For my latest Coffee With Comedians, or CWC if you prefer abbr.’s, I sat down with Abigail Bruley, who is a member of improv group Nielsen and the creator and head writer of Down The Show.
Aubrie: When did you first get into comedy? Was there a specific moment? Cause you do improv and sketch.
Abigail: Comedy, always was there. I did impressions of all the priests from my elementary school. Improv is a very new venture for me. I did it because I thought that it was a great way to come up with ideas for sketches. And I do. I find it a great way to come up with ideas for everything.
Aubrie: Did you take a class through PHIT?
Abigail: My first improv class was at the UCB in New York, and then much later on, I decided to sign up for a class here with Andy Moskowitz, and he was amazing and adorable. My troupe formed out of that class!
Aubrie: Did you notice any differences between New York and Philly Improv-wise?
Abigail: Yes, sure, of course. My classmates were very different. Philly is more laid back and fun and experimental, New York is more traditional, everyone had an end goal in mind of being famous or whatever.
Aubrie: How did “Down The Show” come about?
Abigail: I was working for NBC in Philadelphia when I was asked to come up with some content ideas for one of their local shows. So, I came up with a comedy segment where we would bring local stand-ups into the studio and tape them doing a two minute bit. That went well, so I pushed a bit further for it to include original sketch. Ultimately, it didn’t work out with NBC, but I kept running with it on my own and Down the Show was born!
Aubrie: Do you do a lot of the writing per show?
Abigail: Well, I’ve taken a lot of stuff that was already produced like “Booty Shorts for Men” by Secret Pants. But, I do do a lot of the writing for other sketches in the show. I also try to collaborate with people that write stuff specifically for the show, just so I have a chance to get different perspectives on it from outside observers.
Aubrie: Have you always done this, or did you start it recently?
Abigail: I’ve done it since the beginning of Down The Show. I mean it’s so subjective. How do you know if it’s only funny to you and your friends, right? I don’t want to alienate people.
Aubrie: Are you inspired by anything in particular while writing or before an improv show? Do you have a pre-show ritual?
Abigail: I try to get lost and go on walks in the city and just be alert to things. I get a lot of great ideas that way.
Aubrie: What was the weirdest place you found inspiration?
Abigail: The most recent was probably a guy walking in front of me dry brushing with a tooth brush and he kept spitting, and I came up with a character based around that guy dry brushing.
Aubrie: Do you have a favorite comedy moment?
Abigail: I saw Louis CK when he played the Academy of Music and he had this bit that is about how he doesn’t drink that much or smoke or do drugs, and his one big vice is being able to sleep, And he was like, “You know what sleep is like to me?” and he went into really great detail about what it might feel like to get a really deep blow job from a tribal woman with devil tongues, and I was hyperventilating, I was laughing so hard. That is the hardest I’ve ever laughed. I love that guy so much.
Aubrie: Me too.
Abigail: And the show Louie – I think about that when I’m writing. The thing I admire most about the writing on that show is the slow simmer type of humor and the retching honesty. I don’t necessarily need something to be knee-slappingly funny. The first time I realized sketch comedy could be non-Saturday Night Live was The State and I was obsessed with it. A great deal of The State wasn’t funny, it was just bizarre and weird. And, that made me love it even more.
Aubrie: The State had a lot of recurring characters. Do you have a recurring characters or a through-line, or hope to have a through-line eventually?
Abigail: This episode I wrote a skit that I hope comes back in the next episodes. That’s the first one. Other than that the only thing that the first two have in common, and that I think I’m going to continue on with, is that they have stand- up comedy mixed with sketch mixed with original music and artwork. That’s going to be the standard.
Aubrie: Do you film live music or use recorded music in the show?
Abigail: My husband is a musician so he does all of the music. I’m going to have a new theme song every episode, and he always does the theme song. In the first episode the theme song is me and him singing in our closet. And for this theme song I wanted it to sound like a bunch of drunk sailors screaming at a bar so he got a bunch of his friends into this space to sing lyrics that he wrote- which are amazing- and I’m pretty excited about it. It’s gonna be awesome!
Aubrie: Do you have a favorite Philly stage moment?
