This week, Matt Holmes joins Aaron to talk about his start and history in performing comedy, the rise of improv in Philadelphia over the past ten years, and Matt’s approach to improv from his point of view as both a performer and director. You can listen to this week’s episode below, or subscribe on iTunes.
This Friday, Philly Improv Theater will debut two new House Teams, known until then by their codenames: Brandybuck and Shadowfax. All this week, we are going to bring you special editions of our 10 Questions With series profiling each of the new house team members. First, we will profile the directors of the groups. Shadowfax’s director, Kristen Schier, was already featured in a 10 Questions With column, which you can read HERE.
Brandybuck’s director, Matt Holmes is a member of Rare Bird Show and also performs as Matt&, where he pulls an unwitting stranger from the audience and performs a half hour show with them.
How and why did you get into comedy? In college, I tried it out as an experiment. I found that it really suited me.
How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? I like weird stuff, smart stuff, and comedy that isn’t afraid to try something new. I like different formats and structures and techniques.
Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? I think my favorite venue has been the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York. It’s in a basement under a grocery store, and there are pillars that kind of block certain views, but it’s big enough to have a large, energetic crowd engage you as a performer, and it’s not too big. With improv, you want to be close to the audience. I’ve performed in plenty of venues that were tight, and actually I’ve performed in a lot of rooms that were too big (and empty).
Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? I remember laughing so hard I cried at a Ponycoat show in the Troika improv competition. I remember some pretty interesting audience member partnerships for my show Matt& (a few drunk people, someone who left me alone on stage, having to improvise a love poem).
Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? Lately, I’ve started preparing less for my shows. A lot of people get themselves riled up for improv, as though it’s a 40-yard-dash. I like being at a stage in my performing career where I’m confident enough to relax.
What is it about improv (or stand-up, or sketch, whatever you do…) that draws you to it? I think improv is pure. There’s no filter, no judgment, no limitations. You can do anything in it.
Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? I’m a big fan of Andrew Stanton, Scott Shepherd, Kristen Schier, and Amie Roe for their energy and improv skills, and I’m also excited to see more from a newer group of improvisers, like the new PHIT house teams. For stand-up, I like Brendan Kennedy’s unique style.
Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share, a particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? I’ve done a couple shows for a ridiculously small audience, and I did a show where food orders were announced over a loudspeaker.
What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow? I’ve said for years that the next level for Philly comedy is having a home. If you look at the growth and easiness-for-the-audience that have orbited around PHIT, Helium, and other regular performances, it shows the importance of real estate. It’s been great to see the start of a community and the trajectory for the future.
Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy? Again, I want to see more regular shows, different shows. I have some ideas, and I’m sure there’s a lot more floating around in people’s minds. I’d like to do a theatrical run of an improv show and get a theatrical review from the press. And I’m really interested in helping the next wave of performers.
New York and Philly are close enough that any Philly-area comedy fans should head up for at least some of the Del Close Marathon, started by the Upright Citizens Brigade in honor of their mentor and celebrating its 13th year August 12-14.
The Del Close Marathon is the Woodstock of improv comedy—or the Lolapalooza or Bonnaroo or whatever fits your generation—a weekend of non-stop improv comedy from cities around the globe. Performers include names and faces you know, representation from funny-factories like Second City, UCB, iO, PHIT, etc., and college talent that will grace future improv stages (and commercials and rom-com best-friend roles). A $25 wristband gets you into more than 150 shows with some waiting in line.
Read more about the marathon and Del at www.delclosemarathon.com.If you look at the full schedule, it can be a daunting task to figure out what to see, especially if this is your first time. It’s a hundred hours of performance on multiple stages.
Here’s a theme-park–style map of what’s happening where and when:
The marathon used to be only at the UCB Theater, and you can still spend the whole weekend there, but be prepared for a long line and occasionally getting cleared out for a theater cleaning. You’ll see primetime shows, representation of improv from different places, a lot of New York groups in the early hours, the perennial Sunday breakfast with Krompf, and weirdo shit in the middle of the night …but don’t think that the second stages don’t offer just as much great improv.
UCB Theater – 307 West 26th St.
Fri 4:30PM to Sun 8PM
Hall of Famous People
Want to say “I saw so-and-so to friends, family, and co-workers? There’s a bunch of opportunities. The Colbert Show writers, John Lutz and Scott Adsit from 30 Rock, Horatio Sanz and Bobby Moynihan from SNL, and more will appear on the pay-per-show 4th stage at FIT*, along with Donald Glover (Community, Childish Gambino) and the rest of viral-video stars Derrick Comedy.
You can also see SNL featured players Vanessa Bayer [Sat 10PM UCB] and Paul Brittain [Fri 10:30PM UCB], Rich Sommer (Mad Men) [Sat 9:30PM UCB], Doug Benson (Super High Me) doing his podcast and bothering stand-ups [Fri & Sat 12:30AM UCB], and the improvisers who play the writers who never talk on 30 Rock [Sun 5:30PM Hudson Guild].
Plus, of course you can see the Upright Citizens Brigade—but probably not Amy Poehler—[Sat 7:15PM UCB] and any famous people who just so happen to show up to something, like past surprises Sarah Silverman and Brooke Shields. And the Sunday 8PM ASSSSCAT 3000 show at Haft Auditorium* is sure to be chock-full of stars finishing up the weekend.
You could call this Tomorrowland. Catch some college teams and spot the next wave of talent. Post-graduation, the standouts you like will head to improv hubs for classes, put together shows all around the country, or pop up on TV and in movies. You might even be able to cheer for your alma mater.
