by Kristen Schier
Roughly four years ago an idea was dreamed up by me and my best friend and duo partner Amie Roe that found not only tremendous support but a home with the Philly Improv Theater. This year Duofest has talent coming from Austin, LA, Vancouver, Toronto, DC, London, Detroit, Boston, NYC and also SCOTT ADSIT! It has grown to be a truly exciting international event and I am proud that its home is in Philadelphia.
You might wonder what is so wonderful about improv duos that we need to go ahead and make a whole festival about it.
First, I think most duos may experience difficulty getting into festivals. It is often the case that some festivals have performer fees attached to participation that sometimes skew there taste towards, well, groups with more performers. We wanted to give duos a place to play.
Second, a duo is an amazing way to power-boost your improv skillz and work your improv muscles. When Duofest first started there were only a handful of two-person teams to speak of in Philly. It makes my heart happy that a ton of duos have since formed because it can put improvisers on a fast-track to growth and maturation. A small part of this is that when there are only two of you to wrangle you find that organizing rehearsals and shows is easier, and by virtue of that you find yourself practicing and playing more than you might if you had to rally a larger team. Furthermore, in a duo you learn very quickly that you are not just onstage all the time, you are also in every scene. Talk about scene reps, man o man. You learn by duo-ing. Ha.
A two-person show also forces you to recognize and refine your style as an improviser.
First, there is the task of choosing who you’re going to play with. When selecting a partner you probably consider folks whose work you admire. That requires a certain level of understanding and reflection. In addition to determining on a partner, you also are 50 percent of every show. Having far more responsibility and influence over the direction of a show exposes what you bring to the table. Gaining that type of insight can be invaluable to one’s evolution.
Let’s take a moment and say that even deciding to form a duo in the first place takes balls. You’re all like “We can make up a show on the spot that will be worth seeing, just me and my friend.” Yeah, that is undeniably ballsy— and a big part of improvising is, well, having the balls, or tubes (holla atcha ladies) to step out there in the first place.
Thirdly, a duo exemplifies key elements of improvisation—collaboration and, of course, the two-person scene. The boundlessness of what you can create as an improviser never ceases to amaze me. It is part of the magic of live performance. This really comes to the forefront in a duo in a way that is different from team, or even solo performance. It has some of the “limitations” that give a thrill to solo performance while maintaining the collaborative element that makes a larger team so enjoyable to play on. In short, you can do anything a larger improv team can do with fewer people and all while having a more intimate feel to your creative process. In this way the duo embodies trust and challenges the possible.
Besides all that, at the heart of all good improv shows is one thing: the two-person scene. No matter what the form, the playing style, the philosophy – if you can do an amazing two-person scene, you have got me hooked. I don’t care what you call it; every improv form is like a showcase for a great two-person scene. A form is a house for funny engaging dynamic two-person scenes to live in. A great duo is the necessary, or a most essential version of this house. In that way a great duo is like a great poem. There is only what you need, but there is everything you need.
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 video from Jason Messina (formerly of The Sixth Borough, current New York comedian) is a holiday reminder your aunts and grandmothers would be sure to thank him for.
Just because tomorrow is Christmas does not mean that Open Mic at the Headhouse Cafe will be taking the day off. A Very Funny XMAS at the Headhouse will start at 8pm and continue throughout the night for those comics finished with their celebrating, or the ones that aren’t celebrating at all.
This Friday The Sideshow presents: Know When to Leave, a show hosted by Brendan Kennedy and Shannon Brown featuring performances by ManiPedi, Fastball Pitcher Bob Gutierrez, Bing Supernova, Tim Butterly, Carolyn Busa, Sam Narisi, Kait & Andrew, and more.
Saturday the New Year’s Party at HodgePodge (1212 South St.) will feature “music greats: John Francis, James Klueh, GRIZ and a hodgepodge of standup, improv and sketch comics.”
Delaware Today magazine ran a series of short features on native comedians Ian Fidance, Mikey Gleason, Todd Chappelle, and Shari Short. The article also covers emerging venues for comedy in Delaware and shares some jokes from each of the comedians.
Improv duos can mark your calendar as Duofest has announced registration dates for their 2013 festival. Submissions open February 2, with submission deadlines of February 22 for early submissions and March 2 as the final deadline. Applicants will be notified on March 22 and the lineup announced on April 2. The 2013 Duofest will take place from June 6-9.
If you have any Philly comedy news worth mentioning – send it our way with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
By: Becca Trabin
Twinprov is an improv duo whose show consists of forty-five minutes of improvised rapping and scene work.Twin brothers Clint and Buck Vrazel are in town from Oklahoma this weekend, performing tonight and teaching a workshop at Duofest tomorrow. I talked to Clint about how in the world he and his brother freestyle a forty-five minute improv show.
How did you come up with rapping as your format?
We like a lot of different things– we’ve done a Shakespeare show, relationship comedy, a musical, we even do a show that has no words, so rap is just one thing we do. But rap is just a thing that really took off. We did it through lots of trial and error.
We weren’t allowed to listen to rap music as children, because we’re from small-town Oklahoma, and that’s just the way it was. MTV was banned from the town. So we discovered hip-hop in eighth grade, and before that wed only heard Weird Al Yankovic. So our exposure to quick, intelligent music that rhymed was from that tradition of Monty Python and Weird All. And we were like, “Oh, you can make up your own words and it can be better than the original music.” So we’d make up songs.
I couldnt rap at all five years ago, and three years ago we couldnt keep any beats going. It was a lot of teaching ourselves and our friends. We thought, “We should be able to do this. We can do it for a few seconds, so we can do it for longer, right?” We did the wrong thing for a lot of years, cos we learned improv from watching Whose Line Is It Anyway?, until we finally got exposed to Chicago and the greater improv culture.
But we tried The Hoe Down and we would do Irish Drinking Songs and all these games, and it turns out that thats not how poetry or lyricism or shakespeare, thats not the best way to channel it. That’s not even how your brain works. My brother and I are very interested in patterns and psychology. I have a math degree, he has a psychology degree, and we love to teach. And so we discovered all these ways our brains do work. It was a lot of trial and error, a lot of research. And we can get people rapping now in about an hour and a half if theyre improvisors and about three hours if theyre not. So the exercises we came up with for other people became our own practice.
