by: Doogie Horner
1. Your name is hard to spell (and being Polish didn’t help either).
2. Congratulations, you’re number 51!
3. The editors at Vulture can’t remember whether or not you’re dead, and they don’t feel like googling it.
4. Maybe people refuse to take you seriously because you never stop clowning around?
5. Too edgy!
6. Not edgy enough.
7. You only perform in North Korea.
8. People should know you, but won’t.
9. People shouldn’t know you, but will.
10. You’re always eating a sandwich on stage and it makes it hard to understand you sometimes.
11. Your tenure as 42nd President of the United States overshadows your comedy career.
12. Crooked candy corn teeth
13. You’re not funny, so just knock it off.
14. Politics! (see reason 11)
Doogie Horner is a comedian, author, and graphic designer. He is a suppurating wound of comedy.
If you are a Philadelphia comedy performer that produces a podcast, web series, sketch video, humor column, or any other online content let us know by emailing us at email@example.com so we can share it!
If you are a Philadelphia comedy performer that produces a podcast, web series, sketch video, humor column, or any other online content let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can share it!
Here’s a humor piece from local writer and WitOut reporter Brandon Ryan.
Have you ever attended a house party and been subsequently unable to locate its host?
Here’s a simple fix:
First, locate the kitchen.
Find the refrigerator (some people call this the “ice box” [because they are old, and lived in a time where it was common practice for the average American to maintain a box-shaped igloo in the kitchen]).
Begin to take food out of said refrigerator and stack it, Jenga-like, on the floor.
Be sure to place delicate items at the base of the stack.
As people tend to get very defensive about the way in which their food is stacked, the host should arrive presently.
Still no host?
Move to the kitchen’s electrical appliances.
Ever wonder what it would smell like to cook mayonnaise in a toaster?
Or better yet, to cook mayonnaise in a toaster while the toaster bakes in the oven?
Now is the time to find out.
As people tend to get very defensive about attempting to use their appliances to cook still other appliances, the host should certainly arrive presently.
STILL NO HOST?
Locate the blender.
Dig eggs and raw chicken from the Jenga-like stack of food you’ve assembled on the floor.
Add the eggs and chicken to the blender.
Now add steak knives.
Do not attach the blender’s lid.
Don protective eye wear (safety first!) and depress the MAX BLEND button.
As people tend to get very angry when you blend their steak knives (especially when they become aware that you have also attempted to cook their appliances using still other appliances), the host should without a doubt arrive presently.
STILL NO HOST?!
Then there likely never was one.
By: Greg Maughan
1. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
2. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
3. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
4. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
5. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
6. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
7. If you are considering dating someone in your improv group and you are both straight but of the opposite sex, consider talking yourself into having gender reassignment surgery. If that doesn’t work, convince the person you are interested in to undergo the sex change. This approach also works for homosexual improv group members who are both of the same gender at the beginning of the attraction.
8. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
Greg Maughan is the Executive Director of Philly Improv Theater, currently in their first of a six week run of shows at The Shubin Theater (407 Bainbridge St. Philadelphia). You can find their schedule and purchase tickets online.
By: Matt Holmes
The overly eager and overly early arrive to find a locked building with no signage. They wait.
The regularly early arrive. Everyone meets everyone else and discusses the situation. They wait.
Somebody arrives to open the door.
The workshop instructor arrives, says hi to everybody and goes to the bathroom.
The instructor tells everybody that they’ll start in five minutes and give people a little more time.
“Well, I guess we’ll get started.”
12:11 – 12:13:
Roll call with three people not present
12:13 – 12:17:
Sitting in a circle as the first three people briefly introduce themselves, their complete improv background, an attempt at a joke, and a self-deprecating comment
12:17 – 12:19:
The fourth person in the circle goes into every last detail of her life leading up to this point.
12:19 – 12:20:
The rest of the people introduce themselves briefly.
12:20 – 12:25:
Instructor explains the plan for the workshop, now for the first time really thinking about it.
12:25 – 12:40:
A basic warm-up that’s overly simplistic for all but two participants who can’t grasp the mechanics or have like absolutely no rhythm or just can’t think of anything or have a really bad memory, so sorry everybody
A late student arrives, complaining about traffic and parking, while carrying a coffee.
12:41 – 12:53:
Instructor explains in complete detail how the first exercise will work and how we’re pressed for time because most real workshops are at least three hours and this one, for some strange reason, is only two and a half, which really is not enough time.
12-53 – 1:10:
3-Line Scenes, alternating between jokey punchlines and confused arguments
1:10 – 1:17:
An open discussion about the previous exercise, trying to remember what happened, while highlighting problems and explaining rules of what never to do and what always to do
1:18 – 1:30:
An exercise focused on loose organic transitions and freeing yourself up to follow wherever it goes and being open
1:30 – 1:40:
An open discussion about the previous exercise, trying to remember what happened while highlighting problems and explaining rules of what never to do and what always to do
1:40 – 1:45:
Instructor asks everyone how they’re feeling about the work, everyone shrugs their shoulders and says they feel okay but wish they were doing better, and one student speaks at length about confusions and specific examples of “just not getting it”
“Let’s take a ten-minute break to hit the bathroom, feed the meter, take a smoke break, etc.”
One student has to leave early and thanks the instructor.
“Okay, I guess we should get back to it. Let’s circle up and get warmed up again.”
2:00 – 2:04:
A children’s game with vague connections to theatricality
2:04 – 2:07:
Two students improvise a patient, engaging scene with an interesting point to it.
