Upcoming Shows

  • September 4, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • September 4, 2014 9:00 pmThe Comedy Attic
  • September 5, 2014 7:00 pmThe Comedy Works
  • September 5, 2014 8:00 pmThe N Crowd
  • September 5, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • September 5, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • September 5, 2014 9:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • September 6, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • September 6, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • September 6, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • September 6, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • September 6, 2014 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • September 11, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • September 11, 2014 9:00 pmThe Comedy Attic
  • September 12, 2014 7:00 pmThe Comedy Works
  • September 12, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • September 12, 2014 8:00 pmThe N Crowd
  • September 12, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • September 12, 2014 9:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • September 13, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • September 13, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • September 13, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • September 13, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • September 13, 2014 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • September 18, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
AEC v1.0.4

Top 5 of 2012: Matt Nelson’s Top Five Whoa, So Glad I was in the Audience! Moments

As the year winds down, WitOut collects lists from comedy performers and fans of their favorite moments, comedians, groups, shows, etc. from the last year in Philly comedy. Top 5 of 2012 lists will run throughout December–if you’d like to write one, pitch us your list at contact@witout.net!

#5 – Sue Taney in Mother Truckers at Troika
03.09.2012 | Sideshow at the Arts Parlor
The concept for this Troika trio was pretty clear: Square Meg, Sweet n’ Sassy Cassidy & Star-Spangled Sharlene were three truck-driving, sass-talking long haulers who conversed via CB radio. The characters were great, and the costumes were a sight to behold. But what really made this show something for the books was Sue’s character and her obsession with snack foods. Planting herself in the bucket seat of her trusty big rig, Sue had packed a ridiculous number of munchies into a bag, which she proceeded to chow down on, dialogue be damned. This series of side-bits heightened to the point that Sue genuinely got her hand stuck in a tube of Pringles while diving for the last chip. A good part of the show was spent with a can shaped nub, and the resounding and so-satisfying pop that came with the eventual release of her hand was then instantly topped once more by Sue licking the Pringles seasoning off her arm.

#4 – Davenger at PHIF8
11.07.2012 | Prince Music Theater
As one of the newest house teams from PHIT, at this point I’d only had occasion to see Davenger a handful of times. Having been a fan of their coach Maggy Keegan for years, I knew this team was going to have “Harold” drilled deep into them, but I was hardly prepared for what would happen on the opening night of PHIF8. Shows like this remind me why the term “beats” is so spot on. Constructing their piece, they had a rhythm, pitch and level of synchronicity that is normally reserved for groups that have been playing together for years. All of these disparate moments became anchored to and eventually informed by a fantastic group game. Every cast member was leaning so far into every moment, that it felt like they couldn’t even be bothered with gravity.

#3 – Aaron Hertzog at BCCAF
09.09.2012 | ImprovBoston Mainstage
Admittedly, this one may be a bit of a cheat, as it took place in Boston; but it featured (then-Philly resident) Aaron Hertzog, and to be honest, this moment transcended any particular place we might have been, because we were no longer in this world. The night before, Aaron had featured at The Brattle (the largest venue of BCCAF). I was in the All-Star set right after and got to take in most of his current act. It was a great set, and he lived up to the stage. But this wouldn’t be his crowning moment. The following night IB had a showcase of comics featured throughout the week. Good stuff from Mary Radzinski, Pete Kuempel and many others. And they had to earn every bit of it… this was the last show on the last night of what had been a long festival. Even the locals had mostly bailed, and we were left with a few die-hards, staff, other comedians and a few randoms. Anyone who was feeling zapped and pulled thin was about to unknowingly receive a comedy face slap courtesy of Mr. Hertzog. Aaron came out and from the top injected more energy than I’ve ever seen from a comic not fueled by coke and living in the ’70s. It’s hard to describe what I heard and saw that night, but he went totally through the roof and off the rails in all the best, most captivating ways. I’ve never before or since seen a comic jump start and hold firm dominance over a room like Aaron did that quiet little Sunday night in Cambridge.