We didn’t know that we weren’t supposed to be able to do this. We didn’t know, you shouldn’t be able to do a forty-five minute improvised rap concert. We just loved it so much we just kept going. Now it’s like a language that we speak and teach.
You said you were exposed to Chicago. Was there a certain school or teacher who influenced you?
CV: It was 2005, we had a teacher who came down to Oklahoma from Toronto–he’s trained at Second City, he had a degree in Improv and English–you can study that, I guess, in Toronto. He came to Oklahoma for a literature program. He never thought he’d find improv in Oklahoma. He found us messing around in like a food court at the University of Oklahoma, and he said, “Oh, you guys are trying short-form. Here’s how to do it well and here’s how to make improv art.” He taught us long form and got us to go to the Chicago Improv Festival.
He got us to take a workshop, as part of a college thing, and I took a workshop from Andy Carey from the Beat Box, and that really inspired me, and I did a rap battle that really inspired me. Because I’m not mean at all but my first opponent was this little black girl who’s like 4’10”, and here I am, this nerdy, white-guilt oppressor guy, and I’m like, “What’s my suggestion?” And they’re like, “Your opponent is your suggestion.” And I can’t make fun of somebody. I didn’t get into improv and storytelling to strip all that away and make fun of poeple. And so I went down in flames but with my integrity intact, and I’ve since rapped circles around people who try to go negative. Definitely the Beat Box with Andy Carey was very inspirational.
How does freestyling feel different from just improvising regular scene work?
It’s not about thinking rhyme to rhyme. You can stump an improvisor by saying, “Say something funny.” There’s no improv exercise called the Say Something Funny Exercise. There’s a million exercises you can do, but there’s not one called Be Funny. In rapping there’s a million things that often you can do, but not like, “Rhyme.” Rhyming is like, “I have a wish, to eat a dish, that is my fish.” You can sell yourself out really quickly for a rhyme just like you can sell yourself out for a joke. The challenge and fun of rapping is you get to be very expressive and you actually have no time to think. In improv you can take pauses. With rapping that time is reduced so you get to paint more pictures with your words.
It’s great to move into that heightened realm– it makes it more magical and brings the ernergy up even further. As long as you don’t sell yourself out the rhyme can serve you and make something memorable.
Once we go out and we hit that first song, it feels pretty easy. We can’t do any wrong after that. The energy is so high. We’re still truthful, we have points of view, we have characters– you just can’t sell yourself out.
What’s it like having your twin brother as your partner?
It’s as much an advantage as a disadvantage. I trust him to always be with me. But if I’m really out there, it’s like, “Wait I’m the same as you, where did that come from?” I don’t recognize that.” We also push each other. When I look at him I see myself. I say, “Oh, I should be able to do that”. Even though we know we have intrinsic differences. We know I’m the Andre 3000, he’s the Big Boi. Our competitiveness really helps. As far as life experience and stuff, it’s hard to be more varied. It’s like, “Oh, we covered that. He took mine.” We’ve always stolen each others’ stories as twins.
Your show has picked up a lot of steam lately. Do you have any plans for expanding your show beyond a stage show?
We are working on our first album right now. We have, as you might imagine, hundreds of improvised songs now– many demos. And every time we go to a festival we get super charged with energy and we rap in the car all the way there and all the way back. We’ll come with a musician who’s got a little banjo or ukulele or we’ll have Pandora or something. We have so many car recordings that that’s basically our studio. So we’re working on our first album, or albums really, because we have enough for multiple stuff, and we’re looking to start releasing that.
Our stage show, we’re looking to expand. We’ve gone in front of bands and freestyled with them– you know, “You be The Roots and we’ll be the rappers.” We’ll play parties. Sometimes we come in as motivational white rapper speakers and tell kids to stay in school. (Laughs). So we would love to have an album and have some cool music videos and travel more with it.
By: Alison Zeidman
To teenage girls, they’re The Beatles. To Hasidic Jews, they’re lobsters wrapped in bacon burning Israeli flags and eating cheeseburgers. To us, they’re Gross Butler. They’re not trying to offend you; they’re just gonna fuck with you a little bit. And in the end, they really just want to rock your face and steal your heart.
Alison Zeidman: How did you guys meet, and then how did you decide to form your duo?
Alex Gross: Like a year ago Greg [Maughan] would just ask me to ask improvisers to do a show that was supposed to never be seen again, just on Sundays if he needed a group to perform. And so the one day he asked me on Sunday, and I texted about fifteen people, and they all told me maybe, except for Mike; he was like, “YES I’ll do it!”
Mike Butler: I think it was the Saturday before, he asked me. And I don’t know how long before that Greg told you to put together a group. I just assumed that he told you earlier in the week and you just decided on Saturday to start putting it together.
AG: No it was definitely that Saturday, that day.
MB: So Alex said do you want to be in a group, and I said fine, because I knew Alex from Incubator. And he had seen my [PHIT] 101 show earlier in that year as well.
AZ: So you guys did that show together, and just decided to keep going?
AG: Yeah, it was actually a really really good show because uh…yeah, I was just really surprised and Greg was surprised, and we had this sixteen-year-old girl in the audience who was just non-stop laughing. And I was just like, OK, that’s our basic dmeographic.
AZ: Is that semi-serious? Do you guys cater to maybe…a less mature audience?
MB: Oh no, actually our stuff really is mature, a lot of people enjoy it, but on some level I guess sixteen year-olds do really like it. Though Greg told us that at our first performance, there were four Hasidic Jews who had come to the Shubin to see the show, and then walked out in the middle of our performance.
AG: Like the second scene in!
AZ: Can you think of what you might have said or done that would have made them leave?
AG: We were going very religion-heavy at some point.
MB: I thought it was the scene where we were in prison and you peed on me.
AG: That might actually have been it.
MB: And they just kind of walked out, and they didn’t take their money back either. So we have that distinction: Our first performance ever, four Hasidic Jews walked out.
AZ: Is that typical for you guys, to have scenes that are more controversial, or maybe even vulgar at times?
AG: I think it’s a lot about how the audience is responding. Because we’re definitely very much reliant on the audience.
MB: Overall, it’s not like we go out and say, “hey, we’re gonna have the dirtiest show ever.” It’s just our personalities, and we just go wherever it takes us.
