We just added two shows to the calendar for Thursday and Saturday. The last nights of a run of shows called A Series of Dangerous Fools features improv from Thomas Fowler & Mary Carpenter, with special guests. Produced by Figment Theater and running at the Vox Populi gallery on 11th Street between Vine and Callowhill, Fools is $5 bucks at the door and has different featured improvisers each night.
On Thursday night, check out The Chain w/ Erin Pitts (Pitts invites a fellow improviser to play, who in turn invites another, initiating a chain of invites creating a one-night-only ensemble) and Slasher Sorority (sorority sisters Cait O’Driscoll, Corin Wells, Kate Banford, Kristen Schier & Kristin Finger are stalked by mysterious killers Joel Sumner & Thomas Fowler).
On Saturday, it’s John Hughes High Minisode 1(the fictional world of John Hughes High is explored when Lucy [Kristin Finger] and Principal Hines [Kevin Regan] meet with an admissions recruiter from OSU [Thomas Fowler]), John Hughes High Minisode 2 - (Ox [Frank Farrell] and his father [Thomas Fowler] sit down for a meeting with Coach [Eoin O’Shea] to discuss some worrisome poetry that’s been uncovered), Fowler-Roney-O’Shea - (Thomas Fowler, Steve Roney & Eoin O’Shea unite for a special one-night-only set), and Origin Story - (Alli Soowal, Brian Ratcliffe, Eoin O’Shea, Joe Sabatino, Kelly Jennings, Kristin Finger, Mary Carpenter and Steve Roney and Thomas Fowler trace the origin of how a superhero is born).
This Thursday, The Sideshow continues on its mission to get performers to try new things and venture out of their comfort zones with a musical revue starring a cast of local improvisers—most of whom have little musical theater experience beyond karaoke at O’Neals.”Trying different things is how I feel I’ve gotten better,” says Mike Marbach, Sideshow creator and producer. “The more experience you get outside of improv, the more you’re going to bring into your improv.”
The theme of the show is love, from wanting it and trying to find it to hating it and decrying it. We went to a recent rehearsal and got to talk to a few of the cast members about the songs they’ll be performing.
Kristen Schier (The Amie & Kristen Show, The N Crowd): One of the songs that I’m singing is the song “Alone” by Heart. I chose that one because I love to sing it in karaoke, but the reason I love to sing is because I’ve always wanted to be a rock star. But I never had the confidence to. I know this sounds corny or whatever but honestly doing comedy over the years and learning about confidence and teaching people that it’s all about confidence has given me the confidence to sing the way that song requires and the other songs in the show require. I’m not the best singer, but I love singing and I’m still confident in what I can do. I don’t think I could do it the same without having been taught that in the improv classes that I’ve taken and it’s good to be able to step into a different medium, so to speak, and just run with it.
Erin Pitts (ZaoGao): I’m doing “There are Worse Things I Could Do” from Grease. It was a song I could sing decently I guess [laughs]. There will be a little bit of comedy throughout the show. In mine I think I’m just going to be singing—I hope people don’t laugh at me if I’m trying to be serious about it! But as far as improv goes, I don’t know if I’m really borrowing anything from improv, just the acting part and the being comfortable in front of people part.
Brett Knobloch (Asteroid!): I’m singing a song called “Making Love Alone.” The song is about loving yourself. I figured everyone was going to be doing songs about someone else, so I thought it would be nice to do a song about yourself. It’s a song that was written for Bernadette Peters, and she did it on Saturday Night Live. It’s sort of just a straight-up cabaret piece, and that’s how I’m going to do it. It’s almost like this pretty ballad—it’s more suggestive than it is lewd. And that’s why I like it, the humor comes from the subtlety.
Chris Caletta (Hot Dish): I’m doing “Earth Angel,” from Back to the Future. I think it’s a great movie. I am going to break down at some point [like in the film], and hopefully we can come up with a twist on it too, I’m not quite sure. I just wanted to try something different. I do music stuff too, so it’ll be neat to bring it into the comedy realm and see how that goes.
Milkshake (Asteroid!): I don’t have any musical theater background whatsoever. I’m singing “Love Stinks,” which is more of a classic rock song. It’s very disparaging of love I suppose; very teen angst-y. Mike thought it was really appropriate for me to do because of I guess when Asteroid! does [the improv singing game] “Hot Spot” in warm-ups. I’m not a J. Geils fan…but I guess I mock it well? I’m not mocking it but I can affect that in games that we play and comedic situations. I think what I’m supposed to do is break out of the very theatrical musical number [which precedes my song] and just sauce it up and be with the audience.
