“The way to improve is to reject everything you’re doing. You have to create a void by destroying everything; you have to kill it. Or else you’ll tell the same fucking jokes every night.” – Louis CK
The path of a comedian is one of growth and change. We are constantly trying to write new jokes, work on new material, and develop fresh ideas. All in the hopes of getting better. We are constantly looking ahead, to what is next. What is the next step in our careers? What is the next goal we want to achieve? Where do we go from here? This Wednesday, at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater as part of Comedy Month’s City Spotlight, a group of Philadelphia comedians will do just the opposite, they will look back.
In the Beginning…is a show from the mind of comedian Pat House which will showcase comedians taking a look at video footage from an early point in their careers, and roasting their former selves on their comedic talents (or lack thereof.) It is a show that aims to celebrate the growth and development of Philly comics in a way most comedians are comfortable with…by making fun of themselves. We had some questions for House on his own growth as a comedian, and what he sees in his peers.
Why are you making comedians relive their painful sets of years’ past? Because comedy isn’t tortuous enough. Just kidding!! I’m fascinated by the process of stand-up comedy. Nobody starts out great, and the evolution comedians has always interested me. I think it’ll be fun to laugh at how new and inexperienced we were, and it’ll be great to relive some of those gems we all had when we first started.
Tell us about the first time you thought you were getting good as a comedian. Though there are plenty of things in my comedy that really need improvement, I guess I first thought I was on the right track between a year and two years in, when I started getting hosting spots and guest sets on the weekends.
How much have you grown and changed since? What would you say to yourself then? Great question. For starters, I would love to ask myself “So, you think you’re being discrete by taping a setlist to your water bottle and looking at it between every joke? Because you’re not.”
For me, growth as a comedian seems to be long plateau periods and every once in a while I will hit a bit of an upswing – how do you see patterns in your growth? I would definitely agree with that. Plateaus are very common, but the longer I do comedy, the more I realized how beneficial the plateaus are. When you’re doing the same jokes night after night, it’s redundant and sometimes boring, but looking back, you realize those jokes got tighter and better. You don’t always realize that on a day-to-day evaluation.
I see patterns in my growth every year. I used to judge myself on what seemed like a daily basis and I’ve learned that I absolutely cannot do that. The everyday grind is rough, but if I gauge myself every six months to a year, that’s where I see the most improvement.
How do you think that compares to other comedians? Every comedian plateaus, but every comic gauges their comedy in their own way. A lot of newer comics tend to be in the moment and think they’re either good or that they suck right off the bat. The more you hang around comedy, the more you realize it’s about the bigger picture. I just hit my seventh anniverary in comedy last week, and I can definitely say that I’ve learned more between years five and seven than I did my first five.
What is your favorite thing about watching different comedians evolve and grow? My favorite thing about watching other comics grow is that in itself (does that even make sense?) I can name dozens of great comics I’ve known since the beginning of their career, and watching them evolve to where they are now has been one of the best parts of the ride. We’re all in this mess together.
Do you have any specific favorite moments of seeing a comedian “find their voice”? Just the other day I watched the 1995 HBO Young Comedian’s Special with Louis CK and Dave Attell. They were great, professional comics at the time, but sixteen years later, both of them are (obviously) significantly better and have a solid grip on their voice.
It was really interesting to me – with Attell, a lot of the jokes he does in the HBO special, he did on his first album six years later, and the jokes are light-years better on the album. He honed those jokes for years. With Louie, it was almost like you could see where he was going with his voice, it was there, it just hadn’t come out yet.
Attell and CK are two of my all-time favorite comics, and seeing that special made me feel a lot better about my material. They were great then, and incredible now.
Have you seen any dramatic changes in someone’s style, either suddenly or over time? What have you liked or disliked about them? I really can’t recall any dramatic changes in someone’s act. I feel with a lot of my friends, any changes over time were just the natural progression of becoming a better comic.
How do you think your style has changed since you started? My style has changed immensely since I started; I am a completely different comedian. When I first started, I had a lot of shock value one-liners; terrible, fictitious jokes that were God-awful. Back then, the thought of being personal on stage didn’t even occur to me. About two years or so in, I started to get a little personal with jokes about my life at the time (college and drinking), and from there, it progressed slowly into what I do now, which is becoming a mostly personal act.
