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It’s almost time for the 2013 WitOut Awards for Philadelphia Comedy! As we get closer to the show, we’ll be rolling out a series of posts to help you get more acquainted with this year’s nominees. Read all about ‘em, and then be sure to get your tickets for the big event on January 13th at World Cafe Live!
The nominees for Special Achievement in the Field of Tweeting are:
Chip Chantry (@ChipChantry)
Mary Radzinski (@MaryRadzinski)
Jim Grammond (@jgrammond)
John Kensil (@johnkensil)
Christian Alsis (@christianalsis)
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 firstname.lastname@example.org!
1. Tim Butterly shattering his own windshield with a mini-football using his non-throwing arm. An absolute act of God. Tim, Carl Boccuti, Jim Grammond, Darryl Charles and myself were on the set of a Bird Text sketch that was being filmed. We were passing time by throwing a mini-football around outside. During which time, Tim said something to the effect of “Let’s see what would happen if I threw this with my left hand” and he proceeded to slowly lob this stupid, half-deflated ball into the air towards Carl, yet directly into his own windshield, shattering it. Quite possible the funniest thing I have ever seen.
2. Joe Mayo simulating sex no less than 13 times during one period of hockey at the Wells Fargo Center. I had the pleasure of sitting roughly ten rows behind Joe at one of the Flyers playoff games against the Penguins. At random segments of the game, Joe would hop up, yell something about the on-ice action, then simulate various sex acts to accentuate his points. Worth the price of admission.
3. James Hesky coming over to my house to play Apples to Apples with my kids hours before he won Philly’s Phunniest. My kids love Hesky for various reasons and they had been bugging me to ask him to come over for awhile. Even though James had to prepare for the finals of the Philly’s Phunniest Competition at Helium this particular day, he made time to come to my home, treat my family to pizza and play Apples To Apples with my kids before heading home to go over his set. A class act who truly deserved the spoils of victory.
4. The Legendary Wid performing in front of my girls for their first comedy show. I was scheduled to perform on the final Chip Chantry’s One Man Show and I saw it as a great opportunity to have my girls watch me perform. They were 8 and 5 years old and hadn’t seen me perform comedy yet. They got their money’s worth.They watched me feed Chip ice cream, heard Andy Nolan’s machete rape bit, interacted with Fastball Pitcher Bob Gutierrez and they saw The Wid at his finest. They enjoyed the whole show, but talked about Wid for some time. Every performer did a great job, but Wid gave a performance for the ages.
5. Any and all of the awkward hugs that Mary Radzinski and Lisa Yost endure.
Mike Rainey is a stand-up comic from Philadelphia. He is also a cat lover, a great friend and opinionated asshole. Follow him on twitter @mikerainey82.
by Alison Zeidman
Mary Radzinski is the sassiest lady-comic to ever hoist up a pair of ovaries and get ‘erself up on a stage full o’ people ready to laugh at her unique lady-take on wimmin stuff and—just kidding, I’m not going to do that to her.
Mary Radzinksi is the co-host of the Monday night open mic Laughs on Fairmount at Urban Saloon (along with friend and fellow funnyperson Carolyn Busa), and one of the newest additions to the Helium Comedy Club hosting roster. She’s one of the friendliest faces in the Philly comedy scene, an exceedingly talented writer and performer, and really, really funny.
In short, Mary is swell. For further proof, read on:
Alison Zeidman: For people that maybe aren’t familiar with you, can you talk about how you got started in comedy?
Mary Radzinski: Six years ago I took a comedy writing class as part of Main Line School Night, and there was a graduation show at the end. So the first time I did stand-up it was a graduation show, and then I did a couple ones-y little things with people in the class because we were like “We’re rockstars, this is amazing!” And then I didn’t do anything. I waited a couple years, and four Julys ago I got onstage at an open mic and I’ve been religiously doing that since.
AZ: What made you want to get started again?
