By: Anthony Narisi
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.
By: Rachel Goodman
There was anticipation in the room on Saturday night, waiting for 8:30 to come at the Philly Improv Theater. This was not just an ordinary House Team night. It would be the second show for new team Davenger, followed by a performance from veteran team Hey Rube! Both teams had the audience rolling over in laughter.
Davenger came out first, receiving the suggestion of Family. After a brief moment where the troupe discussed a few stories about what the word family means to them, Hilary Kissinger and Dan Corkery stepped out and had everyone on the edge of their seats as they looked at each other and just “knew” each other’s thoughts. This continued to come back in various forms, as in the moment where Brian Rumble stepped out with Dan Corkery, attempting to read his thoughts, to no avail.
“What?” Dan’s character said after a moment of silence, followed by huge laughter from the audience. And the laughter kept coming in with Nick Mirra as the hypochondriac. His portrayal of a relative in a bubble suit at a funeral seemed so real that it almost looked as if you could take the helmet off of his head.
And then, of course, what would the mention of a funeral be without the mention of ghosts?
“I’m a medium, not a Ghost Buster!” yelled Alex Newman, as a psychic, talking to Cait O’Driscoll and Kevin Pettit, two people dealing with their aunt’s dead dogs and dead neighbor’s haunting them.
Next, Hey Rube took the stage with the suggestion of Puppy. Some of the most memorable moments of this set came from Alex Gross as the “retarded” dog who later ended up being a normal human who was playing a retarded dog so that he could get into the safe that belonged to Lizzie Spellman’s father. There was also a recurring theme where everyone was blaming their father for their shortcomings/mistakes in life and that nothing was their fault. This seemed to hold true when Rob Cutler brought home his new baby boy to Aaron Hertzog who was building a brick wall to hide from fatherhood. After Aaron’s character flicked the baby, later on in the set Jen Curcio was suddenly mooing and acting slow.
“Son. I just want you to know that it is my fault that you’re like this. I flicked you when you were a baby and that’s why you moo like this.” Aaron said, receiving a roar of laughter from the audience.
But perhaps the most hilarious thing was when Alex Gross walked in as a very reluctant character and said, “Hey… my mom said that I have to play with you again…” and proceeded to “milk” Jen Curcio’s character.
If in the off chance anyone in the theatre that night was sleeping, they were no longer sleeping once Mark Leopold walked on as a wolf-dog, screeching at the top of his lungs at Lizzie Spellman for basically everything, including breathing. Finally in a future scene with this character, the moon, his supposed lover, breaks up with him and in a heartfelt moment he begins to howl.
Hey Rube completed their set with three of the main “father blaming” characters sitting down, repeating how far back they had been blaming their paternal lineage for their problems, when Lizzie comes in to blame her mother.
“Ooops! Wrong meeting!” she says, and walks away.
Overall, watching both of these teams was an incredible experience that anyone should be sure to check out and go along for the ride.
By: Becca Trabin
Eddie Pepitone performed on Friday night at Underground Arts–an enormous, multi-purpose art space in the basement of the Wolf Building on 12th and Callowhill, where Corey Cohen Comedy Productions (C.C.C.P.) has recently been putting up comedy shows. C.C.C.P. has brought Hannibull Buress, Neal Brennan, Todd Barry, and Dave Wait to Philly since opening two years ago. With openers Lisa Yost, John Nunn and Alex Grubard, Pepitone performed to a warmed-up crowd, one that was about twice the size of the crowd at his Ric Rac show last spring.
Pepitone hit the stage dancing and kept himself and the crowd amped up throughout the hour-long set. He brought in a young, hip audience, many of whom know him from his performances on Marc Maron’s WTF. A lot of his stuff was material he did last year, but most was still as funny.
Pepitone can get away with a lot. He does characters in his bits, and each one is just him flatly barking at the back of the room with all his heart. Lesser comics might get pegged as one-trick ponies for doing the same basic yell over and over, but Pepitone kept the audience wanting more. He periodically broke character and laughed along with everyone while trying to deliver his tags. It came off as well-earned and joyful. Pepitone does his thing so well that he makes other angry comics seem like the poor man’s Pepitone.
And if watching a guy spew his well-crafted rage upon us for an hour wasn’t already fantastic, the crowd was invited to stay for experimental electronic band Black Dice’s show across the hall afterward.
