Upcoming Shows

  • September 20, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • September 20, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • September 20, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • September 20, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • September 20, 2014 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • September 25, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • September 25, 2014 9:00 pmThe Comedy Attic
  • September 26, 2014 7:00 pmThe Comedy Works
  • September 26, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • September 26, 2014 8:00 pmThe N Crowd
  • September 26, 2014 8:00 pmA Very Nice Comedy Show
  • September 26, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • September 26, 2014 9:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • September 27, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • September 27, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • September 27, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • September 27, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • September 27, 2014 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • October 2, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • October 2, 2014 9:00 pmThe Comedy Attic
  • October 3, 2014 7:00 pmThe Comedy Works
  • October 3, 2014 8:00 pmThe N Crowd
  • October 3, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • October 3, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • October 3, 2014 9:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
AEC v1.0.4

“Improppeteers!” – Interview with Joe Sabatino and Kelly Vrooman of Friends of Alcatraz

On the last Friday of every month, ComedySportz is bringing in original outside acts for their 8PM time slot, ahead of their 10PM adults-only The Blue Show.  This month, ComedySportz Presents runs on two bonus days—Wednesday and Thursday—and features Friends of Alcatraz, an improvised puppet show.  Here are cast members Joe Sabatino and Kelly Vrooman with details on the history of the group, the format of their show, and what it’s like to play with puppets:

WitOut: Can you give a brief history of Friends of Alcatraz? What sparked your interest in combining improv and puppetry?

Joe Sabatino: I’ve been making puppets since I was a kid, and I was always too  nervous to actually put them on display or admit to anyone that I like puppets.  But when Kelly and I started dating…

Kelly Vrooman: By the way, we’re dating.

JS:  When we first started, I knew we shared a common interest in puppets.  So, I decided to do the creepiest thing for someone you’ve only been dating for a month and I built a puppet of Kelly’s cat Alcatraz.  With it came the idea to do an improvised puppet show called Friends of Alcatraz.

KV: It was a weird yet endearing gesture…but mostly weird. He put the puppet in my arms and said, “I was thinking, um, maybe… you would want to create an improv puppet show with me?”  I reluctantly  said yes.

JS: We gathered a group of our funniest friends, that happen to also be some of the best puppeteers in the city: Dave Jadico, Jason Stockdale and Rob Cutler.  It  was a fascinating group of inventive people that know how to make a puppet come alive.  Thus, FoA was born.

KV: I work with puppets on TV, so I knew I wanted to have monitors for the puppeteers, which led us to want a screen the audience could watch. Once the “impropputeers” (a mind-blowingly awesome name I made up) got used to working with the monitors, the show took off. We took it to the next level by adding an a capella opening number and musical edits (Music by Liz Filios, Lyrics by Kelly and Joe).  Oh, and Joe designed and made a ton of incredible puppets for us to use.  That should probably be mentioned.

WO: What would you say are some of the key differences/challenges between regular improvising and improvising with a puppet?

JS: I think the world is even more infinite than human improv.  The things puppets can do is borderline scary in terms of bringing imagination to life.  Especially the way we present our show.  The puppets can literally do anything we want them to do:  fly, twist into a pretzel, enter the scene from the side of another puppet’s head, eat another puppet whole, be as big as a building… The possibilities are endless and with a camera it makes the execution of these things more real.  Because of all of these different elements to play with our minds need to be a clean slate away from reality, almost.  We still play grounded scenes but our “If this, then what” mentality is stretched.  One or two people have questioned this project in terms of legit scene work because we never interact or make eye contact with our scene partners.  When in reality it’s the exact opposite.  We are in tune with one another, watching every single nuance of the puppets and reading the body language of our human scene partners.  It’s also easier because we, the puppeteers, have monitors we are watching which is the same image as the projection the audience is watching.  This makes it MUCH easier to really know what is going on all around the puppets, and helps us create a scene that not only makes sense, but also looks good in terms of staging, spacing and scene action.  Plus… your arm gets tired.

KV: Well put Joe!  In addition, improvising with puppets is one thing, improvising with puppets for the camera is another thing.  And doing it well, is yet another thing! It’s kind of like singing and dancing while acting and juggling.  A bunch of skills have to come together for it to be good.  Sometimes a great improviser can put on a puppet and feel restricted.  Sometimes, an inexperienced improviser can put on a puppet and become great.

WO: What’s the origin story of Alcatraz the Cat, the star of the show?

