is a stand-up comedian who started in Philadelphia, has since moved to New York, but is still around Philly quite a bit. He is also the host of the upcoming In the Beginning…
a City Spotlight show that will present some of Philadelphia’s top comedians showing videos of their early performances, while roasting themselves along the way and (hopefully) showing how far they’ve come.
How and why did you get into comedy? As a young kid, watching comedy on television intirgued me. I was too young to understand the jokes, but I remember loving the fact that these people were just making other people laugh. When I was in high school, the “Comedy Central Presents…” series launched (as well as “Last Comic Standing”) and I watched an ungodly amount of stand-up. I took notice of a lot of comics, their individuality and developed some favorite comedians. Then, during my freshman year of college I saw Dave Attell, Lewis Black, Mitch Hedberg and Mike Birbiglia at the Tower Theater and I was blown away. This night literally changed my life. I was laughing like I had never laughed before, and I distinctly remember thinking “I HAVE to try this!” I imagined me being on stage, getting those laughs and I knew I just had to at least try it – even just once. It became an obsessive thought. Then on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2004, I went to the Laff House for their open mic and have not stopped since day one.
How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? I have no idea. I started off with set-up/punchline type-jokes that were completely fictitious, then once I became more comfortable on stage, my set-up/punchline jokes took a more personal angle. Now, I still have some set-up/punchline type of jokes, I have a few stories, I have some observations. It’s a mess. I’m influenced by so much comedy that whan it comes down to it, I have no idea what I want to do, so I’m trying different things until something clicks.
Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? I love performing at Helium. It’s my home club and they have been nothing but amazing to me. Helium is the place where I’ve built my entire act. From open-mics, to guest sets, to hosting to featuring. I learned more there than anywhere else. When that room is sold-out, the electricity is unreal. Because of Helium, I have literally opened for most of my favorite comics – Attell, Alexandro, Giraldo, Fitzsimmons, Maron – and dozens of others. Helium is literally my second home. If I have a free night, I’m there.
Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? I think I’ll go with the first time I was asked to host a full week at Helium. I hosted a few open-mics there, but getting the full week was like getting called up to the big leagues. It was like So wait…you WANT me to open for Nick DiPaolo?!? AND you’re going to pay me for it?!?
Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? Or a sort of method that you use to develop comedic material? I don’t really have a creative process, I usually just jot down random ideas and come back to them later. Lately, I’ve been going to the library for an hour or two a day. No computer, no phone, no iPod – just my notebook. I’ve been making more of an effort to carry a notebook with me at all times, I think that helps a little. I find that the more I read, the more I write. When i’m going through book after book, I always feel I have more ideas and I seem to ‘notice’ more things, as opposed to when I’m not really reading and kind of in a lull. So because of that, I read as often as I can, but sometimes the laziness wins. I still think some of the best lines are the ones that just come to you. You have an idea, something clicks and it works immediately.
What is it about stand-up that draws you to it? It’s a rush. It’s euphoric. It’s addicting. There is absolutely nothing like having a killer set. I always want to perform. If I have a bad set, I want to get on stage again and redeem myself. If I have a great set, I can’t wait to get on stage again and hopefully re-create that feeling. There’s no middle ground, I always want to get on stage. I feel the most comfortable on stage. I know it’s totally cliche, but I feel that I can be myself on stage. The freedom is unlike anything else.
Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? Chip Chantry is my favorite joke-writer. He’s constantly running creative and original ideas by me and usually they’re solid jokes from the start. Chip has a natural talent for joke-writing. Whether it’s material, roasting or a specific project, he always has the ability to crush with solid jokes, delivery and commitment. Steve Gerben is an incredible performer. I love his ability to take his deeply personal experiences and make them hilarious. He’s animated, he really sells his bits and he’s always working on something – new material, short videos – I love his creativity. Mike Rainey…I don’t even know where to begin. I think he’s the only comic in Philly that has actually made my cry laughing. Like, actual tears running down my cheeks. The whole Philly scene is incredible. There’s so much I could say about everyone.
Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? Every show has gone smoothly and according to plan!
What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow? I sincerely believe that being supportive, being nice and helping others does wonders. The support in the Philly comedy scene is astounding and I miss it immensely. There’s no shame in asking for help or giving another comic friendly advice. As long as ever-yone tries their best, take risks and is there for each other, on stage and off, that’s all it needs.
Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy? I just want to do comedy full-time. I’m not looking for celebrity status or to have my name up there with Pryor or Carlin. My ultimate goal is be a full-time working comic. If comedy can pay my bills and provide a comfortable/fun lifestyle, I’d be more than happy.