AG: Yeah, I don’t think we try to be dirty. I think our show is just dirty because we’re dirty people.
MB: And if you try to be dirty you’re going to fail at it; it’s going to seem forced. But if you’re just naturally…
AG: Fucked up.
MB: I wouldn’t say dirty or fucked up. I like to say aggressive.
AZ: Can you explain what you mean by that?
MB: Usually you see an improv show and if stuff starts to get dirty or raunchy, that wipe comes through, and with us we take the scene for another two or three minutes.
AG: Yeah we’re very patient. The majority of our shows are all five- to six-minute scenes.
MB: We’re lucky if we get to go back to our earlier scenes.
AZ: Do you guys follow a specific format?
MB: We don’t necesarrily have a format. We just start doing scenes and then if we feel like it we go back to an earlier scene.
AG: I feel like the one thing I want from this group is–Philadelphia is very fast. A majority, like my team Hey Rube, we play patient in the beginning but it’s still not long enough. I like to do slow improv, so the one thing I wanted from Mike and I was just to do like five- to six-minute scenes. So that’s our format; we just want to do long scenes. And that’s the only thing that I can say our format is, just being patient.
MB: Yeah, we’re very patient. We just take scenes and go right up to their logical end, even if there’s something dirty in a scene, it isn’t over. It’s like no, we’re going to explore that some more.
AZ: And can you talk about your Krav Maga-inspired inspired opening?
AG: One night I was at home and I was reading an interview with The Vines, and when they were a shitty band and they were just starting out, most of their shows would end with all the bandmates just getting in fistfights, and the audience loved it. And I was like man, I want to get in a fistfight! And so I just was like oh, I’ll do that with Mike, forgetting that he’s trained in MMA.
MB: Yeah, he messaged me at work one day and says “Hey Mike, do you own boxing gloves?” And I said “why yes I do, why?” “I wanna do something where we start off the show boxing each other. ” And I’m like, “OK, that’s fine,” and we worked out how it would work, where we do the clover leaf while we’re punching each other, and I’m like, “OK great, which show do you want to do this on, Tuesday night? Usually I can’t do Tuesday night because I have Israeli Krav Maga class, but that’s fine.” And then he Wikipediaed it really quickly and said “oh my god, you’re a killing machine!”
AG: It’s awful, I hate it. There’s nothing like getting to your first scene and you’re already out of breath and your face hurts.
AZ: So you guys are really boxing each other?
AG: Oh he hits me pretty fucking hard.
MB: I hit him hard enough. I don’t want him to be knocked out and then I have to do the rest of the show alone. But we’re not tapping each other. I’m looking to put a little mustard on each punch and let him feel it, and the crowd gets into it because apparently everybody loves watching Alex get punched.
AG: The first part of the clover leaf is just like warming up, the second one’s really
vicious, and then the third one I’m losing my breath, my face hurts, and most of the time
by the third one my helmet’s ripped off.
MB: Yes, I provide him with a helmet, because I’m used to getting punched in the face and he’s not. So by that third one he’s forgetting the words and I have to remind him which word we’re on.
AZ: So it sounds like even during that you’re still very supportive of each other: You’re helping him remember words, you’re offering him a helmet. What other things, once you get into the meat of your show with scenes, do you think make you guys a good pair?
AG: I like to throw like curve balls–and just for the record we do shows way better when we’re not fighting each other at the beginning, because I sort of…nothing’s like doing an improv scene where your whole left side hurts, and you’re just sort of like fuck you, Mike. I don’t want to be onstage with you anymore, I fucking do not feel like doing this anymore.
MB: But yeah, he likes throwing me curve balls. At our last Grape Room show we were doing a father son bonding scene and he’s like, “yeah, now give me fifty pushups!” and I proceeded to do fifty push-ups onstage, with everybody counting.
AG: And me shooting my hunting rifle in the air. A funny thing about that, it shows you that in improv it’s not all about comedy, it’s just doing the task at hand. You “yes, and”-ed my fifty push-ups, and it ended with the whole crowd fucking applauding the shit out of you for like thirty seconds. They fucking loved the shit out of you after that.
AZ: Is that a recurring thing for you guys, to set your partner up in a scene for something that’s going to be challenging, and maybe even impossible? Is that a conscious game, or does that just happen?
AG: It just happens.
MB: Yeah I don’t think we try, it’s just the way we were trained. I took [PHIT] 201 with Mike Marbach and the main thing I took out of that class was, as Mike would say, “go out on stage and fuck with people.” And that just means go out and have fun with your partner, have fun with your team.
AG: I also know that Mike isn’t going to bail on an idea. If I tell him to be King Tut, he’s gonna be the best King Tut that he can be, and that’s really good. It shows….definitely shows a certain kind of maturity. A lot of [beginner] improv students, you’ll tell them to do something, and they’re so self-conscious, that they’ll either be a really shitty King Tut or they’ll just be like, “I’m not King Tut, I’m an astronaut!” [It’s like saying] fuck you man, I hate your decision. And Mike always accepts it, no matter what.
AZ: Are there any challenges that you feel in performing, either just by the very nature of being in a duo, or for your duo specifically?
MB: The challenging thing about being in a duo is you’re in every scene; you’re always working. I think being in a group, if you’re on the side you can pick up patterns or little extra things more easily, but then when you’re in a duo you’re doing everything at once. But that’s what makes being in a duo fun. And I guess that’s why we have Duofest.
AZ: What are you guys looking forward to about this upcoming duofest?
AG: Free shit. T-shirts. Drink tickets at the bar.
MB: I wanna rock peoples’ faces. I want people coming out of our show going “yeah, fuck yeah, I like these guys.”
AG: Yeah, it’s nice [to be a part of it]. I tried to get into the first Duofest and I didn’t get in, and it’s nice getting into this one, and I appreciate all of the producers for picking us. But it’s just another show. It’s not like I’m more nervous to do this show than any other. Just time to play.
MB: Yeah. Just go out and have fun, just go out and play. That’s what Kristin Schier taught me in [PHIT] 101. So go out and play….go out and fuck with people…and now in the 301 class [with Greg Maughan], don’t throw chairs.
AG: Yeah, Greg Maughan’s a wet blanket.
AZ: Is it OK if I print that?
AG: Add that I love him, too.
