This Wednesday at Chris’ Jazz Cafe (1421 Sansom St.) the Tight Six crew will host Not Jazz 2, an evening of stand-up comedy featuring John Nunn, Mary Radzinski, Dan Scully, Trevor Cunnion, Gregg Gethard, and Keane Cobb.
The Sideshow Presents: Iron Lung’s 2 Year Anniversary Show/Party this Friday at The Arts Parlor (1170 S. Broad St). The show will feature improv from Iron Lung, Kid Twist, Cock Hat, and Bed Savage as well as sketch from The Flat Earth and stand-up from Sidney Gantt.
Comedian and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham will bring his array of characters to perform at the Wells Fargo Center (3601 S. Broad St.) this Friday. Tickets are available online.
In addition to their regular, weekly shows ComedySportz Presents: Adrift and ComedySportz’ The Blue Show will be held this Friday at The Adrienne Theater (2030 Sansom St.) ComedySportz Presents is “an ongoing series of fun, new comedy shows featuring your favorite CSz Players and Philadelphia comedians.” Always on the last Friday of every month The Blue Show promises to feature “your favorite players doing stuff no Brown Bag could ever rectify.”
The Center Square Fire Company (1298 Skippack Pike, Blue Bell PA) is celebrating their 100th anniversary this Saturday with a comedy show featuring stand-up from The Legendary WID, Mike Morse, Robin Fox, and Grover Silcox. Tickets for the show can be purchased online and include a souvenir cup, beer, soda, and snacks.
Jim Gaffigan visits Philadelphia for a show at the Tower Theater (69th and Ludlow) this Saturday. Tickets can be purchased online.
The Captain Action Comedy Show makes its Saturday debut this week at the Conshohocken Cafe (521 Fayette St. Conshohocken) with a show featuring Jim Ginty, Jon DelCollo, Aaron Nevins, Dave Terruso, and Dan Vetrano.
This Sunday Bedtime Stories Presents: Behind the Scenes at a Soft Rock Radio Station in Nahua, NH at Connie’s Ric Rac (1132 S. 9th St.). The show will feature comedians telling the stories behind WHFMTOWNDZ-FM (The Breeze On Top of the Mountain Near Nashua) — the number two rated soft rock/adult contemporary radio station in New Hampshire’s second biggest radio market.
ComedySportz for Kids — a “fun-sized version of our long-running comedy show only shorter, sillier and kiddy-er” will be this Sunday at The Adrienne Theater (2030 Sansom St.) The monthly comedy show for children will take place at 11 am. Tickets can be purchased online.
Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe are looking for new artists. Live Arts will select up to 5 artists through an audition process. If selected, artists will be presented in a showcase format for two nights, will receive a stipend of $500 and 5 hours of rehearsal time in the LAB in preparation for their performance. Live Arts is seeking work which demonstrates a commitment to forward thinking ideas and aesthetics. Any live performance genre is acceptable including theater, dance, music and performance art. Visit www.livearts-fringe.org/jumpstart to sign up and read the guidelines, eligibility, and FAQs.
If you have any Philly comedy news worth mentioning – send it our way with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Philadelphia Fringe Festival continues this week, and with it come a lot of exciting opportunities to see some great comedy shows.
The Cambridge Footlights will perform tonight and Tuesday night at The Adrienne Theater (2030 Sansom St. Philadelphia) as part of Philly Improv Theater‘s Fringe Festival Run. The famed group from across the pond will perform their Edinburg Fringe show for Philly audiences both nights at 7:30pm (ticket information can be found online).
Camp Woods’ “Weird People Problems” continues tonight at The Adrienne Theater (2030 Sansom St. Philadelphia) with another of their “best of” shows from the last year of Camp Woods Plus. Tuesday night, the group will present their David Lynch Themed Show with fellow Philly sketch group Secret Pants.
Polygon Comedy will host shows every night this week as part of the Fringe Festival at O’Neal’s Pub, L’etage, and The Adrienne Theater. Their full schedule can be found on the Fringe Festival’s website.
Angry People Buliding Things will do shows at The Adrienne on Friday, September 21 and Saturday September 22.
ComedySportz Philly will present a few shows during the Fringe Festival, including Cecily and Gwendolyn, Dangerous Fools, Tongue & Groove, and The Archdiocese of Laughter by Mark Leopold.
