One of the things that’s so fun about comedy is that feeling that anything can happen. Anything can be said; anything can be done. Surprise and uniqueness are your friends; the mundane is your enemy. Bradley Beck seems to be a man who understands this. The other night at Accidents Will Happen, I watched him co-host (with Sarah Morawczynski, the latest in what is apparently an ever-increasing lineup of co-hosts) what was essentially a stand-up showcase where, throughout the night, he became increasingly drunker, progressively lost layers of clothing until he was shirtless, and rattled off Polish jokes at Sarah’s expense while reading tweets from a Twitter fight he’d had on election night with numerous citizens of the states of Indiana and Kentucky.
And it’s not just Bradley’s hosting that drives this idea. The performers were just as unexpected a mix of stand-ups as one could imagine. We drifted from the storytelling of Brady Dale, to the character-based black metal comedy of Necrosexual, to the more traditional stand-up of the energetic Alex Grubard. The only thing tying the six performers’ styles together was their strong talent and a sense of originality.
Of course, the other side to comedy is structure. Don’t let me mislead you: Accidents Will Happen is certainly a well-structured show. Bradley Beck is more than competent as a host, regardless of where he is on the spectrum of intoxication. And the show, while at times chaotic, has a sense of cohesion. It takes place in the back room of the Adobe Cafe, a Southwestern-style restaurant & bar. With a small laminate wood-tiled stage (though the comedians all perform on the floor in front of it) facing a square room of tables and wire-framed, vinyl-coated chairs, you may feel like you’re watching comedy in a sort of Tex-Mex themed bingo hall. But with the dynamic stage presence of the comedians, clear and professional sound, and a generally supportive audience, you will feel lucky to be there.
After the show, I sat down with a slightly drunk Bradley Beck and started off by asking him what his show was all about:
Bradley Beck: It’s a show where we showcase some of my favorite young stand-ups and improvisers and storytellers and sketch groups from Philly. We also get performers from all over the Northeast. We also have a story that will play out over the course of the night—in between the acts—with me and a kind of a rotating team of co-hosts that usually involves me being the fool of some kind for the audience’s enjoyment.
Matt Aukamp: How long has the show been running?
BB: It’s been about nine months. This is our tenth one.
MA: How do you go about selecting all of your guests and features?
BB: Some of them are just people that I’ve been watching evolve over the stand-up scene and the storytelling scene for the last two years that I’ve been doing comedy. But some of the other acts come from [co-hosts] Alex J. Gross and Dan Vetrano. They know a lot of people from the improv and sketch scene so they’ll recommend a lot of people and I think, between the three of us, we’ve been able to get people in the room that have never worked with each other before—so many people from different genres of Philadelphia comedy come together on one stage. It’s very different from a lot of other shows.
MA: Is there an over-arching theme of the show?
BB: The over-arching theme of the show is alternative comedy. There’s been a backlash in the last couple of years, I’ve noticed, against alt. comedy. They say that stand-ups should be able to go into any room and these alt. comedy rooms kind of coddle performers, but I put this show up in defiance of that. Like, I wanted these different performers to come together under the banner that we’re doing something that’s different. We’re taking risks. And I want people to get together and it doesn’t matter what genre you are, as long as you’re doing something different, something new, something that’s going to excite the crowd—that’s the people that I want.
MA: What sets Accidents Will Happen apart from other shows in the city?
BB: I think that it’s a mixed show. I think what sets it apart is that I’m trying to foster connections between the performers, where some of the people that do the show, or even performers that have been on the show before, who maybe aren’t performing tonight and are just here, will see some of these different performers – people that they’ve never met before but live in the same city – and say, “I want to work with this person.” That’s how it started with Alex J. Gross. I’d never met him before, and I had him on the show, and I absolutely thought he was fantastic and then decided to bring him on as a full-time co-host. If it wasn’t for the show, I wouldn’t have really gotten to know him.
MA: The second half of the show is an open mic. Do you ever look at that as a place to cultivate talent for your showcase?
BB: Yeah, there’s definitely been a few performers that I’ve booked specifically because I’ve seen them on the open mic. But also I just really enjoy watching some of the younger guys and girls in their early 20s perform at the open mic. Some of the comedians that are performing tonight have been performing for just a few months and watching them every two weeks here, I’ve seen them grow as comics. And once I feel confident that they can do at least six minutes of their best material then I’ll have them on the main show in front of a bigger crowd.
MA: What are some of the stand-out moments of the show?
BB: The first time I had Necro[sexual] on. He brought up someone to do a Black Metal makeover. The first time I had Lisa Yost on. I’d been watching her perform for two years and I felt like she just put so much emotion into her performance she really threw the crowd for a loop. There’s just been so many. I’ve seen so many performers in Philly put forth a great performance in front of our crowd. These are people that I really love and…I don’t get to go out much. I’ve got two kids at home, and this is the show I would want to see. If I saw these six performers tonight on a bill, I’d say “This would be a great bill.” And this way I get to host. It’s like watching a comedy show for free.
MA: Any particularly bad moments?
BB: There was this one show I remember where I got really drunk and was shirtless by the end of the show—it was just like ten minutes ago.
MA: What, ultimately, would you like the show to become?
BB: I like the concept of having a story play out in between the acts. We’ve been doing that for a while. We had one story where we had a Battle of the Sexes. We’ve had an episode where I was fired and tried to get my job back. Tonight, obviously, we were talking about my Twitter wars and I was getting progressively drunker on stage. I want to give people something in between. I want it to be almost like a behind-the-scenes look at the drama that goes on at comedy shows but brings it to the front.
MA: Anything else you want to talk about?
BB: I just hope people come out. There’s a lot of really talented performers in Philadelphia. And I guess I look at this show, ultimately, since it’s free, as a way for people that are interested in comedy to sample what is available in Philadelphia. Since I am putting up every different genre of comedy, this is a way for you to come and say, “Oh, this is pretty interesting. Maybe I want to go to some other shows and pay for them. Maybe I want to see these performers at other shows.” And it’s a way for the performers, since it is a free show and no one’s making any money off this, it’s a way to put themselves out to people who maybe haven’t seen them before. I started the show in South Philly to see if a show could work in an area that was a little off the beaten track. I wanted to bring the show to the young, hip people that live in that neighborhood, and make it a pain in the ass for performers to come down. I wanted them to want to do this show. Since there’s no money on either side, I feel it’s a way for people that have never seen an indie comedy show to discover the alt. comedy scene in Philly. For the performers it’s a place to try new things in front of a really respectful audience. I love when people take a risk on my stage. We try to book a mix of newer acts that are excited just to get booked, and will bring their friends, and more seasoned performers who can use it as kind of an extended open mic to prep for their weekend gigs.
Accidents Will Happen occurs on the 1st Wednesday of every month at 9pm with an open mic at 11pm. South Philly Comedy Jawn, the open-mic-only spinoff of the show (open to any comedic act, with an emphasis on stand-up and storytelling), occurs on the 3rd Wednesday of every month at 10pm. Both shows are held at at the Adobe Cafe (1919 E. Passyunk Avenue). Admission is free!
Matt Aukamp is a writer, performer, and occasional improviser (The Win Show). You can usually find him bothering the world on Twitter at @mattaukamp.