This past Saturday night at the Adrienne Theater, audiences enjoyed a great show-down between Philadelphia Fighting Amish and rival NJ Turnpikes.
In case anyone hasn’t checked out one of Philadelphia’s longest running shows, ComedySportz follows a similar format to that of the television show Whose Line Is It Anyway? The hour and half long show consists of various short-form improvisation games. Topics are based on audience suggestions and or instructions from the referee. After all these years, their color-coordinated jerseys, tennis shoes and team spirit still excite audiences.
Prepared to sing, dance and act, ComedySportz’s athletic form reminds us all that comedians are versatile athletes in their own right.
“The games were challenging, fun and clever, which made the show really funny,” stated a thoroughly pleased audience member. Games included “Story,” “Forward/Reverse,” and “What Are You Doing?” During the game “Story,” the entire team lines up on stage and either the audience or referee will suggest the concept of the story. Players have to make up the story as they go and have to stop talking as soon as the referee cuts them off.
Philadelphia ComedySportz runs classes on improv and corporate trainings on team building. In addition, they also do birthday parties and perform at corporate events. They also perform a kid’s show at 11:00a.m. on the last Saturday of every month.
** You can catch ComedySportz tonight at The Playground at Adrienne Theater (2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia 19103) from 7:30p.m. to 9:30p.m. ($17/$14 for Students/Seniors/Military)
The Bat - 7:00pm at Philly Improv Theater
ComedySportz - 7:30 & 10:00pm at The Playground at The Adrienne Theater
Local events calendar site Phillyfunguide.com is giving away two tickets to a ComedySportz performance of your choice between now and June 29th. To enter, all you have to do is visit their Facebook page and “like” and/or share this timeline photo of ComedySportz players by tomorrow at Noon:
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.
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.
Julia Scotti wrote this post about moments of awakening, understanding, and her evolution as a comedian and person.
The Not Just Comedy Show brings its mix of stand-up, improv, and music to The Grape Room again this Tuesday for a show featuring performances by: Mikaela Hamje, Chris Wood, Scott Speegle, Dr. Tony, Bed Savage, and musical guest Rev. TJ McGlinchey.
Metro Comedy Live comes to Helium Comedy Club this Wednesday for an evening of stand-up comedy from Nema Williams, Ed Blaze, and Vince Barnett.
This Wednesday through Saturday ComedySportz Philly Presents: Friends of Alcatraz at The Playground at The Adrienne Theater. The improvised puppet show for grown-ups returns with a cast featuring Kelly Vrooman, Dave Jadico, Joe Sabatino, Rob Cutler, Caitlin Weigel and Rachel Whitworth.
This Thursday the Lawnboys Comedy Showcase comes to Puck in Doylestown for a show featuring stand-up comedy from Aaron Hertzog, Omar Scruggs, Tim Raymus, Fady Khalil, and Matt Lips.
Figment Theater’s bimonthly Vagabond Sessions is back this Thursday; this time at The Maas Building (1325 N. Randolph St.) The show will feature improv performances by: The Chain, Half-Life, The AD Showcase with Andrew Stober and Maggy Keegan, and The Table.
Jay & Silent Bob’s Super Groovy Cartoon Movie will play this Thursday at The Keswick Theatre. After the feature the audience can participate in a question and answer session with Jay and Silent Bob themselves, Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes.
This Friday short-form improv group The N Crowd celebrates their eight-year anniversary with a show at RUBA Hall.
The Sideshow returns to The Arts Parlor this Friday to once again team up with Figment Theater for the third and final first-round match of in the annual Troika Tournament. This week will feature improv from teams comprised of: Cait O’Driscoll, Ryan Barlow, and Shannon Devido; Karen Coleman, Mike Butler, and Quinton Alexander; and Jason Grimley, Marc Reber, and Sue Jay.
ComedySportz The Blue Show returns this Friday night for the improv group’s monthly visit to a magical land where there are no penalties for being dirty.
The Captain Action Comedy Show returns to the Conshohocken Cafe this Saturday with a show hosted by Sidney Gantt and Dave Terruso featuring stand-up from: John McKeever, Ben Fidler, and Mike Logan.