MR: My best friend lives in Fairmount and at the time there was [another] open mic here [at Urban Saloon]. And she was like, “Oh let’s go to this bar, there’s an open mic, it’s Monday nights”—which is funny, same night—and that got me to do it.
AZ: You’re one of the newest Helium hosts. Did you do anything special to prepare for your audition?
MR: I think having done the audition a couple years ago and then…you know, we’re all still so new in this game, but I think just getting onstage all the time [was the most helpful]. In terms of specific preparation for that show, just being confident in my jokes and trying not to second-guess myself. When I first heard about the audition again, I was like “I need to write all new material!” The self-doubt sets in and stuff. But then I was like no, and I just tried to tweak a few jokes and maybe strengthen some things that had been going well, and just tried to do my jokes and get out of my own head.
And I have hosted in some clubs, so I think that’s helped more in preparation of that longer set for a club show, and knowing like what’s a good five minutes, what’s a good ten minutes, what’s a good fifteen minutes. And being at Helium while my friends are hosting and watching it, more than anything, I think has given me a little confidence and prepared me.
AZ: Now I’m going to try to not ask you the question you’re not going to like—because I think it’s a touchy question for any female comic. So I don’t want to ask, “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy?” or even “What’s it like to be the first female comic on Helium’s regular host rotation?”, but more like, how do you celebrate that accomplishment, and acknowledge that, yeah, that is significant, but at the same time, keep the focus on the fact that comedy should be comedy, regardless of gender? How do you strike that balance?
MR: I think about it all the time, because I do think it’s a numbers game. Helium in Philly has not had a female host [in their regular hosting roster] yet—but I mean, I know Helium’s not against females by any means—so I’m excited and I’m proud and I hope that it’s because it’s at the time that I’m a good comic, or that I will be a good host or an asset for whoever they pair me with as the headliner and that sort of thing. I do think it’s a numbers game where—I was just talking to somebody about this, where if in a lineup of ten comics, there’s only one girl, and if that girl’s not funny, that just leaves a bad taste for a lot of audience members [in terms of female comics in general].
But I’m trying not to let that “girls aren’t funny” thing get me down, and knowing that I wasn’t going to become a host there until I was a funny comedian, regardless of gender, makes me feel confident now. I do have as one of my openers, “I don’t like girl comics either,” and that can be taken several ways—some females can be like, “Why would you do that?”—but I also feel like it’s just sort of knocking that sort of preconceived notion…
AZ: Oh totally. It’s commenting and poking fun at the idea that that’s even a thing.
MR: Yeah. And a lot of times, when people ask, “Who are your favorite comics?” I don’t necessarily immediately think of women. I think of people who have made me laugh. So I want that. And I think that stereotype can be negative, but I also think it’s a fun challenge to break through. There’s always going to be someone who’s like “You’re really funny for a girl, I don’t usually like girls,” and you get that all the time, and I’ve learned not to take that the wrong way because there are fewer female comics, and so a lot of times when people don’t see a ton of comedy—it’s totally a numbers game.
AZ: Your first hosting gig is going to be with Hal Sparks, right? What are you excited about for that week?
MR: Honestly it’s so funny, in my head I’m just like “I don’t care who it is! I would want to open for anyone there!” But I’m excited. I don’t know a ton about Hal Sparks—I’ll clearly do my homework—but from what I understand I think he does have a decent female following, and you know, could that be why they paired me with him? Probably, but I also like that—because I’m just looking forward to a full room.
AZ: OK, and this will hopefully be a fun question: What would be your fantasy hosting gig? Who would feature, who would headline, who would heckle that you would get to shut down, and who would come up to you afterwards and tell you that they really liked you? Anyone in the world.
MR: Oh my god…that’s amazing. Oh god, there’s so many. I mean my favorite comedians, like I love Louis CK, to open for someone like that…this is going to get me!
AZ: Have you ever seen High Fidelity? This is going to be like at the end when that reporter interviews him and asks for his all-time top 5 songs or albums or whatever it is, and he’s calling her every fifteen minutes to change his list.