JS: Kelly knows how the cat got his name and what not, but I’ve always felt like Alcatraz the real cat is a little bit of a dick.  I’ve NEVER been a cat guy.  In fact I’m comfortable to say that before I started hanging around Kelly’s cat I hated cats.  But Alcatraz always fascinated me.  The defining moment for me was when I made a delicious dinner, one night. I dressed the plate nicely, set the mood and it smelled wonderful.  I locked eyes with Alcatraz and he walked over to where I was sitting and eating, which was all the way on the other side of the room.  He slowly walked over, climbed into my lap and put his asshole right into my food.  He got up and walked away.  He made a statement.  So, I made a puppet of him.

KV: I adopted him off the street and held a naming competition with my family.  My sister was in the lead with “The Great Catsby” or “AlCATraz”.  Then, that night, the cat escaped out my second story window and got wedged in the bars of the first story window.  Therefore…Alcatraz won.  I really wanted Joe to perform Alcatraz the puppet because I heard Alcatraz’s voice in my head as a deep man’s voice, but Joe insisted I was the person who should do it.  I reluctantly gave in.   He ended up with an ambiguous European accent that hurts my throat to perform, but it’s worth it. We started to joke around about Alcatraz being a sophisticated world traveler, incredibly popular with everyone he meets, the most desired cat in the world.   And if he’s that amazing, he’d totally be able to gather a group of weirdos he’s met on his travels and convince them to perform in a show, right?  We discovered that he shouldn’t even perform in the show because he’s too much of a character to be able to pretend to be anyone else in a scene.  So, he introduces the show, the cast of characters and gets the suggestion.

WO: Can you give some details on the format and staging of the show?

KV: Friends of Alcatraz is a long form improvised puppet show.  We don’t stick to a rigid format, but we look to play out several scenes then see how those stories intersect.  And spice it up with a happy dose of randomness and frivolous puppet-y fun.

One side of the stage is the “show”—a projected image of the puppets’ world.  It’s like watching a puppet TV show.  The other side of the stage is the behind-the-scenes creation of that show.  You can watch the finished product projected on the screen while you simultaneously watch the puppeteers create the show.

JS: Our format is very catering to the puppeteers/improvisers.

KV: Impropputeers!

JS:  It was important for me that the presence of our powerhouse improvisers didn’t get upstaged by a big screen. People love to see improvisers’ minds work and the audience rarely gets to see what it’s like beneath the camera of a puppet show.  We’ve really nailed it on the head in terms of being able to allow the audience to split focus.  It’s great to be able to see all the work that goes into the projected image on the screen: shuffling around getting the right puppet, making a prop for a puppet to use, someone helping one puppeteer manipulate their puppet so it can do something specific…etc.  Plus we are a great group of people who are really good at making each other laugh, so the audience gets to see how much fun we are having.  It was important to me to really showcase the humans.  It’s an experience to see our show.  It’s almost like seeing five shows at once: a puppet show, a TV show, an improv show, a blooper reel and a musical.

KV: That should be our tagline.

WO: What can audiences expect from your upcoming ComedySportz Presents run of shows?

JS: They will see a group of people stretching themselves between skill sets that are difficult, yet work harmoniously with each other.  We’ve found a system that works and we will keep perfecting it.

KV:  This run, we have some new improvisors (Rachel Whitworth and Caitlin Weigel) who are a GREAT addition to our cast, new AMAZING puppets, and maybe Alcatraz will dance this time.

Catch Friends of Alcatraz at ComedySportz (2030 Sansom Street) this Wednesday-Friday (April 24th-26th) at 8pm. Tickets are $12.

Get $5 Tickets for this Friday’s ‘ComedySportz Presents’

In case you missed it in our interview with Mary Carpenter on Wednesday, we thought we’d let you know again: If you’re an improviser, you can get discounted tickets to this Friday’s ComedySportz Presents double-header, featuring Til Death Do Us Part and Wisdom Teeth. Just use the password “I Do,” and you’ll see the show for $5 instead of $12.

double feature

“I Got Down on One Knee, and the Rest is History” – Interview with Mary Carpenter of Til Death Do Us Part

On the last Friday of every month, ComedySportz is bringing in original outside acts for their 8PM time slot, ahead of their 10PM adults-only The Blue Show.  This month, ComedySportz Presents features two groups: Til Death Do Us Part, the improv duo Mary Carpenter and Steve Roney (both ComedySportz players), and Wisdom Teeth (Alli Soowal, Maggy Keegan, Kristin Finger and Mary Carpenter again).   Here’s Mary to talk about what it’s like to improvise a marriage:

WitOut: How did Til Death Do Us Part form, and how long have you and Steve been performing together as a duo?