#2 – Kristin Finger’s Ref debut at ComedySportz
10.13.2012 | Playground at the Adrienne
This entry is great example of what can happen when an improviser and an audience member create a perfect storm that you wish could be bottled (then hidden in a trunk and locked away forever). Kristin has been a ComedySportz player for years now, but made her debut as a Ref only two short months ago. The night had gone well… player challengers, ref challenges, 5-things… the teams had battled and laughs were flowing. As you might imagine, many family, friends and fans were in attendance on this particular night—but fortunately, so was a random man. A random man with a random suggestion. At one point towards the end of the show, she asks the audience for a noun, and this man shouts, “black!” Now, granted this fell more into the adjective category, but Kristin shrugged it off and took it, for a game called 185. Which she had already announced as the next game. For those unfamiliar with the game, this means nothing to you. For those that do, and most of the audience in attendance that night, what almost came to pass is quite clear. You see, the setup of 185 is a groaner-style punchline game where improvisers take a suggestion, and fit it to a pre-established formula: 185 suggestions walk into a bar. The bartender says “we don’t serve suggestions in this bar,” so the suggestions reply “pun punchline.” Now go back and fill the blanks with that man’s suggestion. The whole place lost it, especially as we saw the full scope of pending doom and shocked reaction crawl across Kristin’s face. It was a show-stopper. After about two minutes of trying to gain the composure of eye-tearing laughter from everyone in the place, Kristin decided to get a new suggestion.

#1 – Kait & Andrew at PHIT
12.02.2012 | Shubin Theatre
My top spot goes to a show that probably had the smallest audience of any on my list. A few short weeks ago Kait & Andrew did a 7PM show at the Shubin, sharing a bill with Matt&. Kait & Andrew had a pretty decent show, punctuated by their classic fourth wall-breaking banter that makes them so endearing and honest. It was fun, but not exceedingly stand-out—until the last scene, where everything changed. Kaitlin started the scene off by coming unglued at Andrew… startlingly so. Andrew came right back at her. The scope of the argument was that he had spent 8 years training to be a hide-and-seek champion, meanwhile she’d felt completely neglected in their relationship. In turn, he felt she wasn’t supporting his training, which he was doing for the betterment of their relationship. Over the course of the next few minutes, the two would spew accusations at one another, managing to pull out callback after callback of damn near every element of the show up until then. From fantastical gifts like Mayan Bee Fighting to seemingly insignificant expressions and sighs, everything was ammo. And during this escalating vitriol volley, neither forgot for a moment to ground everything to the characters, their shared relationship and raw emotions. It was like the first 20 minutes were merely a set up to this moment of explosion. The slow fade to black as Andrew moved to cover his dog’s eyes left me with shivering excitement and disbelief at the high-stake magic I’d just been witness to.

Matt Nelson is Executive Producer of the Philadelphia Improv Festival and Managing Director of Figment Theater. In addition to running the annual improv competition Troika, Matt can be seen performing in the touring show Adrift. You can follow him on Twitter at @ma77nelson.

Top 5 of 2011: Mark Leopold’s Favorite Improv Moments

Luke Field in Adrift.

During the Philadelphia Improv Festival this year, Adrift was featured. It was pretty star studded and I remember sitting there thinking what an amazing cast I was seeing. Tara DeFrancisco, Jill Bernard, Brian McConnell, plus some of Philly’s most experienced improvisers. Then there was Luke Field. I had only seen Luke perform once before and I knew he was good, but in a boat that full of talent I was afraid he might not be up to the challenge. And for a long time, it looked like it might turn out that way. Luke sat perfectly quiet for the whole first “day” of the show, not saying a thing. The second “day” started and things were moving along at a gentle pace, when the conversation in the boat quieted and reached a natural lull. Then Luke softly spoke up with an amazing offer, “I’d just like to reiterate my offer to hear anyone’s confession if they would like to.” It made the show for me. It was just a great, simple, strong move. Good job Luke.

