Hey Rube will perform for the final time as a House Team this Saturday night at Philly Improv Theater. The group made their debut in August 2011 and have since performed at venues all over the area and festivals including the New York Improv Festival, Del Close Marathon, and the Philadelphia Improv Festival. They were crowned Best New Group at the 2012 WitOut Awards for Philadelphia Comedy, and were nominated for Best Improv Group at the 2013 WitOut Awards. The members of Hey Rube and their director Matt Holmes took some time to reflect, and say some nice things about each other.
Aaron Hertzog on Dennis Trafny:
“Dennis blows me away every time I see him perform. The only thing I know for sure when Dennis enters a scene is that at some point he is going to totally surprise me. He can take a seemingly everyday boring offer and come back with something that is (incredibly) completely off-the-wall but also somehow makes it easy for his scene partner to react to and build with. I don’t know if it’s a natural skill or something he’s had to work tirelessly on (or a little bit of Column A and a little bit of Column B) but either way I am completely impressed. He can also bring great intensity to a character (seriously, look into those eyes), and inject some much-needed energy in a show at a moment’s notice. Of course, this also makes for extra special moments when he decides to tone it down and show us his tender, soft side.”
Tara Demmy on Mark Leopold:
“Before Hey Rube, I didn’t know Mark Leopold. He was just one of those guys with a really great name. Now I know him as one of the most talented performers I’ve ever worked with. His character work is the best (Dr. Dandelion) and he is a super intelligent and creative player, knowing when to give a set that necessary plot twist. When I’m in scenes with Mark I have trouble not just hanging out and watching him work, laughing along with the audience. One of my favorite moments was when Hey Rube was doing one of our usual group scene orgies and Mark came on and just sensually untied Jen’s shoelace. The best. Catch up with Mark playing “5 Things” at ComedySportz or doing a “props made out of only cardboard” sketch show with The Hold Up or even doing a show in the Philly Fringe (his 2012 Fringe show Archdiocese of Laughter was one of the best comedy shows I’ve ever seen—he made a rap out of my favorite hymn: Gift of Finest Wheat! Genius). See you there—I’ll be the girl in the first row wearing my ‘I heart Mark Leopold’ T-shirt.”
Lizzie Spellman on Alex Gross:
“The first time I really hung out with Alex, he took me to a gay club with a hot Asian chick. I’ve come to learn he is one crazy cat (and I’m not just saying that ’cause he owns way too many cat shirts). Alex is so fun to play with on stage. When he makes a choice he always fully commits to it. He can go super weird with a character, but it’s always grounded in truth. I think if Hey Rube were a rock band, Alex would be the guy smashing his guitar on an amp and flipping off the crowd. I tell him all the time and I really mean it, he’s become like a little brother to me. That’s why I forgive him for drunkenly walking in on me in the bathroom and proceeding to pee in the shower. But that’s another story…”
Mark Leopold on Aaron Hertzog:
“I first saw Aaron something like six years ago. I went to an open mic and did some terrible set where I impersonated Forrest Gump at one point, and I saw this big man with a big personality just own the crowd and receive their adoration with composure and charm. It was amazing. I then retreated to the suburbs for three years. When I got cast on Hey Rube, the only person I actually recognized was Aaron and I was immediately intimidated by the prospect of playing with him. My fears proved to be completely unfounded of course. Aaron is one of the sweetest, most open, gentle and loving people I’ve met. His ever-present playfulness is infectious and when you have the good fortune to be in a scene with him, it’s such a familiar feeling of silly frolicking that you can’t help but have fun. Fun. That’s really the best way to describe what Aaron is like. He’s just like someone who it’s always fun to be around and with. He has a gift for vulnerability. He is just so brave and so foot-forward, always ready to give himself to the show or scene. Whether it’s dark or emotional, serious or silly, Aaron commits totally and performing with him is so easy and simple because you know he is going to completely receive what you give and build with it. Some of the most satisfying moments of collaboration in my life have been with him. Aaron is wonderful and any city, town, or village that doesn’t leap at the chance to welcome him is just tragically stupid.”