2:07 – 2:09:
Instructor points out that we didn’t know the characters’ names, if they were sisters or just friends, and that it wasn’t clear if they were in a restaurant or in somebody’s kitchen.
2:09 – 2:17:
Four more improvised scenes struggling to be coherent and interesting
2:17 – 2:22:
Instructor shifts gears into a series of scenes where students tag each other out.
2:22 – 2:25:
Students discuss the scenes, most citing that they were just about to do something good before they got tagged out.
2:25 – 2:34:
Another round of scenes with tag-outs; students now make quicker punchlines
“Well, we’re a little over the time when we were supposed to end. Does anybody mind if we go a little longer?”
2:34 – 2:41:
Another round of scenes with tag-outs; instructor pauses each scene to discuss how truthful the scenes feel and then having them continue
Instructor thanks everybody for coming and ends the workshop
2:43 – 2:50:
Casual discussion among students and instructor
An overly eager student arrives for a workshop scheduled to start at 3.
Mike Marbach is an improvisor living in Philadelphia. He is the Education Director and teacher at Philly Improv Theater as well as the coach of PHIT house team Asteroid. Sometimes he likes to write letters to companies.
Greetings and Salutations,
Here ye, Here ye. On this, the 26th day of March in the year two thousand and twelve, I hereby demand to hold court with the Burger King. The request herein I dare say be not a harbinger of well-done’s being sent your way. Had it been written in years past when my love affair with the king of burgers was built on ground more solid than the boulder on which I lay writing this correspondence on this warm summer morn, rather than a cracking and crumbling foundation akin to that of the Cumbra Vieja of the Canary Isles that will one day plunge into the heart of the Atlantic as my love once plunged into the heart of the king’s offerings, perhaps then these thoughts conveyed will have been done so in a kinder tone. Sadly this be not the case and my heart aches as a result. Wherefore it is such that this mind cannot easily forgive nor forget any offense against its master is a burden I, and now we, must bear. Aye, we. We are in this together now. So where then doeth we go from here? Perhaps to the reasons for which I’ve taken such action.
To get to one of the issues I further request that you travel back a few years with me. Figuratively I mean that of course. I have not a machine with which I can transport us through space and time the likes of Dr. Emmett Brown’s DeLoreon or The Doctor’s TARDIS. Had I such a machine I wouldst then have my hands full traveling through time preventing tragedies from happening. Terrible things such as the cancellation of HBO’s old west drama, Deadwood. I am not sure how much I could do with to prevent it even given the power of time travel. I guess I would have to somehow infiltrate the HBO organization as president so that I would then be able to sway the decision to keep or cancel when the time came. Maybe I could just go back in time and really try to drum up support for the show so more people would watch or gather up a bunch of money from people that have come to love the show after it had ended and then take it back in time to HBO and pay them to keep it on the air. What would they have to lose? They keep the critically acclaimed show on the air and don’t have to pay a dime. I guess I won’t waste your time with a personal debate on the method I’d use to save Deadwood. Instead let me jump into one of the issues at hand- the Spicy Tendercrisp Chicken sandwich.
I like chicken. I like liver. Meow mix meow mix please deliver. Remember that jingle? I actually do like both Chicken and liver. Not together though. Well maybe together, but I’ve never had it together. Many people don’t like liver. And to be honest, based on my eating habits I probably shouldn’t like liver either. I’m what you’d call a “picky eater”. At least I’ve been called that by others. I’m assuming you’d call me that as well. All my life I’ve been made fun of. Laughed at and persecuted for my very selective palate. I don’t particularly like many fruits or vegetables. I also don’t really like a lot of different condiments either. So if there’s a bunch of different things on a sandwich I order I probably won’t eat it. I always need to make a point to say “Buddy, hold everything but the meat and the bread” just so I don’t get any lettuce, tomatoes, mayo and what-have-you piled on. A lot of people will say, “Hey there, Friend. Why don’t you just scrape off the extra stuff?” To that I say, “Because you can’t”. You can’t just scrape off something liquid. It attaches itself to the chicken. Especially if said chicken is breaded. Maybe if it was a grilled chicken it could then be wiped off a bit easier, but a breaded patty doesn’t allow for that sort of “undo” button. The liquid infiltrates the meat just as I would have to infiltrate HBO to save Deadwood. It simply can’t be done. And don’t get me started on the effect it has on the bread…
There has actually only been one condiment that I’ve been able to get at Burger King that I would gladly have on my chicken sandwich. The spicy sauce that was served a few years back on the Spicy Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich. What happened to that sauce? It was there and as fast as you can say “James Gandolfini” it was gone. Why? Where did it go? It was fantastic! It was there one day and gone the next. I’ve snuck in Burger Kings from Kiev to Carolina. Even went from Berlin down to Belize. I then took a slow boat to China. I even went from Nashville to Norway, Bonaire to Zimbabwe, Chicago to Czechoslovakia and back! But tell me where in the world is the Spicy Chicken sauce? It was a bit of a wasted trip. Did you know that there are no Burger Kings in Zimbabwe and that Czechoslovakia isn’t even a country anymore? Yeah, it’s actually two countries now, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Apparently there are a slew of new countries that formed shortly after I finished learning European geography in 6th grade with Sr. Fran Small. As soon as I’m done writing this letter I have taken off some time from work so that I am able to update my map room. I also have many apology letters to write to the makers of Trivial Pursuit. It would seem the cards were correct.