Abigail: Asteroid is great! And The Kristen & Amie Show. They are just so good. They amaze me. The arsenal of characters they pull out is awe inspiring.
Aubrie: Were there particular moments from each show that blew you away?
Abigail: Asteroid’s edits in themselves are hilarious, and they are just so goofy and fun with each other. What I do remember was that every moment that blew me away in that show in particular were done by chicks, and I thought that was really interesting. I mean, how can chicks not be naturally funny? We are an absolutely ridiculous gender.
Aubrie: And outside of comedy, what are your hobbies and interests?
Abigail: Hmmm, I am at Fairmount Park almost every single day, so I guess you could say I’m the outdoorsy type. I like noodles. I eat noodles a lot.
Aubre: What kind of outdoorsy stuff?
Abigail: I used to be big into biking but I don’t do that anymore. I’m tired of trying to ride a bike because my bikes keep getting stolen. I don’t know, I guess I’m just a super girl- I’m really into skating.I go to the River Rink. I am also into logic puzzles.
Aubrie: ME TOO! I never meet anyone who is, and that is why I am so excited. Any other hobbies?
Abigail: My husband and I have a little music project we do. And I’m also a freelance illustrator.
Aubrie: Have they been published anywhere around here?
Abigail: The most recent was published in the City Paper.
Aubrie: Is the music project with your husband recorded in the closet?
Abigail: Yes! I stand in there with headphones on and a stocking over the microphone!
You can catch the screening of the 3rd episode of Down The Show on May 4th at Underground Arts with Dan St. Germain, and see past episodes at www.youtube.com/user/downtheshow.
In this episode Mike talks to comedian Brendan Kennedy about growing up, getting into comedy, the witout awards, nerds and life in general. Listen below and and subscribe on iTunes.
You can see Brendan Kennedy perform tonight at 10PM at Circa 1212 (1212 South St.) at ManiParty: A ManiPedi Fundraiser.
Philadelphia sketch group ManiPedi (Aubrie Williams, Briana Kelly, Madonna Marie Refugia, Shannon Brown, Kaitlin Thompson) have been accepted into the 2012 Ladies Are Funny Festival in Austin, Texas. To help with the cost of travel and expenses the group is holding a fundraiser, this Friday at Circa 1212 (1212 South St. Philadelphia). We caught up with the group to ask them some questions about themselves, their show, and the plans for Austin.
WITOUT: Tell us about the formation of the group. How did you all meet and decide to work together?
Madonna: I was asked to do an all-female night at Camp Tabu and I needed a sketch group. I knew Shannon from working with Brendan Kennedy in Camp Woods and I met Kait at a Sketch Up. So I forced them to be in a group with me. From there it was just a matter of finding more people to work with.
Briana: I’d seen ManiPedi at Sketch Up and Madonna was in my Sketch 101 class so we decided to collaborate.
Madonna: And Aubrie is just so awesome it was only a matter of time before we asked her to join us.
Shannon: I remember Madonna and I were at Bonner’s drinking free beers(Madonna does not think they were free.). She told me she was thinking about asking Aubrie to join us, and after whispering to eachother like a pair of middle school girls, she asked Aubrie. Also, I was not forced into the group. I like food and making people listen to my neurotic rambling. They like eating, and will listen to me.
WO: Who are some of your comedic influences?
Madonna: My grandma and dad, Camp Woods.
Aubrie: Showalter, Stella, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Amy Sedaris
Briana: Generalissimo Franco
Kait: The State, My Dad, Louis CK, anything with a mid-day re-run on Comedy Central during 2002.
Shannon: My Mom and Aunts, The Kids In The Hall, and as corny as it sounds, my friends from Philly.
WO: How do you write and workshop ideas?
Shannon: Typically we work on things individually and then bring them to the group when we’re ready.
WO: How would you describe your comedic style?
All: we like fart jokes with heart.
WO: What member of the Wu-Tang Clan best represents each member of Mani Pedi?
Briana: Ghostface (Madonna” Oh, man..”)
Aubrie: ODB, cause he was in the fantasy remake…I also shook his hand once.
Madonna: I’m Beyonce.