Rob Cutler on Lizzie Spellman:
“Lizzie is commitment personified. She’s an incredibly gifted performer, but the original characters she creates and maintains are nothing short of brilliant. Whether she exhibits the child-like innocence of a three-year-old, or the decrepit bitter wisdom of a wicked crone, Lizzie will up the intensity with every passing moment. She’s a multitalented performer, whose musical prowess is displayed often with her ukulele, singing some of the most irreverent, funny, and original songs I’ve personally ever heard. She has a gift for character and her future on stage is limitless. On the personal end, I’ve yet to meet a more patient and engaging personality. She has kind words for everyone I’ve seen her interact with (even if they were complete assholes). In short Lizzie is funny as hell, sweet as sugar, with talent oozing out of every pore. We should all be so lucky as to have someone like Lizzie in our lives. I’ll miss you Rubes!”
Jen Curcio on Tara Demmy:
“I will never forget the first time I met Tara. It was at Hey Rube’s first practice. I was really jealous of her because she was prettier, cooler and funnier than me. Then I got over it. Tara is a total improv pirate and for those of you who are not familiar with the term that means she attacks the scene. She is fearless in her choices, yet fully commits to and supports her scene partners’ choices. Tara is able to play characters that have a sharp contrast in stage presence. She will support anything and add value to it. I feel so lucky to have been on a team with her, I learned a lot from watching her be an awesome improviser!”
Alex Gross on Jen Curcio:
“Oh, geez. Jen is the worst. I’m just kidding! I know that really freaked you out Jen but seriously, I’m just kidding. I swear! Jen is one of the kindest and weirdest people I know. She is always thinking of others before herself and she’s given me countless car rides home. Her paranoia and craziness are right on par with mine, which makes me feel like she’s my improv twin. I’ve done some of my favorite scenes with her and she is always a joy to work with, no matter how many times she initiates scenes with hints of a gangbang starting. Jen is an improv powerhouse who isn’t to be fucked with and I’ve had a blast working with her. Rubes for life.”
Dennis Trafny on Rob Cutler:
“Rob is the ‘Phil Hartman’ of Hey Rube: really solid in every scene and he reigns in the crazy. He never gets scared on stage and is always cooler than the other side of the pillow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him hesitate. Not once. Never. Not even for a second. No ‘uhhhh’s or ‘ummmm’s. Nothing. He’s a beast. He also plays characters smartly, and on many occasions, very cleverly ties all the preceding scenes together. He is no one-trick pony either. He has a gift with puppetry and is awesome in Friends of Alcatraz . (If you haven’t seen it, you should!) Good luck with your future projects Rob!”
Matt Holmes on Hey Rube:
“It’s sad to see Hey Rube end, but things that burn brightest snuff soonest.
I got more out of directing Hey Rube than I ever thought I would. First, I learned to get past your perfect idea for how things should go. It’s better to be flexible and make it work. It took us a few months to all get in the same room together at the same time, but that didn’t matter much.
Then, I learned all kinds of insights about improvising, telling a story in a visual medium, teaching people, using people’s strengths and working together on their weaknesses, building something together in small steps, and creating a show (style, format, framework) that is a signature.”
Hey Rube’s final show will be Saturday, February 9 at 10pm at The Philly Improv Theater at The Shubin Theater (407 Bainbridge St.) Tickets can be purchased online.
It’s almost time for the 2013 WitOut Awards for Philadelphia Comedy! As we get closer to the show, we’ll be rolling out a series of posts to help you get more acquainted with this year’s nominees. Read all about ‘em, and then be sure to get your tickets for the big event on January 13th at World Cafe Live!
The nominees for Best Male Improviser are:
Luke Field (Asteroid!, Hot Dog)
Andrew Stanton (King Friday, Kait & Andrew)
Dennis Trafny (Hey Rube, Iron Lung)
Alex Newman (Davenger)
Darryl Charles (ComedySportz, Hate Speech Committee)
Dennis Trafny on Alex Newman:
“He’s a funny SOB. He’s doesn’t look it on account of his husbandry, but he is a really, really smart dude. And he uses those smarts for some of the funniest, most juvenile scenes I’ve seen in Philadelphia. He could probably, no joke, be an astrophysicist but instead he chose to pretend to be a smartphone eating dinner at a long table with a bunch of weirdos or a boss that won’t give trophies to his employees, and the Philly comedy community is reaping the benefits. His beard is also a lil QT pie.”
