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.
Friday night will be a celebration of women in comedy in Philadelphia. Broad Comedy is the City Spotlight‘s showcase of stand-up, sketch, improv and storytelling from some of Philly’s funniest females. We caught up with Mary Radzinski to ask her about the show, her comedy, and attitudes about women in comedy.
First off, Women doing Comedy, what is up with that? I know. It’s like, I’m hungry. Quit horsing around and make me a sandwich.
Obviously, my first question is a joke…what are your feelings about those kinds of attitudes that look at “female comedy” as a thing unto itself. I think it’s a limited view by limited people, but I sort of understand it. Comedy, like many things, has been male dominated. It’s a numbers game. As more and more women are becoming comedians, bringing hilarity to audiences of both men and women, hopefully “female comedian” will eventually become “comedian”.
Do you plan on introducing every act with a wink and a “this next performer’s a lady” line or any special variation on that time honored tradition – or would answering that be giving too much away. I’m actually not hosting the show, so it won’t really be up to me, but I assume there will be some poking fun at that. The introductions of female comics is of great amusement to me. I was introduced once as, “having a vagina”. As this is factually correct, I couldn’t argue with the host, however, I would have been more impressed if he had used “labia minora”. It’s annoying to me that this is how some comics get laughs and perpetuate a stereotype. Be smarter. Aim higher. Talk about our tits.
How do you feel about articles like this one from Fox News that say things like this - ”For women, frump isn’t funny any longer. The new female comedian has to be the sexual aggressor, sexually provocative, dominant and successful…” and ”Rosie O’Donnell and Janeane Garofalo will be relegated to playing the female versions of Chris Farley. Hollywood doesn’t want a woman that is not sexually enticing like Rosie; it wants the sexual alpha female…” Whatevs. Frump will always be funny. Frump is typically what nurtures the development of funny. Hollywood will always have it’s eye on sexy; sex sells. Writing funny scripts for pretty actors will never get old. I recently saw Jennifer Anniston on Inside the Actor’s Studio. During the interview she had the personality of an elderly chimp. Referencing Anna Faris as a face of female comedy is a jab at the more than likely frumpy person who wrote her most recent comedic script. There are no absolutes. Would it help your career to be beautiful, sexy, and hilarious? Of course. Necessary? Nah.
Where does your personal style as a comedian come from? I really try to be myself on stage. I’m not a very high energy person offstage, and this translates. I’m not entirely deadpan in my everyday life either, so I’ve been working on that as well. This has, and continues to be, my biggest challenge.
Your show is going to be a mix of styles of comedy, it’s going to have some stand-up, improv, sketch, and storytelling – traditionally these have been kept apart – do you see a growing trend in bringing them all together on one bill? I’m not sure I see a growing trend in doing this, but we wanted to represent different areas of Philly’s comedy scene. We were given the title, “Broad Comedy” as part of Sketchfest, so we thought we’d incorporate a “broad spectrum” idea into it to, through different types of comedy. I do think the variety jazzes it up for the audience.
Has running your own weekly open mic and booking shows given you any new insights or perspectives on comedy? Do you have any words of advice for someone looking to start their own show? It has definitely been insightful regarding the amount of work that goes into even an open mic. It’s not easy to please everyone but it’s a goal to keep trying. Words of advice: Get on stage every week and do time. Host to a room of a hundred (even if there are 5 people and they are all comics). Have fun and act like it.
You’re somewhat of a Twitter aficionado - do your best job of summing up and promoting Broad Comedy in 140 characters or less. Broad Comedy.Friday,October 21st. Shakespeare Theater. 8pm.Broads doing comedy. Broadly. Like their broad mothers taught them. Come watch.
Broad Comedy is part of the first annual City Spotlight at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater (2111 Sansom St.) Friday night at 8:00PM. Tickets can be purchased online.
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.
Polygon Comedy is a Philadelphia community arts organization devoted to building a thriving and sustainable comedy scene for area comedians. Polygon Comedy is working to raise awareness and understanding of comedy through publicity at regular performance opportunities, and outreach at quality venues.
We caught up with Polygon’s Rick Horner to ask him some questions about his ongoing run of Philly Fringe Festival shows.
WITOUT: Polygon is a new establishment in Philly comedy – tell us how you got started and the idea behind it.
RICK HORNER: The actual idea was born in Rosen & Milkshake – they wanted to be able to direct people, who came to see them in a show, to a clearinghouse website that would have info about all of the other improv groups in town, so when you look for Rosen & Milkshake you find out about Rookie Card, or Gross Butler for example. I just thought that since my overall goal/hope is to grow and nurture all of the talent in Philly, that having a little more organization around people, venues (to make them happy to embrace comedy), and having some idea sharing about what is and isn’t working to continue building the sketch/stand-up/improv community was worthwhile. Both PHIT and Comedysportz Philly are great at doing what they do for improv, this is something a little different – to spread the word around Philly about this ever-expanding group of folks, looking for good places to play. Polygon is geared for both audiences and performers alike. What is most important is that everyone gets a little more involved.
WO: How have the Polygon Fringe shows gone so far? Tell us about some of the groups you have had.
RH: There are so many shows to see during the Fringe! The focus is improv for the Fringe – and the shows have all been really great! A real eclectic mix of performers and crowds, and tons of people I have never met before – which is great for comedy in general. Let’s see – so far Polygon has hosted Angry People Building Things, Suggestical, One Night Standy, Vorlauf, Rosen & Milkshake, WhipSuit, The Ones Your Mom Warned You About, The Hendersons, Cubed, Neilsen, Rintersplit, and Hans Gruber. Really fun, energetic sets. Everyone who is doing improv, sketch and/or stand-up comedy should help generate promotion, and support for the comedy community.
WO: How has O’Neals been as a venue?
RH: They are great to us – great space, secluded on the third floor, it is a decent size room, and we have had a pretty full room (of 40!) It has been a real pleasure organizing this latest Polygon vemture. Up there and the audience has full access to both food and drink. Best bar in Philly, bar none. Great food, great people.
WhipSuit has been doing a monthly show on the third Friday each month for over four years now in the same space and graciously allowed Polygon use only during this Fringe.
WO: Tell us about some of the groups you have coming up.
RH: Friday, Sep 16th, 9pm: Beirdo, MEDIC! Grimmachio take the stage and on Saturday, Sep 17th at 9pm you can catch Gross Butler, Rookie Card, and Iron Lung. Terrific! If you come see a Polygon show for full price, you get a red ticket you can show at all future shows giving you admission for only $5!
WO: How do you see the Philly Improv Community growing? Would you describe it as a boom time for comedy in Philly?
RH: I think since the stand-up, improv and sketch communities started working more together – similarly to how other cities work together – we are starting to see some artistic success. Polygon should serve as a guide to let the public know what’s going on, and who is who helps get the community together.
Polygon aims to get most of Philly’s groups together and has been a great success so far, with a lot of the groups becoming closer and working together more. Also, having festivals really drives people out and has really helped. Each festival – Philadelphia Improv Festival, Philly SketchFest, Duofest and F. Harold – has showcased the best groups and talent in their scope, while exposing the community, and our audiences to different forms, styles and actors from all around the world.
There has never been a more exciting time for comedy fans as some of the funniest comedians are currently performing live all across Philadelphia. New comedy superstars along with comedy legends are currently available to see all around the area, so get tickets while they are still available. Spend your time laughing the night away with some of the funniest people around.
Polygon has two Fringe Festival shows remaining, Friday September 16th and Saturday September 17th at 9pm at O’Neal’s. Tickets can be purchased online.