By: Alison Zeidman
Full disclosure: The members of this duo were interviewed separately because Greg Maughan was busy prepping for Duofest and running our dearly beloved Philly Improv Theater, and Michael McFarland was busy with moving, starting a new job, getting married in the near future, and other grown-up things. I’ve Frankensteined their answers together here, and you can just use your mind thoughts to picture the two of ’em sittin’ ’round a table, gabbin’ ’bout ‘prov and maybe sharin’ some snacks.
Alison Zeidman: How did you two meet?
Greg Maughan: Mike and I met for the first time in a workshop taught by Matt Holmes in 2005, and afterwards we sat down to talk about an improv group Mike was trying to start. Flash forward a few months and things came together to form a group called Industrial.
AZ: And then how did you decide to form your duo?
Michael McFarland: I moved to New York from Philadelphia about six or seven years ago, and then Jonathan Pitss and I, who runs the Chicago Improv Festival, stayed at Greg’s house during some improv festival in Philadelphia. I think it was during Duofest. And I was like screaming at Greg and drunkenly demanding that he get me food, and Jonathan was like “hey, you guys should do a duo,” and about six months later we decided to do it.
AZ: How long have you been performing as your duo?
GM: Just over a year, although we have performed together for just about 7 years at this point in various groups.
AZ: Where did the name “Michael Loves Greg” come from?
MM: I guess I always threaten to have sex with Greg, and I don’t want it to be…I want him to think it came from a place of love and not just lust. And we also thought on another side of it, after that, that it’s fun to explore the concept of love. Like the name’s open for interpretation: Does Greg love me back? Or am I just obsessed with him? What kind of love do I have for him? Is it as a brother, is it as a friend, is it as a lover? Am I deranged and think I love him but I really just want to get with him? It could be a lot of different things. It’s just a fun concept, and we like to explore the word “love” through our shows.
AZ: Do you perform a specific format?
GM: Not really. We tend to ask the audience for something they love, then maybe interview the person we get the suggestion from a little bit… and then promptly forget everything and just launch into a show. If there’s any underlying format it’s probably that Mike pushes to places he knows I’ll be uncomfortable with and then I get to deal with them.
AZ: Greg, what do you think are Mike’s greatest strengths as a performer?
GM: Mike is just naturally funny–he’s the type of guy you can point at and say “be funny!” and he’ll actually say something funny. He’s also really relentless, he just keeps coming at you in a scene and building the stakes or increasing the tension. It’s really easy to play with him onstage, because if I’m not having a great scene he can always turn it around.
AZ: And Mike, what do you like about Greg as an improviser?
MM: Greg is constantly aware of what my state is and what I’m doing, and if I’m not doing it he’ll do it. If there’s something that needs to be done in the scene and I’m not doing it for some reason or not feeling up to it, he does it. And if I’m exra energetic he’ll lay back and let that extra energy come out of me and then respond to it, and justify it.
AZ: What do you think makes you two work well as a duo?
GM: Honestly, I think it’s just a lot of shared history and trust between us. You have to trust that your scene partner is going to make you look good, and then you have to know your partner so you can tee things up for them. We can do both those things. We’re also very different players. I’m more of a slow burn, and less obvious. Mike likes to put it all out there. It’s a nice ying and yang.
MM: I think it’s a very honest show. I think that we both try and really be as honest as we can in our improv. I use a lot of personal life experiences to guide what my characters do, and I think that Greg does that as well. I also think Greg’s [personality is] a little bit more reserved, just in general, and a little bit more clean-cut and kind of wholesome, and I’m very gregarious; I like to talk about everything, and be very even like, shocking on purpose. So I think onstage it’s really fun to see the contrast of those two personalities, where we’ll always find a common bond for our characters. It’s fun to see two different perspectives be in the same situation onstage.
AZ: What do you like and/or dislike about performing with a duo, as opposed to a team?
GM: Well, I think it’s the same answer for like and dislike: the challenge. When you’ve got a duo you are in every scene and you have to carry the show. It’s really exciting when it’s working, but it’s torture when it isn’t.
MM: Performing with a duo is really great because as a performer, I love stage time, and I love to be out there. And when you have six or eight people you have to share the stage with them, which is just what you do, but with two people you’re in every scene. I’m a big attention whore and it’s just a huge rush to be up there and have every scene involve you. It’s also easier to organize with one person.
AZ: Can you tell me a favorite moment you’ve had as a duo, onstage or off?
GM: Last summer Mike and I got pretty drunk at the Baltimore Improv Festival and he started begging me to take him to a strip club–actually a whole area of strip clubs just off the inner Harbor called “The Block.” He had just recently gotten engaged, and I have never set foot inside a strip club… so I didn’t want to go, and kept giving him drinks at the bar we were visiting until I knew the clubs were all closed. Then we got in a cab and went down there. It was a madhouse. People were everywhere milling around in the street, and there were probably a hundred cops in the three blocks just pushing everyone towards the bus stops, parking lots, etc.
MM: I think we actually just got sandwiches and went back to our hotel room.
AZ: And to close, what are you most looking forward to and/or least looking forward to about Duofest?
GM: Well I’m most looking forward to our show, of course! I’m also looking forward to seeing a lot of friends from all over the country and having the time to hang out with them. Festivals are kind of like weekend-long parties and that is always a lot of fun. But I am certainly not looking forward to the lack of sleep… that will be rough come Monday.
MM: Duofest is great because the audiences are so enthusiastic. And it’s really fun because most of the duos are very close friends, and there’s a really nice bond between all of the groups in general.
See Michael Loves Greg in Duofest at the Shubin Theatre on Friday, June 8th at 7 pm. Get advance tickets (or full weekend passes) online.
By: Alison Zeidman
Half-Life is Steve Kleinedler and Nathan Edmondson, two seasoned improvisers playing two scotch-drinking secret agents. They don’t get drunk onstage. They don’t give each other notes. They did not meet in a bathhouse. But they do have a subtitle (full name: Half-Life: Requiem for the Cold War).
Alison Zeidman: How did you guys meet?
Nathan Edmondson: It was at a bathhouse.
Steve Kleinedler: No. At the the Philly Improv Festival. That was the first time I saw you onstage.
NE: The first time we hung out though, it was after that one Troika.
