Luke Giordano is a writer and comedian living in Los Angeles, California. He used to live and perform comedy in Philadelphia, until a job as a writer on Two and a Half Men sent him west. He now works as a writer for the Nickelodeon show Marvin Marvin. He will be returning to Philly next weekend, where he will teach a workshop at Philly Improv Theater on Becoming a Television Comedy Staff Writer. We caught up with Luke to ask him some questions about the workshop, and his return to Philadelphia.
WITOUT: I’ve heard you’re mostly returning to Philadelphia so you can go to the Ruby Chinese Buffet, is this true?
LUKE GIORDANO: I am indeed excited to go Ruby Chinese Buffet, as are we all. But is it for the food or for the good times we shared there? I’m also excited for getting a Wawa hoagie. Even though there are better hoagies all around town, none will make me feel nostalgic for good old Philly like Wawa will. Plus, I’ve been trying to work out and eat decently for a while now, so it’ll be nice to have a weekend where I can eat like I hate myself again.
WO: Is the workshop going to focus more on the process of writing or the process of selling yourself as a writer?
LG: Originally, it was going to be more about the things you need to do to get a job that aren’t writing a script, but since I’ve been reading several scripts from Philly comedy people, I’ve noticed that a lot of the same problems come up. Structure is the biggest problem I’ve seen people have with writing a TV script. If you don’t know how to structure an episode of television properly, nobody who matters is going to read it. The workshop is really about arming yourself. Through a great script, through what you know, what you do to get noticed, how get an agent, what to expect in meetings, what people are looking for, and everything else. I don’t think you can teach someone how to be a good writer, but you can teach someone how to write more effectively. This workshop and seminar is really telling you everything I know about writing for television.
WO: Which of these have you found more difficult? Why?
LG: Writing is the fun part. It’s the part that makes everything worth it. To go in everyday and your job being that you get pitch jokes all day and laugh? It’s so amazing that it’s actually immoral. And on top of that, I get to make a comfortable living? It’s the best job in the world and it’s worth every ounce of struggle that you put into it. It’s worth going through all the shit and the disappointment and the rejection and the astronomical odds against you. If I didn’t get my first job when I was twenty-five, I would have gone another twenty years trying to get it. It’s a choice, really. Do you value comfort and stability or do you want to take a risk and do what you really want to do? Even though you probably won’t get it?
WO: You’ve done stand-up, improv, and sketch – how have each of these prepared you in different ways for your Hollywood writing jobs?
LG: I think all those skills go to the same place. It’s all a skill set you should develop anyway, and the more you develop that stuff, the stronger you’ll be. When you go into a meeting with a network executive, for example, you’re selling yourself — so they want a bit of a performance. You got in the room because they liked your script, so what the meeting is about is finding out if they like you and if you’re somebody they want to continue to work with. They want a little song and dance, but just as long as it doesn’t seem like you’re doing a song and dance. They can smell your desperation if it comes off that way, but the conquering of fear that comes with performing live comedy will help you to talk to these people and be funny and be yourself. The same goes for pitching jokes in the writers room. You have to sell the joke like you would on stage. You have to be behind this idea you’re putting forth to expect anyone to accept it. Performing comedy and telling jokes in front of an audience is only going to make you better at pitching a joke to a room of peers. On top of that, stand-up and sketch are only going to make your writing stronger because you’re learning how to construct jokes more effectively and efficiently. You’re writing to get a laugh and I think when you write specifically for the purpose of getting laughter, you learn to drop all the meandering bullshit. And improv is going to teach you how to think on your feet, but I think improv is all jokes, too. They’re just a little more disguised and between multiple people.
WO: How did your years as a Philadelphia comic prepare you for life as an LA writer/comedian?
LG: Most importantly, it taught me how to fail, how to deal with failure, and how to move through failure and learn from it. Failing is the single most important part of the creative process. It matures you, it makes you stronger. You can learn from your mistake, fix where you went wrong, learn your limitations, find out what’s funny and what isn’t. And when a point comes when you’re not afraid of failure (I’m in no way anywhere near this), I think you find freedom. I got fired from Two and a Half Men six weeks after I got the job. I didn’t know if I would ever work in writing again. And it was absolutely humiliating. People get fired from writing jobs for the most minuscule of reasons. Sometimes it doesn’t really have anything to do with them. They fire you because they can and because that’s the game you’re in. As I’ve learned since, every single writer in the business will get fired at some point. It’s about what you do after you get fired.
WO: We all know that LA is home to a lot of professional comedians, but how does the amateur LA comedy scene stack up to the Philadelphia comedy scene?
LG: Mostly it’s way bigger. There are a lot more people, a lot more shows, a lot more places to get up. I think you have to fully commit yourself to get noticed, even by other open micers. I haven’t gotten up as much as I would like to, so I still feel like I’m on the outside a bit. I certainly don’t think the comedians here are better qualitatively on average than they are in Philadelphia. But there is always the possibility that you’re doing a show and Patton Oswalt might walk in to do a set. It’s weird. I feel like people feel like there’s more at stake, because people come here to work and make it. So you do get a lot of people who just do stand-up to get famous or get a sitcom, in addition to the people who are actually doing it to be comedians. It’s a little strange to me. I don’t think I’ve deciphered it yet.
