Tonight at the Shakespeare Theater Philly Sketchfest will continue a tradition started in 2007 at Don Montrey‘s Die Actor Die – The Dirtiest Sketch in Philadelphia contest. Sketch groups from Philadelphia and beyond will gather to perform their filthiest, most disgusting, most depraved sketches in order to gain the hearts and minds of the audience and win the grand prize, along with the bragging rights of being the dirtiest minds in a group of supremely dirty minds. Defending champions The Feeko Brothers will take the same stage they actually vomited on last year, along with two-time champ Secret Pants, Camp Woods, out-of-towners Angel Yau and Thunderstood, Philly stand-up Joe Mayo and more. To make sure you know what you are getting into, we’ve put videos of some of the previous Dirtiest Sketch winners (and Secret Pant’s second place finish from last year) below. Enjoy.
The QComedy Fest is also set to take place this week with shows at various venues around the city including The Philly Improv Theater at The Shubin Theater, Tabu Sports Bar & Lounge, and Club Voyeur. The festival will be headlined by Alec Mapa, of Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty fame.
Doogie Horner’sMinistry of Secret Jokes returns again this week with a show featuring new videos from Secret Pants and Joke Summer School and stand-up from Chris Cotton, Alex Grubard and Trey Galyon.
How and why did you get into comedy? When I was a kid my dad and uncle would always show me episodes of Monty Python’s Flycing Circus, and I loved it. I would make comedy videos on my parents’ S-VHS camcorder with my cousin. In high school I was one of the kids that ran the tv studio and I’d make comedy videos that I’d show during the morning show. I continued my refusal to be serious about anything by going to film school and while there I made almost nothing but comedy videos. Then eventually I got the balls to do stand-up, which to me is the purest form of comedy and expression out there.
How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? I’d describe my style as a stand-up as selfish. If you don’t like what I do, then I don’t care to entertain you. And I hate comics that try to be what they think everyone wants them to be. There are billions of people on the earth, enough of them will have similar interests and sensibilities to me, and those are the people I want to speak to.
Plus, stand-up is an inherently selfish endeavor, so claiming you have some greater goal is at least 50% bullshit. And I say 50% because out of that desire for immediate self-gratification (the selfish 50%) you can reach people who otherwise might feel isolated, because they haven’t found a way to express themselves or people who think and feel the same way they do. But you can’t reach them by pretending to be something. You can only reach people by being honest with yourself and about yourself. That’s what I love about stand-up, and that’s the type of stand-up comic I try to be.
Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? I loved performing at the Khyber because it was dirty and grimy and shitty and you had to really want to see comedy to go there. Which made the audiences there great, and I felt the most comfortable there. I enjoy doing stand-up at the Ric-Rac, the Shubin, and any place where people have come to specifically see the people who are performing. People who go to comedy shows not knowing anything about who they are going to see baffle me. And I lack the ability to relate to them. I can entertain them, but only if I do a bunch of crowd work. It’s like I’m the host of some awful party that a bunch of random dopes showed up to, like the one Rick Moranis throws in the first Ghostbusters. And most times I am doing crowd work I am fantasizing about a demon dog crashing the party and making it more interesting than, “You do that job? Well you should talk to other guy I just talked to, he does a job that if combined with your job would be really funny!”
That being said, I really enjoy the open mic at noche that Jack Martin and Paul Goodman run. Those two guys are smart guys who run a good room, and are really supportive of everyone who shows up there. (If you’re thinking “I don’t think they are supportive.” You’re thinking that because you’re an asshole, and you’ve behaved in a way that makes it impossible for someone to be supportive of you.)
For sketch and improv I like theaters.
Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? Anytime Roger C. Snair crushes in front of an audience that has never seen him and doesn’t know who he is. I use how people interact with Roger as a bit of a litmus test, because he’s so overwhelmingly and unflinchingly positive. It is my opinion that you have to be a piece of shit to not like him. Anytime a room full of strangers gets him and accepts him it makes me feel more optimistic about the world.