Andrew Stanton on Luke Field:
“Luke Field was conceived on the field of battle and that is where he gets his name. As a baby, Luke fought his way out of the hospital. Luke once threw a boy twice his age over a fence. Luke bit a dog. Luke drank an entire lake. Luke once dealt a poker game for the mafia and they didn’t scare him one bit. Luke has seen the edge of space. Luke wrote the lyrics to ‘Ace of Spades’. Luke is coming from inside the house. Luke is dangerously funny. Luke is an incredible improviser. Luke is great.”
Luke Field on Darryl Charles:
“If you were to compare all the nominated male improvisers to sports people (also known as “athletes”), Darryl obviously would be Bo Jackson…because they are both three-sport athletes! (Stop being a racist!) Darryl is an all-star improviser with ComedySportz and the reigning “WitOut Best Improv Team” Hate Speech Committee, much like Bo was a Pro Bowl ball-runner for such-and-such football team. Darryl is an elite stand-up comedian and last year’s winner of “Best Stand-Up Bit,” much like Bo would smack some dingers while playing for America’s team, the Kansas City Royals. And, also, in addition to all that, Darryl is an accomplished sketch writer, contributing to “The Monthly Hour with James Hesky” and “Bird Text,” much like Bo was a noted cartoon personality/crime fighter in the Saturday morning cartoon “ProStars” (third sport). Oh, and did you know Darryl also co-hosts Philadelphia’s best podcast, “CheaPodcast?” And did I forget that fact right up until this very moment and I am adding it in right now? Answer: YES TO BOTH. That’s four sports! One more than Bo Jackson! Darryl Charles is also a noted lover of animals while Bo Jackson was a malicious hunter exclusively of endangered species . You heard it here first folks: Darryl Charles is BETTER than Bo Jackson at comedy, sports and general humanity.”
Alex Newman on Dennis Trafny:
“Dennis Trafny is my bearded brother in arms and fellow metal head. He is an insane genius of improv who plays demented murderers with the same realism as he plays innocent children. Which is horrifying when I stop to think about it. Let’s just say I’m glad he’s on my side.”
Darryl Charles on Andrew Stanton:
“Andrew is awesome, and funny. I’ve seen him perform a bunch and he can switch from short one-liners to long and interweaving stories while keeping his trademark wit and mannerisms intact. That’s good, and hard to do. I like him a bunch, and I’m a fan of his improv too. If anyone was going to win this but me, I’d want it to be Andrew. Sadly, it won’t be. But I’m happy he was nominated.”
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–if you’d like to write one, pitch us your list at email@example.com!
I started losing my hair in high school. All of the fun things I got to do in the 1980s with hair dye are long gone. On top of that, I never had to shave regularly until I was in my late 30s. In the late 1980s all I wanted was cool sideburns, and I had to wait until the trend came back around a couple years ago to almost be able to take advantage of it. I didn’t even have armpit hair until I was in my 20s. I spent most of my teen years too mortified to wear a tank top. I view most men with hair and the ability to grow facial hair wistfully. They have something I’ll never have.
Whenever I see these five guys, I can’t help but think about their hair. And how much I want to possess it.
5. Vegas Lancaster (improv team The N Crowd)
His hair has super powers that I cannot begin to comprehend. If you encounter Vegas in a dark alley, you are simultaneously frightened and awed.
4. Jp Boudwin (sketch group Camp Woods)
He can go from full-on French Canadian couch-surfing drifter to slightly more respectable French Canadian couch-surfing drifter simply by getting a hair cut. Also, when he gets his hair cut, he loses ten pounds in one whack.
3. Jess Carpenter (improv team Iron Lung, Comedian Deconstruction)
If I had the ability to rock full-on Wolverine facial hair like Jess does, I would be an unstoppable sex machine. I would do so much with that superpower, but it remains unattainable.
2. Dennis Trafny (Philly Improv Theater House Team Hey Rube)
Dennis gets the nod over his [improv team] Bierdo brethren because with his bald head and piercing eyes, his head shots make for the best meme generation.
