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Upcoming Shows

  • November 24, 2017 8:00 amNationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • November 25, 2017Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Heliun
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  • November 25, 2017 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • December 1, 2017 8:00 amNationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • December 2, 2017Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • December 2, 2017Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Heliun
  • December 2, 2017 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • December 8, 2017 8:00 amNationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • December 9, 2017Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • December 9, 2017Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Heliun
  • December 9, 2017 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • December 15, 2017 8:00 amNationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • December 16, 2017Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Heliun
  • December 16, 2017Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • December 16, 2017 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • December 22, 2017 8:00 amNationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • December 23, 2017Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • December 23, 2017Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Heliun
  • December 23, 2017 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • December 29, 2017 8:00 amNationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • December 30, 2017Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • December 30, 2017Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Heliun
  • December 30, 2017 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • January 5, 2018 8:00 amNationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
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Pizza Pals with Joe Moore featuring Local Holiday Miracle

Andrea Kuhar and Aubrie Williams are the one-two-punch-in-the-chops that make up Philly comedy tour-de-force Local Holiday Miracle. At Aubrie’s suggestion, LHM and I sliced it up at Lickety Split, and we talked about Ninja Turtles, Pizza on English Muffins, and their show Thursday August 4th at the Shubin Theater, at 8:30 PM. If you’ve ever wondered about how pizza works into the LHM magic, read on:

Pizza Pal Joe Moore: How much do you like pizza:

Andrea Kuhar – I live in Philly for a lot of reasons, Pizza is one of them.

Aubrie WIlliams – I consider it a religion and practice it… religiously!

PPJM: What is your favorite slice in Philly:

AK: I’m partial to Lorenzo’s, but if I’m feeling fancy – Pizzeria Stella!

AW: I’m gonna say Lorenzo’s cause there is so much cheese on a single slice, and the more cheese the better!

PPJM: How often do you eat pizza?

AK: If English Muffin pizza counts, weekly.

AW: Anywhere from 4-7 times a week. It’s my go-to pre-rehearsal, pre-show eat.

PPJM: Are you into plain pizzas or toppings? which toppings?

AK: Every veggie – no black olives!

AW: I enjoy both plain and toppings equally. MY favorite toppings are mushrooms and olives.

PPJM: Favorite use of pizza in Film, TV or Music:

AK: Das Racist – “I’m at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell”

AW: NINJA TURTLES (movies cause I always want to eat it straight from the screen)

PPJM: Did your family have a pizza day, what day was it?

AK: Yes! Way back, we got pizza on Friday and then watched TGIF! “Step by step, day by day…”

AW: It was always Friday night, and Friday at school was also pizza day… so Friday was a great day all around

Showfile: The Gross Show

The Gross Show is a sick and twisted view on the world of “trash talk shows” from the mind of Alex Gross. It makes its return to Philly Improv Theater in its new time slot this Friday at 11:30PM. 

WITOUT: Explain the format of The Gross Show.

ALEX GROSS: The Gross Show is just your regular live theater comedy talk show. We have guests, we drink some beer and we have some good old fashion fun.

WITOUT: Where did you come up with the idea to do an improvised “Trash Talk Show”?

AG: Growing up I didn’t watch the Price is Right when I faked being sick to stay home from school. When my Mother would leave for work I would race down the stairs and turn on Fox to watch nonstop Springer and Maury action. It was (still is) almost everything I hate about humanity and I could watch it without having to actually deal with it. I would scream at my TV until I was red and get really involved. I don’t think I actually enjoyed it, I think I really enjoyed fucking hating people on TV which is why I imagine people watch the Jersey Shore and other corny reality shows (hopefully).

Last fall I was bumming around my apartment with nothing to do until I saw Jerry Springer was on. I hadn’t watched it in years. The exact same feeling rushed into me as when I was a kid. I had so much fun watching and I thought about how I wanted to host a show like it someday. A few days later I saw Greg Maughan and realized I could host a show like it now! I had already pitched several ideas to Greg with no success but he was on board almost immediately with The Gross Show.

WITOUT: Who is your favorite Trash Talk Show Host? Do you pull your hosting style from any one person or do you try to grab bits and pieces of different people that you like?

AG: Jerry Springer is the best day time talk show host of all time. Oprah can suck it. Originally I tried to pull my style from Jerry but as shows went by I realized that it sort of sucks for me and for the show. It’s way too laid back and I felt like my audiences as a whole were too polite at times. Now I’m doing whatever seems right in the moment while still being kind of laid back.

WITOUT: What is your favorite segment of Trash Talk shows? (is it paternity tests? someones cheating on somebody? I’ve got a secret to tell you.? I’m a bad kid who’s getting sent to boot camp?) What do you like about it so much?