SK: So we’ll back up. Besides the bathhouse. Did not happen. I saw him perform at a festival, and about a year and a half later some of my troupe in Boston came out to do a one-off Troika night. It was one Philly person and one Boston person and one out-of-town person, and I was on a team with whoever and he was on a team with one of my teammates, and that’s where we met.
AZ: And when did you decide to form Half-Life?
NE: Well Steve moved from Boston to Philadelphia 13 months ago, and Greg had him shadow my [PHIT 201] class, which was kind of funny.
SK: Yeah. I’d been teaching in Boston for seven years and I was gonna teach here. So the first class i shadowed him just because it’s a different curriculum and everything.
NE: So we did that, and about halfway through we decided to do a rehearsal and then we did a show as—what was it, Kleinedmondson?
SK: Yes. Kleinedmondson(sinjin). It’s a reference to A Fish Called Wanda. Anyhow. We did that rehearsal where we were just dicking around after class, and we did a show, and we realized that a lot of our scene work had in common this sort of Twilight Zone element..like we’re being watched, or there’s an “others” quality to it.
NE: They were really serious. And some of the shows we did there would be some of that spy element, kind of. And then we actually had an espionage scene. It just happened and then Steve called me one day and said I know what we should be doing instead of this show that isn’t really working yet.
SK: I identified—and this is what I would do with any troupe that asked me to direct them. I see what they do and then I identify their strong points and base the show around them. Obviously our strong point was this espionage style thing. So we developed this format around that.
AZ: Can you describe your format?
NE: Steve’s smart, and I’m kind of stupid, and we’re both spies, in the Cold War era. It’s pretty much a monoscene.
SK: We get from the audience an event that happened during the Cold War. It can be a real political thing, or—this hasn’t happened yet, although we allow it to be like, “oh my grandfather got married,” or anything. We take that and we put ourselves in that situation, and go from there.
NE: Another thing that’s fun about the way we’ve been doing this is we always play the same two characters, so any backstory that develops, we try to hang onto it.
AZ: How do you keep track of that?
SK: You just do.
NE: Steve remembers everything.
SK: But it’s basic stuff.
NE: But it helps us because it gives us stuff to pull form.
SK: He has a wife named Sheila who he fools around on.
NE: Yeah and I have a kid. Although we’ve never decided if that was a boy or a girl.
SK: So yeah, every show builds on the other, and they’ve been really well received.
NE: Yeah, they’ve been really fun. And we drink whiskey during it. Scotch?
NE: We drink scotch.
AZ: Can you explain that decision?
NE: Well, I think Steve had the vision of us just being onstage in a spotlight. If we were to produce it on our own it’d be like a dark stage with us in a spotlight. Not a lot of movement. So we started the show with the idea that we’re just standing there, and I think we did a rehersal where we just had drinks in our hands?
SK: I think so.
NE: But it fit. It made sense to the era.
AZ: Are you drinking enough alchohol to impede your abilities onstage?
SK: It’s real alcohol, but over the course of a show, it’s maybe a shot.
NE: Maybe two shots.
SK: At most, but over twenty-five minutes. And we start completely sober.
AZ: So drinking isn’t a pre-show ritual. Are there any others?
NE: We go to a bathhouse. Nah, we don’t really do anything. We dress up. We wear ties.
SK: We wanted to go with the black and white look. The footage we’ve shot for the web is black and white, just because it evokes that era. And a shirt and tie…
NE: We’re just like company men, from the ’50s and ’60s. But no, we don’t really have any pre-show rituals.
SK: We don’t even warm up. We just hang out and connect. When you find the right scene partner and it just kind of clicks, the warm-up comes from us knowing each other, and our weekly banter whenever we see each other.
NE: And in shows where things didn’t feel like they were going well, I’ve noticed it’s because we aren’t looking at each other or checking in. As soon as we actually look at each other, and make eye contact, it’s like oh fuck, ok, it’s easy. And the show gets better.
AZ: Do you guys have any sense of what’s behind that connection? Or specific strengths that you each have that make the two of you a good fit?
SK: I think it’s idiosyncratic. I think it’s just the personalities.
NE: Yeah, I think we complement each other well. I ‘m not a total idiot, but Steve knows so much factual information, it’s mind-blowing, and I don’t remember that kind of stuff, so he’s kind of the brain of the group, and—
SK: He’s the sex symbol.
NE: [Laughs] Yes, I’m the sex symbol. Embarrassing. But yeah, it’s a good dynamic, because I personally always love the “Joey” character from any show, the dumb guy, so this is my opportunity to play that. Although I wouldn’t say that my character’s totally dumb.
AZ: It seems like you guys have given a lot of thought to this act conceptually, visually…have you thought about doing something more with it, doing a Fringe show, or something like that?
SK: Well we’re doing Duofest, and we’ve applied to Baltimore and Detroit. We’ll apply to some other things. We’ve done some web shorts.
NE: I would like to do more of those, too. We’ll probably get two or three videos out of our first footage.
SK: I live in a loft building, so we spent a day there.
NE: We shot like twenty-five minutes of footage, and we’ve just been mining it for little thirty-second skits.
AZ: You’ve both had the experience of being on a duo and also on a team. Can you talk about things that you prefer about being in a duo, and/or things that you dont like as much about being in a duo, if there are any?
SK: It sounds silly, but honestly it’s huge: Logistically, it is so much easier to arrange stuff when you only have to deal with one other person instead or five or six other people.
NE: From rehearsals, to who’s in the next scene.
SK: I’ve been in a fair number of troupes, and I love them dearly, but when there’s a lot of people you have to take all these schedules into account. On the flip side, I know I have a very narrow range. I’m primarily a teacher and a director. One reason I like Half-Life is the character I play is about the only character I can play. That’s not exactly true, but it’s close enough.
NE: Well it’s playing to your strength. And it works really well.
SK: So in that regard, something like this suits me better than a team that is doing montages. I think what’s key for any improviser is to find a group that plays to your strengths, and the fewer the number of people in the cast, the more you have to find a structure that plays to your strengths.
NE: Yeah. And just to go back a little bit, I don’t think we responded to [your earlier question] much, we did think about what the show was going to be like. There was a lot of thought put into it over a long period of time.
SK: Our first rehearsal was last summer, and then we goofed around for a couple months before we had a show.