1. Chris Calletta (Philly Improv Theater House Team Hot Dish)
Chris has the perfect hair of every actor in every hair product commercial and/or Francis Ford Coppola film from the early 1970s. Chris, you probably think I’m constantly cruising you, but really, when I’m staring vacantly at you, I’m for real just coveting your hair.
Steve Kleinedler started doing improv in 1982 and studied and performed off and on in the 1980s and 1990s. He began performing at ImprovBoston in 2001 and teaching and directing there in 2004. He performed with IB’s Harold Team Marjean for three years. Steve directed numerous improv troupes and shows at IB, including The Family Show (2004-2007), Backstory (a ‘Memento’-inspired improv show, which he reprised with Hot Dish for the Philly Fringe festival in 2012), and IB’s sketch ensemble The Ruckus (2007-2010). He’s directed numerous one-person shows and scripted plays. At PHIT he currently directs PHIT house team Hot Dish and has appeared onstage in numerous guises, including Half-Life with Nathan Edmondson. He is also a founding member of Shattered Globe Theatre in Chicago.
Follow Witout on Twitter for updates from our site, as well as retweets of more of the best 140-character-or-less jokes from Philly comics.
5) Luke Field – “Hehehe”
You want high energy and high octave? Hear no further than this gem of a chuckle. His giggle is so adorable, it would make a flirtatious school girl just give up on chasing the prom king. Usually positioned in front, you cannot mistake it.
4) Tom Whitaker – “HA!”
Hide grandpa when this character is laughing, because just short of the sirens it could be mistaken for an air-raid. Keeping with the combat terminology, it also isn’t just the low frequency but the positioning. Tom Whitaker is a flanker. Rarely seated, almost always standing on the side, this laugh-vigilante will sneak up and strike when you are least expecting it. No one is safe.
3) Mike Marbach – ______
This is the only qualifier whose laugh can not be transposed onto paper: . That’s right, silence. Nothing. Like a beautiful comedic nymph whose laugh was stolen against his will, it is unclear what he did to upset the Gods. But it is there, and if you listen close enough, it can be magic to your ears. Listen. Closer. Can you hear it? No? Then you are not listening.
2) Cara Schmidt – “HeeHaw!”
More refined than a cackle, just short of a shriek, this lovely ladies laugh could overpower the collective audiences of Dane Cook and Carrot Top combined*. Her to-herself-laugh while reading Sunday comics would embarrass any of your at-the-expense-of-others laughs* (*research pending). You want to feel like a champ? Just tickle this girls funny bone and you have the inside track to “killing it”. Legend has it, she is a big pun connoisseur.
1) Joe Gates – “ggggggha ha”
There are two parts to the Frank Sinatra of Philadelphian laughter. As any good symphonic orchestra, it starts of slowly like a spring-time brook receiving the melting snow from the mountains above. A steady, constant flow of warmth and sincerity. Just when you think its about to end, it crescendos. This vocal maestro smartly adds more bass and the volume climbs until you are in the middle of the Mississippi River, next to Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, laughing too much to realize they are a little bit racist. I would literally perform only for this gentleman and be OK with it.
Mark Leopold is a Philadelphia improviser, sketch comedian, employee, someone-whose-affection-for-cheese-leads-him-to-buy-far-more-than-he actually-ends-up-using-and-in-the-end-probably-wastes-more-than-he-eats-and-just-really-wishes-he-had-that-part-of-his-life-worked-out-a-little-more clearly,and a friend. He is a member of the PHIT house team Hey Rube as well as a new addition to the cast of Comedysportz and he does sketch comedy with his group The Hold-up. When he isn’t doing one of these things he is busy doing other things, like working and laundry, and so while he sincerely wishes he was able to be a real interviewer, the best he is able to do is interview people in his head while he drives different places. Today, while on 95 south, Mark took some time to sit down on a Euclidian plane in his head with Philadelphia improviser and Hey Rube teammate Dennis Trafny.
Mark Leopold: Hey Dennis, it’s me Mark!
Dennis Trafny: Where the hell are we?
ML: It’s a Euclidian plane.
DT: Is this a metaphor?
ML: Nope, just a mathematical plane.
DT: I mean, does the existence of this place inside of you represent some subtle and ignored aspect of who you are?
ML: Uh…maybe. I just thought it would be a neat place to do an interview.