AG: On Jerry Springer, the cheating segments are classics. They are consistently sad, depressing and funny as hell. The guests show raw emotion which draws me to the edge of my seat, the fights are entertaining and the twists are awesome. I believe every time a man cheats on his wife with a tranny, that he wasn’t aware had a dick, an angel gets their wings. On Maury, the “I’m eating myself to death” fat segments are too much for me to handle. I love to hate it. You have people dying of hunger around the world but here in America we cry over fat kids who can’t stop eating and have half eaten roast beef sandwiches under their mattresses. I just can’t wrap my mind around it.

WITOUT: Your show has moved time slots a few times, do you feel like you are getting the “Freaks and Geeks” treatment or is it just something to add to the lore of The Gross Show?

AG: I think I was getting the “Greg Maughan is scared to have the cops show up” treatment after we got threatened by the neighbors at the first show for making too much noise. Good news though! Last month Greg called me after the Hopper Brothers decided to end their show and asked if I was interested in going to Fridays late night for good. With no thought I said yes and after being lectured about what I still can’t do on the show, The Gross Show has Friday shows until at least the end of the year!

WITOUT: You play a pretty straight-forward host on the show, do you ever get the itch to get down and dirty and gross with your guests?

AG: In the worst way. Before the first show I couldn’t wait to be weird, crude, strange, disgusting and offensive but while in the planning process I had a reality check. I realized I had to be the straight man or at least the audience’s point of view and a single tear rolled down my cheek. It was really heart breaking.

WITOUT: Is anything off limits? Has anyone come to you with a segment idea that is just too much to put on stage? Will the day ever come? Where is the line?

AG: Nothing is off limits, no idea is too much and there is no line. Example, I couldn’t get the actress for Friday’s show but I was really close to having Zombie Amy Winehouse throwing (fake) ketamine on audience members. My Father said it wasn’t funny but what does he know.

Spotlight on a Group: Camp Woods

Camp Woods is a Philadelphia sketch comedy group comprised of members Rob Baniewicz, JP Boudwin, Patrick Foy, Brendan Kennedy, Sam Narisi and Billy Bob Thompson. They will be performing a brand new show this Thursday and Friday at Philly Improv Theater at the Shubin Theater, 407 Bainbridge St. We caught up with some members of Camp Woods for this installment of our Spotlight on a Group series.

WITOUT: Tell us how Camp Woods was formed (originally, and the addition of newer members).

SAM NARISI: The group was in its embryonic phase when they asked me to join. That happened because I had been in a video that Pat made in college. I lived with Pat in college. Boy, we had some crazy times. But anyway, Pat asked me if I’d do some more stuff. And boy did I do some more stuff…

PAT FOY: The first Camp Woods video we shot was a remake of a video I had done in college. I asked Sam to reprise his role as this Stephen Hawking-type guy who was confined to a wheelchair because his beard had crippled him.  He was so funny in the re-shoot we asked him to become a permanent member of the group afterwards.

SN: Then Brendan came along, which was mostly a matter of all of us being into his standup. He told us he had sketch ideas and we were like, “Niiiiiice.”

PF: I think Brendan was excited to collaborate with other like-minded people, and we knew him as one of the funniest comics in the city, so we were more than happy to have him join.  It was his idea to start doing videos with title cards at the beginning and end, which has become sort of a calling card for us.

SN: Billy threatened to blow up a train if we didn’t let him join. Actually, I guess what happened was that we needed an additional cast member when we went down to a festival in North Carolina so we asked Billy, and it was cool.

PF: As I remember it, the train thing was part of some performance art piece Billy was working on.  Really edgy stuff.  We were so impressed that we asked him to join Camp Woods.

SN: As for Rob, he joined one night while drunk and didn’t remember it the next morning.

ROB BANIEWICZ: JP had mentioned to me after Meg left about joining up.  I didn’t know what I was going to go comedically so I thought I’d just write a sketch or two.  Then one night I was very drunk and Brendan asked me to join flat out while he was also very drunk.  I remembered but he was surprised afterwards when he was sober that he would ask me that.  But I’ve hung around long enough that everyone else seems to be ok with it.

WITOUT: I know that you guys have some rules when it comes to writing sketches (no doctors office sketches or cashier and customer sketches, etc) can you talk about why you made these and how you think it helps you stand out or in your process?

SN: We’ve had a bunch of rules, like no doctor’s offices, no parody/reference things… basically stuff that’s easy that you see too much of already. Lately, though, we’ve had a lot of fun breaking those rules. Like, we recently did a doctor sketch – Dr. Stephen Tyler PHD.

We also have a live sketch called Big Friendly Baby, which has a lot of Silence of the Lambs references. But one of the characters is a giant baby, so it’s not something where people are like, “Oh, I’ve seen this before.” I hope not, anyway.

So I guess the point is, the rules helped us in the beginning to figure out what we did and didn’t want to do, but now I think we’ve grown up to a point where we know what we like and we can just do whatever we think is funny.

WITOUT: Tell us about your writing process.