WO: Other than performing comedy – do you have any plans for when you get to Austin?
Kait: Get really burned..like, by the sun, see Bill Hick’s grave(if he’s buried there), eat lots of food. And do the thing from Pee Wee herman where he goes into a bar and sings The Stars at Night.
Aubrie: Eat a lot of food. I;m going to do monologues as Hattie Dealing(she was drunk off bourbon the whole time. It’s a good play.) Get a belt buckle. That spins maybe?
Madonna: Meet a bunch of other comedians, eat gourmet donuts from the gourmet donut truck, and flirt with all the guys that will be at an all ladies comedy festival. Endure racism.
Briana: I am going to get a real genuine cowboy hat. I am not going to buy one… I am poor. Instead, I am going to dress myself as Santa Anna and “haunt” everyone I see wearing a cowboy hat. Hopefully one of them will run away in fear, leaving their hat for the snatching.
Shannon: I also would like to get a belt buckle, eat a bunch of food, drink way too much, meet some other groups/people, and manage to return home not broke, sunburned and sans asthma attack.
WO: What kinds of things do you have planned for the ManiParty Fundraiser?
All: BEER. DANCING. FOOD. STANDUP BY: Aaron Hertzog, Brendan Kennedy, Mary Radzinski. Improv by: Kristen and Amie, and sketches by us. We’re also auctioning off Phillies Tickets, Zoo tickets(with a behind the scenes tour that we did that kicked ass) and a sketch voucher from PHIT. and booty clapping.
It’s only $10, and you get all that stuff. It’s awesome.
In another special episode of The Witout Podcast, Mike Marbach debuts his new interview show where he sits down with Kristen Schier for an in-depth conversation about improv in Philadelphia. Listen below and and subscribe on iTunes.
Aaron is joined by Philly Improv Theater Education Director Mike Marbach to talk about the improv scene in Philadelphia. Mike talks about the PHIT core curriculum as well as their new Conservatory program. They also talk about Mike’s experience training and performing in Chicago as well as his approach to directing. Listen to this week’s episode below and subscribe on iTunes.
I have a theory that all of the planet’s most awesome people are fueled by pizza. I recently had an opportunity to test this theory by talking with one of the awesome-est people of all, Mr. Todd Glass. Todd’s the host of a killer podcast, The Todd Glass Show, and you can see him be awesome live on stage here in Philly at Helium Comedy Club on March 21-24. After a brief conversation with him, I can safely say that my theory still stands:
Pizza Pal Joe Moore: How much do you like pizza?
Todd Glass: I… fucking LOVE pizza. I’ve lost a lot of weight now, but my favorite thing to do on the road used to be ordering a large pizza, and then sitting in the hotel watching TV, and eating the whole thing. The first 3 slices are heaven, but the last… 11 slices are tough. It’s amazing that you can smoke a little pot, make a phone call, and in a half an hour, someone just brings you a pizza.
PPJM: What is your favorite topping?
TG: Well, I guess there are two kinds. I like ham and pineapple. But I also like chicken, olives, ham and pineapple. I figure the restaurant has chicken and probably olives, so I have them throw that on there too.
PPJM: When is/was your family’s “Pizza Night”?
TG: We always had pizza on Sunday nights when I was growing up. Now that I’m an adult… well every night could be pizza night.
PPJM: Do you have a favorite slice in Philadelphia?
TG: We used to go to Sal’s in the Gateway Shopping Center. I can remember scrambling for change to get a slice as a kid there. That’s probably my favorite, and I think it’s still there. (PPJM Note: It is!)
PPJM: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
TG: I’m still on the fence about “breakfast pizza.” I think that’s just the major chain’s way to getting you in the morning. But you know, even still, once I start eating a pie, I’m not going to stop. Even if it means taking a 10 minute break and telling myself I’ll finish it in the morning… I know I won’t.
And so the Todd Glass Pizza was born: Large pie with chicken, olives, ham and pineapple. I’m down with it, are you?!? See you at Helium!
This week, Matt Holmes joins Aaron to talk about his start and history in performing comedy, the rise of improv in Philadelphia over the past ten years, and Matt’s approach to improv from his point of view as both a performer and director. You can listen to this week’s episode below, or subscribe on iTunes.