ML: Because it’s a place where math and physics exist perfectly. In the real world, the imperfections of matter prevent those things from being observably true.
DT: This is starting to sound a whole lot like a metaphor.
ML: It’s not a metaphor. Just drop it. I thought you would like it here.
DT: I don’t.
ML: Why not? It’s awesome…math and physics exist as a reali…
DT: Pirate ship.
DT: You should have chosen to interview me on a pirate ship.
DT: Pirate ships are in no way dumb.
ML: Okay fine.
The Euclidian plane, which was totally awesome, fades away and is replaced by a big dumbpirate ship. Mark and Dennis are now suddenly dressed as pirates, which makes no sense at all,but hey, whatever right?
DT: What the hell?
DT: These are the worst pirate outfits ever. They’re not even close to anything authentic.
ML: What did you expect? I have no exposure to pirate culture. My only reference for piracy is a news item from a few years ago and the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
DT: I think you misspelled Carrbiean.
ML: Nope, I had to check with Google, but it’s spelled Caribbean.
DT: You’re sure? Two Bs in a row?
ML: It’s a crazy mixed up world Dennis.
DT: Well either way you could make us look more badass…
ML: Swiss Family Robinson.
ML: There were pirates in that movie as well, but again, they were like cartoon pirates.
DT: Whatever, let’s just shoot cannons or something while we’re here.
ML: Forget this, we’re going back to the Euclidian plane.
DT: No, come on…
ML: Hey, I’m running this interview okay? I’ll do it where I want to do it. I initially thought you’d be psyched about the Euclidian plane…
DT: Why would I be excited about that?
ML: Because you’re a doctor! I thought you’d be impressed.
DT: I’m a veterinarian.
ML: …which is like a doctor.
DT: Not really.
ML: You went to animal medical school and stuff, so it’s like a doctor.
DT: It really isn’t. I mean, when pretty much the first thing you recommend is euthanasia, it’s not exactly…
ML: …this is starting to feel really disrespectful towards veterinarians.
DT: We’re cool with it.
ML: Well you better be. I don’t need Dr. Dolittle showing up at my door…
DT: Okay, now you’re crossing a line dude.
ML: Ugh, whatever. I need to pull over and get some gas anyway.
Dennis stands there on the Euclidian plane dressed like a stupid pirate…and it makes no sense.
Dennis Trafny is a member of new Philly Improv Theater House Team codenamed Brandybuck. He is also a member of independent group Iron Lung.
How and why did you get into comedy? I got into comedy because my family doesn’t think I’m funny. Look who’s on a funny website now, family! I will do anything for spite.
How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? I’m influenced by everyday werido’s, they are my muse. Someone described my style of comedy as “funny”, which felt good. I liken my style to a wolverine stuck on a raft at sea…even if you could rescue it, would you?
Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? I really like performing at the various developing independent comedy scenes in Philadelphia, such as Sketch Playground! at Tabu Lounge & Sports Bar or The Sideshow at The Arts Parlor. I also like to tell jokes at my place of employment because they have to laugh at what I say.
Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? I had a transcendental moment a few months ago during a performance. I remember actively thinking during the scene, “What life choices am I making? Why am I allowing a grown man to rub saliva on my face?”
Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? Process? I just regurgitate my head vomit
What is it about improv (or stand-up, or sketch, whatever you do…) that draws you to it? I’m no better than anyone else, I do it for the money, women and fame….
Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? One of my favorite improv groups is Asteroid! They have a nice ensemble and exemplify the team concept. In the realm of sketch, I was super impressed with The Hold Up as they are very smart and try to get the “harder” laughs. I also genuinely love watching any new-to-stand-up comedian performing/tanking. Very real & very funny. There are some cool, local concepts being filmed in comedy too, such as the Brendan Keegan Show.
Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? One of my first improv shows, while getting the suggestion from the audience, I started making sexual innuendos out of nervousness. As you can probably guess, in the opening scene I was a fish looking for genitalia to bite. I try to be bland and straight forward at the top of the show now and it has made for far less genitalia scenes.
What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow? Somehow, this city needs a face, like Batman.
Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy? I want to live in lore. Next uproar I cause, I am going to immediately head for the exit to never return.