Other PHIT Fringe shows include Fibber, Hot Dish Presents: Backstory, King Friday’s 3 Mad Rituals, and PROMania!
Philly Improv Theater is offering a workshop on Becoming a Television Comedy Staff Writer taught by former Philadelphia comedian/ current Los Angeles comedian and television writer Luke Giordano on Saturday, October 6th. Giordano was hired as a writer for the sitcom Two and a Half Men in 2011 and now works for a Nickelodeon sitcom that will premiere in 2013. Details on the workshop can be found online. Also on October 6th, Giordano will be performing a half hour of stand-up on the 7:00pm show at PHIT with Aaron Hertzog (Facebook Event).
By Hilary Kissinger
I felt compelled to write in to WitOut to share my feelings. I like to write, and I have a lot of feelings. Lately, a lot of my good feelings have been happening on Wednesday nights, when my Philly Improv Theater house team Davenger rehearses.
I recently moved to Brooklyn because my husband got a fancy new job there. But because of my feelings, I just couldn’t leave this group of people or give up the incredible experience of learning and performing with them. Here’s what keeps me coming back on a crowded Megabus, and what we will strive to share with you during our Fringe Festival run:
1. Our good friend Harold. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that I’d be seeing the word “classic” cropping up next to this long form structure. Well-known in the improv community, the Harold has a long history stretching back to its development by Del Close in the 1960s, but it still felt revolutionary to me when I was first introduced to it in 2006. I feel like it is an excellent vehicle for a team to develop its skills and craft a cohesive performance, and I am really happy that Davenger has chosen to explore the Harold’s challenges and satisfactions. Our director Maggy Keegan has an excellent eye for both the macro and micro levels of attention that the Harold demands, and she encourages us to reflect on our work not only as collected bits of comedy but also as thematically-linked commentary. She also likes when we make creepy faces.
2. Chemistry. (You know, like on Breaking Bad.) Another thing Maggy’s done for Davenger (every time I drop her name I get to take the suggestion for another show) is really focus on the unique strengths of each individual on the team. We’ve done two rounds of “clinics” in rehearsal, where we’ll spend 15 minutes or so working with one particular improviser on something he or she has identified as a personal challenge. I love this. It’s really liberating to get to proclaim, “I think I’m bad at this!” and to have the group say, “We’ve got your back. Let’s play about it!” Maggy (+3) has created a really supportive space that encourages a lot of feedback. Usually that feedback is – “Fuck you, Dan.” This is a big compliment.
3. The Warm-Up. You won’t actually see it at a Davenger show, but somewhere, probably in the basement beneath your seats as you settle in with a PBR, it is happening. A manic, incomprehensible goulash of circle games is devolving into bits, and patterns are becoming infected with patterns in an ever-repeating comedy fractal. Ok, so basically we point at each other and clap our hands at the same time. But you can expect it to sound something like this:
You – Yes – You – Yes – Rusty – Yes – Bear – Yes – clap clapclap clapclapclap – zoom – zoom – oilslick! – zoom – ERR! – zoom – Reasonable Beets! – Ladder Man! – clap clap clap clapclap clap clap – Run DMC – Yes – Method Man – Yes – NINJA SCREAMS – OldTimeyProspectorsYeeeeHOOOOO!pewpewpew
Just know that everything you see on stage is informed by this ritual. Sometimes there are Stallone impressions.
4. Memes. Because Davenger is a thing, that means it needs a “social media presence.” That means that I have an outlet to create and share pictures with words over top of them. Here’s one that Alex made:
5. Cupcakes & Nicknames. At our first rehearsal, we selected nicknames for one of the circle games in our warmup. It looks like we’ll have them forever. We also really like cupcakes. Cait made these cherry limeade beauties for our potluck team dinner:
And Jess made these nickname-cakes back when we were still codenamed “Westmarch”:
Anyway. Be jealous of our cupcakes.
I seriously love improvising with Davenger, and I want to share them with the world. But not the cupcakes. I won’t share those.
Davenger is: Dan Corkery, Hilary Kissinger, Nicholas Mirra, Alex Newman, Cait O’Driscoll, Kevin Pettit, Brian Rumble, Jessica Snow, and Max Sittenfield. They are directed by Maggy Keegan.
Davenger performs Wednesday, September 12 – Saturday, September 15 on the Mainstage at the Adrienne Theater (2030 Sansom St.) Tickets can be purchased online.