SN: There are occasional times where we’ll all sit in a circle and write a sketch from scratch together – but the result is usually a big, big mess. You know, too many cooks or whatever. So most of time someone will have a draft printed out and then we’ll all read it and say things like, “Yo, what if this happened ….” Then sometimes, we change the sketch so that what the person said should happen happens. That’s a really boring answer, so feel free to imagine these meetings taking place while we also have to diffuse a bomb that’s about to blow up the White House. Like, “It’s okay, Mr. President, we’ll get you out of this thing alive. Also, Pat, I don’t think the joke at the top of page 2 works as well as it could.”

WITOUT: Do you approach writing an entire show differently from writing a single sketch (do you try to build on themes or make connections) or do you just focus on one sketch at a time?

RB: Sketches are like women.  You need to work on them one at a time.  To pull a bunch of women into a bedroom at the same time and have them find what they have in common with each other is just a mess — especially when they’re in various states of undress — so I use the same rules when I approach writing a sketch.

SN: When we started out, we tried to write shows that were these big narrative productions … and it was pretty insane. They took a long time to write, and they were completely unadaptable to a setting other than a full 25-minute set in a theater. I liked them, but we probably also bored a lot of people. I don’t know, we have some ideas for those things (they’re basically half-hour plays, I guess) that we might do at some point.

PF: We tried to run before we could walk.  Those early shows were pretty ambitious conceptually, but we had to go back and learn how to write actual sketches since we are, after all, a sketch comedy group.

SN: But basically now we focus on the individual sketches one at a time, and use them to build the show by creating transitions or adding some kind of through-line. There’s also been talk about doing some more theme-intensive shows, like a show that’s all about pizza. So that’ll be a thing where the idea for the show comes first and we write sketches to fit it. But yeah, I think it’s about time to start getting people hyped on this pizza show. So hey people: Get hyped.

PF: We found early on that making connections and coming up with themes and through-lines was the easy part.  Creating the building blocks, the actual sketches, was harder.  You know, the funny parts of a show.  So we focused on getting better at that.  Also, if we ever do the pizza show, we are probably going to give out free pizza to the audience.

WITOUT: How has your style evolved in your time together? Has the addition of new members changed your style or dynamic at all?

PF: I’ve started writing parts tailored to certain members of the group.  Like, I recently wrote a sketch based around a character thinking, “Brendan will play this guy.”  It’s a really dark sketch, but Brendan can play dark with this certain amount of insane goofiness that, hopefully, will allow us to get away with how dark it is.

SN: What’s weird is that after working with people for a while you start to here their voices in your head while you write – like, you imagine the other dudes liking or disliking something. So you get that kind of influence from everyone else in the group even when you’re by yourself. Unless I’m actually just insane and this is a weird thing that only happens to me.

PF: I’m also writing a sketch about a schizophrenic guy, who will be played by Sam because he clearly suffers from schizophrenia.

WITOUT: What are each of your roles in the group? How do you see yourself and the other guys?

RB: Someone else can answer this… although actually that’s my role.  Getting someone else to do my work for me and taking the credit.

SN:  My role is basically “one of the guys without curly hair and a beard.” Rob and Billy are my reinforcements. Before they joined, all the sketches were about guys with curly hair and I couldn’t be in any of them.

PF: Billy, I think, is the only one of us who wasn’t brought up Catholic.  He’s our diversity hire.  It’s about time a white guy from New England got a break in this world.  Rob is the oldest member of the group, so he’s like the father figure.  Or at least the pervert uncle who walks around muttering “pussy party” under his breath.  Brendan is our bullshit-detector.  He tells us who or what is bullshit, who is full of shit, who should go fuck themselves, and who should go get fucked.  JP is the Social Chairman; he’s all charisma and charm and he’ll never settle down.  Sam is the muscle of the group.  He’s got 1-8-7 skills.  Like, one time he couldn’t make it to a show, and didn’t tell us why.  The next day they announced that Osama bin Laden was dead.  I’m the guy who gets naked the most often.  I also do all of JP’s and Brendan’s stunts.

You can find out more about Camp Woods on their website, Twitter and Facebook page. Their videos can be found on Vimeo.

10 Questions With…Pat Foy

Pat Foy is a Philadelphia comedian and member of sketch comedy group Camp Woods. They are debuting a new show next Thursday and Friday at Philly Improv Theater (Facebook event).

How and why did you get into comedy? In school, whenever there was an option to perform a short skit, write a silly script, or make a stupid video for a homework assignment, I took it. In high school, my friends and I ran for student council for the sole purpose of making funny signs and writing funny speeches. Clearly, I had a hard time taking school seriously. I have the transcripts to prove this.
Shortly after college, my buddy Kevin Kelly started writing comedy sketches with his childhood friend JP Boudwin. Since Kevin and I had made a few comedy videos together, both for school projects and otherwise, they asked me to come to a few writing sessions and see if it was a good fit. We all cracked each other up, wrote a bunch of stuff we liked, and that was the beginning of Camp Woods.

How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? I guess it’d be a cross between dryness and absurdism. I also like stuff that mixes the highbrow and the lowbrow. That might come from all the Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Simpsons I watched growing up. But then again, I watched a lot of Home Improvement, too, so who the hell knows?

Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? There’s nothing quite like doing a show at a packed-out Shubin Theatre. When every seat is filled and people are standing in the aisle, there’s a really great energy in the room that the performers benefit from. The Shubin also seems to attract audiences who are really excited to see comedy, rather than people who just want to hang out with their friends and talk in the back of the room.

Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? The impromptu four-on-four wrestling match between Camp Woods and the #AmericaGethard crew at January’s Bedtime Stories was probably the weirdest, most memorable thing I’ve been involved with so far. When I came to Connie’s Ric Rac that night, I was not expecting to body-slam strangers in front of a crowd or be forcibly thrown from the stage. As a side note, I’m very grateful to those guys for cutting out of their video the part immediately post-match, when I’m doubled over onstage, gasping for breath and trying not to puke everywhere.

Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? Or a sort of method that you use to develop comedic material? Most of my ideas come when I’m doing something else, like taking a shower or hanging out with friends or sitting at my desk at work. I’ll write it down in a notebook, then come back to it later when I get a chance to work it out. Sometimes I’ll write a fully-formed first draft on my own and bring it to a writing meeting. Sometimes I’ll bring just the idea to a writing meeting or a workshop and bounce it off people, and the sketch ends up going in a totally different direction than I would have guessed. If the idea is super-specific, I’ll usually try to use it as an essay or short humor piece rather than a sketch. Sometimes things are just funnier to read than they are said out loud, and vice-versa.

What is it about stand-up / sketch / improv that draws you to it? As I said earlier, I wrote a lot of sketches, or attempts at sketch comedy, when I was younger, so I think it’s just the most natural way for me to express humor. I like being part of a group, and I like having a plan, so sketch fits both of those things pretty well. I’m drawn to stand-up and improv because they’re both so intimidating, and I will, I swear, try them both soon.

Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? There are so many good ones, but I’ll say it’s a tie between The Feeko Brothers, Bing Supernova, and Fastball Pitcher Bob Gutierrez. The Feekos come up with the silliest premises and Christian and Billy are such natural hams onstage, they make the premises fly. With Bing and Bob, Chip and Brian are really good joke writers, and when those jokes are filtered through the personas of, respectively, a hateful idiot and an oblivious idiot, they’re irresistible. The jokes, that is. Not Chip and Brian. I don’t care for them.

Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? We’ve had a number of shows, at a number of venues, where we’ve had videos that won’t play or other technical difficulties. That always sucks, but it comes with the territory. Probably the worst time I’ve had onstage was at the “Mental Illness” Bedtime Stories. One of my classmates from a PHIT writing workshop put up a sketch about an insane, vegan homeless man, and I played the homeless guy while Paul Triggiani played the little boy who tries to give him a cheeseburger. The homeless guy had a ton of lines, and I forgot all but a handful of them. Dom Moschitti sat beside the stage with my script, feeding me lines, but it was still a disaster. It was embarrassing, and I felt really bad about ruining this poor guy’s funny sketch. Our conversation after the show was him thanking Paul and me profusely for performing his sketch, and me apologizing profusely for fucking it up.

What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow? A permanent theater for PHIT will certainly go a long way, and a bit more recognition from the local press couldn’t hurt, either.
Other than that, I think we all just keep doing this, keep getting better, keep helping each other out, and more and more people will begin to take notice.

Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy?  I’d like to do this as a job someday. I’m a simple man, and I don’t really care about being famous. All I ask for is boatloads of cash.

Ten Questions With…Jim Grammond

Jim Grammond is a Philadelphia comedian and host of the new Philly Improv Theater panel show Reasonable Discourse with Jerks, which will make its debut Wednesday, July 27th at 8:30PM. Jim also writes a blog and is very active on Twitter.

How and why did you get into comedy?
I got into stand-up comedy because growing up in the stand-up crazed 80’s I loved it, everything from Bill Cosby to Sam Kinison. After watching it for years I finally thought I would try it.

How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that?
For me this is interesting (I guess) since I am coming back to comedy after a few years away. My previous style was kind of dry/angry/weird, which sort of reflected who I was. I’m still weird, but less dry and angry. So I’m trying to change my style now to reflect that.

Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you?
Helium’s my traditional favorite, but I’m really enjoying the new venues that have opened up to comedy in the past few years, like the Shubin and Connie’s Ric Rac. Most venues have some redeeming characteristics. Most.

Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out?
Seeing a comic get off stage at the Laff House and go outside to fight an audience member. More than once.

Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? Or a sort of method that you use to develop comedic material?
My new favorite tool is Twitter. I’m on there at @jgrammond. It forces me to write concisely and is great for developing a premise for a new bit. I used to be very into memorizing the bits I wrote, but am trying to get away from that as it can sound really unnatural on stage.

What is it about stand-up that draws you to it?
I’m an attention-craving nerd who always wants to show I’m the smartest person in the room (even when I’m not, which is often). So stand-up is a natural place for that attitude I guess.

Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites?
I’m going to answer this a little differently and mention the Philly comics who were just starting or really young when I went on my comedy hiatus who I think have gotten really good. That list includes people like you (note from the editor: I am Aaron Hertzog), Steve Gerben, Joey Dougherty, Blake Wexler, Pat Barker, Brendan Kennedy, Mary Radzinski, and I’m sure plenty more. I’m not even including the people who’ve moved away. I’m also glad Oakland or Oaklyn or whatever his name is is still around. He’s a treasure.

Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire?
I once did a show in the basement of a shady Phoenixville “bar”—I don’t think they had a liquor license. It was like no one told them prohibition ended. There were five people in the audience and I was the only white person within eight blocks. Before the show, the police were there looking for a local young hoodlum named “Butt-Butt”. I bombed real, real bad, but the after party was fun.

What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow?
It’d be great if a bunch of people could breakout of the stand-up scene here without having to move to NYC or LA first, like a comedy version of what Nirvana/Pearl Jam/Soundgarden did for people’s impression of Seattle. It’s cool that Luke Giordano just basically did that.

Also, the trend of doing and promoting stand-up shows in actual theaters rather than bars with makeshift stages has to continue. Bars are really hard to put on shows in. People in bars are usually there to drink and talk to their friends, not listen to weirdos with microphones.

Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy?
It’s nice right now that I don’t have a real, ultimate goal. I know people say if you don’t have a goal you won’t be dedicated, but I’d rather just do it for fun right now and see where that leads. I will say my job-related-to-comedy goal would be a TV writing gig, preferably for a late night show.

Spotlight on a Group: Secret Pants

Secret Pants is a fitting group to kick off WitOut’s new Spotlight on a Group Series. A fixture in the Philly sketch scene, Secret Pants has been filming and performing live sketch comedy since 2004, have created some of the most memorable moments from Bedtime Stories (now The Theme Show) are regulars in the yearly Philly Sketch Fest and have produced their own sketch show extravaganza Welcome to the Terrordome as well as multiple successful shows at Philly Improv Theater. They found viral success with their man on the street gameshow Bush or Batman, and their Booty Shorts for Men sketch was mentioned as a favorite by Justin Timberlake on his Twitter. We asked members of Secret Pants some questions about the group, and they appointed member Larry Wiechecki to answer them.

Witout: How and when did you get together?

Larry Wiechecki: Secret Pants has been together since Spring 2004.  A majority of the members had taken a comedy writing class at Temple together. Sam, Brian Kelly and I(Larry) didn’t go to Temple.  BK and Sam both had friends who were in the class and invited them to a meeting.  I lived with BK at the time, he invited me.  The first initial meetings were basically meet and greets.  Bryce and Steve both had butt cuts, Brian Craig may have had one too.  Steve definitely had a visor.  We started out with 13 members, we are down to 7.

WO: How have you seen your style evolve in the time you’ve been together?

LW: I don’t think our style has evolved too much as far as our ideas and writing.  With all of the years of experience together, we know what works and what doesn’t.  As well as who’s good at doing what.  In that sense, we may have matured/evolved.

WO: What are some of your favorite shows or moments from shows?

LW: For me, it was easily our 5th Anniversary show at the Actor’s Studio.  All of us had been drinking and we sat backstage, we were behind a screen, making each other laugh and generally having a good time.  We were very loose that night, going out of our way to make each other laugh while performing.  During a sketch Brian Kelly surprised me with a Greek accent and I could barely deliver my lines I was laughing so hard.  Also, any Bedtime Stories at the Shubin was always a lot of fun and not because of the show.  Not that the show wasn’t fun, but hanging out with the other performers in the basement is/was my favorite part of doing shows.

WO: Do you approach your live sketches and filmed sketches differently, and how?

LW: I wouldn’t say that we do.  There aren’t many sketches that we have that we couldn’t perform either way.  We put as much detail into our live sketches as we do our video sketches.  We’ve always gone that extra mile for our live sketches to real set the scene.

WO: How have you seen the Philly sketch scene evolve in the time you’ve been around?

LW: There are definitely a lot more groups.  It seems a lot more people who are involved with the Philadelphia Comedy Scene, whether it be stand up or improv, are trying their hand at sketch.  Also, with the PHIT providing sketch writing classes and doing Sketch Up or Shut up at the Shubin, it seems it will keep evolving with new, young faces.

WO: Have you ever had an idea for a sketch that you loved, but the rest of the group didn’t? Tell me about it. Did you end up scrapping the idea, or using it somewhere else? Did it work out for the best?

LW: YES, yes there is one sketch that I always wanted to do, but no one else wanted to.  It was called “Fight the HIV with Magic.”  I can only assume no one wanted to do it because it consisted of me wearing blackface, top hat, cape and Magic Johnson basketball jersey.  Magic was hosting a telethon to collect money, not for HIV awareness, but to save his own life.  He’d say repeatedly “You don’t want me to die, do ya? Give your money.”  Then when we shot and performed live the Juggalos sketch, I had to put my money where my mouth is and put on blackface.  I can now never run for President.  There was also “Forklift Academy” which was just Police Academy with forklifts.  That was never written or shot because of my own laziness.