As the year winds down, WitOut collects lists from comedy performers and fans of their favorite moments, comedians, groups, shows, etc. from the last year in Philly comedy. Top 5 of 2012 lists will run throughout December, and slightly beyond, if we deem it necessary–if you’d like to write one, pitch us your list at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Sexiness is not learned. It’s a gift and when you combine that gift with comedy, prepare to burst with laughter and…well… yea.
5. The Birth of Davenger and Hot Dish (shameless, vain plug)
4. J.P. Boudwin and Billy Bob Thompson in Improv at Bernie’s
For the Del Close Marathon this year, the amazing Kaitlin Thompson came up with the brilliant concept of Improv at Bernie’s in which a group of improvisers do a set with a dead cast member, played effortlessly by Billy Bob Thompson. In one of the scenes (I wish I could remember what it was about), J.P. gives Billy a nice long, loving, lustful raspberry right on his belly.
3. Asteroid!’s Orgy
….This picture explains it.
2. Emily Davis.
Just… every time she walks on stage. ::swoon::
1. Andrew Stanton and Luke Field’s Duo
If you missed this, you missed life. Whatever stars aligned that day to bring this two together on stage, I am forever grateful because that was one of my favorite improv moments period. I think I described it as “my improv wet dream.” Accurate.
Wrapped is a web series that debuts tomorrow about a group of Production Assistants working on a movie trying to get by without causing the ire of any of their higher ups. The series features work from many Philadelphia comedians including Maureen Costello, Corin Wells, Andy Moskowitz, Steve Kleinedler, and Bert Archer. You can see the entire web series online starting tomorrow, and check out a trailer and clip below.
For my second Coffee with Comedians, I chose to get to know Corin Wells. Oddly enough, and in spite of being in the same room as each other probably somewhere over 50 times, we had not exchanged more than “hellos” and congratulatory remarks after shows. We even went to see ” My Week With Marilyn” together, but since you have to be quiet in movie theaters and also since I got there right as the movie started, I did not get a chance to start a friendship beyond that of the facebook and twitter realm there, either. So, Corin agreed to sit down with me at the Broad Street Diner, and thus, a friendship beyond the world wide web was born!
Aubrie: You have been performing with Iron Lung for a year now in Philly! Was there a specific moment when you realized you wanted to pursue comedy? Was it always something you were interested in, or was there a distinct moment where you realized that this what you wanted to do?
Corin: I think it’s something I always wanted to do, I just didn’t know how I wanted to do it. Cause I love stand up so much but I don’t have the nads to do it, so when I came across improv I was like “Ahhhh, yeah. This is it.” And I tried it and I fell in love with it and I got addicted. Now improv is what I love.
Aubrie: That’s awesome! Did you do theater or anything before?
Corin: Yeah, I did. I did theater in school. After high school I kind of stopped doing acting and started focusing on dancing- because when I was younger I did a bit of everything only cause my mom made me do it. And I was like, “I wanna be a hip-hop dancer!” So I did that in college, and then I was like, “This is not lucrative!”
Aubrie: Maybe not lucrative, but it is awesome! If I didn’t think I’d fail immediately, I probably would’ve majored in hip-hop dancing! Where did you go to college?
Corin: Hampton University in Virginia.
Aubrie: And what initially drew you to improv? Did you find it in or after college?
Corin: After. I had finished taking regular acting classes at Mike Lemon Casting and I was like, “OK, I need to do something else and I want to try comedy.” And I had been looking at PHIT for awhile, but for some reason I was like- I think it was money reasons- that I was like, “I can’t take two classes at one time.” So right after I was done with those acting classes, I was like, “It’s time.” And I ended up taking my 1st class with Nick Gillette, which was great. And I’ve been hooked ever since.
Aubrie: What is the best comedy advice you’ve ever gotten?
Corin: There’s a lot, cause I hang out with Marbach and he’s full of comedy advice. I guess as far as improv goes, just make sure you’re having fun. That’s the best advice. Cause if you’re not having fun onstage, then why are you up there? There’s no point.
Aubrie: Any general life advice that has been helpful to you, non-comedy related?
Corin: Do what you love, and fuck the rest. Yeah, my mom has always told me that- not necessarily “fuck” the rest, but she’s like “if you’re not doing something that you love to do then really what’s the point.” She doesn’t necessarily get the comedy thing, but she supports it. She’s great.
Aubrie: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Corin: Lately, I’ve been listening to Beyonce’s “Love on Top” because it’s such a hype song, it’s such a feel-good song. But I just try to get to get in a fund mind-set, like for Iron Lung, so when we start our ritual I’m ready to jump on board. And it’s always something different, something I can dance to. Sometimes it’s gangster rap. I don’t know, depending on my mood.