The Troika Tournament comes to a conclusion this Saturday at The Sideshow when the three winners from the opening rounds battle in a head-to-head-to-head final round to determine the 2013 Troika champion.
Saturday is Jerzee’s Comedy Night at Jerzee’s Sports Bar & Pizzeria (2609 Mount Carmel Ave. Glenside, PA) with a show featuring: Pat Kelly, Dan Manhon, Darin Martinez, Lou Misiano, Bobby Lorello, Bryan Leichter, and Erik Whitcare.
The second Comedy is Liberty Weekend Show is this Saturday at Liberties Bar & Grill. This month’s show will feature comedy from Chip Chantry, Steven Bryan, and Alison Zeidman.
Gorged! returns to The Bean Cafe this Saturday night with a free stand-up show featuring: Aaron Hertzog, Jon DelCollo, Joe Bell, Nikki Black, and Rob Zawatski.
Baltimore’s Wham City Comedy Tour makes a stop in Philadelphia this Saturday at Goldilocks Gallery (723 Chestnut St., 2nd Floor). The show is described as “a two-hour cross-genre variety show, showcasing the very best from Baltimore’s award-winning artist collective and fabled party starters. Expect stand-up sets, videos, dramatic monologues, and ensemble sketches in a tightly-run, visionary performance.” Philly’s own The New Dreamz will also perform.
If you have any Philly comedy news worth mentioning – send it our way with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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?
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.”
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.
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?
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.
A Bunch of Improv at The Grape Room (105 Grape St.) will celebrate their one-year anniversary at the Manayunk venue this Tuesday with a show featuring improv from Deleted Scenes, Rosen & Milkshake, Bed Savage, and Cock Hat. The show will be hosted by Ryan Carey and will also feature a new installment of Web Cereal, their monthly sketch comedy video.
This Thursday Comedian Deconstruction returns to L’etage (624 South 6th St.) for their “Couples Therapy” show featuring stand-up from Chip Chantry, Chris Rich, Alison Zeidman, and Joe Bell with improv from Bed Savage and Cake Bear.
This Friday Grammy-award-winning comedian Lewis Black will bring his Running on Empty tour to the Academy of Music for a one-night-only performance. The comedian is known for his “unfiltered and frank rants about the absurdity of politics and the world around us”. Tickets can be purchased online.
We Can All Change, a new monthly show from hosts Dan Scully, Mike Logan, Setoiyo, and David Piccolomini at O’Neals Pub (611 S. 3rd St.) will debut this Friday with a show featuring performances from Jared Rosado, Elise Thompson-Hohl, Lou Misiano, and Pat Barker.
The Tough Stuff Comedy Show will also debut this Friday at Headhouse (122 Lombard St.) The show will feature stand-up performances from Alex Grubard, Mary Radzinski, John Nunn, and H. Foley. After their sets, the comedians will sit down with hosts Sidney Gantt and Kevin Ryan, where they will share “their most embarrassing and crazy stories.” Tickets are available online.
ComedySportz Philadelphia presents: BeatBox Philly this Friday at The Playground at the Adrienne Theater (2030 Sansom St.) The show will feature some of your favorite members of the ComedySportz Philadelphia team performing a mix of improvised scenes and freestyle raps. Tickets can be purchased online.
This Friday at The Arts Parlor (1170 S. Broad St.) The Sideshow presents: The 2013 Oscars Improv Jam. For the third straight year comedians from around Philadelphia will get dressed up and enjoy a night of improv, parody videos, food, and BYOB drinking. Following the jam there will also be a showing of film sensation The Room.
The Captain Action Comedy Show is this Saturday at the Conshohocken Cafe (521 Fayette St. Conshohocken). This month’s show will feature performances by Anton Shuford, Michael Donovan, and Elise Thompson-Hohl with a Captain Action Comedy Quiz Show and more from co-hosts Sidney Gantt and Dave Terruso.
Comedy Corner at Broad Axe Tavern (901 W. Butler Pike, Ambler, PA) will feature stand-up from Andy Nolan, Jim Ginty, and Alex Pearlman with guest sets from Chris Dolan, Caitlyn Feeney, and Dave Topor. Tickets can be purchased online.
