Scoop up tickets for their ten-year anniversary show at World Cafe Live on Friday April 24th! You can buy tickets for just $15.00 bucks, or an extra five dollars gets you some clutch World Cafe hors-d’oeuvres and mingling with the Crowd for an hour before the show!
“Awkward Moments” is a monthly column that asks comedians, “what do you do when…” In this installment, member of the N Crowd Mike Connor tells all about being sick during a show. (Not for the faint of heart, mind, stomach or….sphincter.)
“You’re hosting the first half of the show tonight, Mike. I’m hosting the second,” Ben said handing me the set list for that Friday night’s N Crowd performance, “Are you okay? You look a little pale.”
“Just tired,” I said. It’d been a long week at work and I’d been feeling run down all day.
The audience settled into their seats and I introduced the N Crowd. They rushed onstage and the show began. As the host of a short-form show, my job was to stand and greet the audience, then stand and explain the games, then stand and watch the performers. In other words, it involved a lot of standing. About halfway through my stint as host, my legs grew sore. I found myself leaning against the wall to give my tired muscles a little rest. Standing was becoming increasingly difficult. But the ache didn’t stop there.
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 email@example.com!
I started losing my hair in high school. All of the fun things I got to do in the 1980s with hair dye are long gone. On top of that, I never had to shave regularly until I was in my late 30s. In the late 1980s all I wanted was cool sideburns, and I had to wait until the trend came back around a couple years ago to almost be able to take advantage of it. I didn’t even have armpit hair until I was in my 20s. I spent most of my teen years too mortified to wear a tank top. I view most men with hair and the ability to grow facial hair wistfully. They have something I’ll never have.
Whenever I see these five guys, I can’t help but think about their hair. And how much I want to possess it.
5. Vegas Lancaster (improv team The N Crowd) His hair has super powers that I cannot begin to comprehend. If you encounter Vegas in a dark alley, you are simultaneously frightened and awed.
4. Jp Boudwin (sketch group Camp Woods) He can go from full-on French Canadian couch-surfing drifter to slightly more respectable French Canadian couch-surfing drifter simply by getting a hair cut. Also, when he gets his hair cut, he loses ten pounds in one whack.
3. Jess Carpenter (improv team Iron Lung, Comedian Deconstruction) If I had the ability to rock full-on Wolverine facial hair like Jess does, I would be an unstoppable sex machine. I would do so much with that superpower, but it remains unattainable.
2. Dennis Trafny (Philly Improv Theater House Team Hey Rube) Dennis gets the nod over his [improv team] Bierdo brethren because with his bald head and piercing eyes, his head shots make for the best meme generation.
1. Chris Calletta (Philly Improv Theater House Team Hot Dish) Chris has the perfect hair of every actor in every hair product commercial and/or Francis Ford Coppola film from the early 1970s. Chris, you probably think I’m constantly cruising you, but really, when I’m staring vacantly at you, I’m for real just coveting your hair.
Steve Kleinedler started doing improv in 1982 and studied and performed off and on in the 1980s and 1990s. He began performing at ImprovBoston in 2001 and teaching and directing there in 2004. He performed with IB’s Harold Team Marjean for three years. Steve directed numerous improv troupes and shows at IB, including The Family Show (2004-2007), Backstory (a ‘Memento’-inspired improv show, which he reprised with Hot Dish for the Philly Fringe festival in 2012), and IB’s sketch ensemble The Ruckus (2007-2010). He’s directed numerous one-person shows and scripted plays. At PHIT he currently directs PHIT house team Hot Dish and has appeared onstage in numerous guises, including Half-Life with Nathan Edmondson. He is also a founding member of Shattered Globe Theatre in Chicago.
This is a love letter to Philadelphia, and by extension, to the comedy scene that you have all created here and welcomed me into.
Philadelphia is where I actively chose to live after considering a wide array of options. Performing as a vistor in PHIFs, a Troika, some N Crowd shows, and several one-off shows exposed me to what Philadelphia has to offer. Inexpensive rehearsal and performance spaces mean that anyone with an idea and the drive can start a production. In addition to the established companies, numerous successfully produced shows in bars, empty store fronts, galleries, and the like, make Philadelphia’s scene reminiscent of the theatre scene in Chicago in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Discussions with Mary Carpenter, Greg Maughan, Matt Nelson, Alexis Simpson, Alli Soowal, Kristen Schier, and Jason Stockdale spurred me to move to Philadelphia 16 months ahead of schedule, and I’m glad I did.