Hot Dish will perform “Backstory” at the Philly Fringe Festival using a form that not many improv fans have ever seen. They will create a completely improvised show that unfolds backwards in time, similar to the movie Memento. A single story is told in about forty five minutes that begins with the curtain call and ends with the opening suggestion, similar to a backwards one-act play. “Backstory” will be a unique experience for audiences and performers alike.
Director Steve Kleinedler says, “This show will be unlike anything the audience has seen before. What really makes it interesting is seeing how the actors are able to manage telling the story backwards.” Steve calls this approach “mind-blowing” because of the associated difficulty level. Since it is hard to pull off, not many shows use this format. Cast member Jim Burns confesses that he has never seen a show like this nor has he himself performed this way. He says, “In prepping for this show we have to reorient our appreciation of time and augment our understanding of basic language concepts to follow our director. The brain begins working in ways it hadn’t before. It’s exciting and daunting and perplexing and fantastic all at once.”
So where did such an idea come from? Steve says he originally conceived the idea about eight years ago while directing at Improv Boston and thought it was very interesting. He showed the cast members a short clip of how he previously directed this form and they were intrigued. Jim labeled Steve as a “fearless director” for his determination to pull this off.
Not only are cast members excited to see how audiences respond to their show, they are also eager to see how they as performers respond to this form of improv. This style will certainly keep these improvisers on their toes. Steve reminds the cast that this sort of form demands rehearsals in order to deliver a smooth performance. While Hot Dish is focusing right now on their performance at the Fringe, they think it would be cool to use this format for future shows.
Backstory plays Wednesday, September 19 – Saturday, September 22 on the Mainstage at the Adrienne Theater (2030 Sansom St.) Tickets can be purchased online.
Myths and Monsters director Nick Gillette
Philly Fringe is just around the corner. This annual festival brings the world’s newest and most cutting-edge cultural experiences to our city, amplifying the vibrancy of Philadelphia as a renowned cultural center. Philly Improv Theater contributes to this vibrancy with an entire month of special programing that will certainly entertain and entice, including the upcoming improv show, Myths & Monsters.
Myths & Monsters improvises theatrical tales by spontaneously performing stories of heroic transformation. The improv group moves and breathes in tandem. Each member depicts a monstrous beast or terrifying deity amidst trials and transformations.
This team finds inspiration in stories that trace back to King Arthur and beyond and have been reincarnated in films such as The Matrix and the Star Wars trilogy. The hero myth is a personal journey full of dragon battles, night sea journeys, impossible trials and supernatural aid. Each night of performance, the ensemble will reach deep into their collective unconscious and draw forth two new fantastical tales of heroism and adventure.
Directed by Nick Gillette, the cast of Myths & Monsters is: Ben Grinberg, Nikitas Menotiades, Brian Ratcliffe, Jess Ross, Kristen Schier, Molly Scullion, Adam Siry, Jess Snow, and Alison Zeidman
Director Nick Gillette is a local actor and PHIT instructor who began performing improv in 2002 with his Colgate University team Charred Goosebeak. He’s made appearances at Skidmore College’s National College Comedy Festival and the Del Close Marathon in NYC. He has studied under Armando Diaz, Keith Johnstone and Joe Bill and is currently improvising with several groups, including the unabashedly uninhibited gang, Medic. Nick is also a founding member of the PHIT house team, Mayor Karen.
Nick’s non-comedy adventures include performances with the 1920’s-inspired burlesque troupe Cabaret Red Light, giving tours at Eastern State Penitentiary and, his longtime hobby, playing 2nd edition Shadowrun, a science fantasy role-playing game where he pretends he is a cybernetically enhanced hacker hiding out in Central America. He’s currently a student at the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training.
Nick took a little time out from his busy schedule to answer some questions about his upcoming show.
WO: The concept of Myths & Monsters is very smart and unique. How did you come up with it? What sparked the initial thought?
NG: This all came out of a conversation with Cubby Altobelli. We were talking about his work in Commedia dell’Arte and how there are these immortal archetypes for characters. It reminded me of Joseph Campbell’s ideas that there are immortal forms for stories too, and since I have improv on the brain almost constantly, the show sort of presented itself.
WO: Besides a clear influence for the performances narrative, what else makes M&M unique from your average improv show?