Do you have any plans or goals as far as changing your style or writing habits for the future? My main goal for the future is to write more. I tell myself to everyday, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m pretty lazy with that. Reading helps me a lot too. I find that when I’m going through book after book, I’m writing a lot more, and I seem to notice more things around me as well.
In the Beginning…will play at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater (2111 Sansom St.) this Wednesday, October 19th at 8:00PM. Tickets can purchased online.
This week, Comedy Month wraps up with the first annual City Spotlight, a week showcasing many of Philadelphia’s diverse comedic talents. Tonight, the Old Comedy Buffet features all comedians over 40 for a night of classic Philadelphia comedy. Later this week, Pat House hosts In The Beginning…, where comedians will show a video from their early days of comedy and roast themselves making fun of how far they’ve (hopefully) come. Friday night features Broad Comedy, an all female show hosted by Mary Radzinski and Carolyn Busa.
This Tuesday, Face Time with Chip Chantry returns to Helium Comedy Club. This month’s show will feature James Hesky, Brendan Kennedy, Darryl Charles, Glen Tickle, and as always will feature co-host and house band Amir Gollan and Chip Chantry doing the news.
Philly Improv Theater will feature a week of shows they are calling “Pilot Week” which will showcase all new shows looking for a permanent spot in the PHIT lineup. Tonight, Becca Trabin presents Town Hall a debate show in a mock town hall meeting format. Tuesday will feature True? The Roger C. Snair Interview Show hosted by Brendan Kennedy‘s Guilty Pleasures sidekick. Wednesday will be the debut of a new panel comedy show A Few Answers Short.
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.
Following the hilarious week of improv that is the Philadelphia Improv Festival, the fourth annual Philly Sketchfest is set to take center stage for Philadelphia Comedy Month. From October 10-15, the Philly Sketchfest takes over the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, 2111 Sansom Street, 2nd Floor. This festival features sketch performers from the East Coast, the Midwest, Los Angeles, and the stars of Philadelphia’s extra talented sketch comedy scene. Comedy Month runs through October 23. The month will finish with City Spotlight, a week of stand-up, improv, and the CIF National College Improv Tournament, Liberty Bell Regional. Tickets cost $10, passes for the whole week are $45, and Comedy Month passes cost $125. More information can be found atwww.phlcomedy.com & www.philly-sketchfest.com
This year, Philly Sketchfest highlights the wealth of talent in the local sketch comedy scene. It will begin with an evening of solo sketch comedy featuring the return of local favorite Meg Favreau who now lives in LA. Other local groups set to take the stage include Animosity Pierre, Camp Woods, Hate Speech Committee, Secret Pants, Feeko Bros, and more. The festival is also presenting Don Montrey’s Dirtiest Sketch in Philadelphia contest where several sketch groups will compete for audience votes by pushing limits to the max with the dirtiest, raunchiest, foulest sketches audiences will ever see.
The out of town acts are led by the return of New Yorker Angel Yau, ImprovBoston’s Sawyer &Hurley, the award winning modern vaudeville of The Chris and Paul Show from New York, and festival headliners Last Call Cleveland, stars of many viral web hits, including “One Semester of Spanish, Spanish Love Song”.
Philly Sketchfest Schedule
Monday 10/10, 8 p.m.
Rob Asaro (New York)
Meg Favreau (Los Angeles)
Tuesday 10/11, 8 p.m.
Don Montrey’s DIRTIEST SKETCH IN PHILADELPHIA CONTEST
Press release from the Philadelphia Improv Festival:
The city is about to get a lot funnier throughout October. Once again, the Philadelphia Comedy Collective is hosting Philadelphia Comedy Month. This October, there will be three weeks of comedy which kicks off with the seventh annual Philadelphia Improv Festival October 5-9 at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, 2111 Sansom Street, 2nd Floor. Comedy Month will run through October 23, featuring the Philly Sketchfest, and the City Spotlight, which will feature films, stand-up, improv and the Mid Atlantic Regional College Improv Championship. Tickets cost $10 per night Tuesday-Thursday and on Sunday. The Friday and Saturday night shows cost $10 per block or $20 for the entire night. A full pass to the PHIF costs $60. A full Comedy Month pass costs $125. More information can be found at www.phlcomedy.com.