Secret Pants can be found online here, on Facebook and members of their group are hosts of regular Philly Improv Theater shows Sketch-up or Shut-up and TV Party.

Ten Questions With…John McKeever

John McKeever is a Philadelphia comedian who co-hosts the Bird Text Comedy Show at Helium Comedy Club with Tommy Pope and Luke Cunningham. He was recently featured in this ESPN Commercial. He only felt like answering nine of ten questions…

How and why did you get into comedy?
I started going to open mics here and there a couple of years ago but never steady.  I started going all the time about a year ago because I’ve always really enjoyed the process of writing jokes and then working them out on stage for a possible laugh.  I just didn’t want to get too old and regret never pursuing it full time.  I also don’t think I’m fit to lead a normal 9-5 life.

How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that?      

I guess I would just say my style is conversational.  I’m just not a great at writing one-liners, I think that’s a really unique talent.  Some people can do both really well, like Chip Chantry or Luke Cunningham, which boggles my mind.   I like to just get on stage with an idea and work it out with different crowds and different tags without ever committing to a permanent structure.  I just make sure I get from A to B without rambling too much.   I think having a loose structure keeps me, personally, from being too rigid on stage like an actor trying to remember his lines.   I also have a terrible memory.

Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you?
I like Helium and the Raven’s open mic is the best. Noche’s open mic is a lot of fun sometimes too but it’s more of a bar atmosphere so it’s harder to just tell people to stop talking, especially when they came to a bar to do just that.  Jack and Paul do a good job with it though.   The Hey Everybody show @ the  Shubin is a great show because there’s always a cool crowd and great performers.

Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out?
There’s so many but when Aaron Hertzog said onstage at the Raven “I’m going to tickle your throat clits with my word dick”, Darryl’s “Hatchet” bit and anytime I see the Feeko’s perform are on the top of my list.  There is great show almost every night in Philly, which makes it really exciting to be a part of this scene.

Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? Or a sort of method that you use to develop comedic material?
I give my wife a topic,  I tie her arms and feet to one of those big circus spinning wheels and as long as she gives me good tags or punchlines, I don’t fire the paintball gun.

Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites?
There’s so many and for so many different reasons. Like I said earlier I think Luke Cunningham and Chip Chantry are both great performers, excellent writers and really great influences to those just starting out.  I love Tommy Pope & Steve Gerben’s storytelling, it’s so funny it and invites everyone in and usually gets so intense that you become scared for their well being.   Hesky has a great observational style.  He’s so relatable and never not funny.  Then you have people like Aaron Hertzog and Brendan Kennedy who are always trying something new with total confidence and making it work for them.  Sean Quinn is new to the area but he’s just a natural.  Darryl’s bits are probably my favorite. His commitment is just unreal.  When I tell a joke and I feel heat, I bail but when Darryl tells a joke it’s like “I’m not going anywhere and you fuckers are gonna think this is funny wether you like it or not” and then it kills.  There’s so many others that I’m probably leaving out.

Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire?  
I bombed at a show in Port Richmond one time and the whole time this guy was heckling me.  At one point I made an AIDS reference and the guy yells “way too personal!”, which was weird because throughout the whole show I was hoping he had AIDS.

What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow?
Everybody works really well together and there is a ton of support.  That’s the kind of thing that makes this comedy scene so great.  If we keep supporting each other and going telling people about all the great shows in Philly, it will become a monster.  It already is.  Also, and I don’t like this anymore than anybody else does, but we have to make a decision between Darryl and Chris.

Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy?
I just want to grow as a writer and a performer.  My biggest goal is to become a writer who fucks stand-up on the side.


ShowFile: Rant-O-Wheel

There are a lot of regular comedy shows here in Philadelphia, and in our new feature ShowFile (it’s a profile of a show!) we are going to make sure you know a little bit about what is out there for you to enjoy. Our first Shofile is on Rant-O-Wheel, an improvised storytelling show held at Philly Improv Theater at 7:00PM on the first Wednesday of their two-week runs. We asked host Jaime Fountaine some questions about the show.

WITOUT: How long have you been doing Rant-O-Wheel?

Jaime Fountaine: The first Rant-O-Wheel show was held in August 2009, at The Dive, during my Second Stories show.  We’d put one on every few months or so, until July of last year, when Greg Maughan gave me the opportunity to do a monthly show at PHIT.

WO: What gave you the idea for the show?

JF: My friend Steve Martinez told me about a game he used to play when he was hanging out with some anarchists (he’s from California).  They had a giant wicker wheel into which they’d woven slips of paper with various ideas and issues relating to social justice.  You’d spin the wheel and then rant on the topic it had chosen for you.  We thought if you shifted it from social change to storytelling, it could be a lot of fun.