NE: As soon as we had a concept that fit, it made everything so easy. And I think it’s good to put that work in for groups, like, “what are we doing? what are we trying to accomplish?” It’s just easier.
AZ: How much time do you guys spend discussing things and working out details for the show?
SK: For regular shows and festivals and stuff, it’s just taking into account what space we’re in, and making tweaks, but as we’ve done it the show has been tweaked here and there, and before the first show we did a couple rehearsals where we would just run twenty minute scenes and see how it felt, and we would just try different techniques. Originally we were going to have a certain number of flashbacks done in a certain style, and it’s kind of morphed into this thing where there’s probably one flashback in a twenty-minute scene.
NE: Every show we learn, and we talk about it right afterwards.
AZ: Can that be difficult, when you’re sort of directing your own show and maybe even critiquing each other’s performance?
SK: A lot of people in the community have heard me rail against improv troupes that don’t have a director or a coach, and as a general rule I think that’s absolutely [necessary]. Improv groups need a coach. This is a little different. You have a little more leeway when it’s a two-person show I think, because when you get more than two people a tiny bit of ego gets in the way, whereas when you’re paired up with someone you work well with that’s less of an issue. And I’ve done this long enoguh that I kind of have a sense about what we’re doing. I still encourage people to have coaches, but I’m just not following my own advice. And we don’t really give each other notes. We talk about what we like and what didn’t work and we’re usually in agreement.
NE: I think also, we’re very self-critical. So we’re giving ourselves notes constantly. A lot of the note-giving is me talking about my stuff, and then him giving response, gauging whether my interpretation of what happened is right or not.
SK: And vice versa. I’ve been doing this off and on for thirty years, and after about the ten-year point, things just kind of click in a way, and then after you start directing and teaching it clicks even more, and the more you direct and the more you teach, the easier your work becomes.
NE: And also at a certain point you realize if you get your hands too much in it, you’re just gonna screw it up. You just have to let it breathe and let it happen.
SK: And that’s what I do when I direct groups too, or scripted plays. I just come up with a format and let them loose. After the first table read I get them up ontage with a script and have them move around and I write down what they do, and a lot of that works its way into my blocking. So I guess I’m giving myself—oh no, I’m not going to say that, that sounds so pretentious.
NE: Giving yourself a blowjob?
SK: No, giving myself the trust that I give other actors.
NE: Oh OK. That is pretty pretentious.
AZ: So just to wrap up, what are you guys looking forward to about Duofest?
SK: I did Duofest two years ago [when I still lived in Boston], and it’s a lot of fun, and there’s a lot of really great groups, and it’s nice to be in Philly representing Philly.
NE: I’m looking forward to being interviewed by WitOut. And I’ve missed every Duofest, because I’ve been either out of town or had other commitments, so I’m looking forward to just seeing shows, and being a part of it. And I like that it’s specific. Are there other Duofests?
SK: No. There are so many improv festivals, but this is something—every city has a festival, but this is a very specific thing unique to Philly.
NE: And duos are an important part of the improv world, so I think people that do them appreciate it. I think it becomes this thing that happens to most improvisers if they stick with it, so it’s a different kind of show than a group of even three or four. It’s a whole other entity. It’s nothing really special, but it’s something.
See Half-Life perform in Duofest at the Shubin Theatre on Thursday, June 7th at 10 pm. Get advance tickets (or full weekend passes) online.
By: Alison Zeidman
In the year 2007, during a great time of growth for the Philadelphia improv scene, one man set out on a mission to team up in one-off shows with as many of the city’s players as possible. By 2008, subconsciously fueled by short form improv experience and a particular Andy Kaufman performance he’d obsessed over in his youth, that man decided to forge a more challenging show partnership: scenes with audience members encountering him–and improv–for the very first time. The name of that man is Matt Holmes, and the name of his “duo” is Matt&.
Alison Zeidman: For people who aren’t familiar what you do, can you explain what Matt& is?
Matt Holmes: It’s a show that I do with an audience member, and I try to look for somebody who is not a performer themselves. I usually ask if there is anybody there seeing improv for the very first time ever. And then I pull them up onstage.
AZ: Is it sometimes difficult to get them to go up there with you?
MH: The rest of the audience tends to overzealously cheer them on as soon as the concept is brought up, so there’s only been once or twice where the person has been really like oh, no, I don’t want to, or just flat out refused. Then I bring them up onstage and I tell them that the responsibility is all on me for making it all work, and they have free reign to do and say whatever they want, and to purposefully try to mess me up if they want to. Then that gives me the opportunity to show off my skills and make things that for any other improv group might be sort of a stumbling block or a challenge into something impressive.
AZ: Is there a specific format that you follow for these shows?
MH: By the very nature of how it works I sort of have to be flexible, and I kind of prefer to work that way. I’ve been in a bunch of different groups and projects before, and I’m always the one who wants to keep it less rigid. So with this show even if I tried to have an idea sketched out of [how I’ll do scenes], it’s probably not going to work out that way anyway. So sometimes it’s just scene after scene with whatever pops up into my head, and sometimes it’s more like a Harold where things will come back or there’ll be patterns, but I really have to not be too precious about format.
AZ: When you’re doing these shows, do you feel more or less in control than when you’re doing a show with an actual improv group? On the one hand it’s so loose and you’re with this person who’s never done a show before, and you can’t really follow a format, but on the other hand being the only experienced performer onstage means you can drive the scenes and drive the action.
MH: Yeah, that’s one of the many dichotomies that I think is present in my show, is…maybe more than any show I’ve done, it’s exhilirating and a challenge and I still get nervous and find it thrilling, but at the same time I’m more relaxed when I’m actually doing it and it’s working and things are just falling into place. So yeah, it’s kind of yes and no, I’m both in control and allowing myself to be not in control.
AZ: Are there specific things that you like or dislike about performing with an audience member versus being in a larger improv group? You started to get into that with how you prefer the looser format, but are there any other things where having half of your group being inexperienced gives you more freedom?
MH: Yeah, I think it really falls right into place with how I like to work. I’m kind of a stage hog. I like to be out a lot when I’m in a group, and in this show I’m in every scene. And I’m not always as good at supporting other peoples’ ideas and playing well with others in any other show, but in Matt& I have to. I have to take whatever this audience member brings and utilize it. And it works best that way.
