Recently, there’s been an influx unlike any for quite some time of stand-up, improv, and sketch performers. This isn’t a bad thing (as it can be perceived by some more established local comedians) — in fact, it’s actually great. That is, it’s great until performers who haven’t really established themselves or won over multiple crowds get way ahead of themselves and take out their sociopathic or negative feelings on everyone around them. They expect — rather then respect — laughs.
First off, by established comedians, I mean they’re pounding the pavement and consistently doing decent work. When I say respect laughs, I’m talking about the comedians who blame themselves when they have a bad show instead of the crowd or other comedians. Yes, we all bomb sometimes. Yes, we all have audiences from time to time that are not feeling what you’re doing. But these comedians say afterwards they could have done better. They should have delivered something differently or used different material for this crowd. In 98% of the cases when you go up on stage, this is true. I’m also not saying that there aren’t vetted comedians that need this advice as well.
At this point, most of the comedians in our city have ambition that exceeds their current talent. In fact, that’s how it should be. Our ambition is what makes us sign up at Helium, get on stage at the Raven, try our sketches at Bedtime Stories or go to an Improv Incubator. Ambition also drives us to hone our jokes, expand them, tighten them or do whatever we need to do to make ourselves better, faster, and stronger at our calling. What worries me is when I see comedians who seem to think showing up is enough ambition, and any hiccup in their performances are always the fault of something other than themselves. Continue reading OPINION: WE’RE GONNA START THIS SET WITH A POSITIVE JAM by Rob Baniewicz
I went to a Catholic high school — a cheap one at that. This meant no sound system in a theater that held well over 200 people. I mean, there was a microphone… maybe two … but no body mics, nor any sort of system to pick up the sounds of a group or a chorus. And unfortunately, my high school felt the only financially viable shows were musicals, which, on the one hand, were guaranteed to bring in at least twice the crowd of 16-year-olds performing Stoppard but on the other hand, would elicit awkward cries of “What did he say?” when Caiaphas, in a deep, deep baritone sang, “Jesus must, Jesus must, Jesus must die.” I learned early on in my high school career that our lousy sound system could not be depended on to support the actors. This is what prompted me to connect with my voice and is something necessary for any sketch performer.
Let me start with a disclaimer — in my experience, I have found that a lot of improv folks come from a theater background. Consequently, in an improv show, I tend to hear most everything regardless if I want to or not. On the other hand, I’ve sat through dozens of self-obsessed sketches that are barely audible, the performers completely ignorant to the fact that there’s an audience in front of them. So forgive me if this seems like a no-brainer, but it needs to be said: people are paying to hear you, and even if they’re not listening, YOU WANT THEM TO.
To get started with some basics, let’s talk about remembering there is an audience and giving them the theater they deserve. My desire to project during a performance stemmed from the fact that I wanted my half-deaf father to hear me warble “Let’s Misbehave” during Anything Goes. Sure, my actions clued the audience in to the slinky sexual awkwardness that characterized my high school drama productions, but without my voice, I was merely a mime on a cruise ship. Continue reading OPINION: ALL YOU GOTTA DO IS ACT THEATRICALLY by Rob Baniewicz
Paul Goodman on last week’s March Madness winners: “Jamil B, Ian Fidance, Brandon Ketchup Wilson, Jon DelCollo, Sean Quinn, Brendan Kennedy, Tim Butterly, and Dan Scully will compete in the March Madness Elite 8 Finals on Wednesday, April 6 at Mad River in Manyunk. Mark your calendars — it’s going to be an awesome show.” [Facebook Event]
Meg & Rob‘s Meg Favreau is on the road to Los Angeles. Rob Baniewicz helped her drive down to Atlanta. She has a blog about it. [Blog]
Improv group Fletcher is having a “Thing of Things” contest to win a free ticket to one of their shows. Check out the rules and the contest itself on their Facebook page. [Facebook Page]
Rob Baniewicz will be the new producer of Bedtime Stories once my tenure ends at the April show.
Rob was my first choice to take on the show. Meg & Rob were one of the core members of the show since it pretty much started — it wouldn’t be what it became without them. Rob also helped out a ton behind the scenes with giving advice through the years. He and Paul Triggiani have been the backstage forces who really helped me keep it together for as long as I was able to. They both deserve a huge public thanks for everything.
I’m really excited that Rob is going to continue the show. On top of being ridiculously talented, he’s also one of my closest friends. I’m glad to pass the torch to him and to keep it in the family.
He has his own ideas for how he wants the show to progress. All of that will be figured out in due time. But I’m excited to see how it grows.
I also know that it’s going to continue to be what I’ve always thought it was — the best comedy show in the city.
More on what Rob plans on doing with the show to come.
On Friday night, a crowd packed into the Shubin Theatre to watch long-running sketch duo Meg & Rob perform what they’ve titled their last show. It was the first of three performances of the last show together before Meg Favreau moves to Los Angeles next month. She and Rob Baniewicz have been such a fixture on the Philly comedy scene for the past five years that it is not only sad to see her go, but sad that the two will no longer work together. But Meg and Rob acknowledge the schmaltziness of a goodbye show and handle it with their usual degree of darkness.