WO: Explain the format of the show.

JF: At the beginning of every show, right after I make sure everyone knows what a noun is, I fill up the wheel with audience suggested words.  Each contestant spins the wheel three times, and has five minutes to make up a story that includes all three of their words.  The only rule is that you can’t use all three words in rapid succession and then expect to talk for another four-and-a-half minutes.  Other than that, anything is fair game.

WO:Do you have any favorite moments from your time hosting the show (any especially memorable stories, or surprise guests?)

JF: One the most surprising performers was a man that volunteered under the name “Douche #7” who, instead of telling a story, warbled an off-pitch version of “I Can’t Live (If Living is Without You)”.  Then he disappeared into the night.

It usually helps when shows take on themes, whether it’s because I’ve put one in place (like when Steve moved to Baltimore), because the audience has agreed on a certain theme through their noun suggestions, or because of some other factor, like the time the show turned into a hotbed of awkward sexual oversharing that just kept snowballing.

There have been a lot of great stories to come out of the show, although I think my favorite is still the story that grew out of Steve and I trying to finish half a wheel of words by ourselves and turned into the story of how we, the illegitimate children of an itinerant Native American brush salesmen, came to find each other in a desert.

WO: What are the elements that make up a good Rant-O-Wheel story?

JF: Confidence, whether or not you’re faking it, is key. If you believe that you can sell a story about scalpings, vacuum cleaner repair, and Walla Walla, Washington, the audience is much more likely to go along with you.  Some people find it easier to go up there with the framework of a real-life experience or an existing story (like The Little Mermaidor Blood Meridian), but it’s not necessary.  It can also help to be a little, but not overly drunk.  It helps with bravado.

WO: What is it about comedic storytelling that you love? What about it is different from other types of comedy?

JF: I’m a writer more than I’m a comedian.  Even when I’m doing comedy, it’s more a character telling a story than straightforward jokes.  I’m a lot more interested in the backstory than I am the set-up and punchline, laying down an entire universe for the audience, and then trying to convince them to live in it for five minutes.  Some people can do that with jokes, which I admire, but I need the space to sprawl out.

The Rant-O-Wheel format is especially exciting, because it’s about beating the limitations of a few words and a few minutes.  It’s not exactly the stuff of OuLiPo, but it’s in a similar spirit – that a lot of fascinating things can still come out of a very controlled environment.

Since the show really depends on audience participation, the show is audience-driven in a very different way than a lot of other comedy shows.  They don’t just set the tone; they’re the impetus for the entertainment.  Everyone is responsible.


Aubrie Williams is an improviser on Philly Improv Theater‘s house team King Friday and her own sketch group, Local Holiday Miracle.

How and why did you get into comedy?
I saw my first improv show st UCB when I was 18, and was so impressed at how this piece could be created from just a one word suggestion. I continued to love watching improv from then on, but was scared to death to try it. I was a theater major, so inevitably we had to do some improv in classes — and I bet if you took my pulse on those days, my heart rate was equivalent to someone about to jump out of a plane. Long story short, I decided to face my fears when an improv class was offered at Temple. I quickly realized that the fear was irrational and that I now got to have playtime as an adult, which was awesome. I even started my college improv club cause I didnt want the fun to end after class did. Improv also acted as my gateway drug into sketch comedy.

How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that?
I guess in comedy I draw from what I like watching and find the funniest, which makes some of what I do a product of all of my influences. Stella, Tina Fey, David Cross, UCB, Gilda Radnor and anyone ever involved in a Christopher Guest movie are some of my biggest influences.

Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you?
I’m quite partial to the Shubin, cause it kind of feels like home now. I had my fist improv show there in ’07, and now between class shows, Sketch Up or Shut Up, and King Friday, Ive gotten to spend a good amount of time up there. It’s intimate and you get to see a lot of familiar faces. It’s like the “Cheers” of BYOB comedy venues.

As for shows, there are tons of great ones that happen monthly, but I’ll try and narrow it down. I’m going to say Sketch Up or Shut Up. It is always great because you get to see what everyone’s been up to between shows and see how an audience reacts to what you’ve been working on.

Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out?
For me, it was this past July at DCM (Del Close Marathon) ’12 in NYC. It was my first DCM, and I got to see Philly represent improv hard in a city where there is so much of it going on, and that was a great feeling. It was also my first time performing in NYC, and to get to do that with King Friday on the UCB stage (two hours before the original UCB performed on the same stage) was pretty freakin’ awesome and lots of fun.

Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? Or a sort of method that you use to develop comedic material?
It’s funny because every time I tell a non-improviser that I have improv rehearsal, they always respond with, “How do you rehearse improv? Isn’t it all made up?” With improv, it’s important to stay in practice cause the more that you do it, the more comfortable you get in doing it, and from there I think you definitely get better at it. Also, with a group, you can really build a group mind through being around each other a lot so it’s very important to have steady rehearsals. I also like to take different workshops and revisit old notes and reread Improvise by Mick Napier and The Small Cute Book of Improv by Jill Bernard.