Kristin Finger’s in The Real Housewives of Philadelphia.

The Real Housewives also performed during PHIF. It was a great show with many awesome moments, but one stood out to me above the rest as just a fantastic moment where a performer understands the audience completely. Throughout the show, various characters would step forward and do “confessional” scenes to the audience. Kristin’s character was very masculine. I’m not sure if she was a man, used to be a man, wanted to be a man or what, but it was pretty fantastic to just get to watch her duding it around stage. At one point, she stepped forward into the confessional, sat down uncertainly on the very edge of the chair and just tucked her chin back and said, “Uh…” in the character’s deep voice. The audience immediately exploded into a roar of laughter. But that isn’t what impressed me about that moment. What impressed me was what she did next. She read the audience perfectly and simply shrugged and walked offstage, which elicited yet another roar of laughter. Perfect timing, perfect offer, perfect delivery. Great stuff.

Billy Thompson’s cartwheel.

ZaoGao plays with a lot of intensity and I’m always impressed with the effortlessness of their constant support for one another. This was never more apparent than in a show during their Fringe run. Billy Thompson had established the character of an impertinent and lazy king who had other people do things for him. As the show progressed, two other characters challenged one another to a cartwheel race. No sooner had they finished their race than Billy ran forward and commanded his minions, “I want to be in the cartwheel race!” The whole team then proceeded to cartwheel him across the stage and it was wonderful. Great job ZaoGao, great job Billy.

Kristin Schier’s clowning at Sideshow.

At Sideshow this year, we all we treated with Kristin Schier’s clowning act. I loved it. I had never seen a clown before then. Not at the circus. Not at children’s party. Not at a party for clowns where you just invite clowns because that’s going to automatically be a pretty great party. So I didn’t know what to expect. Clowns have a reputation for being either terrible or terrifying. Kristin was neither. Her clown was this wonderful child-like creature who interacted so openly with the audience it was intoxicating. Everyone in the room was on the edge of their seats the entire time. She went through a wide range of emotions during her set, but one moment in particular stood out to me. Along one side of the stage the wall was covered in mirrors with a curtain obscuring them. Kristin’s clown, exploring the space, peeked behind them and discovered that there were mirrors there and gradually pulled back the curtains with growing delight. When the curtains were finally drawn, she caught sight of herself and reacted with surprise and confusion, turning to the audience as if to say, “Is that really me?” She then turned back to the mirror and simply looked at herself, becoming sadder and sadder…as the audience came on that emotional trip with her. Just amazing patience and control and willingness to go where that moment took her. Awesome job Kristin.

Dangerous Fools.

If you watch commercials you’ve probably seen Tom Fowler. He’s pretty great. If you’ve come to Comedysportz you may have seen Mary Carpenter. She’s pretty terrific too. Together they performed this year as Dangerous Fools. I caught their show this year when they performed at the Shubin and it was basically a seminar on patient scene work. One moment which really stood out to me was a scene where they were playing a husband and wife, trapped in a crazy female neighbor’s bathroom after their attempt to invite her into their newly open marriage had gone wrong. She had turned out to be way too into it and things had gotten intense and surprisingly racist. They had tried the open marriage because Mary’s character couldn’t bear the thought of touching him. So while they’re trapped in the bathroom, furiously arguing with each other in frantic whispers, Tom points out that it was all her idea to begin with, to which she respond, “I don’t want to touch you, but I can’t bear the thought of anyone else touching you either!” After that offer, Tom simply looked while Mary clapped a hand to her mouth. Then they stayed like that for about FORTY FIVE SECONDS. It was amazing. It was just insane to watch two performers have the balls to just stay there, silent, and allow their characters to react emotionally to an offer. So great. Then, after the tension had built to an unbearable limit, Tom simply said, “That is the sweetest thing you have said in a long time.” Great stuff Mary and Tom!