The creative spark here is very strong. Across numerous companies and troupes, hundreds of people perform regularly. Groups of like-minded friends can form troupes (like Iron Lung, Malone, and Nielsen did) and what’s more important, they can get gigs. The structural framework of PHIT, ComedySportz, the N Crowd, and other existing companies in combination with the opportunities provided by the producers of Polygon, Comedian Deconstruction, Sideshow, and the Grape Room, to name just a few, means anyone with an idea or drive can get stage time. There aren’t that many cities that allow for this kind of opportunity—space is just too expensive in most cities—and people who take advantage of everything there is to offer have helped create a comedy calendar where something is happening almost every day of the month.
Here is why I love you, Improv 101 Student: You are embarking on a huge adventure even if you aren’t aware of it yet. Your willingness to discover and to try something new is courageous and inspiring. I wait with anticipation to see how you will change the face of the scene in Philly as you become more involved–and you will become more involved, because improv is a sort of cult. Ok, improv is definitely a cult—but don’t be scared, because it’s a benign cult. But definitely a cult. (One more time: “cult.”)Some level one students sign up without any idea of what they are getting into. Some are returning to improvisation/acting or a creative endeavor for the first time in a long time. Some of you have loved improv for years, but this is your first time giving it a shot in a brand new city. No matter what, you’re on an adventure, and you’re making new discoveries, and for that I admire you. At the risk of sounding cheesy, a sense of discovery is what it’s all about, isn’t it? I love watching people discover/rediscover how much fun it is to play. I mean, it’s darn-right inspiring.
Also, the willingness of the new improv student to jump into the unknown and be game for anything is a great reminder for more experienced improvisers of how they’re supposed to play. I suppose someone could make the claim that this doesn’t apply to all level one students, and that my portrait of the level one student is somewhat idealized. And to them I say, “Yup, you’re probably right. But some of them do exist, and those are the ones I care about.” I think that a beginning student’s sense of adventure is a model for those who have been improvising a while longer, and consequently have a bit of a stick up their bum about it. Improvisers who have been working for a long time develop a somewhat understandable sophomoric skepticism about the work. They start to close themselves off from possibilities. Not everyone—just some people. And these are the exact people who need to watch a level one class, and see that the students in there are trying things that are brand new, and playing in a wonderful, earnest way.
As an experienced improviser, I’ve learned from my level one students to always try new things—which is a great way to prevent myself from developing a myopic view of the world. Being around level one students is one of the reasons I recently forced myself to sign up for a dodgeball group, even though I pretty much suck at dodgeball. Level one students, by their example, continuously encourage me to venture outside my comfort zone. Of course life is and should be about more than just improv—but I guess it’s strange that a group of people signing up for an improv class reminds me of that, and reminds me that I should always be looking to try something else – something new, different and definitely uncomfortable. I can’t wait to see what I sign up for next. (I’m thinking some sort of martial art. Yeah, that ought to do it. So, thanks for that, too, level one-ers.)
And here comes the creepy cult-like part: I remember when I first started hanging around improv shows and falling in love with improv, and how the people I met became my really good friends—and I like that I see that happening with you students who are just beginning now. I hate to think that any of you will stay shy and/or intimidated in such an open and accepting culture. We can appear to be a closed group at times, but none of us are perfect, and I can assure you that at one point in time all of us were “new.” But it did not take long for this community to absorb us. So—see you around!
Kristen Schier is one half of the Philadelphia-based improv duo The Amie & Kristen Show/The Kristen & Amie Show, as well as a Philly Improv Theater instructor; improv instructor at University of the Arts; director for PHIT House Team ZaoGao; and Artistic Director for the short-form Philadelphia improv group The N Crowd.
Want to write a Comedy Love Letter to your favorite comedian, theater, improv team or sketch group? Email firstname.lastname@example.org!