I’m friends with Roger, we do a monthly show together, but I’m also his number 1 fan. I’d love nothing more than to see Roger have a talk show on television, just to see some of the douchiest celebrities squirm in their seats, not knowing how to handle him. Talented, funny, decent people, if put in that same scenario will come out looking amazing. For example, I had last month’s guilty pleasures be somewhat a talk show, and one of the guests was Andy Moskowitz. Roger kept asking him about his sexuality (Roger is rather immature in regards to his opinions on sex), and Andy handled everything so amazingly that he ended up becoming the hero of the show. It was so funny and genuine that I felt like I was interrupting when I had to chime in to have us read a script.
Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? Or a sort of method that you use to develop comedic material? For stand-up, I always just write about whatever I’m currently obsessing about.
For sketch, I write basically two types of sketch. Quick, one joke sketches that are bookended with title cards. And 2 character stream of consciousness sketches. The short sketches, which are basically blackout sketches, are just based around a joke I think of that I like. But I write them to be very very short, because I think sketches that are 5 minutes long but only have one joke are stupid. If you have a sketch that’s just one joke, then just tell the one joke and end the sketch. It’s not a college paper, there’s no minimum length sketches have to be.
The longer sketches I write are always me trying to write interactions between two people that are more absurd and honest than most real life interactions, because to me the funniest parts of life are the moments in which someone is being really honest, and at the same time really odd.
What is it about stand-up / sketch / improv that draws you to it? Comedy allows you to discuss topics that are just too sad or taboo to talk about casually with people. Its not creating any solutions, it just helps people stress less and be more ok with the world they live in. That’s what has always drawn me to comedy.
Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? Roger C. Snair for reasons I’ve already mentioned.
Steve Gerben for his willingness to be honest with himself and about himself onstage and his abilitiy to make his own personal struggles, physical and mental, hilarious.
Andy Moskowitz for the same reasons.
The people in the groups with me, (Hatespeech-CampWoods-Hendersons) for too many different reasons to list.
Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? Recently I ended a set at a bringer contest by saying, “That’s why I think we should burn down churches.” Most of my bad experiences with comedy show stem from my inability to accept people who I’ve decided are shitty. That, and tech problems.
What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow? More of what it already has. More people who are passionate about performing comedy. More people who run good rooms. More people supporting each other’s shows and rooms. More original ideas.
The first three are obvious. The 4th seems like it should be obvious, but its apparent to anyone who’s watched comedy before and is seeing shows in the city now that its not. You can’t stop random people from showing up at open mics and doing other people’s material. But you can make sure not to book them ever. You tell internet jokes, you tell Bill Hicks jokes, you tweak internet jokes and then tell them, you tweak Bill Hicks jokes and then tell them, you don’t do shows. That should be the rule that everyone follows. Hacks (thieves are a type of hack) aren’t going to kill the surge in popularity that comedy is experiencing in Philly right now, but eventually they will. That was one of the main killers of the comedy boom. You can listen to countless interviews with comics who were part of that and they all talk about how there were so many opportunities to get onstage in front of large paying crowds that people started taking shortcuts to take advantage of it, and comedy suffered as a result. Crowds started staying home because there was no point in going out to see a show if you were just going to see comics telling jokes that they saw on tv.
If you see someone doing stolen material, yell at them, tell them to go fuck themselves. They are insulting the art form you love, and they are being a self-serving asshole.
Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy? I want to just keep getting better. That’s my only real goal. That and to make Roger C. Snair famous.
How: My entire life, the only thing I’ve ever taken seriously was comedy (that’s how my auto-biography is going to start). I first realized that comedy was something I would like to pursue, when I was in a barbershop quartet called “The Half Steps” during high school. We would perform super cute little comedy bits between songs which I wound up enjoying more than the actual singing itself. Fast forward a few years, blah, blah, blah, and now I’ve become extremely successful at being an unsuccessful comedian.
Why: Crippling anxiety, the strange desire to be liked by people I don’t know, and dirty butt sluts.
