Walking into the Shubin Theatre at 10 PM last Wednesday night, I had no idea what to expect. Approaching the main stage, a welcoming gift was a beer from what looked like a microwave turned into a cooler. The crowd was lively, you could tell the “regulars” from the newcomers right when you walked in. That the people were happy and talkative added comfort to watching an hour of television with strangers.
The lights dimmed and a clever intro played instructions setting the tone for the show. Paul and Rob, the hosts of TV Party came out with positive energy that matched the upbeat crowd. It was close to Halloween, so the show of choice was the Paul Lynde Halloween Special. Paul Triggiani and Rob Baniewicz took a seat and the commentary commenced. Not only were the two hosts adding in a quick jab at Paul Lynde’s choice of words, but the occasional witty comment from an audience member would make for good laughs. The best part of the show was when the musical guest came to perform. Lynde had a good eye, so none other than KISS would be on the Halloween special. Jokes were being fired off left and right from the hosts and the guests.
The name “TV Party” could not fit more perfectly.
I asked Triggiani about the show’s history. He explained that the idea around TV Party is that television was awful in the past and no one thought that it would be seen again. They were of course wrong, and now you can see a variety of hilariously awful shows dating all the way back to the 70’s twice a month at Philly Improv Theater.
I asked what some of his favorite viewings have been so far. One was a show from 1983 called Zorro and Son. The series is self-explanatory, a show about Zorro and Zorro Jr. adventuring side by side. According to Triggiani, what made this even more interesting was how hard it was to get a hold of the show. “I had to lie to the girl that ran the Zorro Fan Club and said that I started a college class and needed a copy.”
Another of his favorites included a sitcom called Heil Honey I’m Home which starred none other than Adolf Hitler. This is what TV Party is all about… bad television for good laughs.
Tonight, Triggiani and Baniewicz will pay tribute to the late Marcia Wallace, whom you may know best as the voice of Edna Krabappel on The Simpsons. In her day, she’d been all over the TV dial including the Bob Newhart Show, as well as presumably some pretty bad episodes of Hollywood Squares or whatever else the boys can dig up. Show starts tonight at 10pm @ the Shubin Theater right after Guilty Pleasures with Joe Moore. Tickets are only $5.
“It’s Elementary” is a monthly column every first Wednesday that asks comedians to share funny memories from their elementary school years, or “periods” (get it?? Like moments in time, but also like in school!) from those formative years that have informed their personal and comedic identities. Or, they’ll just submit some random anecdotes. Whatever they want, really.
by Dave Metter
I have long been fascinated by what has influenced and inspired other comedy writers, especially during their youths when their comedic senses were still so nascent and less judgmental. This month features writer/director/performer/tech man/backslash abuser Paul Triggiani.
Dave has kindly asked me to write about my time in elementary school for this installment of “It’s Elementary.” So, yes, I’d love to tell you about one of the darkest, most repulsive periods of my life that isn’t right now.
1st Period: The Move
When I was in third grade, my parents moved my brother and I from a private, progressive school that we had been in since kindergarten to a public school. It was the hardest, least pleasant time in my life. I’ve never spent any significant time in prison, but it was probably a lot like that (adjusted for scale of life experience and emotional preparedness).
2nd Period: From Apple Orchard-come-Commune School
The school we had up and to that point spent our entire lives at was an apple orchard-come-commune. The inhabitants of that commune didn’t want to go out and find square jobs so they just said, “Fuck it, let’s be a school.” I remember once asking a teacher how the Native Americans came to be in North America, and she just stared into the ceiling and said, “Nobody knows.” It was a really nurturing place to grow and find your emotional center, but by the time we transferred to public school in third grade, I didn’t know how to read or tie my own shoes.
3rd Period: To Public School
The next year, I transferred to public school and was immediately met with a series of sobering truths—1) the rest of the world had a shared popular culture, it extended beyond 1974, and everyone knew about it but me 2) this was not a warm and inviting place where my ideas and opinions would be welcomed by everyone; to the contrary, every word I said and every thought I decided to share would be judged and used against me by some juvenile scumbag and 3) the other students were sometimes just as bad. It was an emotionally rocky time for me, and I spent a lot of time rolling around on the ground with a jacket over my head. Not sure why.