MR: Yeah! I will definitely think about this…
AZ: You can send it to me later if you want.
MR: Can I? Because I definitely love that question, and I totally…if I give you an answer now, I would be texting you later to change it.
A week later, after a lot of thought and apologies for the delay, Mary sent me her responses. She reserves the right to change them at any time.
Headliner: Louis CK
Feature: Hannibal Buress or Kyle Kinane
Heckler: Some self-important dick from Everywhere, USA, or Adam Carolla
Person Who Liked Me: Seth MacFarlane or Bill Murray, or Sarah Silverman—along with the entire waitstaff from the venue. And then long after the show was over, Adam Carolla.
Alison Zeidman is a stand-up comedian, improviser, and Editor for WitOut.net.
Chip Chantry has one of the most impressive resumes of any Philadelphia comedian. He tours the country as a feature act, has been a finalist in Helium Comedy Club’s Philly’s Phunniest Person Contest every year, and won last year’s Best Stand-Up Comedian at our very own Witout Awards for Philadelphia Comedy. Now he, along with Mary Radzinski, plans to share some of their knowledge about the art of stand-up comedy by teaching a class at Philly Improv Theater. We asked Chip some questions about his class, and what he plans to share with his students.
WITOUT: It may be a little known fact that your comedy career got started with help from a comedy class, do you hope to create some future Chip Chantrys with your class (and what, in your own opinion, would that mean)?
CHIP CHANTRY: Yes, it did. And it may be a little known fact that your full name is Aaron Gregory Jamiroquai Hertzog. But no. The world does not need any more Chip Chantrys- insecure, yet totally lovable and sexy comedians.
WO: There are some that say “funny can’t be taught”. Do you agree with this statement? If so, what are you going to teach in your class?
CC: Absolutely. Being funny (on purpose) is something that I feel you either have or you don’t. I’m just trying to help people hone the craft of stand up comedy. But I can’t MAKE someone funny. I can just give them some tools and encouragement. And people generally get out of a class what they put into it. Some aspire to be famous comedians and writers. Others might take the class for fun, or to conquer a fear of public speaking. To put it in terms that you would relate to, Aaron, it’s like teaching the craft of crocheting, or pottery. I’m never going to be great at those things, because I have the fine motor skills of a frightened goat. But I can learn some of the ins and outs and have some fun with it.
WO: How do you think your experience as an elementary school teacher will help you with teaching fresh-faced, hopeful, stand-up comedians?
CC: The classroom has given me some patience. It’s also taught me to break more complicated concepts down into simpler terms, and convey them in a more basic way at first, and then build up to the complicated mess of stand up comedy.
WO: Say some nice things about your co-teacher, Mary Radzinski? How do you plan on splitting up your teaching duties? Good cop/bad copy style, perhaps? Which one of you is which?
CC: Mary is one of my favorite comedy writers in this here town. Her joke crafting (as seen onstage and on the twitters) have a word economy and voice that are top-notch. Her tweets are like jazz. But, like, not the shitty kind of jazz that everyone’s mom has programmed on station #5 in her 2006 Hyundai Sonata. But we are splitting it down the middle. We are each trying to be good cops. I was thinking more Good Cop/Hot Cop, because I just bought myself a new pair of break-away pants.
WO: What have you learned in your years as a stand-up that you hope to share with your students? Are there some things you think it would be better for them to learn on their own through experience?
CC: I think I’ve learned just as much what NOT to do, than what to do. So hopefully I can help people avoid pitfalls, and take the right steps on their path… to GREATNESS. But, you also have to fail sometimes to learn, so some lessons can’t be taught by me. They’ll have to learn them on their own.
WO: Can you give some free stand-up advice here as a teaser for those on the fence about taking your class?
CC: Yes. BABY STEPS. I still tell myself this to this day. Write five minutes of new material. Try it out at an open mic. If everything bombs, except for ONE joke, you have succeeded. Do the same thing the next week. If everything bombs except for ONE joke? Great! Now you have TWO jokes. BABY STEPS.