On the last Friday of every month, ComedySportz is bringing in original outside acts to perform ahead of their 10pm adults-only Blue Show. This month, ComedySportz Presents features Adrift, a nationally-touring show created by Philadelphia Improv Festival producer Matt Nelson. Matt performs with a rotating cast, improvising scenes that take place over several days of being stranded together on a life raft. In this edition, Adrift will be kept afloat by Eoin O’ Shea, Todd Rodenhiser, Sue Taney, Daryll Charles, Danna Young and Mary Carpenter of ComedySportz.
Adrift at at NCCAF. Photo by Kevin Thom.
WitOut: Can you give a brief overview of the origins of Adrift?
Matt Nelson: Adrift was created four years ago for the Philadelphia Improv Festival. I’d just ended several-year runs with a couple groups, and wanted to still do a longform set in my own festival. I figured I’d rope in a bunch of amazing people that my co-producers couldn’t possibly say no to. I made a short list, and that first show included locals Kristen Schier and Kelly Vrooman, as well as Brian O’Connell from iO West and Steve Kleinedler (at that time, still a Bostonian). I looked at the list and thought to myself, “Hey these people would be amazing to be shipwrecked with.” And that’s when the show concept was born. It was so much fun that I decided to keep at it. It became my own personal all-star show, giving me a chance to work with incredibly talented people I might otherwise never get to play with. Joe Bill, Jeff Griggs, Jill Bernard, Dave Sawyer, Topher Bellavia, Tara DeFrancisco, Rachel Klein—people who make your comedy heart swoon. After I locked down Emo Philips for my NCCAF show two years ago, I became pretty fearless about asking anyone whose work I really admire.
WO: What brought Adrift to ComedySportz?
MN: ComedySportz actually approached me to do the show. Adrift is a show that doesn’t play all the time, and with my format their cast can get really involved. Between the two, I think it’s a nice fit for their Final Fridays format, and I suppose they must have thought the same. I’ve had quite a few of their cast members in various rafts, and they’ve always been a blast to play with… so it was pretty much a “yes” from the word go. Then I was told I could pick from anyone in the cast, and it was like being a kid in a candy store. I decided to opt for mostly new players—because aside from doing a few local gigs and festivals, Adrift is a road show, and I only bring 1-2 Philly improvisers with me to those.
WO: You have some really amazing ComedySportz players in the cast for this show. What are some skills they bring, either as individuals or a group, that you’re looking forward to having for this performance?
MN: I’m so excited about this cast. Overall, ComedySportz players bring a style of play that comes only from a strong connection built over time doing weekly shows. It’s a family—a very generous, playful family with tons of heart. Let me see if I can highlight a few things though…
Eoin O’shea: Eoin approaches things with a sort of tempered chaos, bubbling just under the surface. No matter how methodical a scene is, there’s always something dangerous and exciting potentially lurking around the next corner.
Todd Rodenhiser: Todd is a menagerie of big, bold, beautiful characters. They’re born from a whole other plane of existence, and it’s always thrilling when they come out to play.
Danna Young: Danna is a quirky, vibrant player than can play the duality of what you think is a light character, only to surprise you with strong choices and emotional reactions that can turn on a dime.
Darryl Charles: Darryl understands comedy like few others I know. The way he processes every little gift, it’s like he took an evolutionary step somewhere— always working out the best possible arcs for relationships, but always in the flash of a moment.
Sue Taney: Sue is a powerhouse player who just exhales hilarity. She’s like one of those storage saver bags where they shrink down all the fluffy stuff —she could take three minutes of silence and not have a moment of dead air.
Mary Carpenter: Mary is the crown jewel of Philly comedy, and I wish more comedians saw her more often. I don’t think I could run out of things to say. I have never, and I genuinely mean never, seen anyone on stage as generous as her. She can communicate so effectively with her face alone, it’s scary. If a show were a knife fight, you’d never have to check your six, because Mary’s got your back without fail.
Catch Adrift at ComedySportz (2030 Sansom Street) this Friday, January 25th at 8pm. Tickets are $12.