like it we go back to an earlier scene.

AG: I feel like the one thing I want from this group is–Philadelphia is very fast. A majority, like my team Hey Rube, we play patient in the beginning but it’s still not long enough. I like to do slow improv, so the one thing I wanted from Mike and I was just to do like five- to six-minute scenes. So that’s our format; we just want to do long scenes. And that’s the only thing that I can say our format is, just being patient.

MB: Yeah, we’re very patient. We just take scenes and go right up to their logical end, even if there’s something dirty in a scene, it isn’t over. It’s like no, we’re going to explore that some more.

AZ: And can you talk about your Krav Maga-inspired inspired opening?

AG: One night I was at home and I was reading an interview with The Vines, and when they were a shitty band and they were just starting out, most of their shows would end with all the bandmates just getting in fistfights, and the audience loved it. And I was like man, I want to get in a fistfight! And so I just was like oh, I’ll do that with Mike, forgetting that he’s trained in MMA.

MB: Yeah, he messaged me at work one day and says “Hey Mike, do you own boxing gloves?” And I said “why yes I do, why?” “I wanna do something where we start off the show boxing each other. ” And I’m like, “OK, that’s fine,” and we worked out how it would work, where we do the clover leaf while we’re punching each other, and I’m like, “OK great, which show do you want to do this on, Tuesday night? Usually I can’t do Tuesday night because I have Israeli Krav Maga class, but that’s fine.” And then he Wikipediaed it really quickly and said “oh my god, you’re a killing machine!”

AG: It’s awful, I hate it. There’s nothing like getting to your first scene and you’re already out of breath and your face hurts.

AZ: So you guys are really boxing each other?

AG: Oh he hits me pretty fucking hard.

MB: I hit him hard enough. I don’t want him to be knocked out and then I have to do the rest of the show alone. But we’re not tapping each other. I’m looking to put a little mustard on each punch and let him feel it, and the crowd gets into it because apparently everybody loves watching Alex get punched.

AG: The first part of the clover leaf is just like warming up, the second one’s really
vicious, and then the third one I’m losing my breath, my face hurts, and most of the time
by the third one my helmet’s ripped off.

MB: Yes, I provide him with a helmet, because I’m used to getting punched in the face and he’s not. So by that third one he’s forgetting the words and I have to remind him which word we’re on.

AZ: So it sounds like even during that you’re still very supportive of each other: You’re helping him remember words, you’re offering him a helmet. What other things, once you get into the meat of your show with scenes, do you think make you guys a good pair?

AG: I like to throw like curve balls–and just for the record we do shows way better when we’re not fighting each other at the beginning, because I sort of…nothing’s like doing an improv scene where your whole left side hurts, and you’re just sort of like fuck you, Mike. I don’t want to be onstage with you anymore, I fucking do not feel like doing this anymore.

MB: But yeah, he likes throwing me curve balls. At our last Grape Room show we were doing a father son bonding scene and he’s like, “yeah, now give me fifty pushups!” and I proceeded to do fifty push-ups onstage, with everybody counting.

AG: And me shooting my hunting rifle in the air. A funny thing about that, it shows you that in improv it’s not all about comedy, it’s just doing the task at hand. You “yes, and”-ed my fifty push-ups, and it ended with the whole crowd fucking applauding the shit out of you for like thirty seconds. They fucking loved the shit out of you after that.

AZ: Is that a recurring thing for you guys, to set your partner up in a scene for something that’s going to be challenging, and maybe even impossible? Is that a conscious game, or does that just happen?

AG: It just happens.

MB: Yeah I don’t think we try, it’s just the way we were trained. I took [PHIT] 201 with Mike Marbach and the main thing I took out of that class was, as Mike would say, “go out on stage and fuck with people.” And that just means go out and have fun with your partner, have fun with your team.