By: Tony Narisi
The audience at Philly Improv Theater at the Shubin Theatre was treated to a great double-shot of local improv comedy Saturday night when two house teams kicked the evening off at 8:30.
First up was the six-person team of Mayor Karen. Basing their set off of the audience suggestion of Gandhi, the team started with some rapid-fire scenes. From a man deciding to stop abusing his wife after achieving inner peace to two men using “violent” protest methods to get a Dairy Queen re-opened, these scenes were short and sweet, with cuts coming in after only about three to five lines but still providing the audience with big laughs. As the form went on, the audience saw three recurring scenes being explored more in-depth—young Mother Theresa’s scandalous love affair with Jesus, people in eerie places surrounded by animals making extremely strange noises, and a little boy, Timmy, whose newly single father is trying to get him to clean his room and learn that actions have consequences. In their last scene, Timmy was executed while his father looked on hoping that he had learned his lesson. With this scene and many others throughout the night, Mayor Karen exhibited their skills in beat structure and stake-raising to the audience.
Next up was the five-person team of ZaoGao. Going with the audience suggestion of “penny coat,” the team performed an interesting form I’d never seen before, where characters remain on stage amidst the action the entire time, freezing in and out of movement as needed. As with Mayor Karen, they had good singular scenes, but their strongest moments came when they developed ideas through a number of scenes, as seen in the story of a woman who buys a house haunted by teen angst or Bad Luck Travis, the time-traveling explorer with a knack for destroying ancient relics. Possibly my favorite premise of the night was the one of Mr. and Mrs. Host. This couple is under the impression that their neighbors are constantly trying to see them having sex, while the neighbors actually have fake heads set up in the window, based on their thinking that the Hosts constantly want them to watch them having sex. With smooth transitions and good mental connections and references between scenes, ZaoGao put on a great twenty minutes of comedy that kept the laughs coming.
An eager crowd packed L’etage Tuesday night for this month’s edition of Camp Woods Plus, Philadelphia’s only alternative sketch comedy showcase. Joining Camp Woods this month was New York duo We’re Matt Weir and local sketch group The Judo Range.
The Judo Range opened the show with a mix of new sketches and material previously seen at their Philly Improv Theater show and The Theme Show. Their set was tight, and the strongest I’ve seen from them overall – getting solid laughs with sketches about the secrets behind national monuments, a plumber giving a priest advice on how he can “clean his pipes” and the origin of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The highlight of their set was a delightfully bizarre sketch called Chris McGrail’s Shaving Corner in which McGrail bestows some wisdom on the fine art of shearing. The Judo Range is a group beginning to find and develop its voice and figure out who they want to be on stage. Their sketches blend dark humor and some edgy topics with a surreal slant that will be fun to watch grow as the group continues to develop.
The last time I saw We’re Matt Weir they were asking Philadelphians to put their mother fucking hands in the sky if they loved weed in front of Mayor Michael Nutter (and a packed house) at Philly Improv Theater. Less than two months later, the duo was back (with a little help from some friends) with a brand new set of hilarious material. The Matts opened the show by slapping a volunteer from the audience with some cash and continued with sketches that explored a man’s search to find love despite his obsession with his own status as a worker in a sludge pit, an overly self-loathing stand-up comedian dumping his problems on the audience, a friendly hip hop group, and a nosy cooking show host that ends up looking for secrets of the wrong home cooked meal. We’re Matt Weir combines high energy performances and offbeat premises or twists with strong joke writing to put on a consistently great show. Their style also uses many sketches that have the characters directly addressing the audience – making them feel a part of the show the entire time.