Aubrie: Sweet! Do you do silly dances, or choreographed dances?
Corin: For Beyonce I do real choreography.
Aubrie: Nice. Do you do them at home or at the venue before a show?
Corin: Anywhere. If I’m walking, if I’m driving, I’ll be dancing. I’ll do it while walking down the street…it’s great when people start dancing with you!
Aubrie: What was your favorite comedy moment to witness, Philly or otherwise? This is a tough one, cause I made it so broad, but it could be anything- a TV or film moment, or something you saw onstage or that your friends did…
Corin: I think the most recent one I can remember because it was a few weeks ago was Medic had this show and they were on a bus and AJ had to crawl outside the bus for some reason and ended up getting hit by this giant bus. And Luke kept running over him with a bunch of chairs. He just kept doing it- it was so funny! It was this really giant bus and that illusion was created, and it was so great. And Emily was like, “It’s a mix between Les Mis and Speed” and it cut back to AJ crawling outside of this bus and getting hit by it. Yeah, that was a great moment. I love Medic.
Aubrie: Me too!! They do a lot of cool physical stuff. Iron Lung also does a lot of cool physical stuff.
Corin: Yeah, I love those guys.
Aubrie: On that note, do you have a favorite stage moment that you were a part of? It can be anything-dance, theater, improv…
Corin: It’s probably gonna be improv.
Aubrie: Nice! I didn’t want to box you in.
Corin: It’s hard because there are a lot coming to my head. But there was one show where we ended up doing the whole block at PHIT and we didn’t know that we were going to, but Kevin, prior to the show spilled Malt Vinegar on his pants. So the whole first half became about Kevin smelling like shit. And he had the nerve to sit on my lap. I think that’s why I loved it so much, because we were all fucking with each other, and that’s when you have the most fun. There was also one show where we had Pinocchio running an underground railroad for puppets. That was great.
Aubrie: And what’s your favorite part about improv? Is there a specific thing about it that you really love?
Corin: I think just the concept of improv. I mean, when you strip all of the rules away, you are just a bunch of adults pretending on-stage- that’s all it is. And it’s like, “I do this. I’m playing around- I’m a kid again, just smarter.”
Aubrie: If you could create a comedy dream team of anyone in the world, who’d be on it? It could be just Philly people too, to make this super-difficult on-the-spot question easier.
Corin: Oh man, that’s tough. I’m gonna do Philly comedians and say my
fantasy improv draft is Matt Holmes(QB), Amie Roe(WR), Billy Bob Thompson(RB), Andrew Stanton(TE), Emily Davis(S), Jess Ross(OL), Dan Jaquette(DL), & Tara Demy(K).
Aubrie: I hope that team one day happens, and that they all play those positions- like a football/improv mash-up! And my final question is…drumroll…are you a dog or a cat person? I ended the last interview on this note, So I’m gonna stick with it.
Corin: I am a dog person, but I like cats. Which is a new development, cause my roommates brought home a stray, and I love her. I curse her out a lot, but I love her. We had miniature collies growing up. My parents have one named Teacup. I hate that name. My dad named her that, and I was like, “Man up, daddy!” He named her that because he wanted us to get a teacup yorkie, and we got a miniature collie. So he was like, I’m calling it Teacup anyway. My other dog’s name, we called her”Puppy.” We adopted her from a shelter and her name was “Mandy,” and my mom was like, “I don’t like that name.” So she named her Puppy.
You can currently catch Corin on stage with Iron Lung and as half of the duo Ebony & Ivory, and in May she will premiere with PHIT Houseteam (Codename) Strider.
This week, I take a break from sitting down and chatting with comedians and let Corin Wells do all the work. Corin, along with Darryl Charles, Chris Cotton, Blythe Wimbush and Setoiyo gathered to talk about the state of Black comedy in Philadelphia. They discuss their own experiences as well as their thoughts on the city, past, present, and future. You can listen here, or subscribe on iTunes.
After an all-out brawl at last week’s meeting ending in an arrest, my panel of experts; Suge Knight, Steve Guttenberg and Eartha Kitt,( who could not join us today); decided it would be in everyone’s best interest to, rather than rank a few of the trailblazing comedic women of color, like Moms Mabely or Whoopi Goldberg, we should highlight a some of today’s up and coming African American comediennes. You know… to avoid further conflict… So here is a short list of women in sketch, improv and stand-up who are doing the “damn thang” as they say. Check them out.