4th Period: Kids Corner
I can’t remember much about grade school that was positive, except for Kids Corner. If you’re from the area, it’s possible that you’re familiar with the long-running children’s call-in show hosted by Kathy O’Connell and produced by Robert Drake. If you listen to the show today, you’ll hear a lot of music specifically geared toward children, but in the late eighties and early nineties, it was a very different show. From what I could tell, they had maybe ten records that they cycled through—two Dr. Demento collections, a bunch of “Weird Al” Yankovic, They Might Be Giants’ Flood and The Dead Milkmen’s Beelzebubba. So this is how I managed to be exposed to almost nothing but novelty music for the better part of a decade.
5th Period: A Weirdo Unchained
But there was also an underlying message to Kids Corner, and one that I didn’t fully recognize until I was in my late teens. It came through the music they played, but also through the guests that they chose to feature—artists, musicians, nerds of every variety. The novelty music that I was exposed to through the show helped to shape my interest in comedy and show me where my sensibilities were, but the part of Kids Corner that had the biggest impact was that they managed to say “It’s okay to be a little weird. There are weird people everywhere, and they’re doing great” at a time when I needed it most.
Dave Metter is a comedy writer, and member of sketch comedy collective Iron Potato. See Dave’s show “Your News, Philadelphia!” at the Shubin Theater today, June 5th, in the finals of PHIT’s Variety Sweeps Week. Follow Dave on Twitter @DaveMetter.
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, and slightly beyond, if we deem it necessary–if you’d like to write one, pitch us your list at firstname.lastname@example.org!
In past years, I made it a goal to see every sketch comedy show that went up in Philly at least once. I considered it a duty to support the other sketch groups in town, but I also benefited from seeing what my peers were doing. Often times, they inspired me to write and perform better.
In 2012, it became impossible to see every sketch show in town. I would have had to give up my life and become a full-time sketch comedy audience member, and I don’t think that would have been very lucrative for me. I still make it to most of the shows, and I am still regularly inspired by the talent and brilliance of the people I’m privileged to watch (and sometimes collaborate with).
Here is a list of my favorite sketches by groups that started performing in 2012.
5. American Breakfast – “Prank My Tween”
A TV prank show where parents “prank” their tweens while a camera rolls on their reaction. Only, in this case, all of the pranks are just normal parenting behaviors; the tweens react with disgust because they’re tweens and that’s how tweens act when their patents do anything. I’m a sucker for a simple premise with a truthful observation at the core. This is that.
4. The Specific Jawns – “Rape & Murder Mystery Party”
This sketch was one of many very strong offerings during this year’s Dirtiest Sketch In Philadelphia competition. Specific Jawn Carl Boccuti “hosts” a rape & murder mystery party where he selects a handful of audience members who read aloud from evidence envelopes that they have been given. One by one, each participant reveals further gory (and hilarious) details about the crime, themselves and the song “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors.
Putting up a sketch that relies on the audience or non-performers to carry the scene can be risky and outside of our comfort zone, but when it works, it can pay out major dividends. Even if it doesn’t win a competition.
3. The Flat Earth – “Sexy Telegraph”
We know that the first message ever sent by telegraph was “What hath god wrought.” We could assume that the second message sent by telegraph was “What are you wearing,” since at the advent of any major technological breakthrough, our first question is “How can we use this to jerk off better?” That was the underlying assumption of “Sexy Telegraph,” where a man and woman engage in erotic telegraphy across the Atlantic (and it escalates over the course of the scene). Physical comedy without dialogue is a rare thing to see on stage in Philly, and it’s rare because it’s hard (and one might argue that it’s hard because we rarely attempt it). Seeing a totally physical/visual sketch done and done well was, for me, delightful.
2. Daring Daulton – “Hammer Store”
Joe Paolucci enters a store to rob the joint with his weapon of choice, a hammer. We eventually learn that the store he is attempting to rob is a hammer store and the man behind the counter (Trevor Cunnion) has a seemingly endless supply of hammers at his disposal. Despite this, Trevor does not immediately do away with the robber but instead attempts to remedy the robber’s insecurities. It gets weird, but in a way that should stand as an example of how to breathe life into what feels like it could be a one-note premise.
1. Dog Mountain – “No More Birthdays”
This is making my list as the best sketch by a new group in 2012, but a case could be made for “No More Birthdays” being the best local sketch of 2012. A man (Dennis Trafny) throws a birthday party for his significant other, but at the stroke of midnight, he demands that both the party and her birthday are over (to a frightening degree). This sketch sticks with me and makes number one on my list because it has almost everything that I look for in a sketch. The performance by Dennis is paramount; he plays a funnier “terrifying” than any human I can think of. Mike Marbach is also a great asset; he may have been born to play a guy being emotionally dismantled.