Mary Carpenter: I guess we started about 3 years ago.  We’ve been in ComedySportz together for over 10 years.  I just always loved watching and performing with Steve. He’s incredibly selfless and brilliantly funny.  He is always 100% present and working with him is effortless.  We often talked about working on something outside of ComedySportz, and we realized that we often wound up playing couples on stage. So, we decided to take our improv relationship to the next level.  I got down on one knee, and the rest is history.

WO: Your show is described as “an improvised take on wedded bliss.”  Is it always “bliss,” or do you also explore other states of marriage—like unhappy, stressed, etc.?

MC: Oh, we explore all the fun, stress, awkwardness. Those are the juicy nougat-y parts of marriage. And we don’t always play a couple, we try and hit it from all angles.

WO: Can you describe the format for your show? Do you play two-person scenes as a couple, or create a wider cast of characters?

MC: We use this brilliant book that Steve’s in-laws gave him: How to Start Your Marriage from the Catholic Church.  We give it to a member of the audience and have them skim through it until we say stop.  They then read a few sentences from the page they’re on and we use that to inspire our scene.  We have them read 3-5 times during a typical show. Sometimes we revisit characters if the opportunity arises.

WO: How does being married in real life (though not to each other) inform your performance?
 
MC: It informs everything. Between the two of us, there’s years of marriage to draw on.  The good, the bad, the surprising, the weird.  It’s not a conscious choice to include what we know, but what comes out in the moment is inevitably filtered through the experiences we’ve had. And since we’re not married to each other, there’s no fear of potentially offending the other person and ultimately sleeping on the couch that night.

Catch Til Death Do Us Part at ComedySportz (2030 Sansom Street) this Friday, March 29th at 8pm. Tickets are $12; $5 for improvisers who use the password “I Do.”

Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 83

Doogie Horner has been on a tear recently writing funny content for Philebrity. Check out the comedian’s most recent work in which he shares things he Overheard at the Trocadero’s Screening of The Muppets Take Manhattan.

After hearing the news that Washington Nationals baseball player Bryce Harper received a “free burritos for life” card from Chipotle, Philadelphia comedian Pat Barker wrote an open letter to his favorite Mexican fast food restaurant. Then he got a response from them.

Submissions for the first annual District Improv Festival, taking place in Washington D.C. from September 26-29 are now open. Cost to submit is $15 until April 15, and $20 until the deadline of May 1.

Philly Improv Theater has announced the lineup for their first “Sweeps Week”; a week-long competition between shows vying to win a longer run at the theater.

Next week’s Free Improv at Connie’s Ric Rac will still be free, but will be a fundraiser for improv group Safe Weird (Rob Gentile, Andrew Stanton, Kait Thompson) for a trip to London to perform and teach improv workshops across the pond.

Here’s a reminder that submissions for the F. Harold Comedy Festival are now open. This year’s festival will take place from June 11 through June 16 at Studio 5 at the Walnut St. Theatre and will feature improv, sketch, stand-up, and storytelling.

Philly Improv Theater begins their two-week-run of improv, sketch, and variety comedy shows at the Shubin Theatre tomorrow night. You can see their full schedule and purchase tickets in advance online.

This Tuesday Comedy Bonfire is going down (that’s the only way to properly describe it) at The Fire (412 E. Girard Ave.). The night will begin at 8:00pm with a stand-up comedy showcase hosted by Alex Grubard and featuring Mary Radzinski, Ryan Shaner, and Dave Topor. Next, the Trailer Trash Live Podcast at 9:30pm hosted by Michael Baurer and Garrett Smith featuring guests Joey Dougherty and Tommy Touhill. Finally, at 11pm the night will be capped with an open mic hosted by Lou Misiano.

The Cast of Impractical Jokers will be performing two shows Tuesday night at Helium Comedy Club at 7:30 and 9:45. Side note for comedians: Helium’s Open Mic will be held on Wednesday at 8:00pm.

The Not Just Comedy Show returns to The Grape Room this Tuesday for a show featuring comedy from: Mike Renzi, Rick Juliani, Frank Gensano, Nick Kupsey, Jay West, Beirdo, and Bed Savage with musical guest Dave Marley.

Improv group Beirdo will be holding a fundraiser show at The Arts Parlor this Friday to raise money for their trip to the Chicago Improv Festival. The show will feature performances from: Alex Pearlman, The Stonewall Players, Bad James, Cake Bear, Brendan Keegan, and the Beirdos themselves.

We Can All Change returns to O’Neal’s this Friday for a stand-up showcase featuring Chip Chantry, Rachel Fogletto, Bobby Lorello, and Chris Wood.

This Friday is another in the series of ComedySportz Presents shows. This week will feature improv groups Till Death Do Us Part, and Wisdom Teeth. ComedySportz presents will be followed by their monthly not-for-kids The Blue Show at 10:00pm. Tickets can be purchased online.