How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? I’m not sure how to describe my style, but here’s some stuff I’ve heard:
“Billy Bob Thompson is the closest thing Philadelphia has to Paul Rudd.” -–Pat Ackerman
“Billy is like a white Steve Martin.” – John McKeever
“You look like that Carey guy! Can I get some change for the bus?” – Guy outside of a 7/11
Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? I’ve had the most fun on Chip Chantry’s “One-Man Show” and Doogie Horner’s “Ministry of Secret Jokes.” Anything goes on those shows, you knows! These two fine gentlemen have created even finer shows that are an absolute pleasure to perform on and watch. If you want a crash course in what is actually going on in Philly Comedy, go to these shows. Quick side note: If you run a show or a venue, please don’t throw hissy fits in front of your performers. It puts them on edge and makes you look unprofessional. The performers are there to help you. Stop it. I’ve seen this baby behavior happening all over the city. You’re being bad. Bad!
Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? For me personally, it’s either doing stand-up at Helium’s Philly’s Phunniest OR “A Slow Day at the Dildo Factory”:http://youtu.be/6i_DlJzsc7w But I’d have to say that “The Roast of Meg Favreau” was one of my favorite moments in Philly comedy. Everyone on the dais MurderDeathKilled with their sets! It was one of the funniest shows I’ve had the pleasure of being involved with. See for yourself: http://www.witout.net/2011/03/23/video-of-the-meg-favreau-roast/ Luke Giordano’s Roast was alright too, I guess.
Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? Or a sort of method that you use to develop comedic material? I use the 3 Ps* method.
What is it about stand-up / sketch / improv that draws you to it? I’m drawn to stand-up because to me it is hands down, the hardest of the three. When you’re alone on stage and it goes bad, it feels terrible. But when it goes well, it’s one of the greatest things in the world. I’m drawn to sketch the most because it fits me the best. There’s more creativity involved in putting together sketches which is why I think I gravitate towards it. I’m drawn to improv because it takes the least amount of preparation, and fucking around with your friends on stage is always a good time.
Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? HOW DARE YOU MAKE ME PICK WHICH OF MY FRIENDS I LIKE MORE!!! Okay, I pick Emily and Micah McGraw. They’re a married comedy duo that sings hilarious songs, every one of which is PURE GOLD. I love everything they do and you should too. Man, I wish I had a husband I could sing comedy songs with. WIFE! I MEANT WIFE! I’m also a gigantic fan of everyone I work with on a regular basis. Like the Camp Woods blokes and the Hate Speech Committee crew!!! We roll deep. But my super favorite would have to be my comedy husband, Christian Alsis. Awwwwwwww. He makes me laugh shit. There, I mentioned you, Christian. Are you happy now?! No? See! I told you you’d never be happy.
Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? Of course! But wouldn’t you rather watch a video of it? Here’s a well-shot video of The Feeko Brothers bombing at the late great Bedtime Stories: http://youtu.be/-RB3mPVh9pI Enjoy! I know we didn’t.
What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow? There needs to be more crossover within the comedy scene. HEY, YOU! Do you only perform stand-up and think improv is “gay?” Well, crowd-work is improv so that means you’re “gay” too! Go see an improv show! Do you only do improv and have never heard of Secret Pants? Well, there’s something wrong with you! Go see a sketch show! Do you only perform sketch? Good, keep doing it. There needs to be more people doing sketch. It’s much better than stand-up or improv, but also go see an improv or stand-up show anyway! Crossover within the scene will give everyone more exposure. Get out of your bubble!
Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy? My goal is to hopefully make the transition from a Volunteer Comedian to a Paid Comedian. I already treat comedy like a job so all I’m looking for is a promotion and maybe a raise. Dental would be nice. I’d also like to be Mr. January in the “Beef-Cakes of Philly Comedy” Calendar, but it would be an honor just to be nominated.
Camp Woodsis a Philadelphia sketch comedy group comprised of members Rob Baniewicz, JP Boudwin, Patrick Foy, Brendan Kennedy, Sam Narisi and Billy Bob Thompson. They will be performing a brand new show this Thursday and Friday at Philly Improv Theater at the Shubin Theater, 407 Bainbridge St. We caught up with some members of Camp Woods for this installment of our Spotlight on a Group series.