NG: The myth is the form, but the monsters are the crazy cool part of the show. We’ve spent a ton of time really working the ‘group mind’ of the performers. Moving as one, supporting a choice instantly without even knowing where it’ll lead. I have to hand it to the cast for the inventiveness and commitment to these creatures, some of them have been hilarious, some have given me true chills, all of them are incredible to watch.
WO: You mention Star Wars and The Matrix as modern examples of hero’s tales. Should fans expect to see some modern references as well?
NG: Nah. I chose those as recognizable examples of the hero story format, but I always feel like pop-culture references punch a hole in a show by winking and saying “hey, look at us improvising.” I want the performers and audience to get swept up in these stories, really drawn into the worlds, just in the way we can get sucked into a really good book and forget ourselves. If you want a film comparison, it’ll probably be closer to Jim Henson style stuff. Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, those sorts of fantasy worlds.
WO: You and your cast have been in rehearsal for some time. What has been your biggest challenge in putting this together?
NG: I don’t know how hard I can push my cast without being a bully. I want them to take real risks in performance. I want them to dig deep, to trust that they’ve got each others backs, to perform to their fullest. At the same time, I don’t know how much I can legitimately ask of them as volunteers. It’s a weird mix. We say things like “don’t go for the joke” and “truth in comedy,” but asking a performer to be honest and vulnerable on stage is another matter.
WO: As the director what has been the biggest surprise to you during this process?
NG: I was amazed at how quickly the cast got it. I would propose a kernel of an idea and see them pick it up and run with it in surprising and exciting ways. For instance, I saw Alison Zeidman, a not terribly imposing looking person, stare down and tame an enormous, threatening storm demon. It was epic, and I’m not using that word in its watered-down internet sense. I think maybe that’s the point of this show. We’re bringing epic back.
A PHIT production, Myths & Monsters can be seen as a part of the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe at the Adrienne Theater , 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103 at 7:30pm from September 6, 2012 -to September 9, 2012. Tickets can be purchased online through Leap Ticket.
From Philly Improv Theater’s Website:
PHIT will be holding open-call auditions in search of actors for our Fringe Sketch Revue on Thursday, August 9th, 2012 from 7:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.. Auditions will be held at the PHIT Offices, 1616 Walnut Street, Suite 1800, Philadelphia, PA 19103.
Auditioners do not need to have prior improv, sketch or even acting experience (although none of these things will hurt!), and auditioners who have taken classes at PHIT will not be given special preference over those who have studied elsewhere, although we will have had more time to see you perform which may help.
Actors in the Fringe Sketch Revue will need to be available for rehearsals twice a week in August and the first week of September, as well as the run of shows each evening from Monday, September 10th through Friday, September 15th. Actors will be expected to learn their lines outside of rehearsal. We are also looking for a few skills, if you have them:
- Ability to sing confidently (please note, you do not have to sing well… just be willing to sing).
- Guitar playing, specifically someone who can play something like this.
- Actors who can do German accents.
- Someone who can walk on stilts, with extra points if you own stilts.
You must be available for the audition times to be considered. No other audition times are available. You must be available for the performance dates and not be out of town for any rehearsals to be cast.
HOW TO SIGN UP FOR AN AUDITION:
Sign-ups begin immediately. To secure an audition time please email your name, phone number, and a preferred time (if any) to email@example.com. If you possess any of the special skills listed above please also mention that fact in your audition request!
You will receive a confirmation message within two (2) business days – for example, if you contact us on Monday you’ll hear from us by Wednesday, or if you contact us on Friday, you’ll hear from us by the following Tuesday). At the time you are sent your audition confirmation you will also receive a packet of brief sketch excerpts from the show that we will ask you to read from (off-book if possible, though this is NOT required) during your audition slot.
We will accept sign-ups until no audition times remain. All specific audition times are first-come-first-served. There are no alternate times. If you are not available for these audition dates and times, please do not email or call to ask for an exception – you simply will not be able to audition. If you are interested in auditioning, you must sign-up for one of our announced timeslots.
On the day of the audition…
PLEASE ARRIVE AT LEAST FIFTEEN (15) MINUTES PRIOR TO YOUR SCHEDULED AUDITION TIME. There will be a short questionnaire for you to complete prior to your scheduled audition time. Auditioners should wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Resumes are not required but will gladly be accepted. Please bring a headshot with you (if you don’t have headshots, a recent snapshot is fine).