Elite Delta Force 3 “Saving the world… one sketch at a time.” Nefetari Spencer and Angela Yarbrough created this sketch super group, in 2009 and with the help of Robin Thede, Leshay Tomlinson-Boyce, Nikea Gamby-Turner, and Indira Gibson, Elite Delta Force 3 has become one of the most sought sketch groups in the country. The all-female sketch ensemble “tackles current events, politics, celebrity gossip and more all while incorporating original characters, impressions, parody songs and sometimes even dance into dynamic original and uproarious sketches.” Since their sketch video, The Real Housewives of the Civil Rights Movement, went viral, the ladies of EDF3 have been featured in Essence Magazine and various other print and online publications. Each of these women have resumes that are comparable to seasoned comedy veterans, some of them having trained at the top improv theaters in the US, including iO West, The Groundlings, and The Second City Chicago and LA. P.S. I’m in love with Robin Thede.
Doppleganger “That black girl who does improv.” Forming in March of 2010, this New York City based long-form improve troupe has already made a name for themselves throughout the improv community. Students and Affiliates of The UCB Theater; Nicole Byer, Sasheer Zamata, and Keisha Zollar; were nominated for Best Improv Group ECNY Award in 2011. They have performed all over the country and Canada at various festivals including Best of Fest Vancouver International Improv Festival 2011, Women in Comedy Festival 2011, and SF Sketchfest 2011, just to name a few. They use” a free flowing organic form to BLOW YOUR MIND.” They currently play at UCBeast every Wednesday night at 7:30PM. I have yet to see these ladies perform, but based on their videos and reviews, I am missing out.
Marina Franklin “viciously likeable, if there is such a thing.” New-York based Marina Franklin is emerging as one of the hottest stars in the comedy scene today. Her notable televisions appearances include Chapelle’s Show, Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, NBC’s Last Comic Standing Season II, and Comedy Central’s Premium Blend Whether she’s talking about her long list of ethnically diverse boyfriend choices or her confusing white/black experiences as a kid, she always comes out ahead with her razor-sharp humor. With a decade of performing stand-up in New York, Marina is taking some serious steps in building her name . Her stand-up caught my attention because her style is very different from what I’m used to seeing in African American female stand-ups. She relates to the new generation of funny women of color.
The Panel of researchers: Suge Knight – the founder and CEO of Black Kapital Records and co-founder and former CEO of Death Row Records. Murderer of Tupac Shakur… probably.
Eartha Kitt- An American singer, actress, and cabaret star. Catwoman to Adam West’s Batman. Deceased.
Steve Guttenberg- An American actor and comedian. Would be bigger were it not for Tom Hanks. Nickename: The Gute.
In honor of Black History month, I have compiled series of top five lists highlighting the contributions of African Americans in comedy. This is one of them. A panel of leading experts consisting of the voices inside my head; Suge Knight, Eartha Kitt, and Steve Guttenburg; have spent countless hours debating, drinking and drugging to bring to you The GOAT…. Greatest of All Time…Its an Acronym.
The GOAT: African American Stand-Up Comedians
5. Chris Rock- Rock made his mainstream debut on SNL but most of his success is attributed to his raunchy yet socially aware stand-up. His distinctive voice made him a stand out on the comedy scene. Though some of his cross-over film roles have been… well kind of whack, Rock has maintained well deserved respect for his comedic styling and stand-up acts.
4. Bill Cosby- Before the pudding, before the Huxtables, this Philadelphia native had stand-up. Unlike many black comedians of the time, Cosby was able to relate to a wide range of audiences with his notoriously clean sets in a time when more politically active, socially charged, risqué subject matter was the norm. “A white person listens to my act and he laughs and he thinks, ‘Yeah, that’s the way I see it too.’ Okay. He’s white. I’m Negro. And we both see things the same way. That must mean that we are alike. Right? So I figure this way I’m doing as much for good race relations as the next guy”.
3. Redd Fox- Probably best known for his role as Fred Sanford in the 1970s television classic Sanford and Son, Foxx began doing stand-up comedy on the infamous “Chitlin’ Circuit” in the 1940s and 1950. Redd developed his style of blue humor to get a rise out of the audience. Redd’s style combined perfect timing, delivery and a conversational storytelling vibe to make clean material sound dirty and dirty material sound filthy. Many of today’s greatest comedians note Fox as an inspiration.
2. Eddie Murphy- Norbit and The Adventures of Pluto Nash aside, Eddie Murphy has to be considered one of the most successful comedians …ever. By the time he was 15, Murphy was working as a stand-up comic in New York. At the age of 19 he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live, where Murphy exercised his comedic abilities in impersonating African American figures and originating some of the show’s most memorable characters. His Eddie Murphy Raw concert film remained the most successful stand-up concert film until The Original Kings of Comedy was released. (eh) Not to mention, he’s the 2nd highest grossing actor in Hollywood.