WITOUT: Tell us how Camp Woods was formed (originally, and the addition of newer members).
SAM NARISI: The group was in its embryonic phase when they asked me to join. That happened because I had been in a video that Pat made in college. I lived with Pat in college. Boy, we had some crazy times. But anyway, Pat asked me if I’d do some more stuff. And boy did I do some more stuff…
PAT FOY: The first Camp Woods video we shot was a remake of a video I had done in college. I asked Sam to reprise his role as this Stephen Hawking-type guy who was confined to a wheelchair because his beard had crippled him. He was so funny in the re-shoot we asked him to become a permanent member of the group afterwards.
SN: Then Brendan came along, which was mostly a matter of all of us being into his standup. He told us he had sketch ideas and we were like, “Niiiiiice.”
PF: I think Brendan was excited to collaborate with other like-minded people, and we knew him as one of the funniest comics in the city, so we were more than happy to have him join. It was his idea to start doing videos with title cards at the beginning and end, which has become sort of a calling card for us.
SN: Billy threatened to blow up a train if we didn’t let him join. Actually, I guess what happened was that we needed an additional cast member when we went down to a festival in North Carolina so we asked Billy, and it was cool.
PF: As I remember it, the train thing was part of some performance art piece Billy was working on. Really edgy stuff. We were so impressed that we asked him to join Camp Woods.
SN: As for Rob, he joined one night while drunk and didn’t remember it the next morning.
ROB BANIEWICZ: JP had mentioned to me after Meg left about joining up. I didn’t know what I was going to go comedically so I thought I’d just write a sketch or two. Then one night I was very drunk and Brendan asked me to join flat out while he was also very drunk. I remembered but he was surprised afterwards when he was sober that he would ask me that. But I’ve hung around long enough that everyone else seems to be ok with it.
WITOUT: I know that you guys have some rules when it comes to writing sketches (no doctors office sketches or cashier and customer sketches, etc) can you talk about why you made these and how you think it helps you stand out or in your process?
SN: We’ve had a bunch of rules, like no doctor’s offices, no parody/reference things… basically stuff that’s easy that you see too much of already. Lately, though, we’ve had a lot of fun breaking those rules. Like, we recently did a doctor sketch – Dr. Stephen Tyler PHD.
We also have a live sketch called Big Friendly Baby, which has a lot of Silence of the Lambs references. But one of the characters is a giant baby, so it’s not something where people are like, “Oh, I’ve seen this before.” I hope not, anyway.
So I guess the point is, the rules helped us in the beginning to figure out what we did and didn’t want to do, but now I think we’ve grown up to a point where we know what we like and we can just do whatever we think is funny.
WITOUT: Tell us about your writing process.
SN: There are occasional times where we’ll all sit in a circle and write a sketch from scratch together – but the result is usually a big, big mess. You know, too many cooks or whatever. So most of time someone will have a draft printed out and then we’ll all read it and say things like, “Yo, what if this happened ….” Then sometimes, we change the sketch so that what the person said should happen happens. That’s a really boring answer, so feel free to imagine these meetings taking place while we also have to diffuse a bomb that’s about to blow up the White House. Like, “It’s okay, Mr. President, we’ll get you out of this thing alive. Also, Pat, I don’t think the joke at the top of page 2 works as well as it could.”
WITOUT: Do you approach writing an entire show differently from writing a single sketch (do you try to build on themes or make connections) or do you just focus on one sketch at a time?
RB: Sketches are like women. You need to work on them one at a time. To pull a bunch of women into a bedroom at the same time and have them find what they have in common with each other is just a mess — especially when they’re in various states of undress — so I use the same rules when I approach writing a sketch.