AG: I also know that Mike isn’t going to bail on an idea. If I tell him to be King Tut, he’s gonna be the best King Tut that he can be, and that’s really good. It shows….definitely shows a certain kind of maturity. A lot of [beginner] improv students, you’ll tell them to do something, and they’re so self-conscious, that they’ll either be a really shitty King Tut or they’ll just be like, “I’m not King Tut, I’m an astronaut!” [It's like saying] fuck you man, I hate your decision. And Mike always accepts it, no matter what.

AZ: Are there any challenges that you feel in performing, either just by the very nature of being in a duo, or for your duo specifically?

MB: The challenging thing about being in a duo is you’re in every scene; you’re always working. I think being in a group, if you’re on the side you can pick up patterns or little extra things more easily, but then when you’re in a duo you’re doing everything at once. But that’s what makes being in a duo fun. And I guess that’s why we have Duofest.

AZ: What are you guys looking forward to about this upcoming duofest?

AG: Free shit. T-shirts. Drink tickets at the bar.

MB: I wanna rock peoples’ faces. I want people coming out of our show going “yeah, fuck yeah, I like these guys.”

AG: Yeah, it’s nice [to be a part of it]. I tried to get into the first Duofest and I didn’t get in, and it’s nice getting into this one, and I appreciate all of the producers for picking us. But it’s just another show. It’s not like I’m more nervous to do this show than any other. Just time to play.

MB: Yeah. Just go out and have fun, just go out and play. That’s what Kristin Schier taught me in [PHIT] 101. So go out and play….go out and fuck with people…and now in the 301 class [with Greg Maughan], don’t throw chairs.

AG: Yeah, Greg Maughan’s a wet blanket.

AZ: Is it OK if I print that?

AG: Add that I love him, too.

Ten Questions With…Alex Gross

Alex Gross is a member of new Philly Improv Theater House Team Codenamed Brandybuck - who make their debut tonight at 8:30. He is also the host of PHIT improvised trash talk show The Gross Show.

How and why did you get into comedy? Buy the right meat. For juicy burgers, get ground chuck with a fat content of at least 18%. Lean and extra-lean meat make tough, dry burgers. Also, the more freshly ground the meat is, the more tender and flavorful the burger. If your store has butchers, ask them to grind the meat fresh for you. (Or just grind your own!)

How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? Mix in salt very, very gently. The more you handle the meat, the tougher your burger will be. In a large bowl, pull the meat apart into small chunks, add salt, and toss gently with fingers spread apart until loosely mixed.

Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you?Use wet hands to form patties. This keeps your hands from getting sticky. It also allows the meat to come together faster and prevents overhandling.

Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? Make patties thinner in the center. Divide the meat into 4 equal portions and form patties about 3/4 inch thick at the edges and 1/2 inch thick in the center. They’ll shrink and even out when cooking.

Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? Keep meat cold until it goes on the grill. Put the patties in the fridge while the grill heats up. This helps more of the flavor-carrying fat stay in the meat.

What is it about improv (or stand-up, or sketch, whatever you do…) that draws you to it? Use a clean, well-oiled, preheated grill. Bits of debris encourage sticking, as does an unoiled surface and too low a temperature; you want your burgers to quickly sizzle, firm up, and release from the grill.

Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? Keep grill at a steady high heat (you can hold your hand 1 to 2 inches above grill level for 2 to 3 seconds). If using charcoal, you want ash-covered coals to produce even heat. With a gas grill, keep the lid down while cooking; with a charcoal grill, leave the lid off.

Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? Flip burgers once and at the right time. Constant turning will toughen and dry out meat, and if you flip too soon, burgers will stick. Cook 2 minutes per side for rare, 3 for medium-rare, 4 for medium, and 5 for well-done.

What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow? Don’t press on the burgers while they’re cooking. The juice that seeps out holds most of the flavor and moisture.

Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy? Let burgers rest a few minutes before eating. This allows them to finish cooking and allows their juices, which have collected on the surface during grilling, to redistribute throughout patty.

The real secret to comedy: Grind your own meat.