1.Richard Pryor- If you ask any comedian who their biggest inspirations have been, Richard Pryor is bound to be included in about 99.3% of those responses. (a Me Fact) Highly influential and always controversial, Pryor drafted the blueprint for the progressive thinking of black comedians. With his monologues, he brought to life the entire range of the black American experience. He transcended the color barrier that inhibited Redd Fox in the 50s, while addressing the taboo topics Bill Cosby would not touch and essentially set the bar for the younger generation of comics such as Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock solidifying, to me, his spot at number 1.
Honorable Mentions: Bernie Mac, Kevin Hart, Dick Gregory, Dave Chapelle, Paul Mooney
The Panel: Suge Knight – the founder and CEO of Black Kapital Records and co-founder and former CEO of Death Row Records. Murderer of Tupac Shakur… probably.
Eartha Kitt- An American singer, actress, and cabaret star. Catwoman to Adam West’s Batman. Deceased.
Steve Guttenberg- An American actor and comedian. Would be bigger were it not for Tom Hanks. Nickename: The Gute.
Twenty-four is an improv show in real time. There are no cuts or edits, no jumps in time or space. All of the action takes place in one location in the same amount of time it takes to watch the show. The format leads to the actors being able to portray rich characters and develop deep relationships in the twenty four minutes they are together on stage. Last night, the cast of this Philly Improv Theater Fringe production put those skills on display expertly.
Twenty-four is a two act show, with the cast performing two separate monoscenes. Last night’s performance featured two halves that showed off the cast member’s range of styles and characters. The first scene took place in a hospital where a cast of characters all waited for their mutual acquaintance, played by Emily Davis, to give birth to her child. The story revealed a busy career woman, eager for her baby to arrive so that she may return to work and the people in her lives effected by her lifestyle. Her sperm donor (Mike Marbach) was curiously present at the hospital, while it was later revealed by her sister (Cait O’Driscoll) that there may be something more than just a one time donation going on. The future nanny of the child (Jessica Ross) handed out balloons and worried if she would be a good fit to take care of the child. The “facilitator” of the sperm donation (Bobbi Block) continued her role in the hospital as she calmed people down and was there to lend a helping hand in all the madness. The mother-to-be’s assistant (Becca Trabin) came to deliver a present from the office, and ended up delivering something far more important (the baby!) All the action took place while an in-over-her-head candy stripe (Corin Wells) raced around a hospital she seemed to be the only employee of.
The strengths of the first act were in the strong character choices made by the cast. Each improvisor brought their own idea to their character and stuck with it to the end. Emily Davis showed the non stop work ethic of her career driven character even in the last moments of pregnancy. Mike Marbach did his best to remain supportive of the mother of his child even while those around him questioned their relationship. Corin Wells was overworked and exhausted as the seventeen-year-old candy stripe just trying to get community service hours so she can graduate. Becca Trabin portrayed the do-all assistant of a powerful business woman hilariously, showing how prepared one would have to be to be the right hand woman of a non stop workaholic.
The second act begins with director Steve Kleinedler telling the audience that a character of their choice will return for the second scene, and all the other actors would portray someone new. Becca Trabin’s character was selected by one audience member, to cheers of approval from others. The second scene took place in a beauty salon while the patrons prepared for their prom, or “practice wedding” or were just there to have their hair done by the saucy salon staff. The first act of last night’s show had characters entering and exiting the scene fluidly, changing focus and centering on different relationships at different times while the second act had more convergence. The scene began will all but one character (Marc Reber‘s salon worker – who would soon enter) on stage. Most of the performers were all on stage and in the scene at the same time, and the cast members handled the crowded scene excellently. Most of the time the conversation took place between a few characters while the rest of the cast patiently waited, flipping through magazines, or styling hair – but a few times, the stage was full of action with multiple conversations happening at once. The performers were adept, not letting the conversations become just a jumble of noise, but speaking up and quieting down to let the audience key in on the funny parts of what they each were saying.
Twenty-four is a sharply put together show with a diverse, skilled cast of improvisors that will make you care about the characters, draw you in to this moment in their lives, and make you laugh along the way.
There are still three chances to see twenty-four, tonight at 5pm, Tuesday, September 13 at 7pm, and Friday, September 16 at 830pm. All shows are at the Mainstage of the Adrienne Theater. Tickets can be purchased online.