Urban Stages – 259 West 30th St.
Sat 10AM-2PM & Sun 10AM-5PM
If you want to see some fucked-up shit in the middle of the night, head to the main stage to see improv mixed with pro wreslting, rap, robots, game shows, beer, stand-up, Spanish, predator-catching, anime, communists, Christian fellowship, and more. How about a show that’s all walk-ons or all straightmen, or all Matthew McConaugheys? Stay up late for some weird, wild, 15-minute shows; it’s like live-action Adult Swim that gets beer and ball-sweat on you.
UCB Theater – 307 West 26th St.
Fri-into-Sat and Sat-into-Sun midnight to 6AM
It’s a Small World Ride/EPCOT
Improvisers from across the country and Canada (and Finland this year!) make their way to New York for the Marathon. Check out what the improv is like in New York, Chicago, Boston, Austin, LA, DC, Toronto, Vancouver, Philly, Phoenix, Florida, North Carolina, Syracuse, San Francisco, and much more. What’s your home town? There might be a group from around there performing and representing.
noonish to midnight on all stages
Do you like Glee and/or Broadway and/or improv? Check out some musical improv:
Baby Wants Candy [Fri 7PM Kate Murphy & Sun 5:30PM UCB], Vox Pop [Fri 9PM Hudson Guild], Dumpster Tequila, Broadway’s Next Hit Musical, Veal, Rebound! [Sat 11AM to 1PM Hudson Guild], Diamond Lion [Sat 5PM UCB], Hotel Principality [Sun 3PM Hudson Guild], iMusical [Sun 4PM UCB)].
And North Coast will perform a hip-hopera [Sat 4:45AM Urban Stages].
Electric Lady Land
Female improvisers can stand toe-to-toe with male improvisers, but here’s what to check out for some Ladies-Only improv:
Doppelganger [Fri 6:30 UCB], The Amie and Kristen Show [Fri 7:30PM Hudson Guild], Sit Still [Fri 8PM Hudson Guild], Drysdale and Gausas [Fri 9PM UCB], Shmuckler Twins [Sat 7:45AM Urban Stages], 8 Girls Harold [Sat 9:45AM Urban Stages], ’92 Dream Team [Sat 3:15PM Urban Stages], Ness and Nance [Sat 10PM UCB], WiseSnatch [Sat 11:45PM Urban Stages], Bea Arthur [Sun 1PM Hudson Guild], The Katydids [Sun 4PM Hudson Guild]
The aptly named Not-Included-in-Price-of-Admission-Land
You have to pay extra for each of these big-name shows in a larger venue at the Fashion Institute of Technology, but each is a sure thing, with the funniest, smartest, most talented performers around and names from SNL and 30 Rock and the Colbert Show.
FIT 7th Ave. at 27th Street, Bldg. D. - Fri & Sat 7 to midnight
FIT Haft Auditorium - Sun 8PM
And now for something at least slightly different
A lot of improv is similar to other improv (especially in an all-longform festival).
Here’s a few shows with a unique take:
The performers have to sit in chairs for The Chairmen [Fri 6:30PM Hudson Guild], stand in place for Nailed Down [Fri 8PM UCB], do the show backwards at Twik [Fri 11:45PM Urban Stages], and use only their voices in the dark for BIG BAT [Sat 1AM Hudson Guild].
The show is inspired by your text messages at Last Day of School [Fri 11PM UCB] and Oregon Fail [Sat 2PM Hudson Guild], and by your embarrassing story at The Law Firm [Fri 11:30PM UCB] and Death By Roo Roo [Sat 9PM UCB].
Audience members perform at Matt& [Sat 7:45PM Urban Stages] and Adsit and You [Sat 6PM UCB].
It’s an elevator ride at Elevator Action [Fri 9:45PM Urban Stages], a rap battle at The BEATdown [Sat 1AM UCB], a telenovéla at Hispania [Sat 4:15PM Urban Stages], a fishing trip at Bassprov [Sat 7:30PM Hudson Guild], a movie at Rough Cut [Sun 1:45AM Urban Stages], a debate at The Master Debaters [Sun 11AM Hudson Guild], and improv with your iPod as the soundtrack at Mother [Sun 7PM Hudson Guild].
* Shows at FIT and Haft Auditorium are not included in the wristband admission.
So head up to NYC to check out some comedy from around the world, from all kinds of performers in all different kinds of shows, all made up on the spot in front of you.
Saturday Night Live is woven into the culture of America. People debate which were the best seasons or the funniest sketches and talk about the ups and downs over the years. For fourteen years, MADtv offered some company and competition to SNL in the late-night sketch comedy arena, producing some really amazing comedy that deserves to be recognized and remembered. The show changed and grew over the years and showcased some extremely talented cast members that need to be seen more.
MADtv had a golden age from 1999 to 2004, in my opinion. After starting as a TV version of the magazine of the same name, it found its identity and produced some stellar comedy before its eventual end.
Some really, really excellent work was produced before season 5 and after season 9, but I’ll highlight this era. The humor relates to when it was created, but stands the test of time. Here’s a list of 25 extraordinary sketches that provide clever ideas, fun characters, solid writing, and stupendous acting—at times daring to be experimental and boundary-pushing.
25. Man Up! Regional Championships
Sketch comedy has often struggled to write from different perspectives, and I think this sketch is a great example of African-American cast members creating something that doesn’t just fill a quota but stands out as great comedy.
24. Sick Wife
Michael McDonald and Stephnie Weir worked amazingly well together, and I dare say that this sketch says something about the human condition.