The point remains- where’s the sauce? Much like Czechoslovakia disappeared, the spicy sauce seems to have vanished without a trace. Erased from existence. Actually that’s what I’ll do if I get a time machine. Maybe THIS is the tragedy that I’d work to undo. I’d go back in time to before the Spicy Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich was eliminated from the menu and do something to somehow make it so it doesn’t get removed from the menu. Clearly the specifics of this plan need work with lack of time machine notwithstanding. Again I ask, where’s the sauce? In its place was something far less superior- the value spicy chicken sandwich. Those are $1 compared to the $3.50 or so for the Spicy Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich. Sure, they are as tasty as they are cheap, however my buds deserve more than that. I speak of both my taste buds and buds in the friends sense. Also, I have a friend named Bud, so I guess I also speak of Bud’s as it relates to him. He was a big fan of the spicy tendercrisp chicken sandwich as well.
I just miss it is all. I’d go to BK all the time to get it. And the sauce just did it for me. Please get back to me when you can and let me know what’s become of it and if I might ever see it again. If I can’t see it on a menu, perhaps you can send some to me. There’s got to be a stockpile of it somewhere in the Burger Kingdom. By this time though it may be past its expiration date. Actually, that’s what I’ll do with my time machine. Drive into the Buger Kingdom to where the sauce is storedd- most likely guarded by gun toting henchmen- and get it. Again, the plans need work. First I don’t think I’d need a time machine so much as a car. Oh and someone to drive it since I do not yet have a license. Though if I’m ready to break into the Burger Kingdom, driving without a license shouldn’t phase me. I’d also like a team assembled to assist me with the theft or dare I say, burglary. Probably 11 people with different skill sets that would come in handy throughout the operation. Of course, I shouldn’t be telling you all this. Forget what you heard. Hey, what’s that over there?
A few months back I saw on my television that new chicken tenders were being introduced. I raced over as soon as I could and picked up a box of 20. They called my number, I snatched the bag and ran outside with my box of 20 of the new nuggets. Actually, it was two boxes of 10 as that particular Burger King, I’m guessing, had run out of the 20 piece boxes. I pulled out one of the boxes and opened up the box ever so carefully, and as if it was the arc of the covenant, I didn’t look directly at it at first. As soon as I was sure my face would not melt like the faces of Nazis in Raiders, I looked at the new tenders. Now, before I get to what I think of these new nuggets, I gotta say that I had no issues with the original nuggets. As a matter of fact I preferred them to McDonalds McNuggets and certainly to Wendy’s whatever they call thems. The only thing I didn’t like about the BK Chicken Tenders was that the shapes always changed. They’d go from being simple strips to dinosaurs or cartoon creatures. What was the deal with that? I think I remember years ago when Jurassic Park or one of its sequels was out that there was a promotion that changed the shapes do dino shapes. Though long after the movie had disappeared from theaters and the public mind the shapes of the tenders remained dinosaury. That annoyed me, since the tenders were all about the same size. Dinosaurs are different sizes. So if I got a box of 10 regular shaped tenders that could equate to about 6 dino shaped tenders sometimes, depending on how many T Rexes I got. It’s an average. I’m sure if I got 10 T Rexes it might mean an equal amount, but that would be like hitting the lottery. Only I can’t quit my job. So anyway… I liked the old tenders so I was weary of the new ones. The first thing I noticed is they were more nugget than they were tender shaped. I took a bite and I was pleasantly surprised! They actually tasted pretty good. Though I have to say, I still prefer the taste of the classic chicken tender.
The new nuggets also came with several sauce options. Around this time a friend of mine introduced me to a sauce presumably imported from the Far East. She called it “sweet & sour.” I had never had it before. I’m not too much into exotic foods as I discussed earlier, but she had me try it on some Chick-Fila chicken and I loved it! Before this I would eat the nuggets dry and was content to do so. Not anymore. Whenever I have the option to put it on something I will. I don’t think it’s actually that great. It kind of tastes like syrup. As in syrup that you would put on pancakes or waffles or dip some pork roll in if you had made some that morning for breakfast. It’s ok, but it’s not that good. Not what I’d expect of the sweet & sour sauce my friend introduced me to that late summer evening. We don’t hang out as much anymore so I haven’t really tried any new sauces, so my sauce has stayed sweet & sour. Much like my relationship with her has become. Heyo! Take my sauce, please! No, don’t take my sauce. You’ve already taken the spicy sauce.
I addition to the new nuggets you’ve already recently changed up your french fries. Why are you doing this? Who are you talking to that is saying to change up all the things that I’ve grown to love about Burger King? Is it my ex? Is she putting you up to this? Oh god. Has the King been under a spell just as Theodon of Rohan was under the spell of Saruman? Made to do his bidding and treat friend as foe? Now everything makes sense! Why else would the King pull or change everything that is great about his kindom? Although I’m mostly convinced there’s been some sort of curse put upon you, I’ll also offer the potential there was some sort of test panel where people tried the foods, data was collected and bad decisions were made. That’s what I’ll do with that time machine. I’ll go back in time and get one one of those panels to try and stop these tragedies from happening. Then I’d have my spicy sauce back. I’d have the original tenders back. And I’d have the shoestring fries I’ve loved for years back. Of course, if it is in fact a curse, the time machine will do no good. You’ll need a white wizard.
King, you’re making it really tough for me to have it my way. In fact I can’t have it my way anymore. My way keeps getting pulled or changed. If I want to have things my way, now I have to make it myself or go to, what has become my new favorite place ever, Chick-Fila. The only thing that I don’t like about them is that they are not open on Sunday. Ok, two things. That they don’t have Spicy Chicken Tenders like they have the Spicy Chicken Sandwich. It’s not a big leap. Just cut up some of the sandwiches or something. Maybe I’ll write to them about that. Yes, I think I will.