Showfile: The Gross Show

The Gross Show is a sick and twisted view on the world of “trash talk shows” from the mind of Alex Gross. It makes its return to Philly Improv Theater in its new time slot this Friday at 11:30PM. 

WITOUT: Explain the format of The Gross Show.

ALEX GROSS: The Gross Show is just your regular live theater comedy talk show. We have guests, we drink some beer and we have some good old fashion fun.

WITOUT: Where did you come up with the idea to do an improvised “Trash Talk Show”?

AG: Growing up I didn’t watch the Price is Right when I faked being sick to stay home from school. When my Mother would leave for work I would race down the stairs and turn on Fox to watch nonstop Springer and Maury action. It was (still is) almost everything I hate about humanity and I could watch it without having to actually deal with it. I would scream at my TV until I was red and get really involved. I don’t think I actually enjoyed it, I think I really enjoyed fucking hating people on TV which is why I imagine people watch the Jersey Shore and other corny reality shows (hopefully).

Last fall I was bumming around my apartment with nothing to do until I saw Jerry Springer was on. I hadn’t watched it in years. The exact same feeling rushed into me as when I was a kid. I had so much fun watching and I thought about how I wanted to host a show like it someday. A few days later I saw Greg Maughan and realized I could host a show like it now! I had already pitched several ideas to Greg with no success but he was on board almost immediately with The Gross Show.

WITOUT: Who is your favorite Trash Talk Show Host? Do you pull your hosting style from any one person or do you try to grab bits and pieces of different people that you like?

AG: Jerry Springer is the best day time talk show host of all time. Oprah can suck it. Originally I tried to pull my style from Jerry but as shows went by I realized that it sort of sucks for me and for the show. It’s way too laid back and I felt like my audiences as a whole were too polite at times. Now I’m doing whatever seems right in the moment while still being kind of laid back.

WITOUT: What is your favorite segment of Trash Talk shows? (is it paternity tests? someones cheating on somebody? I’ve got a secret to tell you.? I’m a bad kid who’s getting sent to boot camp?) What do you like about it so much?

AG: On Jerry Springer, the cheating segments are classics. They are consistently sad, depressing and funny as hell. The guests show raw emotion which draws me to the edge of my seat, the fights are entertaining and the twists are awesome. I believe every time a man cheats on his wife with a tranny, that he wasn’t aware had a dick, an angel gets their wings. On Maury, the “I’m eating myself to death” fat segments are too much for me to handle. I love to hate it. You have people dying of hunger around the world but here in America we cry over fat kids who can’t stop eating and have half eaten roast beef sandwiches under their mattresses. I just can’t wrap my mind around it.

WITOUT: Your show has moved time slots a few times, do you feel like you are getting the “Freaks and Geeks” treatment or is it just something to add to the lore of The Gross Show?

AG: I think I was getting the “Greg Maughan is scared to have the cops show up” treatment after we got threatened by the neighbors at the first show for making too much noise. Good news though! Last month Greg called me after the Hopper Brothers decided to end their show and asked if I was interested in going to Fridays late night for good. With no thought I said yes and after being lectured about what I still can’t do on the show, The Gross Show has Friday shows until at least the end of the year!

WITOUT: You play a pretty straight-forward host on the show, do you ever get the itch to get down and dirty and gross with your guests?

AG: In the worst way. Before the first show I couldn’t wait to be weird, crude, strange, disgusting and offensive but while in the planning process I had a reality check. I realized I had to be the straight man or at least the audience’s point of view and a single tear rolled down my cheek. It was really heart breaking.

WITOUT: Is anything off limits? Has anyone come to you with a segment idea that is just too much to put on stage? Will the day ever come? Where is the line?

AG: Nothing is off limits, no idea is too much and there is no line. Example, I couldn’t get the actress for Friday’s show but I was really close to having Zombie Amy Winehouse throwing (fake) ketamine on audience members. My Father said it wasn’t funny but what does he know.