What is it about sketch and improv that draws you to it?
If I had to sum it up, probably the people and the laughter. It is a great community filled with so much talent, and everyone seems to be constantly inspiring each other. I love that. Also, I enjoy laughing, and if you’ve ever witnessed me as an audience member, I bet you know this.

Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites?
Rare Bird Show was the first Philly improv group I had ever seen, and I was so impressed. Everytime I watch them they make me want to work harder as an improviser. I am very much loving The Amie & Kristen Show and Grimmachio. Both duos are always so on and connected and present. You can learn a lot from watching great improv. Man, this is tough. I also love watching all of the PHIT House Teams (YAY to house team night for letting me do this all in one night!), BWP and Cubed who do amazing premise based improv, Whipsuit, Horner & Davis, Medic, Stranger Danger, Rosen & Milkshake, Passiones … to name a few, haha.

For sketch, I love Secret Pants, Meg & Rob, The Feeko Brothers, Camp Woods, Bare Hug, Hate Speech Comittee. Again, tough question cause there is so much awesome going on. I have many favorites.

Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire?
I think my first show with King Friday I was having way too much fun watching them perform that I literally had a moment where I was like, “Oh crap, I’m performing too. Get out there.” I also laughed so hard on the sidelines that I missed out on a few key details. I have since worked on not doing either of those things.

What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow?
I think It is at a great, promising place right now. People are really dedicated and working hard, and there seems to be a constant interest from new people in joining the comedy community as well. It’s great to see so many new faces popping up onstage all of the time, and different combos of people from various disciplines of comedy joining forces and starting new groups and projects. I think if it stays on this track, and I have no doubt it will, that we will be taking over the world in no time. Muahahahaha.

Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy?
I would like to do more festivals and such for both sketch and improv. With improv, I would like to continue to study and also study different forms and genres, and keep performing consistently. Just get more and more comfortable and more and more brave. I think I have in the past few months, but I know I can oush myself even further. With sketch, I would like also to perform more, but I’d like to film more sketches as well. We just shot our 1st one and had a blast, so I’d like to do way more of that for sure! I also play guitar and ukulele, and have joined forces with some other lovely ladies who do the same, so I’d like to eventually get up on stage and perform some musical comedy!


How and why did you get into comedy?
I got into comedy cause it was always a good feeling when I made people laugh as a kid. I was a bit shy and weird so it was a quick way to be accepted. I certainly did not get into for the money. There is no money in comedy, folks. Anybody got a dolla?

How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that?
I am brash. I like to play old ladies, and funny guys. I am physical. My training has caused me to slow down a bit and not worry so much about getting a laugh. I mostly just try to have a blast on stage and play with the people I work with, and make them laugh.

Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you?
I love playing in an intimate house where people are close. I love also going out into the crowd if the tenor of the show calls for it, so its always exciting when that is a possibility. Some place like the Shubin is great when it is packed with folks, it feels so cozy and allows for shared experience. Don’t get me wrong, I have played on bigger stages and enjoy it too, but that feedback from the audience is so important, as a comedian, and I just get a better sense of it in a smaller theater.

Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out?
Hmm … I remember a scene that Adsit and Gausas did where they playing characters on a date. They were warming up to an awkward kiss, and as they got closer and closer, they kept speaking to each other and they gradually were touching lips and talking at the same time. It was very funny. I would like to see more of that kind of risk taking form Philly teams. I loved it.

Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance?
Or a sort of method that you use to develop comedic material? I do not write, but I do direct some. I think it is important to be very aware of the source. I like starting with the performer, and going from there. A line coming from one stand-up or actor / improviser will go over much differently that from another. I think it is important to know how you are seen as a comedian in just about any genre of comedy.

What is it about improv that draws you to it?
The collaborative spirit and the instant gratification is what draws me to improv. The empty space to create that it provides is thrilling and terrifying at the same time. I love the freedom involved in non-scripted work and as the challenges it poses to me as a director, a writer, and actor, choreographer, lyricists, and composer of my own work.

Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites?
I like to watch Marc Reber, Jess Ross, Matt Holmes, AJ Horan, Ralph Andraccio, Nathan Edmondson, Amie Roe, Emily Davis, Brandon Libby and pretty much anyone who gets up there to have fun.

Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire?
Ugh, yes. Plenty of bad shows. An improv troupe I was part of did an improv show at the Happy Rooster once. No one wanted to see us. They wanted to have dinner. We were being rude. Ugh. Terrible.

What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow?
The comedy scene needs to continue to invest in its own development by seeing the shows that are doing it right, be there in other cities or our own. Also a permanent home for comedy would be a great help to developing and audience for the scene, which in turn, will develop the scene.

Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy?
My goal is to take bigger chances as an artist, to be more comfortable with not knowing what comes next. Any who knows me also knows I want to push for performers to get paid more for what they do. I eventually want to make a living at this stuff.