In closing, please stop. I posted this here, because on your website there is a 500 character limit and I’m no mathemagician, but this is longer than 500 characters. You may contact me in whatever method you choose, but please no telegrams.
Mike Marbach is an improvisor living in Philadelphia. He is a teacher at Philly Improv Theater as well as the coach of PHIT house team Asteroid. He is a cast member of improvised telenovela Pasiones de Pasiones and improv show in real time twenty-four. Sometimes he likes to write letters to companies.
I’m writing to thank you for quite possibly saving my life and/or the life of someone else in my house. I’ll explain how this happened, but first the story needs some set up.
I recently moved from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Greenwood, Indiana. That is a city south of the Hoosier State’s capital, Indianapolis. Greenwood is a nice place to live should you ever consider moving here. The only thing that I can really count as strikes against it is the fact that there aren’t really any sidewalks. So, walking to and fro the place of your choice will have to be done in grass, mud or in the street next to the grass and mud nearly getting hit by cars. I plan on writing to the City of Greenwood about this matter. By that I mean writing to the City Council, not writing to every resident of the city. That would consume too much of my time- one of my most valuable assets. So, you know that by taking the time to write to you it must be of some importance.
In Philadelphia I worked at a Best Buy. I got a job at Best Buy so when I move to Los Angeles, a move I hope to make in my lifetime, I’ll have a job upon arriving. You see, I’m able to transfer between stores. Sure, there are times when I wish I were doing something that put the degree hanging on my wall to use, but I like the job. Actually, I have a confession to make. The degree is not on my wall. It’s in a box in my closet, which oddly enough, is next to an unopened 3-pack of Degree Antiperspirant/Deodorant. I never liked “powder fresh”. Why would I want to smell like an infant? At any rate, I transferred to the Best Buy here in Greenwood located right up the street from my house. This is good, because I do not yet drive. Though walking back and forth to work with no sidewalks is quite frustrating.
When I moved, I took about a month before starting at the Greenwood Best Buy. I did this with the intention of doing some writing, which didn’t really happen. I just sat around playing Halo 2 on the Xbox I bought for the purpose of sitting around playing Halo 2. Before actually starting at the Greenwood Best Buy I spent a lot of money there. My discount was still in tact. My mom and I went one day and got a new washer and dryer, a toaster that is quite a disappointment and also a vacuum. This, my friend, brings me to the reason for this letter to you.
My family has never had much luck in the vacuum area. The earliest vacuum memory I have is of this lime green one we had when I was growing up. Maybe more of a forest green. Well, somewhere between the two shades. That vacuum looked like something we had made ourselves. I’m still not sure how I didn’t electrocute myself with that thing. The wires were exposed in several areas and each prong was somewhat twisted. On top of that, toward the end of its life, it began to put down more dirt than it would bring in. I’m not really sure how that would happen, but it did. I’m not sure how or when that vacuum’s end came, but it was replaced at some point. I know that much.
The next vacuum was a Eureka Boss. After several months we fired the Boss. The belt kept breaking! You knew it was coming too. You’d be vacuuming and all of a sudden you’d catch a whiff of burning rubber followed by some smoke. You’d think we were trying to vacuum a bed of rocks or something, but we weren’t- just carpet. I also think that Eureka discontinued the bags needed for this vacuum, shortly after we bought it. We had to keep settling for a larger bag, that didn’t quite fit. So, the vacuum would sometimes spray a puff of thick dust up into my face upon turning it on. It wouldn’t do it every time, just every so often. It was like a game of Russian Roulette, only with vacuums.
Following the boss was the Eureka FeatherLite. We should have learned after our first experience with Eureka how the next experience would go. This vacuum actually worked pretty well- at least as far as cleaning up dirt. There was something that, though invisible to the eye, could not hide from the nose. The FeatherLite somehow made the vacuumed room smell like freshly spewed vomit. That is not a joke. I wish that it were. During and after the use of this vacuum, the smell of vomit would fill the house. This was a smell of barf so strong that it would make the user dry heave. It affects me to this day. When most people smell vomit, they associate it with someone being sick. I associate the smell of vomit with someone cleaning. Eureka hath ruined me. If that smell could somehow be bottled, it would make for some funny practical jokes, possibly even some TV bloopers.
This brings us to our present vacuum, which we purchased at the Greenwood Best Buy along with the Washer, the dryer and the toaster that I’m none too pleased with. The vacuum we picked up that day was the Bissell CleanView Bagless Deluxe with “Clean Carpet Sensor and wide cleaning path.” A bagless vacuum! Oh wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles! No more fiddling around with bags that may or may no fit the vacuum! No more puffs of dirt spraying randomly into my face! And no more late-fees! Wait, that has to do with Blockbuster. And a “clean carpet sensor?” That’s just great! I never know when to stop vacuuming. I never think the carpet is clean enough. Now, with this nifty new “clean carpet sensor” I’ll know exactly when I can stop. When the light is red, I keep going. When it’s green, I know it’s clean! What will you guys think of next? That’s an actual question, not rhetorical. Please let me know what you guys think of next. I could end this letter here, but I would have done so without getting to the event that prompted me to write the letter in the first place. So, I continue.