Camp Woods closed out the show, as always, with a set that well-represented their wide range of talents and showcased their unique style and comedic point of view. The set opened with a fantastic sketch about a group of heroes known as The Fart Fuckers set to embark on a quest. The sketch revealed the heroes were toys being played with by three brothers, one of which inserts his real life father issues into his characters actions and words. The sketch showcased Camp Woods’ ability to pinpoint a dark issue or deep emotional problem a character has that manifests itself in a hilarious way that makes for a brilliant sketch. This is a tool they have used before, and will surely will use again, as it creates a sketch that is not only funny on the surface, but also has a deep, emotional backbone. The set took a turn for the bizarre with a pair of sketches featuring Mr. Abernathy, a man who tricks his neighbor into stealing a dog, and an Admiral with a strange problem that makes his saliva dissolve human hair. The sketches worked well, anchored by strong performances in those roles by Billy Bob Thompson (as Mr. Abernathy) and Brendan Kennedy (as the Admiral) as well as Sam Narisi and Madonna Refugia in the sketches supporting roles. Next we saw JP Boudwin as the Communist Math Teacher – who learns a little something from his students about America followed by Pat Foy as an Austin Powers impersonator who slowly realizes his life may not be as great as it used to seem. The set closed with a mourner (Rob Baniewicz) being consoled by a chain of stand-up spooners who may or may not actually know the deceased. The final sketches were full of great individual jokes as well as characters with a strong hook that comes through in their actions. With Camp Woods, it’s always show and not tell – as the characters’ true feelings and real personality come through in what they do and how they do it – never in exposition.
Camp Woods is working harder than anybody else in Philly right now, and it shows. They produce a new half hour of material every month and their shows are getting steadily stronger. They are a group that is hitting their stride, have found their voice, and know how each of their members individually fit in and work best. And it a joy to watch.
Here’s what everyone wore last night at Aaron Hertzog’s Hey Everybody at Philly Improv Theater at the Shubin Theater 5/21/12. Spoiler alert – Hey Everybody! Summer is here to stay, so break out those Baby Blue Jeans!
Aaron Hertzog – Grey Henley, untucked, with a rounded neck, sleeves rolled up to the elbows and a pocket on the left breast, white shoes with white laces and blue jeans.
Sam Narisi – Blue hoodie with a white un-zipped zipper, white draw strings, a plaid shirt, untucked, with a beige base with teal/purple vertical stripes and thin red/pink horizontal stripes buttoned to the top with 2 collar buttons buttoned, black shoes with white laces and white soles and grey pants.
Juliet Hope Wayne – Dark brown shirt with a white lamb with pink ears, black eyes, and black nose and mouth, over a light blue t-shirt poking out at the waist, black shoes with white laces, white sole and white wavy lines on the sides, and blue jeans.
Darryl Charles – Dark navy blue polo shirt with thin white stripes, a golden crest over the left breast, over a white t-shirt visible over the collar, white shoes with white laces and grey soles, and blue jeans.
Chip Chantry – Grey t-shirt with the letters “pants.” in black, over a white undershirt visible over the collar, dark navy blue shoes with a white letter “N”, black digital wrist watch on the left hand and blue jeans.
Hello there Sports Fans! With the Fly-boys out of contention for Lord Stanley’s Cup and The Phightin’ Phils paving the way for what ought to be another “Come-Back Kiddo” season, you can’t help but feel the electric spirit of sports in the (215). The passion for Philly Sports burns bright and lights up schoolyards, bars, semi-truck weigh stations and Philly Improv Theater at The Shubin Theater at last night’s presentation of “The Monthly Hour with James Hesky.” The following is a summary of every mention of SPORTS during last night’s show, as well as the performer it can be attributed to:
James Hesky: The Olympics, Baseball, NFL, Football, Triathalon
Mikey Gleason – N/A
Carl Boccuti – N/A
Jim Grammond – N/A
Darryl Charles – N/A
Mary Radzinski – N/A
Mani-Pedi – N/A
Doogie Horner – N/A
Chip Chantry – Pat Burrell
Truly an exciting night for Philadelphia Comedy and Philadelphia Sports! My apologies to any that may have slipped through my five-hole! See you all at next month’s Monthly Hour with James Hesky!
Gerry Bock is a freelance sports writer and former Publisher/Reporter-in-Chief for the Port Richmond Gazetteer, which he published independently for 37 years before gladly fell prey to the siren call of retirement last May.
By Rachel Goodman
The start of our invasion from the South was sure to keep everyone awake with laughter! Plan B from the Baltimore Improv Group (BIG) performed right after Hey Rube at the Philly Improv Theatre on Friday, May 18th at 7 P.M. Plan B, a short form troupe, followed a great performance by Hey Rube.
Right from the start Plan B was sure to include the audience in their short form games. Michael Harris hosted the first game, a set up where the remaining three members (Alex Greenland, John Ulrich, and Matt McCall) stood on stage in a triangle formation, using audience suggestions as their road map.