AZ: Can you think of any other ways in which performing with Matt& has enhanced your improv skills in general? It sounds like it forces you to be more agreeable and be more supportive of your scene partner. Are there any other things where you’ve really noticed it improving your skills, and where you ‘ve been able to bring back some of those things to your group performances?
MH: I think it’s helped me be truly relaxed and flexible as a performer, and also be more confident and personable hosting and introducing a show, and talking with somebody not as a character beforehand, and then playing with them and helping them through what can be kind of an awkward situation for them.
AZ: So in general, you’re more comfortable being a character in a show setting than you are being yourself?
MH: Yeah. [Laughs.] I’m not nervous at all about being in some embarrassing situation. One time I had to kind of improvise a song, one time I had to improvise a poem as a gym teacher, you know, weird, awkward, embarrrasssing things. That doesn’t bother me, because it’s not me. It’s just some weird character, so I sort of get to lose myself and hide behind that. But hosting and talking to the crowd after and being myself, that’s more of a challenge for me. And I think probably for a lot of performers, in all art forms.
AZ: Is this a little bit uncomfortable for you now, speaking about yourself and your own performance?
MH: Well no, I’m getting better at it now, from having to do it at the begining of each Matt& show. I’ve had some shows where the audience member kind of demands that we stop playing as a character for a bit, and get back to the one-on-one interview part as ourselves. There was one show I did when Penn State had an improv festival, and I got an audience member, and it started off like all Matt& shows start off, with “who am I?” and “who are you?” and getting to know each other, and then we got into a scene and that was over, and I wanted to get into another scene and play another character, and she wanted to get back to interviewing each other. So It sort of became that pattern of I have to be myself again, now I get to do a scene, now we have to be ourselves again, now we get to do a scene. And that became this great challenge where at the end I kind of wove those together into her playing my therapist, and working in factors of my own life, and the whole audience got on board with why that was so interesting, because everything that was in the show led up to it.
AZ: When you do the interview with the audience member, is that how you usually generate your material for the scenes to come, or do you get a suggestion from the audience once you have your partner up there with you?
MH: I’ll always get a one-word sgugestion to inspire the show just because I like that aspect of improv. I like exploring the scene or disecting a word or whatever that word leads to, but sometimes elements from interviewing my partner will come back later or I’ll use them. A lot of times I don’t, but it’s always good for a laugh and interesting to the scene when I do.
AZ: Has an audience member ever taken you by surprise with their adaptability, or have they ever just displayed some sort of surprising inherent improv skill, even if they’re just getting up there for the first time?
MH: Yeah, surprise is probably a big, big part of my show. Me being surprised to have to play with somebody who’s really hesitant at first, and then the surprise when they start playing along and offering things. Surprise when somebody leaves the stage and I have to figure out what that means for the story, and how to work that. That’s happened a lot.
AZ: Do they come back after they leave?
MH: One time I brought them back, and one time I kind of worked it in like I was yelling up at them in the balcony of their window, kind of a Romeo and Juliet serenade thing, and then I ended the set after that scene instead of trying to convince her to come back onstage. But yeah in terms of being surprised at how good they are, that happens a lot more than you would think. I’ve had people have these great insights into a cultural reference that we’re bringing, where they’ll bring back stuff the way that a really good improviser will, or they’ll make these jokes that you’d swear they had written beforehand. There are a lot of great surprises. The one that stands out because it’s such a “joke,” is when I was at the Del Close Marathon, my first time performing Matt& there, and the show was going really well. I was really pleased with how well it was going, and then at a certain point my audience member partner, who was not a performer and hadn’t taken an improv class or anything like that, brought up the concept of if you were to rape a prostitute, would it be rape or would it be theft? And it got this huge laugh. Afterwards I went and Googled to see if that was from some movie or TV show, but I think that, you know, it somehow came up in the story, and I think she just said it off the cuff, and it was great.
See Matt& perform in Duofest at the Shubin Theatre on Saturday, June 9th at 9 pm. Get advance tickets (or full weekend passes) online.
Last night, the seventh annual Philly’s Phunniest Person Contest kicked off at Helium Comedy Club. This year, over 150 comedians will compete in 11 preliminary rounds for the chance to move on to the semi-finals, and eventually the finals, where one will be named Philly’s “Phunniest”. Last night, James Hesky, Omar Scruggs, and Vince Patterson moved on to the next round. The competition continues next Monday, June 11 and the opening round continues on Sunday and Monday nights until August 13 (full schedule here).
This weekend marked the debut of two new Philly Improv Theater House Teams. Davenger (formerly Codename Westmarch) and Hot Dish (formerly Codename Strider) took the stage with UCB team Surfing Friday night to two sold out shows and returned to packed housed at PHIT again on Saturday night. If you missed it, you can read the two new teams introduce themselves to the world through Witout here (Davenger) and here (Hot Dish).
This weekend Philly Improv Theater will host the third annual Duofest, a celebration of improv duos from across the country. Shows start Thursday night and continue through until Sunday. Improv workshops taught by Jill Bernard, Joe Bill, Rachel & Dave, and Twinprov are also being held. Also – be on the lookout for more Duofest Interviews this week, here on Witout.
The lineup and date for the next Camp Woods Plus at L’etage (6th and Bainbridge) has been announced. Their next monthly show will be Wednesday, June 13th at 8:00PM and will feature brand new sketches from Camp Woods as well as guests The New Dreamz and Angel Yau.
Friday, June 15th, Mani Pedi will host their second ManiParty, this time at Connie’s Ric Rac (1132 S. 9th St.) Mani Pedi will welcome guests Carolyn Busa and American Breakfast. Doors for the event open at 8:00PM and the show begins at 9, with a dance party following the comedy. Tickets for ManiParty are $10 and include free ice cream.
By: Alison Zeidman
In preparation for next week’s Duofest – Alison Zeidman has done a series of interviews with some of the groups performing in the festival. First up is Philadelphia favorites Rosen & Milkshake. Keep an eye out for a cameo appearance from another Duofest performer (I won’t ruin the surprise).
When their two other compatriots from Mr. Lizard (a 2008 Troika team) abandoned them for new lives and families down south, founding Improv Incubator members Charles Rosen and the beloved player best known simply as Milkshake decided to continue performing as a duo. After lengthy debate over what they’d themselves, they settled on a straightforward, purely descriptive new name: Rosen & Milkshake.