Today I was in my bedroom meticulously putting together a house of cards, when I heard my nephew running down the hall toward my room. He swung open my door and I leapt to block the opened door’s rush of wind from knocking over my house of cards. I was successful, though when he entered he kicked over my cup of Cream Soda. At any rate, he rushed in to tell my older sister needed my help. I went downstairs to her room, where I saw her standing outside the room staring into one corner. I asked what she wanted, to which she replied telling me to look close at the corner. No sooner did I look into the corner did I see a massive, furry, worm-like creature with more legs than the sky has stars, scurry across the floor out of sight. I knew then what I was called to do.
I fought many a bug in my day. The physical wounds have healed, but the emotional and psychological scars have yet to fade. There was the “Barbarian Bee” of the late nineties. That was a carpenter Bee that somehow made it into my room, probably through the window I kept open. Though the carpenter bees rarely sting, that doesn’t stop them from flying right into your face making you scream to the amusement of the all-guys dorm. After a long and arduous battle the bee disappeared, maybe through that open window. I fear one day he’ll come back and try to finish what he started. Then there was the “Great Spider Scare” of aught one. I really dislike spiders, but I was forced to deal with this one due to my roommate’s outright fear of them. My roommate at the time was Jonah (yes, like the whale guy). He was a weight lifter and quite big. So, seeing him flee from a spider is quite a site. Sort of like the Elephant being scared of the mouse. This spider was one tough cookie. It appeared to be wearing those gloves with the fingers cut out on each leg, but I could be wrong. I do know that it had a mullet. The hair on this thing was so thick it could be combed. He definitely had a “business in the front, party in the back” look. After a couple whacks, he shook one of his fists at me and then fell to his death.
After having come out victorious in the aforementioned bug-fighting campaigns, I felt rather confident going into battle the many leg-ed creature that took up residence in my sister’s bedroom. Before fighting, I wanted to know my enemy. I consulted my Entomological books to find out what I was up against. I checked the pictures against my quick sighting of the beast and concluded that it was a centipede. A centipede with no concern for me or my family that needed to be stopped. I had no reason to think that the standard weapons would not work. I reached into my bug-fighting bag of tricks and came out with a bottle of Windex. I’m not sure why, but that’s usually the first line of defense for me. Bug in the house? Get the Windex! That’s usually how it works. I sprayed the thing with the liquid and waited for its demise. Death was not to come. This beast shook off the Windex like a dog coming in out of the rain. This was the multi-surface Windex. I’m not sure if that helped or hindered its bug killing powers, but it had little to no effect. This startled me a bit, but it didn’t phase me. On to “plan B”. I took off the shoe and waited for the monster to show itself. After moving several pieces of furniture, my opportunity to end this finally came. I swung at the thing with the orthopedic-looking shoe I bought for working at the Greenwood Best Buy, since the white casual sneakers I wore at my other store were not allowed. At first I thought I had missed, so I swung again. And again. And again. I was not missing. The shoe was having no effect! This could be because, being a comfort shoe, my shoe is made of a softer material than most shoes. It was as if the bug had some sort of steel exoskeleton, not unlike the mutant Wolverine of the X-Men. What could I do? I tried the Windex. I used the shoe. What’s left?
I went through the rolodex of bug-killing tactics in my head. I skimmed the room’s arsenal of every day objects turned weapons when I saw it. A beam of light shone down and around the Bissell CleanView bagless Deluxe. I couldn’t use it in the upright, push style, I needed some agility. So, I hooked up the hose and flipped the switch. I put my hand up against the tip of the hose to test its power and believe me when I say I’m lucky I still have my hand. You don’t want to toy with 12 amps of suction. I moved the bed out of the way and waited for the great beast to appear before me. And then… it did. It walked out like Maximus Decimus Meridias ready to defeat another unworthy opponent in the Roman Coliseum. Though I wanted this beast gone from the house, I couldn’t help but respect its power. As I neared the hairy creature with the telescoping handle of the Bissell, I could swear that some of its arms were waving in a “bring it on” sort of motion. I brought it on- all 12 amps. My sister claims to have heard it saying, “Oh no. A vacuum. Whatever shall I do?” in a very child-like and sarcastic tone. I can’t back that up, as I did not hear it. Anyway, I put the hose’s tip right up to the bug’s tail or head… I can’t be sure which it was… and prepared for the saga to end. But end it did not! This behemoth continued to move away from the 12 amps of suction! How could this be? I tried again. Still again this bug made a Herculean effort to evade the vacuum’s wrath. A third time I went at the beast with the hose and the third time was the last. The gladiator-bug was sucked up into the hose through the tube and into the easy empty container of the Bissell Cleanview bagless Deluxe. The “clean carpet sensor” went from red to green and I knew the battle was over. Nearly a ½ hour after it began, the saga had ended.
The point of this letter is that Bissell might have saved my life today. After consulting my Entomological books, I don’t believe this monster was life threatening, but rather was only capable of giving me an extreme case of the willies. Though, had it been a poisonous insect, I can rest knowing that the Bissell CleanView bagless Deluxe did what the exterminator could not- rid my house of pests. Yes, that’s plural. Earlier today, but after the bout with the beast, my sister used the Bissell to suck up a bunch of lady bugs congregating by her window. I hope that word spreads in the bug community about our new weapon so spreading fear.
Now I’m sure that Bissell didn’t intend extermination as a use for the Cleanview bagless Deluxe, but I’m glad that I had it on my side. The battled raged, the scales tipped from side to side, but in the end the Bissell came out on top. How could a bug compete with the makers of the Big Green Clean Machine? Bissell, you free my carpet of dirt, my house of creepy crawly things and my mind of worries about both. Keep up the good work!