Auditioners will be seen individually for 10-15 minutes each. You will be seen by some of the writers for the show as well as the director or head writer. Each auditioner will have 3 minutes at the top of the audition to do anything they would like. (This could be delivering a monologue, offering the writers a briefcase full of money, or something like this guy). After this you’ll read/perform some of the material that was sent to you in advance along with a writer from the show. We may also ask you to demonstrate one of the special skills we are looking for if you indicated you posessed one of them – we will let you know in advance if we are going to ask you to do this so you can bring anything that you may need (i.e. a guitar).
Will be made immediately after auditions end. You should hear from us about your status within 48 hours of your audition time. Everyone who auditions will receive a reply letting them know whether or not they have been cast.
Still have questions?
Send us an email (get our email address from the contact page of the site or the paragraphs above).
Alcatraz is a cat with a serious attitude, and a lot of friends. These friends also have issues of their own, which all come out in the hilarious improvised puppet show Friends of Alcatraz. You read that correctly, its a puppet show.
Friends of Alcatraz begins with the titular cat (played by actor/director/designer Kelly Vrooman) explaining the format of the show. The stage for Friends of Alcatraz is set up with a camera so that the audience may watch the puppeteers on their left, or a screen showing just the puppet action to the right. The set up lets the actors play with the space and the camera to make for an extremely visually interesting show. The cast uses the depth of the stage and the different size of puppets to fill in background characters and create a complete visual world around the puppet work, and audiences can see how they do it for themselves.
The technical work is just one of the excellent aspects of this show. The cast (Vrooman, along with Joe Sabatino, Jason Stockdale, Rob Cutler, and Dave Jadico) does a great job bringing the puppets to life and giving them each a depth and soul beyond their plush exterior. The design of the puppets helps in this, each crafted with a unique look that seems to draw the characters’ voices and personas out of the actors.
An audience member’s suggestion of “a breakup” when asked for something incredible that recently happend to them initially drew ridicule from Alcatraz the cat, but lead to a show full of relationships with their ups and downs, break-ups and make-ups and big laughs throughout.
Friends of Alcatraz is an extremely unique theater experience and is thoroughly satisfying for it’s comedy, showmanship, and presentation. Here’s hoping the end of it’s Fringe Festival run is not the last we see of Alcatraz and the gang.
Philadelphia improv group Tongue & Groove debuted its’ new show, “Six” at this year’s fringe festival. The show’s name is derived from the way the group gets suggestions from the audience, via cards with six word autobiographies. These short blurbs are used by the members of the ensemble to create rich characters with deep relationships between each other as well as set scenes, perform character monologues, and play improv games.
The members of Tongue & Groove have developed a improvisational style that they describe as “serio-comic, realism based, ‘Actors Improv'” in which they focus on the relationship between the characters in the scene, to dramatic and hilarious effect. Whether the scene was serious or comedic, or a mixture of both, it was constantly interesting to watch the interaction between the players.
The show began with each actor reading a card with a six word biography written by an audience member for inspiration. The scenes started with a bang as cast members Ed Miller and Casey Spaulding jumped into each others arms for an intense make-out session which led to a scene exploring the amusing perils of young love. Other recurring characters and scenes included Frederick Anderson and Beth Dougherty as actors waiting to go on an audition who slowly develop an admiration for each other, Dougherty and Bobbi Block as a couple in trouble after Dougherty loses her job as a lawyer and takes work in at a hippy farmers market, and Block and Josh Rubinstein as siblings who never really got along having to deal with the declining health of their mother. All of the scenes showcased the group’s ability to mix realistic deep relationships showcasing the funny moments in the drama of everyday life.
The scenes were interspersed with monologues from characters created from more of the six word biographies, actors creating their own six word bios from a single word suggestion, some improv games, and larger group scenes. The show wrapped up with the actors in a line in the front of the stage, each taking turns reciting memorable lines from the characters they portrayed during the show.
Considering the show was filled with rich characters, deep relationships, and moments of honest hilarity each one of the members of the cast had a lot to return to in the closing. With “Six” Tongue & Groove was able to take six words and create a full world of people you grew to care about, feel for, and laugh with.
Polygon Comedy is a Philadelphia community arts organization devoted to building a thriving and sustainable comedy scene for area comedians. Polygon Comedy is working to raise awareness and understanding of comedy through publicity at regular performance opportunities, and outreach at quality venues.