Matt will be teaching a workshop at Philly Improv Theater this Saturday from 2:30 – 5:30PM. He will also be performing with a stranger in his show Matt& onstage at PHIT Saturday at 7:00PM.
This week, Aaron sits down with writer and comedian Luke Giordano. The two talk about Luke’s transition from Philadelphia to Los Angeles to write for television, his experience writing for Two and a Half Men, and his thoughts and ideas about comedy. Then Luke tries to recruit Aaron to move to LA. Listen to this week’s episode below and subscribe on iTunes.
You can check out more of Luke’s work on his daily humor web site Everything You Like is Stupid. You can also listen to him interview some of the most famous and influential people in the world every week on The Newsmakers Podcast.
I am not, nor have I ever been a New Year’s Resolution person. Of course, every year I make an excuse to eat and drink more and call it a resolution, but this year is different. You see, at about the same time one would make a resolution, I realized how many comedians in the city I’ve never met (or at least never had an in-depth conversation with). So here, in front of you all, I state my 2012 resolution: to have coffee with comedians and get to know them better. I love coffee, and comedians, and forging friendships. Some comedians I will meet for the 1st time, and some I’ll know to say hello to and get to know them better.
My first cup of coffee (not ever…just for this project) was with Philly’s Phunniest 2011 Winner Tommy Pope. I had seen Tommy in video and on stage numerous times, but had never met him until now. We are both from good old Delco, so this interview may include a lot of “dudes”, “mans”, and “yous guys”es. Yous guys have been warned.
Aubrie: You’ve been doing comedy for awhile now, do you or did you ever have pre-show rituals?
Tommy: I remember someone telling me-I started around four years ago- and someone noted that I had all of my jokes written out. So the way my process works is I’ll bullet point some ideas in a notebook or my phone or I’ll voice record it the way it comes out naturally in the car or onstage and then I’ll put it on paper. So my pre show ritual is to blindly look at the words- if it’s a big show like Helium or something I think I’m trying to regurgitate information but it never really sinks in. So I guess it’s like nervously reading jokes that I’m not actually reading. Actually, Hesky had a good point to that- right before when Helium plays that terrible music, that sadistic jingle- I kinda black out right before I go onstage. And I always look at my set-list, and he pointed out the same exact thing- that you keep just looking at the words but you’re not reading them and nothing’s hitting. You just keep thinking about walking onstage and getting hit with the lights.
Aubrie: So it’s the same for all comedians then. I often have a moment where I forget all lines backstage, but once I step on, they come right back to me.
Tommy: Yeah, it should be.
Aubrie: So, BirdText- how long has that been going on? Because I’ve heard your name and seen your videos for awhile now.
Tommy: Luke Cunningham and I started a show about three years ago where we used to tour Delco actually and it was called Philly Pub Crawl. We went around to all the popular Delco spots because at that time I didn’t really know anyone in Philadelphia- I was getting on Helium once every three or six months so I wasn’t really entrenched in the comedy community, so the best venue option was to go towards home where you know people would show up for shows. Luke would invite some great New york comedians to come down cause he had been in New York for five years and I would bring some people in from Philly, and that went on for two years. And then I met John McKeever at the Raven Lounge’s open mic a little over a year and half ago. From there we joined forces and changed it to BirdText because Luke went back to LA and New York to do some cool stuff like writing for Norm Macdonald, and John and I took the reins with setting up some shows around here. Luke would still help us from wherever he was at the time. So it’s been about a year and half for BirdText. Now we have Darryl- he’s been in it for the past three months. He was a really good friend of ours and he started out at Helium the same time as I did, and he was great at acting and helping us out with a lot of our videos, so it was just natural fit. We’re going to kick him out next week so this is the last BirdText interview before he’s done.
Aubrie: His head is getting too big for him after all of those WitOut award wins.
(Hey, guess what yous guys!! Darryl isn’t kicked out, those were just some JOKES!! Hahaha.)
Aubrie: So how did you guys come up with the name BirdText?