This Sunday Chase N’ Laughs presents: A Night of Comedy at Jollie’s Live (822 N. Broad St.) The show will feature stand-up from Miles Green (BET’s Comic View) and Philly’s own Craig McLaren. More information can be found online.
The crew from the Comedy Food Sports podcast were given press passes to Wing Bowl 21 and used their access to create this video of the goings on from the event.
Submissions for the 15th Annual Del Close Marathon are now open. The improv festival will take place June 28-30 on multiple stages throughout New York City. The marathon is known for bringing improvisers from around the country together for a few days of performances ranging from traditional improv institutions to crazy, late-night shows. The deadline to submit is April 2.
The early application deadline for this year’s Duofest, to be held right here in Philadelphia from June 6-9, is this Friday, February 22. Interested improv duos will have until then to take advantage of the lower application fee of $22. The final deadline to submit is March 2 (at a price of $32). More information can be found online.
Philly Improv Theater is currently holding sign-ups for auditions to add three new improv teams to their roster. One team, directed by Ralph Andracchio, will be cast as a PHIT House Team and will perform on Saturday nights at the theater. The other two teams, directed by Rob Gentile and Alex Newman will be PHIT’s first Harold Teams, and will perform on Tuesday nights. Auditions will be held March 9-10 and to secure an audition you can email your name, phone number, a preferred audition time, and details of your past improv training (if you have not completed PHIT’s Improv 201) to email@example.com.
This Saturday’s ComedySportz shows are being billed as a “Battle of the Sexes.” That’s right, it’s guys vs. gals! The 7:30 show will feature the refereeing talents of Kristin Finger; voice talents of Noah Herman; and dudes Langston Darby, Todd Rodenhiser and Sean Curran against ladies Sue Taney, Danna Young and Alli Soowal. The 10pm show will have Noah back, this time as the ref; Alli Soowal back to lend some sweet vox; boyz from Round 1 Sean and Todd will return as well, this time with Kevin Regan; and the girlz for Round 2 will be Sue and Danna once again, with Kristin switching out of her ref jersey to play in with them.
As the level-headed officials for the first and second matches, respectively, we knew we could count on Kristin and Noah to answer a few questions about what fans can expect on Saturday—without TOO much smack-talk. (Although, honestly, we were kinda trying to get some going. Fight! Fight! Fight!)
WitOut: Do you know which games you’ll be playing? Are there any games in the regular ComedySportz rotation that you feel could be particularly suited towards highlighting the strengths of either team?
KF: As ref for the 7:30 show, I’d love to challenge them to the game of “Story,” but perhaps with an added twist! And the classic, “I kissed a blank.” These games shall test their wits equally!
NH: You can be sure that we’re going to play some of our debate style or elimination games, such as “Objection” or “Story. “If you were hoping for a Girls vs. Boys “Elimination Rap Battle,” your wish just might come true.
WO: What do you think makes either gender/team better than the other when it comes to comedy—or just life in general? Hyperbole encouraged.
KF: I bet you want me to answer this with a whole lot of “men suck” attitude, well that’s not gonna happen! They are an equal opponent, but to quote the amazing Tina Fey, “Know what? Bitches get stuff done.”
NH: I’m not going anywhere near “what makes your gender better than the other when it comes to comedy?” But in terms of how the gender battle will affect this Saturday’s ComedySportz match, in my experience women have to pee much more than men. Will that affect their ability to play on Saturday? Who knows!
WO: Is there anything riding on this match? E.g. will the losing team have to wash the other team’s ComedySportz jerseys for the next month, or anything like that?
KF: I’ll put it on the table right now, when the ladies take the win, the boys must bow to us Wayne’s World style and say, “we’re not worthy, we’re not worthy, we’re scum…” in front of the entire audience!
NH: Is there anything riding on this match? Nothing but pride and back rubs!
You can see ComedySportz shows this and every Saturday at 7:30pm and 10pm at The Playground at The Adrienne (2030 Sansom Street). Tickets are $17 for adults; $14 for students.