Tomorrow night at 8pm at the Urban Saloon Mary Radzinski and Carolyn Busa will celebrate six months of their Monday night Laughs on Fairmount Open Mic with their first LOF Showcase. The two co-host the mic, held every week in the back room at the bar across the street from Eastern State Penitentiary and have now expanded to include a weekend showcase. The first show will feature comedians Sean Preston, Nicole Yates, Noah Goldstein, John Kensil and will be headlined by Pat House. The hosts of the show had a few words to say to encourage you to attend:
Carolyn: Hey, Mare, I’m super excited about this Saturday’s six month anniversary show of Laughs on Fairmount! I really need something like this to look forward to, especially after the dentist appointment I just had.
Carolyn: I hate you.
Mary: No you don’t.
Carolyn: Why don’t you go get a spray tan?
Mary: Oh gosh, Carebear, not until Saturday morning. I want a fresh glow for the show.
The first Laughs on Fairmount Showcase will be held Saturday, September 17th at 8pm at The Urban Saloon (2120 Fairmount Ave.) Tickets are $10 at the door. More information can be found on the Facebook Event Page.
A packed crowd at Helium witnessed the cream-of-the-cream of Philadelphia comedy last night during the finals of the Philly’s Phunniest Competition. Beginning almost 2 and a half months ago with 165 comedians, the field had been whittled down to 10 Finalists, who took the stage in order to see who would walk away with the title. The was a true spectacle – each comedian was worthy of raucous laughter, wild applause, and probably a $1,000 prize, but there can only be one winner. Surely those who missed out on this will be kicking themselves for a long time… for those unfortunate souls, here’s a taste of what you missed:
Below are the first and last words spoken on stage by each of 2011′s Philly’s Funniest Finalists:
(Comedian – First Word // Last Word)
Host Dave Smith – Thanks // Night
Pat Barker – Thank // Thanks
John McKeever – Hey // You
Chip Chantry – So // Everybody
Gary Vider – Thanks // Evening
Andy Nolan – Alright // Much
Mike Rainey – Alright // Rainey
Tommy Pope – Hey // Thanks
Gordon Baker-Bone – Yeah // Night
Pat House – Thank // Night
Darryl Charles – Yay // Everybody
Headliner Big Jay Oakerson – Thank // Around
Congratulations to all ten finalists, but a little extra congratulations to Tommy Pope who deservedly was named winner of 2011′s Philly’s Funniest. And to everyone who missed the show – you’re welcome!
The results are in from the first of two semi final rounds of Helium Comedy Club’s Sixth Annual Philly’s Phunniest Person Contest.
Moving on the the finals, which will be held this Wednesday at 8:00 PM are:
John McKeever, Pat House, Mike Rainey, Gordon Baker Bone and Gary Vider
The second semi final round will be held tomorrow night, where 15 more comics vie for the last five spots in the finals. You can get tickets for tomorrow’s show, and Wednesday’s finals online.
Unsolicited Advice is a semi-regular feature where Philly’s top stand-ups give their advice and input about everything performing, writing, and conceiving stand-up comedy.
“If a joke isn’t working, the problem is more likely to lie in the premise than in the punchline. Punchlines flow easily out of ideas that are well thought out and phrased properly. If you are going to rewrite a joke, start at the beginning and the end will evolve naturally to fit the new premise.”
“Starting your own room or putting on your own show: please get a nice sound system, not some tinny piece of junk karaoke sound system. Please play some upbeat music to get the crowd excited for the show (no Morrissey, ‘The Pope of Mope’ is kind of depressing). Also, when you have a cousin who has a bar and wants to do a comedy show every other Thursday except when the Flyers or UFC or Paraguayan Soccer Finals are on cable, good luck with that mess. Odds are it won’t last past three shows. Get a designated room and get cheap cards or postcards to promote it. Support other comics shows so they will feel guilty, and then they will be forced to come out to your show.”
“The other night I saw someone perform with the mic stand in front of them. Take the mic out of the stand and put the stand behind you if you don’t plan on using the stand. Don’t take the mic out but leave the stand in front of you. There’s no rush to start doing material, just clear your space, the audience won’t lose you for five seconds of getting settled.”
“Find out what makes you funny — to yourself and your friends, and this will help you find your comedic voice. Finding a unique voice is one of the hardest things to do in comedy, and many professionals will say it takes years to do. Finding what makes you stand out from the rest and using it as a starting point when you come up with ideas is good groundwork in helping yourself establish who you want to be on stage.”
“Some of the best advice I can give to a newer comic is simply ‘keep your mouth shut.’ If you don’t make the list at an open mic, don’t vocalize your frustration. Be professional, hang out, watch the show and support the fellow comics. So many comics exclaim ‘This is bullshit!’ or ‘I can’t believe I didn’t make the fucking list!’ It’s not bullshit and a new comic shouldn’t expect to make the list at any open mic frequently right away anyways. Comedy is about paying your dues. When people have a fit, it looks immature and more than that, you never know who is standing near you — it could be the people in charge of the open mic, or another comic. Everybody gets beat up in comedy, just roll with it.”