Tommy: So once we decided we were gonna rebrand our “Philly Pub Crawl”, we liked that there were a lot of popular shows with two uncommon names that are just memorable and something that stands out- simple terms that I always liked and admired. We wanted to come up with something that really didn’t matter and didn’t have too much connotation to comedy or anything specific to Philadelphia or New York so it’s pretty universal and people will remember it. So, John and I do a lot of g-chats at 3 or 4 in the morning. He texted me and he has that magnum condom joke, and he said, “If I had a magnum condom on I’d have to put my cell phone in with it so that it would fit better.” And in response I said, “Yeah, but your dick would still be texting me.” And his response was, “That’s it. BirdText.” I think it was a day or two after we said it were gonna change our name that we came up with that. And now there’s a connection now with the name and our videos and our faces, and it’s working. And it’s only been a year and a half or so since we came up with that.
Aubrie: Impressive! And speaking of impressive, I wondered if any of you studied film? Your videos are great.
Tommy: No, I went to Drexel and studied IT and engineering. But me and John have very similar tastes and we just mesh. It just works, so when it comes down to the shoot day, I’d say 85% of our work is improv. We’ll see angles and then it’s almost like we speak words without saying them- we just know. And we have the same appeal of the shooting style. Sometimes when you don’t have an education in it you just create a style that works for you. I don’t want to compare it to scumbags in sales- and I know this cause I worked with a lot of them and probably was one at some point- you know, when they hired you for a new position they didn’t really care about that cause they would have to untrain you and then retrain you the way they thought was the necessary way to sell. So we came in crisp and uneducated and do it our own way. That’s also why I like stand-up- like, I never knew forms of stand-up existed til after college. I never knew about comedy clubs and all of that stuff. But you can’t mock or emulate someone’s style because you don’t have any previous exposure to it. Someone once said “You can’t worry about being too much like another comedian if you just go up there and be yourself. Always do what you find is funny.”
Aubrie: Nice, I was going to ask you the best advice anyone ever gave you next, and that seems to be pretty great advice.
Tommy: Yeah, that’s pretty much it. It was just like, do what you think is funny. Eventually it’ll be funny- you’ll work it to make it better. And you gravitate towards people who are like your style and like your humor, and that’s important to gain some confidence. You get easily kicked down but you’ve got to group up with some people that’ll support you. I’m mean, you’re still gonna beat yourself up. I’m still going to be puking in a toilet over those 3 jokes I shouldn’t have told tonight.
Aubrie: We are our own worst critics. But that is the good thing about Philly- it is such a supportive community.
Tommy: Yeah, they all pick you up.
Aubrie: And to end this interview: a note completely unrelated to comedy. Facebook tells me you just got a dog.
Tommy: I did, I just got a dog! I’ve had a couple growing up- I had a pug which isn’t a dog, it’s a toy with a heartbeat. But I loved it cause I wasn’t a human- I was like six. It worked out for both of us. Then my dad talked my mother into getting a real dog- half Lab, half Irish Setter, and she was wonderful. But the dog we got is a Vizsla- it’s a Hungarian hunting bird dog. It’s like a weimaraner, but it’s auburn. Or like a rhodesian ridgeback, but without the reversal of hair up the spine. You know, I’m not done- I have other dog associations that will bore the fuck out of you. He’s 8 weeks. Just got him. We got him from a breeder, so they take it seriously. She interviewed us- we had to pass a series of interviews. But you get a real dog. She asked if we were going to show him, and I was like, “Yeah, I’m going to show him.” To my neighbors, when I take him outside to use the bathroom.
You can find more info and videos from Tommy Pope online at Bird Text.com
Aubrie Williams is a member of improv group King Friday as well as sketch groups Mani Pedi and Local Holiday Miracle.
J-L Cauvin is a comedian based in New York who will be recording his third album live next Wednesday, November 9th at Helium Comedy Club. We caught up with him to ask him some questions about Philly, and the process of recording a comedy album.
Why did you choose Philly as the place to record your album?
I opened for Steve Rannazzisi in May at Helium and I felt such a great energy from all the shows. Plus I have a decent number of friends in the Philadelphia area so I thought it would be a perfect place where I have good mix of a growing fan base and friends. I am from NYC, but I just really wanted to do it somewhere else besides my home so that I did not have to rely solely on family and fellow comedians to fill seats. And then I can just go home and tell everyone I crushed even if I tank.