PS: It was definitely more of a sea-green now that I think of it.
PPS: Below is an artists rendering of what the Bissell CleanView Bagless Deluxe hepled me oust from my house.
Official Response from Bissell
April 18, 2005
Dear Mr. Marbach,
Thank you for writing BISSELL Consumer Services. It is always beneficial when a consumer takes the time to write, sharing with us their evaluation of a BISSELL product or service.
It was a pleasure to read your interesting story regarding the BISSELL Cleanview Bagless Deluxe Vacuum and how it saved your day! Your letter will be circulated to other departments within the company so others may share the same opportunity to read and enjoy it as well!
If you ever have any questions or need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact BISSELL Consumer Services through the toll-free number provided below. Any one of our representatives can help you.
BISSELL Homecare Inc.
Mark Leopold is a Philadelphia improviser, sketch comedian, employee, owner-of-a-wardrobe-full-of-plaid-shirts, 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 going to pick up some milk, Mark took some time to sit down in a tent down at Occupy Philly in his head with Philadelphia improviser and Beirdo member Dan Jaquette.
Mark Leopold: Hey Dan, it’s me Mark!
Dan Jaquette: Hi. (extending his hand for a handshake) Dan.
ML: (shaking his hand) Mark.
This joke really only makes sense to the two of them and is based on a single incident which has colored their friendship ever since.
ML: So, you’re in Beirdo now…that’s new and therefore, something we should talk about.
DJ: I’m doing it ironically.
DJ: Yes. I’m a member of the group ironically. Whereas Dennis and Kevin are both genuinely interested and committed to being in an improv group based on the fact that they have beards, I actually grew a beard and joined the group as a commentary on people who would do that sort of thing.
ML: That is…elaborate.
DJ: No one has ever accused me of being less than elaborate.
ML: I’ve heard you described as circumspect.
DJ: How flattering!
ML: Do you know what it means?
DJ: Not entirely, but honestly I find it flattering that people are talking about me at all.
ML: Any press is good press?
DJ: Something like that. I feel like circumspect means something about circles, like circumference. And the “spect” part is probably a dig about my glasses.
ML: Well you do wear glasses.
DJ: I know right?
ML: (laughing) Terrible!
DJ: Just call me Mr. Imperfect Vision.
ML: (holding up his finger to call attention to an important point he wants to make) Bad eyesight is caused by the eyeball becoming deformed and throwing off the focal point of the lens in your cornea. Fact.
DJ: And there’s other reasons too…
ML: Nope. Just that reason. That is the only reason for bad eyesight.
DJ: I find myself forced to agree with you.
ML: We’ve got quite a back and forth going here Dan.
DJ: It’s Gilmore Girl-esque.
ML: You’re Gilmore Girl-esque.
ML: …and you wear glasses!
DJ: You’re really on a roll now.
They laugh uproariously and smile…the best of friends.
ML: (extending hand for a handshake) Mark.
DJ: (raising eyebrows in a spot-on imitation of a person meeting Mark for the first time) Dan.
ML: Ah! So…let’s talk about you getting married.
ML: Has that already happened?
DJ: My marriage?
ML: Yeah, are you already married or are you just engaged?
DJ: I am engaged.
ML: To…I want to say…Helen?
DJ: Nope, still Ellen.
ML: Yeah, that’s just not sticking. Any chance we could get that changed?
DJ: What works for you?
ML: Hm. Brooke?
DJ: She doesn’t seem like a Brooke.
ML: Are you kidding? She’s smart and funny and pretty!
DJ: Easy…that’s my future wife there tough guy.
ML: Wow…you just don’t strike me as a the type of person who would say “tough guy.”
DJ: Are you kidding? I’m a rugged badass with a beard and a motorcycle, but who has also studied the works of Shakespeare at a graduate level.
ML: Hm, well I guess that settles it. Best of luck with…dammit…Elton?
DJ: Not a first name.
DJ: Someone else entirely.
ML: …well…I mean…I’m assuming most of these other names belong to other people entirely…
DJ: Not Erolton.
ML: No one’s gotten to that name yet?
DJ: Not yet. It’s fresh off the name-assembly line.
ML: It’s not terrible.
DJ: Well don’t get any ideas, we’re planning on naming our first child Erolton.
DJ: Yeah, me and…oh man…dammit.
More laughter. More friendship.
ML: (extending hand for a handshake, but unsure.) Dan?
DJ: (thinks for a moment, then points like he’s ninety percent sure) Mark.
Mark Leopold is a Philadelphia improviser, sketch comedian, employee, an uncomfortable-complimenter-when-the-other-person-has-complimented-him-first-because-it-feels-like-the-only-reason-he’s-complimenting-them-is-to-make-them-even-no-matter-how-sincere-his-compliment-may-or-may-not-be, 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 his way to work, Mark took some time to sit down in an interrogation room in his head with Philadelphia improviser and Comedysportz teammate/teacher Jason Stockdale.
MARK LEOPOLD: Hey Jason, it’s me Mark!
JASON STOCKDALE: Hey man!
ML: Good times! Stockdale!
ML: Okay, shut up, let’s do this. Greatest fear?
ML: Greatest strength?
JS: Left shoulder.
ML: Best way to get into your apartment without a key?
JS: You go through the large window in my bedroom. It doesn’t latch and there’s no way to lock it.
JS: Full disclosure, there is a pit full of spikes directly inside and below the window.
ML: Home Alone style.
JS: That would have been a very different movie if Kevin had ended up killing the burglars with his first couples of traps.