I performed in my first live sketch comedy show with Secret Pants in 2005. At the time, there was one other sketch group in town (that we knew of), and we never saw or crossed paths with them. Now, almost 2013, there are too many sketch shows to see, five or six new groups in one year, a sketch open mic that is envied in Los Angeles and New York alike, and a sketch comedy community that is growing at a rate that none of us ever imagined. When I sat down to write this list today, I was excited. When I realized that I could write it, I was thrilled. Let’s all raise a glass to more lists.
Local sketch group The Stonewall Players just released their new album on Bandcamp on December 21st, and it’s available to fans for the low, low price of $FREE.99. (Or whatever you’d like to pay—might be nice to throw the group a few bones, right?)
Not familiar with the Players? Here’s a little background and more info on the album from team member Matt Schmid:
“The Stonewall Players are Andrew Kramcsak, Joe Pantalone, and myself. We filmed some shorts here and there after high school but never really tried to do anything live, as none of us were aware of a live sketch comedy scene until I took the sketch 101 course with [Secret Pants'] Brian Kelly at PHIT. After that we began attending Sketch Up Or Shut Up regularly which, so far, is the only live performing we’ve done of our material. We decided to record these sketches as an album because we sort of wanted to flush them out and start writing new material. I think it’s a good format for us because we have more of capacity for writing than, I’d imagine, performing. Also, jokes can be layered differently and more nuanced when you don’t have to get that instant big laugh on a stage;it can be more low key.
As for the material itself, Andrew and I wrote everything on the album and then punched up each other’s sketches. We write in a really complimentary way, he’s really good with details and specific phrasings and I really like the big picture, so it’s easy to hand off stuff. I also write a little more darker and absurd stuff and Andrew, who is very bookish, brings a sweetness and a sophistication to the characters.
We definitely look forward to performing live in the new year. I was one of the writers for the PHIT Sketch House Team The Flat Earth and it was really awesome witnessing the show come together. Watching [Secret Pants'] Paul Triggiani direct was bonkers and intimidating and an amazing learning experience, so I hope to bring what I learned from that show into our material.”
Aaron sits down with Kevin McDonald of the Kids in the Hall to talk about his comedy career, his process, and the improv to sketch workshop he taught in Philadelphia. Later, Aaron talks with Brian Kelly and Paul Triggiani of Secret Pants about their experience in the class and working with someone who was a great influence on them. Listen below or subscribe on iTunes.
2011 Witout Awards: Best Host Nominees
Rob Baniewicz and Paul Triggiani
Rob and Paul get together on stage at Philly Improv Theater every month and have a TV Party. They find the best worst television from the past available and present it to a crowd full of often drunk and always eager fans waiting to laugh – both at the shows and with the hilarious commentary provided by the two.
Carolyn Busa and Mary Radzinski
Every Monday night Carolyn and Mary turn the back room at The Urban Saloon into one of the best open mics in the city, Laughs on Fairmount. The two take turns introducing acts and keep the show moving with their own charm and sense of humor. They often start the show with a short sketch that highlights the chemistry they have with each other and gets the audience ready for a night of great comedy.
Chip Chantry is a busy man. He is the host of two monthly shows at major Philadelphia comedy venues. Facetime with Chip Chantry is a talk show at Helium Comedy Club that features Chip performing sketches, jokes about the news, and conducting interviews with each of his guests. Chip Chantry’s One Man Show (with Special Guests) moved to Philly Improv Theater after its’ successful run at The Khyber and features Chip hosting for many of the best acts Philly Comedy has to offer.
Twice per month on Friday nights Aaron Hertzog hosts Hey Everybody! an evening of stand-up comedy at Philly Improv Theater. The showcase features many of the best stand-ups in Philadelphia and the occasional visitor from out of town. Aaron is known for yelling “Hey Everybody” at the top of his sets, and getting audiences ready for the show with his jovial invitations of friendship.
Doogie’s monthly Ministry of Secret Jokes has been one of the best nights of comedy Philadelphia has to offer for years. Doogie packs the show with not only great stand-up and sketch comedy but games, contests, and audience participation. The show is run like a meeting of a secret society, and Doogie often opens his shows by having the audience recite an oath that they will not reveal what they see to anyone. Judging by the packed in crowds upstairs at Fergie’s every month, many people have been breaking that oath.