You can also catch Comedy Night at the Ballroom (Robinson’s Ballroom – 5749 N. Broad St.) this Friday for a night of comedy from: Denny Live, Jay West, Chitta Chatta, Ryan Phillips, Big Chuck, and Moses Sadler.

Don’t Be Ridiculous: a reading of comedic sketches will take place this Saturday afternoon at the West Wing of the PA Convention Center.

Kricket’s Comedy Presents: Durty Comedy Night this Saturday at Durty Nelly’s Irish Pub (701 E MacDade Blvd Folsom PA). The show will feature comedy from: Chip Chantry, Dave Terruso,  Corson & Typhoon, Larry Jansen, and Chris Mas.

The Captain Action Comedy Show returns to The Conshohocken Cafe this Saturday for a night of comedy from: Rubi Nicholas, Dave Topor, and Joe Bell.

If you have any Philly comedy news worth mentioning – send it our way with an email to contact@witout.net

“We Hit You Hard and Fast with Hip-hop and Comedy!” – Interview with Alli Soowal of Beatbox Philly

On the last Friday of every month, ComedySportz is bringing in original outside acts for their 8pm time slot, ahead of their 10pm adults-only The Blue Show.  This month, ComedySportz Presents features Beatbox Philly, the Philadelphia version of a Chicago-born show that combines improv scene work with improvised raps and beatboxing.  The group’s players are all also ComedySportz cast members: Alli Soowal, Darryl Charles, Sue Taney, Mark Leopold and Matt Lally. Here’s Alli to tell you more about the group and this Friday’s show.

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WitOut: For people who aren’t familiar with it, can you describe what happens at a Beatbox Philly show?

Alli Soowal: We hit you hard and fast with hip-hop and comedy!  Our show is 45-55 minutes and it interweaves scenic improv with freestyle rapping— including improvised beats from our very own beatboxer.

WO: The members of Beatbox Philly are also all ComedySportz players, right? How did you guys decide to come together for this?

AS: We are!  Well, all of us except for Matt Lally, who is our beatboxer.  I’ve known Matt for years from the comedy scene, and we produced Comedy Month together, so when we were looking for a skilled beatboxer, I approached him and Dave Terruso to give me ideas of who would be good.  They both replied “ummm…you know Matt has skills because you’ve seen him perform!”  As for how the rest of us came together, Beatbox started in Chicago and we have had them perform at the Philly Improv Festival, plus I’m good friends with Rene Duquesnoy—one of the co-founders of Beatbox.  I had wanted to put together a hip-hop show for awhile, so I talked to Rene, and he came to Philly and offered workshops through ComedySportz Philly, including one just for CSz performers.  From that, I was able to gauge interest from other company members.  Rene gave his blessing to use the Beatbox name (there is also a Beatbox in Minneapolis), and Beatbox Philly was born!  We made our debut at last year’s Fringe Festival, and it was so well received that we wanted to keep going.

WO: Do any of you have a rapping background? How did you learn to freestyle, and what do you do to practice?

AS: Interestingly enough, Mark Leopold is a self-produced rap artist—like hardcore gangsta style!  I won’t give you his stage name because it’s too dirty for the pages of WitOut.  He’s the only one, though, who comes from that world.  The rest of us learned to rap from ComedySportz rehearsals and classes, as well as lots of practice alone in cars.  Rene teaches a “Mad Skillz” workshop each year at the ComedySportz Championships that several of us have taken.   We also incorporate rapping into our shows in some games (“Kick It,” “Elimination Rap,” “Beastie Rap,” etc.), so everyone needs to be somewhat proficient in it.  When we practice, we go through a series of exercises designed to gradually pull raps out of you, and to increase your confidence.  Freestyling requires hella trust in your own brain to spit out words that you can make work into a cohesive song. 

WO: Do you guys have rap names? If not, do you want to make some up for everyone right now?

AS:

Darryl “Salt” Charles
Sue Peppa” Taney
Mark “Misdemeanor” Leopold
Kevin “Left Eye” Lopez
Alli “Lady Boo” Soowal

Matt MC Spinderella” Lally   

Not performing, but also a member, is Bobbi “M.I.A.” Block.

WO: What are you most excited about for your upcoming ComedySportz Presents show?  Will there be any new or special surprises for audience members who are already Beatbox Philly fans?

AS: I’m so excited to be back with this awesome crew!  We had a blast with our past shows, can’t wait to do it again.  As for surprises, there will likely be some special guest appearances but you will just have to come out to see it!


Catch Beatbox Philly at ComedySportz (2030 Sansom Street) this Friday, February 22nd at 8pm. Tickets are $12.