by Chris Dolan
This past Tuesday, January 8th, I checked out Polygon Comedy’s The Perfect New Year at L’etage. The show featured stand-up performances from David Piccolomini and Vegas Lancaster, and improv from Philly group Nielsen, duo Steve Rogers Is Dead, and 2013 Witout Awards hosts Grimacchio.
The show opened with a great, crowd-pleasing set from Piccolomini – touching on everything from his personal appearance (“disappointing Jesus”) to family and live-action role playing (“LARP-ing”). After his set, I talked with Piccolomini about his comedy background, his favorite comedians, and his good-humored take on his nominations for the “Witin Awards.”
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.
Also nominated for Best Improv Group (1-3 Members) Beirdo is comprised of Kevin Pettit, Dennis Trafny and Dan Jaquette, three bearded men performing improv.
One of the two new Philly Improv Theater House Teams, Hey Rube is made up of members Aaron Hertzog, Alex Gross, Dennis Trafny, Jen Curcio, Lizzie Spellman, Mark Leopold, Rob Cutler, Scott Shepherd, and Tara Demmy.
Also nominated for Best Improv Group (4+ Members) Iron Lung features members Corin Wells, Carly Maurer Kaufman, Kevin Pettit, Maureen Costello, Jess Carpenter, Dennis Trafny, Simon Burger, Tara Demmy, and Ellen Qualey.
Nielsen is a group that formed after taking Andy Moskowitz’s level one improv class at Philly Improv Theater featuring members Abigail Bruley, Bran Zinn, David Brookstein, Jacqueline Baker, Katie Monico, Meredith Weir, Molly Silverman and out-of-towners John McGrory and Rachel Nichols, original members of the group who join them when they can.
The second of the new Philly Improv Theater House Teams, ZaoGao is a group comprised of AJ Ortiz, Billy Thompson, Brian Ratcliffe, Claire Halberstadt, Erin Pitts, Karen Coleman, Matt Akana, Nathan Edmondson, and Scott Hinners.