ML: I’d like to see that movie. It probably just becomes a courtroom drama.
JS: And the creepy neighbor testifies against him.
ML: That neighbor…man. It sucks that he got a bad rap just for carrying a snow shovel around…in winter…after it had recently snowed.
JS: But he also had a beard, and he squinted quite a bit.
ML: Now who’s testifying against who? Who? Whom?
ML: I thought whom had something to do with having a direct object.
JS: Yep, but we should move on. I’m sure your readers aren’t that interested in the finer points of grammar.
ML: Ouch. I’ll have you know that I cater to a very high-end readership.
JS: Even so, this is pretty dry stuff. They can just buy a grammar book.
ML: Favorite grammar book?
JS: Strunk and White, okay moving on!
ML: Favorite chapter of Strunk and White?
JS: Chapter 13: Colons and Semicolons. Okay! So…Mark, what do you like most about Philadelphia?
ML: It’s proximity to my house.
JS: You’re being a real asshole.
ML: It was a joke Jason. This whole thing is a joke.
JS: Don’t do that. Don’t write it to make me seem like the jerk here.
ML: Jason, just calm down. Be reasonable.
JS: (standing up and overturning the table) I’ll be as unreasonable as I want damn it!
ML: (hands out, placating) Jason…easy.
JS: (…and here comes Jason’s famous switchblade) Shut up!
ML: Jason come on…put down the knife.
JS: (grabbing Brooks and putting the knife to his throat) No!
ML: Jason. Jason. Look at his neck Jason. Look at his neck. He’s bleeding Jason.
JS: (breaking down into tears and dropping the knife) I’m…I’m sorry…I just…
ML: I understand.
JS: I can’t go back.
ML: I know.
JS: I’m sorry.
ML: (turning to Brooks) Brooks, get out of here. (…but Brooks is already gone) Brooks?
JS: (sniffing) Brooks?
Mark and Jason look at each other with unspoken realization. The camera slowly pans up to the wooden beam overhead where there is an inscription carved into the wood. The inscription reads, “Brooks was here…but got really bored when they started talking about grammar.”
Mark Leopold is a Philadelphia improviser, sketch comedian, employee, future-skin-cancer-victim-because-he-doesn’t-really-believe-the-scores-of-studies-linking-sunburn-to-skin-cancer-risk, 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 476 north, Mark took some time to sit down in Rittenhouse Square with Philadelphia comedian, improviser, sketch lady, and King Friday member Aubrie Williams.
MARK LEOPOLD: Hey Aubrie, it’s me Mark!
They knuckle dap ironically.
AUBRIE WILLIAMS: Boom.
ML: So let’s just clear up the question which everyone is asking. Are you related to Alan Williams?
AW: Nope, we just have the same last name.
ML: What about my friend from college Tom Williams?
AW: Again no.
ML: And you were never married to either of them.
AW: I was not.
Mark scans his list of notes about what to cover in this interview.
ML: (making thoughtful noises) Okay then…moving right along. Tell me about your childhood.
AW: Well I grew up in the suburbs so…
A panhandler walks by them slowly with a sign reading “Out of work (line break) lost my home (line break) Anything helps” Mark becomes very interested in his notes and begins making amendments and additions which will later prove to be nothing more than a series of squiggly lines, but he assumes that the panhandler will not be able to determine the difference. Aubrie meanwhile speaks in the slow halting fashion of someone who is focusing more on a passing panhandler than on the response she is giving.
The panhandler, having passed a far enough distance away to be spoken about, is now approached by an older man around forty seven and given what appears to be five dollars. Mark ponders what his responsibility in such situations is. People always say not to give panhandlers money, but is it uncharitable not to? Or conversely, is it wrong to give them money?
ML: Would it be wrong to give him money?
AW: I don’t think so.
ML: But what if he’s like a drug addict and he uses the money to buy drugs. Am I responsible for that?
AW: I don’t think so.
ML: I read a Steven King short story once about a guy who makes like a hundred grand a year pretending to be a panhandler and now I doubt the honesty of every panhandler I meet.
AW: That doesn’t seem fair.
ML: I saw a guy down on Columbus Ave. with nicer sneakers than me.
AW: He might have gotten them before he lost everything.
ML: I think by definition, that means he hasn’t yet lost everything.
AW: Just his home and his livelihood?
ML: Yeah…but he still has some really nice sneakers.
AW: You’re a glass half full kinda guy aren’t you?
ML: I think it’s the little things in life that make it worth living.
AW: I need an example.
ML: Okay, like when you’re driving down the highway in the rain and you go underneath an underpass and there is that momentary respite from the sound of the rain hitting your roof.
AW: I don’t think these people have cars…
ML: …and they probably spend more than just a moment beneath underpasses…
ML: I imagine they live below underpasses.
AW: Do they?
ML: Yeah, they have little villages right?
Another panhandler walks by, a woman this time. Her sign is even sadder. It’s so sad I won’t even read it to you. It’s just super sad.
ML: Yeah…that sign…whew.
ML: Does it seem like there are more panhandlers now than there used to be?
ML: I don’t know, before.
AW: It’s probably because of the economy.
ML: Weird…if you lost your job would you ever consider becoming a panhandler?
AW: I’d have to be in pretty dire straits.
ML: I don’t think I could do it.
AW: Too proud?
ML: No, I just couldn’t be on my feet all day. They’re just walking up and down the same forty feet of pavement all day.
AW: Yeah, they’re actually pretty industrious if you think about it.