This year, Philadelphia Comedy Month has partnered with Philadelphia Young Playwrights, who will receive a portion of proceeds from tickets sales as well as funds raised in the charity raffle, running throughout the month. Comedy Month will kick off on October 4th, with a showcase reading of comedic plays from Philadelphia Young Playwrights.
The talent for the Philadelphia Improv Festival this year runs far and wide. The festival will be highlighted by an appearance from Jill Bernard, a nationally known improviser who is presenting her wildly popular one-woman, multi-character musical, Drum Machine. Also appearing at the festival are Three’s Company from iO Chicago, BillyHawk from iO West, and an assortment of talented teams from New York, Boston, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Austin, and Los Angeles.
The local improv community will continue to have strong representation at the festival. The wildly popular Rare Bird Show, as well as The Real Housewives of Philadelphia will both be making their first appearances since last year’s festival. ComedySportz Philadelphia is remounting its Improvised Shakespeare show for the festival, which over the past two years has proven to be a big hit with audiences. A few other local highlights include MattAnd, The Amie & Kristen Show and the N Crowd, as well as a record six local teams making their PHIF debut.
“I’m really excited about what we’ve put together for PHIF this year, and can’t wait to share it with audiences. In our seventh year, we’ve focused on bringing real variety to the stage. Through both our commissioned and selected acts, we’re seeing a real cross section of what improv has to offer fans. We’re showcasing a terrific mix of indie shows as well as ensembles from some of the top theaters in the country,” said festival producer Matt Nelson. “We’ve been able to assemble a lineup that boasts many of the most beloved and acclaimed acts from previous years and a healthy assortment of young, energetic groups on the rise. We have both classic shows and experimental pieces, ranging from structured or premise-based pieces to pop satire and even a solo musical. It’s outright some of the best people touring festival circuits today, many of whom have emerged from right here in our own backyard. It’s a combination that comedy fans are going to be hard pressed to pass up.”
Philadelphia Improv Festival Schedule:
Wednesday, Oct 5
Haverford Middle School Actors Workshop (Haverford, PA)
King Friday (Philadelphia, PA)
Double Date (New York, NY)
Legion (New York, NY)
Grimacchio (Philadelphia, PA)
ComedySportz Presents Improvised Shakespeare (Philadelphia, PA)
Thursday, Oct 6
7:30pm N Crowd (Philadelphia, PA) Iron Lung (Philadelphia, PA) Til Death Do Us Part (Philadelphia, PA)
Cubed (Philadelphia, PA)
Mayor Karen (Philadelphia, PA)
The Lodge (Boston, MA + New York, NY)
Real Housewives of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA + Los Angeles, CA)
Friday, Oct 7
The Score (Washington, DC)
The Andrews Sisters (New York, NY)
Fletcher (Philadelphia, PA)
The first round of Helium’sPhilly’s Phunniest Person Contest continued Sunday, with John McKeever, Joe Dougherty and Tim Grill moving on to the semi-final round. Preliminary rounds continue each Sunday until August 21st. Tickets available for any of the remaining preliminary rounds HERE.
Speaking of contests, this Wendesday The Ministry of Secret Jokes will play host to the Philly’s Punniest Contest where comedians will do battle for the crown Doogie Horner says we all know is really The Legendary Wid’s. Also performing on the show are Luke Cunningham, David James, Billy Bob Thompson, Roger C. Snair and the Omniana Battle will pit Emily and Micah McGraw against street magician Jaykob Strange.
This Friday will mark the debut of the Sideshow Improv Showcase at The Arts Parlor (1170 South Broad St.) The show aims to feature “new groups, old groups doing new things, or new and/or old groups doing odd things.” The first show will feature improv groups Beirdo and The Hendersons as well as some acts yet to be announced.
Last week, Center City Comedy hosted the BONERoo stand-up comedy show at Mad River Manayunk. Super DPS was there to cover the show, and posted video online that you can check out HERE.