“Where were you born?” Harris asked an audience member.
“Valley Forge,” one woman answered.
“What does Valley Forge make you think of?” Harris asked another man.
“The Revolutionary War.”
Another of these questions led to Hollywood as well as Diamonds as words of inspiration for the other two sets of scene partners in the triangle.
Suddenly the stage came alive with two men from the colonial time period, Johnny Depp and many other characters who were Johnny Depp in disguise only. We even got to see a man who kept losing his significant other’s most prized piece of jewelry (even when they were simply shopping in a mall).
Next up for their performance they made Greenland leave the stage while the audience helped them prep for the next game: “Interrogation.” The audience gave the troupe two words (“remembering” and “dog”) and the goal for Greenland was to guess these two words while being interrogated under very comical circumstances.
Lastly, we were entertained at the retelling of Jack and the Bean Stalk. Not only did we get an interesting twist when the troupe reenacted the story (his little sister was sold into slavery in order to help his diabetic mother who, as it turns out, at one point had an affair with the giant), but they were asked to replay their creation as different genres as collected from audience input.
Suddenly, we witnessed Jack turn into a real jerk, seduced by the “Giant-ess” when the scene was done Lifetime romance style. And on a different “take” the troupe brought us to the dangerous world of World War II as Jack had to crawl his way through the battlefield, before getting his beans and climbing his bean stalk.
Never without creative and funny ideas and scenes intertwined with their short form games, Plan B was a very entertaining and hilarious group to watch get up on stage and play off of each other!
By: Mike O’Donnell
SUPER CAGEMATCH is a competition improv show were each group is given 20 minutes to do improv bits with the audience then voting to determine who was funnier. The show is hosted by Ian Vaflor and the final competition of the season happened last night at the Philly Improv Theater (407 Bainbridge Street, Philadelphia PA 19147). Cagematch ran three shows back to back to back last night to determine the winner, and I was fortunate enough to catch the last two rounds.
The competition angle keeps the show moving and makes it very entertaining.
The first show featured the group Jessica Tandy (Jessica Ross and Andy Moskowitz), versus Grimacchio (Jason Grimley and Ralph Andracchio). I don’t remember how the first show determined what group would go first, but I can’t forget how it was determined in the championship round (more on that later).
Jessica Tandy went first in the 9:00 show and took the suggestion “spaghetti” from the audience to weave into their bits. They immediately launched into caricature Italian accents as mother and son immigrants coming to the new world. They went through at least five premises’ and my favorite bit was when they acted like a fighting couple with Jessica locking Andy out of the house. Jessica wouldn’t let Andy back in unless he sang her favorite Shania Twain song (which he hilariously butchered). Jessica obviously LOVES doing funny voices and accents (she didn’t do one bit in her normal speaking voice). Overall the performance was strong and would be tough to beat.
Grimacchio was up next and took a different route to working the crowd into their routine. Instead of just asking for a suggestion they pick a person out of the audience and give them a quick interview of what they do and who they are. They take this information and craft a bit out of it. The person they interviewed was a writer and photographer so they set their premise in a news room. Grimacchio’s style is to bicker over the smallest points of contention and overanalyze minutia (a la “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” or “Seinfield”). I thought the first five to eight minutes were very funny and they would probably win.
WINNER: Jessica Tandy
The 10 o’clock show featured winner Jessica Tandy versus a three person group Safe-Weird (Andrew Stanton, Kaitlin Thompson, Rob Gentile). To determine who would go first or second Ian created a double dare style physical challenge making a member from each team eat a pie with cherries in them, then spit the cherries in a cup. The team with most cherries in their cup at the end of a minute could decide weather to go first or second. This contest almost made Jessica Ross throw up on stage which in turn made me gag (but in an amusing, “wow is she gonna throw up on stage” kinda way). Jessica Tandy won the challenge and inexplicably decided to go first again.
In their second performance it seemed to take a while to compose themselves after the physical challenge. They still had a funny bit about a bee being addicted to pollen like heroin and musical chairs where the loser goes to hell, but going first after the physical challenge was a bad decision.
Safe-Weird had the strangest premises’ (which is a compliment). They seemed to care the least about what the audience thought and were just trying to make each other laugh. They got the biggest laughs out of the audience with “Irish Mayonnaise” and “CB radio truckers”. One tool that the group uses very well is turning a bit into a fake commercial where one player will simply go into a voice over styled end of an advertisement.