What makes a Philly crowd different from crowds in other places?
I felt like the audiences in Philly have a mean streak in them that makes doing comedy really fun. They are not dumb mean, they are smart mean. My material is generally not too evil, but Philadelphia was the first city I ever performed in where if a joke was funny, no matter how mean it might have been, it was greeted by unanimous laughter. There were no “oooooo’s” or “awwwwwww’s” which I loved. I hate when crowds pretend to be offended. If you are truly offended, leave. If not, then stop making sounds and laugh like everyone else.
Bill Burr recorded his Emotionally Unavailable album here in Philly and opens it up with some local reference jokes. Of course his rant on Philly at the Opie and Anthony Travelling tour ater became a mega-hit. Do you plan on having any jokes or rants specifically about our town?
No – don’t have anything Philly specific really. My experience has been so good in Philly so far that I have not been motivated to dump on the city. Famous last words. There are plenty of other groups of people that I verbally assault so Philly will have to wait its turn I guess.
This is your third album – how have you changed as a comedian since recording your first? Is there anything on your first two albums that you wish you didn’t release to be out in the public forever?
My first album, Racial Chameleon, was definitely the friendlier album in that a lot of the material was light-hearted. I did a lot of impressions on the album, a lot of pop culture observations and I was dating a woman with a kid so the jokes were probably more sitcom-ish. I am proud of the album, in part because I believe it was really good for a comedian 3 years in. The second album, Diamond Maker, was a little bit darker. About half the CD was dedicated to the story of my failed engagement and I think the only thing I regret is that I did not dig even deeper. Not to be mean (maybe that would have been a pleasant bi-product), but because there was really dark humor in the story of our relationship that I kept exploring after the CD was recorded. But I have basically buried most of that material now because I don’t feel like re-living some of the experiences on a nightly basis.
I am really excited for this CD recording because I feel like I am fully developed as a comedian (of course I probably thought this three years ago also). I know what I believe, I know how I like to deliver my material and I think I am finally at that point where people will be able to tell if they love me or hate me. Not everyone will be a fan, but I believe that my material is strong enough and comes with enough force that the people who are fans will be dedicated fans.
Do you have a plan to release a new album every so often or do you just work until you have enough to record?
I have a personal goal of doing one every 3 years or so. I seem to be averaging about 35-40 polished minutes per year so after 3 years and some trimming I can put out an excellent hour. Since my last CD I have been doing comedy full time since that CD was released. So I have had 3 years of travelling and working with some great comedians like Patrice O’Neal, Dave Attell, and countless other lesser-known, but really professional and funny people. I feel like I have learned to be more brave and honest in my material, a process that really began with my second CD. This CD is really going to be all me, in that it it will be less about how I interact with other people, and more how I see the world, including a look at life as a comedian. One of the things I have worked hard on is writing material about being an up and coming comedian, but making it funny to people who are not comedians or in entertainment. I think it is often a story that is not told and it is one I won’t be able to tell with as much authenticity if I ever do make it big. I remember reading Lenny Bruce’s autobiography and was struck by how much fresher it felt than Steve Martin’s or George Carlin because Bruce was writing it when he was 40 or so. He had just “made it” so all his struggles and hustles felt more in the moment, whereas some of the other greats who have written of their beginnings wrote decades removed from the actual experiences. I want this CD to be in part the way I look at the world in 2011, but also a look into the world my life as a comedian in 2011.
Do you prepare for an album recording differently than you do for a regular headlining set?
Only in one way. I will not censor myself at all for a CD recording because I know people there are there to see me. On other sets I will sometimes leave out my more harsh or political material because the crowd may not be there for me, but just there for some generic laughs, so I try to get crowds like that to meet me halfway. But to quote my favorite show Breaking Bad this CD will not be a half measure. And that is what I am really excited about.
J-L Cauvin will be recording his new album Too Big to Fail live next Wednesday, November 9th at 8:00PM at Helium Comedy Club. Tickets can be purchased online.