SN: When we started out, we tried to write shows that were these big narrative productions … and it was pretty insane. They took a long time to write, and they were completely unadaptable to a setting other than a full 25-minute set in a theater. I liked them, but we probably also bored a lot of people. I don’t know, we have some ideas for those things (they’re basically half-hour plays, I guess) that we might do at some point.
PF: We tried to run before we could walk. Those early shows were pretty ambitious conceptually, but we had to go back and learn how to write actual sketches since we are, after all, a sketch comedy group.
SN: But basically now we focus on the individual sketches one at a time, and use them to build the show by creating transitions or adding some kind of through-line. There’s also been talk about doing some more theme-intensive shows, like a show that’s all about pizza. So that’ll be a thing where the idea for the show comes first and we write sketches to fit it. But yeah, I think it’s about time to start getting people hyped on this pizza show. So hey people: Get hyped.
PF: We found early on that making connections and coming up with themes and through-lines was the easy part. Creating the building blocks, the actual sketches, was harder. You know, the funny parts of a show. So we focused on getting better at that. Also, if we ever do the pizza show, we are probably going to give out free pizza to the audience.
WITOUT: How has your style evolved in your time together? Has the addition of new members changed your style or dynamic at all?
PF: I’ve started writing parts tailored to certain members of the group. Like, I recently wrote a sketch based around a character thinking, “Brendan will play this guy.” It’s a really dark sketch, but Brendan can play dark with this certain amount of insane goofiness that, hopefully, will allow us to get away with how dark it is.
SN: What’s weird is that after working with people for a while you start to here their voices in your head while you write – like, you imagine the other dudes liking or disliking something. So you get that kind of influence from everyone else in the group even when you’re by yourself. Unless I’m actually just insane and this is a weird thing that only happens to me.
PF: I’m also writing a sketch about a schizophrenic guy, who will be played by Sam because he clearly suffers from schizophrenia.
WITOUT: What are each of your roles in the group? How do you see yourself and the other guys?
RB: Someone else can answer this… although actually that’s my role. Getting someone else to do my work for me and taking the credit.
SN: My role is basically “one of the guys without curly hair and a beard.” Rob and Billy are my reinforcements. Before they joined, all the sketches were about guys with curly hair and I couldn’t be in any of them.
PF: Billy, I think, is the only one of us who wasn’t brought up Catholic. He’s our diversity hire. It’s about time a white guy from New England got a break in this world. Rob is the oldest member of the group, so he’s like the father figure. Or at least the pervert uncle who walks around muttering “pussy party” under his breath. Brendan is our bullshit-detector. He tells us who or what is bullshit, who is full of shit, who should go fuck themselves, and who should go get fucked. JP is the Social Chairman; he’s all charisma and charm and he’ll never settle down. Sam is the muscle of the group. He’s got 1-8-7 skills. Like, one time he couldn’t make it to a show, and didn’t tell us why. The next day they announced that Osama bin Laden was dead. I’m the guy who gets naked the most often. I also do all of JP’s and Brendan’s stunts.
How and why did you get into comedy? In school, whenever there was an option to perform a short skit, write a silly script, or make a stupid video for a homework assignment, I took it. In high school, my friends and I ran for student council for the sole purpose of making funny signs and writing funny speeches. Clearly, I had a hard time taking school seriously. I have the transcripts to prove this.
Shortly after college, my buddy Kevin Kelly started writing comedy sketches with his childhood friend JP Boudwin. Since Kevin and I had made a few comedy videos together, both for school projects and otherwise, they asked me to come to a few writing sessions and see if it was a good fit. We all cracked each other up, wrote a bunch of stuff we liked, and that was the beginning of Camp Woods.
How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? I guess it’d be a cross between dryness and absurdism. I also like stuff that mixes the highbrow and the lowbrow. That might come from all the Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Simpsons I watched growing up. But then again, I watched a lot of Home Improvement, too, so who the hell knows?
Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? There’s nothing quite like doing a show at a packed-out Shubin Theatre. When every seat is filled and people are standing in the aisle, there’s a really great energy in the room that the performers benefit from. The Shubin also seems to attract audiences who are really excited to see comedy, rather than people who just want to hang out with their friends and talk in the back of the room.
Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? The impromptu four-on-four wrestling match between Camp Woods and the #AmericaGethard crew at January’s Bedtime Stories was probably the weirdest, most memorable thing I’ve been involved with so far. When I came to Connie’s Ric Rac that night, I was not expecting to body-slam strangers in front of a crowd or be forcibly thrown from the stage. As a side note, I’m very grateful to those guys for cutting out of their video the part immediately post-match, when I’m doubled over onstage, gasping for breath and trying not to puke everywhere.
Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? Or a sort of method that you use to develop comedic material? Most of my ideas come when I’m doing something else, like taking a shower or hanging out with friends or sitting at my desk at work. I’ll write it down in a notebook, then come back to it later when I get a chance to work it out. Sometimes I’ll write a fully-formed first draft on my own and bring it to a writing meeting. Sometimes I’ll bring just the idea to a writing meeting or a workshop and bounce it off people, and the sketch ends up going in a totally different direction than I would have guessed. If the idea is super-specific, I’ll usually try to use it as an essay or short humor piece rather than a sketch. Sometimes things are just funnier to read than they are said out loud, and vice-versa.
What is it about stand-up / sketch / improv that draws you to it? As I said earlier, I wrote a lot of sketches, or attempts at sketch comedy, when I was younger, so I think it’s just the most natural way for me to express humor. I like being part of a group, and I like having a plan, so sketch fits both of those things pretty well. I’m drawn to stand-up and improv because they’re both so intimidating, and I will, I swear, try them both soon.
Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? There are so many good ones, but I’ll say it’s a tie between The Feeko Brothers, Bing Supernova, and Fastball Pitcher Bob Gutierrez. The Feekos come up with the silliest premises and Christian and Billy are such natural hams onstage, they make the premises fly. With Bing and Bob, Chip and Brian are really good joke writers, and when those jokes are filtered through the personas of, respectively, a hateful idiot and an oblivious idiot, they’re irresistible. The jokes, that is. Not Chip and Brian. I don’t care for them.
Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? We’ve had a number of shows, at a number of venues, where we’ve had videos that won’t play or other technical difficulties. That always sucks, but it comes with the territory. Probably the worst time I’ve had onstage was at the “Mental Illness” Bedtime Stories. One of my classmates from a PHIT writing workshop put up a sketch about an insane, vegan homeless man, and I played the homeless guy while Paul Triggiani played the little boy who tries to give him a cheeseburger. The homeless guy had a ton of lines, and I forgot all but a handful of them. Dom Moschitti sat beside the stage with my script, feeding me lines, but it was still a disaster. It was embarrassing, and I felt really bad about ruining this poor guy’s funny sketch. Our conversation after the show was him thanking Paul and me profusely for performing his sketch, and me apologizing profusely for fucking it up.
What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow? A permanent theater for PHIT will certainly go a long way, and a bit more recognition from the local press couldn’t hurt, either.
Other than that, I think we all just keep doing this, keep getting better, keep helping each other out, and more and more people will begin to take notice.
Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy? I’d like to do this as a job someday. I’m a simple man, and I don’t really care about being famous. All I ask for is boatloads of cash.
In an effort to combine two of the worlds best things, pizza and comedy, I split a couple of steaming pies with Philly Sketch-Gang Camp Woods. Anyone who is paying attention knows the fabled role pizza plays in Camp Woods folklore. Who better to sit down and chat with over a few pies?
In between slices, I asked Sam Narisi, JP Boudwin, Brendan Kennedy, and Patrick Foy all the hard-hitting questions…
How much do you like pizza?
Sam Narisi: The most.
JP Boudwin: I wish it lived in the wild so I could kill it, and feel it die in my hands. Then feed it to my weird forest family.
Brendan Kennedy: A whole lot. Too much, even.
Patrick Foy: 1,000,000.00
What is your favorite pizza topping?
SN: I’m in a big white pizza phase right now. Also: bacon, mushrooms, and anything with ricotta cheese.