We caught up with Polygon’s Rick Horner to ask him some questions about his ongoing run of Philly Fringe Festival shows.
WITOUT: Polygon is a new establishment in Philly comedy – tell us how you got started and the idea behind it.
RICK HORNER: The actual idea was born in Rosen & Milkshake – they wanted to be able to direct people, who came to see them in a show, to a clearinghouse website that would have info about all of the other improv groups in town, so when you look for Rosen & Milkshake you find out about Rookie Card, or Gross Butler for example. I just thought that since my overall goal/hope is to grow and nurture all of the talent in Philly, that having a little more organization around people, venues (to make them happy to embrace comedy), and having some idea sharing about what is and isn’t working to continue building the sketch/stand-up/improv community was worthwhile. Both PHIT and Comedysportz Philly are great at doing what they do for improv, this is something a little different – to spread the word around Philly about this ever-expanding group of folks, looking for good places to play. Polygon is geared for both audiences and performers alike. What is most important is that everyone gets a little more involved.
WO: How have the Polygon Fringe shows gone so far? Tell us about some of the groups you have had.
RH: There are so many shows to see during the Fringe! The focus is improv for the Fringe – and the shows have all been really great! A real eclectic mix of performers and crowds, and tons of people I have never met before – which is great for comedy in general. Let’s see – so far Polygon has hosted Angry People Building Things, Suggestical, One Night Standy, Vorlauf, Rosen & Milkshake, WhipSuit, The Ones Your Mom Warned You About, The Hendersons, Cubed, Neilsen, Rintersplit, and Hans Gruber. Really fun, energetic sets. Everyone who is doing improv, sketch and/or stand-up comedy should help generate promotion, and support for the comedy community.
WO: How has O’Neals been as a venue?
RH: They are great to us – great space, secluded on the third floor, it is a decent size room, and we have had a pretty full room (of 40!) It has been a real pleasure organizing this latest Polygon vemture. Up there and the audience has full access to both food and drink. Best bar in Philly, bar none. Great food, great people.
WhipSuit has been doing a monthly show on the third Friday each month for over four years now in the same space and graciously allowed Polygon use only during this Fringe.
WO: Tell us about some of the groups you have coming up.
RH: Friday, Sep 16th, 9pm: Beirdo, MEDIC! Grimmachio take the stage and on Saturday, Sep 17th at 9pm you can catch Gross Butler, Rookie Card, and Iron Lung. Terrific! If you come see a Polygon show for full price, you get a red ticket you can show at all future shows giving you admission for only $5!
WO: How do you see the Philly Improv Community growing? Would you describe it as a boom time for comedy in Philly?
RH: I think since the stand-up, improv and sketch communities started working more together – similarly to how other cities work together – we are starting to see some artistic success. Polygon should serve as a guide to let the public know what’s going on, and who is who helps get the community together.
Polygon aims to get most of Philly’s groups together and has been a great success so far, with a lot of the groups becoming closer and working together more. Also, having festivals really drives people out and has really helped. Each festival – Philadelphia Improv Festival, Philly SketchFest, Duofest and F. Harold – has showcased the best groups and talent in their scope, while exposing the community, and our audiences to different forms, styles and actors from all around the world.
There has never been a more exciting time for comedy fans as some of the funniest comedians are currently performing live all across Philadelphia. New comedy superstars along with comedy legends are currently available to see all around the area, so get tickets while they are still available. Spend your time laughing the night away with some of the funniest people around.
Polygon has two Fringe Festival shows remaining, Friday September 16th and Saturday September 17th at 9pm at O’Neal’s. Tickets can be purchased online.
James Bradford is a comedian, musician, and former cast member of the VH1 reality show Can’t Get a Date. He’s also formerly offered up his services as an escort on Craigslist. All of these experiences will be used in his show James Bradford is…Thick to take the audience on what is promised to be a “wild trip with some unexpected, uniquely interpreted cover tunes sprinkled between stories about prostitution, growing up queer in the American south and the perils of starring on reality TV.” We caught up with James to ask him about his upcoming show.
WITOUT: It sounds like you are going to be telling some deeply personal stories on stage – is that something you’ve had to work on being comfortable with or have you always had a knack for being open about all the sad/dirty/funny details of your life?