Overall, SUPER CAGEMATCH is a winner. 20 minutes is a perfect amount of time for small improv groups to get in, get laughs and get off. If you have never been to an imrov show before, this would be a great way for you to get comfortable with this style of entertainment. Be sure to check Philly Improv Theater for the next season of CAGEMATCH and other comedy shows. Also, if you have interest in doing improv yourself, they always have several classes you can take.
Mike O’Donnell is a writer, actor, spoken word artist and stand up comedian in the Philadelphia area. Check out his work online at YouTube and Soundcloud.
By: Alison Zeidman
Dutiful fans of Philly’s favorite pair of half-Italians prone to playful bickering and off-beat tangents braved Monday night’s drizzle for the premiere of The Grimacchio Variety Hour, and the dynamic duo (Jason Grimley and Ralph Andracchio) did not disappoint.
The lovely Sue & Cait (caitblack.com) opened the show on acoustic bass and ukulele, respectively, with Sue jangling the jingle bells around her ankle in time to to the music while Cait crooned silky, smokey vocals into the old timey microphone at center stage.
After two songs, Grimacchio strolled out from behind the curtain—dressed in suits for the occasion—to applaud the two ladies, compliment Cait’s gold shoes, and go off on a riff about a Buck Rogers television special which revealed the actor’s staggering weight gain and declining health, forever marring their memories of their childhood hero. Then, they acknowledged the audience and welcomed us all to the show, blushing (Ralph) and sweating (Jason) with gratitude that everyone came. To warm up the crowd, they improvised some banter around current news items suggested by the audience, speculating on how Barack Obama decided to come out in favor of gay marriage (“fuck it, let’s do this”) and relating the Devil’s Breath street drug sensation to the campy Wes Craven flick The Serpent and the Rainbow.
They cut themselves off long enough to bring storyteller Hillary Rea onstage (“you will love her, damnit!”) for a brief conversation about her current projects and an adorably confusing explanation of her multiple online aliases. Rea told a fun and wonderfully detailed story about her first frenemy, a frizzy redhead with an in-home elevator who slutted it up through an Our Changing Bodies video in the sixth grade and ruined Rea’s retro-themed seventh grade birthday party with a Nirvana mixtape and an illicit game of Spin the Bottle, which young Rea excused herself from by hiding in the bathroom for thirty minutes.
Rea was followed by a Grimacchio sketch interlude, featuring the fellas as hipster record store employees (complete with “douchebag hats”) ignoring their customer to challenge each other with obscure music trivia. Sue & Cait followed, returning to the spotlight to literally sing the praises of Theodore Roosevelt, accompanied by a goofy framed black-and-white portrait of the President.
After a brief telling of the origin of the Grimacchio name (Jason didn’t know how to pronounce “Andracchio,” and Ralph didn’t correct him), comedienne LaTice took the mic to talk about the lack of joy in marriage, race relations in the suburbs, reality TV, and Flo the Progressive girl’s insensitivity to racial stereotypes. There were a number of slyly hilarious jokes worth quoting, but I wouldn’t want to ruin the punchlines for you.
Maureen Costello and Corin Wells of Ebony and Ivory closed the show, joined by Grimacchio for an improv set inspired by an interview with an accountant sitting in the audience. Highlights included Grimley as a talking dead goldfish in Costello’s cocaine-induced hallucination set in a cubicle in the ’80s; Wells as a five-year-old demanding apple juice before getting to work saving the company’s finances with her prodigious knowledge of QuickBooks and TurboTax; and a final scene with a Grimacchio-led game of double-speak, where Andracchio opposite hired Grimley from the accounting office, leading Grimley to threaten that he would opposite sleep soundly that night, forcing Andracchio to opposite tell security not to come upstairs and opposite let Grimley leave of his own volition.
After the blackout, Grimacchio invited all of the night’s performers back onstage to receive another round of applause, Sue & Cait played one last sweet little tune, and everyone filed outside praising the evening’s entertainment. For future editions of The Grimacchio Variety Hour, be sure to check the PHIT schedule and look for updates at facebook.com/Grimacchio.
Alison Zeidman lives in South Philadelphia, has a superfluous second Facebook page for work, and spends her evenings running around with the new indie improv team Malone.