Alison Zeidman: So how did you guys meet?
Milkshake: I was taking a class with ComedySportz and so was Charles–I was level two, I think Charles was level three, and we met at the class show. Two and three had their show the same day I guess.
Charles Rosen: And then soon after Incubator started. We’re founding Incubators.
AZ: Is that when you decided to form your duo?
M: No, the duo didn’t start as a duo. How did Mr. Lizard start?
CR: That was a Troika group.
M: Mr. Lizard was a Troika group with Charles and two other players, both of whom have moved south. It was the three of them and then they asked me to play in one show, and then I just kept playing in other shows, and then one by one they moved off and it was just me and Charles, and I was like, this is no longer Mr. Lizard anymore. [phone rings]
M: I meant to shut this off! This is Kristen Schier, calling during an interview, and that’ s my fault, entirely. Entirely my fault, that’s terrible. [On phone] Is eveything OK?
Kristen Schier [on speakerphone]: Yeah everything’s fine. I didn’t catch what you said because a bus went past.
M: We’re doing an interview. Rosen & Milkshake are being interviewed for WitOut, at this very moment.
KS: Oh OK, well I don’t want to interrupt that!
M: Is everything OK? Can I do anything for you before I click back over to our interview?
KS: Oh no I just called to idly chat, so I will let you go.
M: OK, I’ll talk to you soon. [hangs up] …Adorable.
Alison Zeidman: So how long ago did Mr. Lizard start, and then how long have you two been together as Rosen & Milkshake?
Charles Rosen: Mr. Lizard was 2008 Troika, and that was the year that we could all pick our own groups.
Milkshake: [We’ve been performing as Rosen & Milkshake] I believe at least a couple years. How many shows do you think we’ve done as a duo? That’s what I want to know, because I remember the first show that we did and it was just the two of us, and I was concerned because we were expecting John Bussman [of Mr. Lizard] to be able to be there, and it went surprisingly well. I remember being very calm and relaxed, because the audience was dynamite. The audience was very receptive to whatever we were doing.
AZ: Did that influence your decision to become a duo later on, when the other members of Mr. Lizard had all moved away?
M: Well not necessarily, because we also had a really shitty show. The next time we did the duo it was not very strong, to me. I’m very critical of my own performances, and if I don’t like most of the things that I’m doing, I’m really not happy.
AZ: When you guys perform, do you have a specific format or structure?
M: We pretty much stick to a monoscene.
CR: But with a lot of ghost characters in there.
M: By ghosts we mean like, because there’s only two of us, if over in the corner someone is sitting down watching TV, and whoever’s playing that character needs to run over to the other side of the room to portray another character, that guy’s still there down in the corner watching TV. That’s what we mean by ghost characters. Not…ghosts.
CR: Yeah, that would be like the Scooby Doo format.
AZ: Charles, tell me what you think are Milkshake’s greatest improv strengths.
M: Oh, do go on.
CR: Well, he’s very good at reacting to the shit I give him. And object work, his object work is excellent. Which is definitely not the case with me.
AZ: And Milkshake, what would you say about Charles?
M: Charles can say things that nobody else could make funny. And oftentimes it doesn’t even need to be a fantastic character choice, and all I have to do is just lob things, just put objects in front of him to kick out of the field–to knock out of the park. To be specific, there was one character where we did a show at the library [as Mr. Lizard], and I’ve watched this scene over and over and over again because it was captured on video. Charles was a momma’s boy, and John was scanning items at a checkout counter at a Pathmark, and I was operating another scanner, and I was like “Oh, look who’s here, it’s the momma’s boy!” and we were like “Oh, are you here with your momma?” And he said, “actually, yes, she’s buying groceries.” And the way that it comes out of his mouth, nobody could deliver lines like this and get his kind of reation, because of his emotional quality and his cadence, the rhythm with which he speaks. There are things that are completely innocuous if they were said by somebody else, but when they come out of the mouth of Charles Rosen it’s just–it makes my job a lot easier because I just have to kind of wait for him to find something to say.
AZ: What do you guys like about performing in your duo versus performing in a group?
M: The cool thing about doing a duo is that you’re in every scene–and sometimes twice, because you have to do more in every scene. And it’s a lot of work, but that’s a lot of fun. And with Rosen & Milkshake, I think I feel particularly…in control, and not needing to be in control at the same time. It should be that way of every group, but I don’t always feel that way. So I get to be in every scene, I get to be in every scene with this guy, and that’s as close as I can get it–I feel a sense of control, without needing to be in control.
CR: It’s definitely different being in a duo. I don’t work with groups that often. I was on a group called Atomic Love which is on hiatus, and now I’m doing the [PHIT] Conservatory show, and it’s a lot different. You have a backline, and I’m so used to not being on the backline; I’m always in every scene.
AZ: Are there any challenges that you guys have as a duo?
M: It’s difficult doing one another’s character. I find Charles inimitable, and so any endearing qualities that he has, if I try to do them, I just sound like a narcissistic asshole. Every time I think the audience is going to love me doing his character, and it just doesn’t work. They don’t care. They’re pleased that the scene is still happening, but they are not pleased with my impersonation.
CR: And in our last F Harold show Milkshake was doing a Russian accent, and I don’ t really have a Russian accent, so when I was being his character–
M: Can you try? [in Russian accent] Can you do a Russian accent right now?
CR: [in “Russian” accent] I will try to do Russian accent.
M: That was probably more Ukraine. Or Ottoman Empire.
CR: So [in the show] it kind of became a little game that I couldn’t get the accent exactly right.
AZ: What are you guys looking forward to about performing in Duofest?
M: How’s our slot in Duofest? Let’s comment on that.
CR: We’re opening slot. It’s like 8 o’clock on Thursday.
M: Not a bad slot. Not a bad slot.
CR: Yeah, that’s a good slot. And it’s actually really good because my mom is giong to be able to come for it. So it worked out well. But Duofest is always a lot of fun, it’s such a great weekend. There are so many great duos coming in.
See Milkshake & Rosen perform in Duofest at the Shubin Theatre on Thursday, June 7th at 8 pm. Get advance tickets (or full weekend passes) at http://duofest.ticketleap.com/duofest-2012-thursday-8pm.