WO: What else are you looking forward to doing on your return trip to Philadelphia?
1. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
2. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
3. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
4. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
5. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
6. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
7. If you are considering dating someone in your improv group and you are both straight but of the opposite sex, consider talking yourself into having gender reassignment surgery. If that doesn’t work, convince the person you are interested in to undergo the sex change. This approach also works for homosexual improv group members who are both of the same gender at the beginning of the attraction.
8. Don’t date someone in your improv group.
All through the month of October, Philly Improv Theater House Team Asteroid will present their B Movie format – an improvised tribute show celebrating the fun of the low-budget sci-fi/horror films from the Golden Age of Hollywood. The group has released this teaser video for their shows.
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).
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:
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.
Last night, the seventh annual Philly’s Phunniest Person Contest continued at Helium Comedy Club with Jim Grammond, Jim Ginty, and Andy Hudak moving on to the semi-finals. The competition continues Sunday, August 12 and Monday, August 13 with the semi-final rounds being held on Sunday, August 19 and Tuesday, August 21.
Also tonight, Free Improv at Connie’s Ric Rac celebrates its one year anniversary with a show featuring Deleted Scenes, Bad James, Cock Hat, Sleep Walking, Kait and Andrew, Medic, The Amie and Kristen Show. Doors open at 8 and the show starts at 9.
This Wednesday, Accidents Will Happen returns to Adobe Cafe for a night of comedy featuring Alex Pearlman, Darryl Charles, Jenn Tisdale, Joe Murdock, Mariya Alexander, with sketches by ManiPedi, and story from Guy Guy. As always, an open mic follows the show at 11pm.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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).
A packed house crowded into the Philly Improv Theater at the Shubin Theatre on Wednesday night for the most recent installment of Reasonable Discourse with Jerks. Host Jim Grammond took the stage and introduced the audience to the panel for the night, Philly’s popular sketch group Camp Woods, minus member Madonna Refugia.
For the next hour, this panel generated some very entertaining conversation, filled with jabs at each other, themselves, and just about anything even remotely related to any of the topics covered. And they covered many topics, ranging from the Faces of Death film franchise to childhood bullying and 9/11 conspiracies.
One of the funniest discussions of the night followed Grammond showing an Oreo filled with rainbow colored cream and explaining that people who are not supportive of the gay lifestyle are in outrage over this advertisement and threatening to boycott. From Brendan Kennedy’s image of a fat bigot giving in to temptation and eating an E.L. Fudge cookie of two elves fellating each other to various members’ outrage over the fact that the rainbow cookie doesn’t actually exist for consumption, the discussion was wrapped up neatly by Rob Baniewicz’s question, “Who gives a shit if a cookie’s political?”
One of the best aspects of the night was the chemistry not only between the members of Camp Woods, but also between them and Grammond. This was exemplified when Grammond raised the question, “What foods will you not eat?” and began going around the table one by one to get answers. However, as expected with such a lively panel, the order was quickly abandoned. Actually, it was abandoned as soon as JP Boudwin offered up the first answer: “Pass.” The conversation then turned to how Camp Woods would eat anything, from Boudwin and Kennedy’s recent dinnertime breakfast pizza topped with gyro meat to Billy Bob Thompson eating cake out of a used motor oil can. Even when the conversation was brought back to its original question, the members provided their usual absurdity and quirkiness, with Patrick Foy stating that Qdoba is better than Chipotle because the onions are easier to pick out of the pico de gallo and Sam Narisi announcing that he’ll still eat one, but he’s “never really been happy to see a baked potato.”
Other highlights included a recurring theme of hipsters prompted by Grammond’s experience with a conspiracy theorist referring to “mainstream” archaeology, Thompson’s ignoring the racist implications of a McDonald’s advertisement due to his disturbance by the fact that everyone was holding food and none of it had bites out of it, and Kennedy’s impression of a racist Elmo trying to make it in show business.
Last night, the seventh annual Philly’s Phunniest Person Contest continued at Helium Comedy Club with Pat Barker, Carolyn Busa, and Tim Butterly moving on to the semi-finals. The competition continues Monday, July 8 and the opening round continues on Sunday and Monday nights until August 13 (full schedule here).
The lineup and date for the next Camp Woods Plus has been announced. Joining Camp Woods on stage at L’etage on Wednesday, July 25 will be New York sketch group Listen, Kid!, and the show will also mark the debut of a full set from new Philadelphia sketch group Tap City (Aaron Hertzog and Luke Field).
This Saturday, Urban Saloon will host the Laughs on Fairmount Showcase the weekend partner to the weekly open mic from Mary Radzinski and Carolyn Busa. This weekend’s show will feature comedy from Blythe Wimbush, Alejandro Morales, Alex Grubard, James Hesky, and John McKeever. Doors open at 7:30 and the show starts at 8:00.