ML: There is a hierarchy of the laziness of the poor and I would put panhandlers at the least lazy end.
AW: Who’s on the other end.
ML: I’d rather not say.
AW: Very diplomatic.
The sad sign lady is back and we discover that the sadness of her sign compounds with each reading. Mark starts blinking a lot. Aubrie weeps openly.
ML: (clearing his throat gruffly) Well…
ML: I’m going to scoot now…
They knuckle dap sincerely, happy to share a moment of physical contact with another human being. It may be the saddest knuckle dap of all time.
Oh God, the sad lady is coming back…
Mark Leopold is a Philadelphia improviser, sketch comedian, employee, someone-who-sleeps-laying-directly-on-his-back-with-his-arms-down-at-his-sides-and-with-his-legs-straight-and-slightly-set-apart-on-top-of-a-memory-form-mattress-which-makes-him-feel-as-though-he-is-an-action-figure-in-it’s-original-packaging, 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 driving down route 1 on his way to the shore, Mark took some time to sit down on the beach in his head with Philadelphia improviser and Comedysportz teammate Alan Williams.
MARK LEOPOLD: Hey Alan, it’s me Mark!
ALAN WILLIAMS: Hey Mark.
Mark and Alan sit quietly together, watching the waves roll in. The sun directly overhead beats down upon them. Alan reapplies sunscreen. Mark checks over at Alan to see if it seems like he wants to talk. It doesn’t seem like he wants to. Mark reaches into his bag and in brings out the book he brought to the beach, mostly because the beach seems like one of those places you’re supposed to bring books. He opens up the first page and begins reading.
Mark looks over at Alan, unsure if he said something or not. He mentally weighs his options and determines that if Alan has said something it’s far ruder to seem like he’s ignoring it.
Now it seems like Alan hasn’t heard him. A wave was coming in just as Mark was saying it, so it’s entirely possible that Alan just didn’t hear him.
ML: Did you say something?
Alan, still looking at the waves, now notices that Mark is looking over at him and seems to be saying something. Alan takes his earbuds out.
AW: Did you say something?
ML: Yeah, I asked if you said something.
ML: A few seconds ago.
AW: …I don’t think so. Was I saying something?
ML: That’s what I’m asking.
AW: I was listening to a book on tape…
ML: Right…but did you say something?
AW: I don’t know.
ML: Never mind then.
Mark and Alan both turn back to the waves, rolling inexorably in to the beach. Mark returns to his book. Alan, checking to see if Mark seems like he wants to talk and ascertaining that he doesn’t, moves to put his earbuds back in.
ML: It is really hot.
AW: (abruptly stopping putting his earbuds back in) Hm? Oh…yeah.
ML: You want to go?
AW: What? Already?
ML: Yeah man, it’s terrible here.
AW: Terrible? We’re sitting on a beautiful beach, watching the waves come crashing in on a gorgeous day.
ML: It’s just way too hot.
AW: Go in the water and cool off then.
ML: What? Ew. No. Do you know how polluted that water is?
AW: It’s fine, don’t be a wimp.
ML: Ugh, all I can imagine is all the tiny microscopic things living in that water and finding their way into my body.
AW: I never knew you were such a germaphobe.
ML: It’s not just germs in there man. There are tiny fish and plankton. It’s just gross. The water is actually opaque with the density of non-water material in it.
AW: So you’re too hot, but instead of going and cooling off in the OCEAN of water directly in front of you, you think it makes more sense to drive two hours home?
ML: It would be different if the water was clear, like if we were at one of those beaches you see in rum commercials.
AW: You should have put us on one of those then.
ML: I’ve never been to one of them, I’ve only been to beaches in New Jersey and I’m serious man, it is boiling lava hot out here. Can we just go?
AW: You go, I’m going to stay.
ML: How are you going to get home?
AW: I’ll figure it out.
ML: Don’t be crazy, just ride with me.
AW: Mark, it’s fine, I’ll grab a cab or something.
ML: A cab from the shore? Do you have any idea how expensive that’s going to be?
AW: Not really.
ML: Me neither, but I’d imagine it’s probably super expensive.
AW: I’ll rent a car then.
ML: Just ride with me!
AW: We just got here. I wanted to come to the beach. You said you did too. Now we’re here and I want to actually spend a little time here before I go back.
ML: It’s too hot!
AW: What did you think it would be like on the beach?
ML: I don’t know okay? I didn’t think it out very clearly. It’s summertime and I know people talk about going to the beach and seem excited about the prospect so I thought it wouldn’t be this terrible.
AW: It’s not terrible! It’s just warm.
ML: Not warm, hot. And it’s also really sandy.
AW: So you’re complaints about the beach are that it’s hot and sandy? Congratulations, you just described what a beach is.
ML: Fine, we’ll compromise.
Mark and Alan stay at the beach, but now it’s not as hot, it’s maybe 77 degrees and the humidity is really low and there’s a nice breeze coming in. Not a strong breeze, because then that would kick sand up onto Mark and Alan and since they’re still sweating a little bit (I’m a really easy sweater okay?) if any sand got blown onto them it would stick to their skin and make it really gritty and that would be super uncomfortable. So a nice, soft, gentle breeze. And you know what, screw it, the water is clear and nice like the water in those Corona commercials. That sounds good too. Alan and Mark sit in two beach chairs facing out to the water as the waves come gently lapping onto the shore, they clink their Coronas together over a bucket full of ice and more Coronas.
ML: Now this is miles away from ordinary.
AW: Ugh, you’re the worst.