JAMES BRADFORD: I think the sad & dirty parts of life are the only ones worth talking about. In comedy there are so many comedians interested in shocking people, so they just blathering about graphic shit that makes people uncomfortable on its face. People are far more shocked to hear me give a list of tips for wanna-be prostitutes (based on personal experience) than they would be if I just told a bunch of dick jokes.
I don’t think there’s any shame in the truth, so I don’t have any reservations about telling it. I actually spent a good part of my 20’s being a compulsive liar – this is absolutely true, I’m not bullshitting. I had zero self-confidence. I would pass other people’s songs off as my own, anything that wasn’t representative of who I actually am. Then I did the reality show. My theory is that if you do reality TV, once it’s over you have to either completely own who you are, or move into a cave in the center of the Earth. I chose the former.
WO: Is there anything that you won’t talk about on stage?
JB: There’s very little that I won’t talk about. Nothing is truly ‘off limits.’ I do tend to not try to be funny about things I don’t really understand. Unless that *IS* the joke, you’re just going to look like an asshole. I don’t talk about cancer. My mom died of pancreatic cancer when I was 17, and I have a throw-away line about it in the show but that’s it. Something is always not funny to someone, but more than that it’s like…who is coming to my show to hear that sad sad story? “Hey my mom suffered and died, now here’s a Rolling Stones cover!!!”
WO: How did you pick the songs for the show? Are they personal to you in any ways, or fit the stories you are telling? Are they all covers?
JB: The music in the show is a combination of covers and originals. The entire concept is inspired by comedienne Sandra Bernhard, particularly her 1985 one-woman show “Without You I’m Nothing.” We’ve tried to weave the musical performances linearly with the monologues. This is not a Glee moment. No one is going to burst out into song as narrative. A lot of the songs are obscure tracks by really well known artists that you wouldn’t expect to come up: Paula Abdul, Genesis, Janet Jackson… and though I loathe the idea of falling into the American Idol territory of ‘reinterpreting’ a song (which to them juts means turning a dance track into a ballad,) nothing we perform sounds anything like the original artist.
WO: Tell us about your band.
JB: I’ve put together a group of friggin’ awesome people to make up my band The Mana-Manas. The musical part of the show is directed by Toshio Mana, who is also our guitarist. Toshio and I met when we filmed the reality show “Can’t Get a Date,” and we’ve been performing together ever since. He’s like this Jack of all trades when it comes to music. Seriously, you could hand him a didgeridoo and say “Play me a Bjork track!” and in twenty seconds it would be done. We’ve got Melinda Gervasio, this kick-ass redheaded metro-dandy dyke with Billy Idol hair. She’s like our white Sheila E. Well. Whiter.
Andrew Connors is on bass, and he’s the token breeder in the band. It’s not his fault. He is in former VH1 battle of the bands winning band Jumper. I never asked him, but I assume their band name refers to the article of clothing and not a suicidal person. Bianca Lindblad is on backing vocals and comes from a majorly heavy metal place; but she’s also a trained opera singer. She has very large breasts and will be wearing a corset during the show…just so Andrew has something to look at during the monologues.
WO: Tell us about who else helped you out with the show.
JB: That’s it for peeps actually on stage, but we’ve had some pretty amazing contributions from other people. Natasha Vargas-Cooper is a feminist journalist and ex-union organizer who writes satirical pieces for GQ, among other publications. Her book “Mad Men Unbuttoned” is all about 1960’s pop culture. Julie Klausner is a comedian and TV writer who seems to be doing EVERYTHING these days. Her book “I Don’t Care About Your Band” details her entertainingly disastrous dating history; and she currently hosts a podcast called “How Was Your Week?” that has had Joan Rivers, Steve Agee and Maria Bamford as guests (among others.) These two women both wrote somewhat similar essays that I’ve put together into a monologue for the show.
Nadya Ginsburg is a comedian and actress who has sort of become part of a power trio of comedy along with comedian Selene Luna and drag queen Jackie Beat. You may have seen their viral video spoof of the “Corn Syrup” commercial. Nadya is best known for her show “Madonnalogues” where she plays..guess who? She has contributed a special audio piece for the show that quite frankly might be better than the show itself!
Was this as unfunny as it felt? I should say something overtly funny…
James Bradford is…Thick plays September 13th and 14th at Tabu Lounge and Sports Bar. Tickets and more information can be found online.