Upcoming Shows

  • October 25, 2014Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • October 25, 2014Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Heliun
  • October 25, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • October 25, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • October 25, 2014 9:00 pmComedy Train Rek presents Awkward Sex and the City
  • October 25, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • October 25, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • October 25, 2014 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • October 29, 2014 8:00 pmComedy Masters
  • October 30, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • October 30, 2014 9:00 pmThe Comedy Attic
  • October 31, 2014 8:00 amNationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • October 31, 2014 7:00 pmThe Comedy Works
  • October 31, 2014 8:00 pmThe N Crowd
  • October 31, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • October 31, 2014 8:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • October 31, 2014 9:30 pmFigment Theater: Sessions @ Studio C
  • November 1, 2014Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Heliun
  • November 1, 2014Nationally Touring Headline Comedians @ Helium
  • November 1, 2014 7:30 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • November 1, 2014 8:00 pmCrazy Cow Comedy
  • November 1, 2014 9:30 pmThe Comedy Works
  • November 1, 2014 10:00 pmComedy Sportz Philadelphia
  • November 1, 2014 10:30 pmImprov Comedy: PHIT House Teams
  • November 5, 2014 8:00 pmComedy Masters
AEC v1.0.4

Independent Improv Team Iron Lung is Turning 2!

And you know what that means—they’re entering the “terrible twos”! Actually, my mom always said age 3 was the roughest. So watch out next year, when this gang is toddler-aged. If the developmental patterns of early-stage humans are any indication of behavioral phases for improv groups, it’s gonna be tantrum city!

Anyhoo, in honor of their two-year anniversary, the members of Iron Lung have taken a moment to feel some feelings about one another:

Corin Wells on Kevin Pettit:

“Everyone who has had the opportunity to both befriend and improvise with Kevin can notice parallels in who he is on stage and who he is off stage. On stage, he supports his scene partners whole heartedly. He listens intently. He’s patient. And he’s a goof. But you can go to any of his shows to see what a great comedian he is (Hot Dish and Davenger at PHIT, Feb. 2nd at 8:30PM). I’m going to talk about Off-Stage Kevin. All of those on stage attributes come from who he is in real life: a supportive, caring, loveably huggable, hilarious teddy bear. He’s been Iron Lung’s keystone, making sure that we not only practice, but that we hang out and have fun together. He’s always the first to suggest we get a drink after practice or Bar-B-Q at someone’s house. He’s the first to volunteer to help you move, even if it’s for the 7th time, or suggest making turkey burgers for a Game of Thrones viewing night. He’s the first to offer a bottle of wine and a listening ear when some guy is being a douche. Kevin is a big part of the reason that I joined Iron Lung and being Jersey-ites, I think we both pushed each other to make the smart move to Philly. I am super lucky and blessed to have had Kevin on my first-ever improv team not only because he’s a fantastic improviser but because he’s an even better friend. I owe him so much. Watching him grow from amazing to phenomenal in these two years by getting cast on Witout Award-winning Best New Act Davenger and going back to school is so rewarding and inspiring. I wrote a Tanka/Acronym poem to better express all that I feel for him:

Kevin Petitt, oh
Even still I smell your brown,
Vinegar stained pants
In that small black box theater
N’er will I ever forget

Kevin Pettit on Jess Carpenter:

“Jess Carpenter might be the nicest person I know. Literally. He is probably one of the most honest people I’ve met as well. The thing I love most about Jess is that he is always learning something, always trying to make himself better and trying new things. I’m so glad we got to spend the last two years cracking each other up!”

Jess Carpenter on Dennis Trafny:

“Dennis is one of the first people I met in improv class. He is very physical and can make anything creepy, ANYTHING. I am in awe sometimes when I see what he comes up with from the offer. He can take the most mundane scene and make it a roller coaster ride that everyone in the room can enjoy. The audience is always in on the joke when he is on stage and his playful characters are easy to like. Even the psychopaths…which are numerous.

My favorite thing he does is refers to his characters’ hair—and never a lack of it. [Editor's note: Dennis lacks hair.] I don’t think he’s ever actually played a bald character, but on the other hand, some of his female characters have had beards.

I am lucky to have shared the stage with him the many times that I have. Did I mention how creepy his characters can be? And funny fact: He loves to dance, but it’s in a kind of an interpretive style!”

Dennis Trafny on Maureen Costello:

“M is for her alter-egos, Marlene and the Million Dollar Man
A is for aficionado, of the donut variety
U is for umlaut; she has an amazing German accent (and a lot of others as well)
R is for ratty; in most of her solo photo sessions she morphs into disgusting characters
E is for eccentric; you know she’s about to say something weird when she starts laughing to herself and then you can’t understand her for the next 2 minutes while she laugh-speaks her idea.
E is for ebony; she is very pale.
N is for number 1! She is a great improviser, friend, blogger, tweeter, lady, American, human, stalker, photographer, vegetarian, Jack Russel owner.”

Maureen Costello on Tara Demmy:

“Tara Demmy and I first bonded over our mutual love of cheese fries and I like to think that we haven’t looked back since. Over the last two years I can fully state that I’ve learned a lot from her as an improvisor and not just a lover of cheese and potatoes. Tara is definitely a pirate. She is fearless on stage and will commit to the most ridiculous of scenarios. Whereas if I was playing a dinosaur with daddy issues, I would probably say “Maybe I won’t dye my head scales pink and pierce my dino navel,” but not Tara—Tara would go all the way. Tara would go out with her dino friends and steal cigarettes from an improvised 7-11, then give you the finger when you’re trying to use the crosswalk like a normal dinosaur just trying to get to work on time. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that Tara can commit to what she starts and when she does it, she’s like an improv tornado, both majestic and beautiful but with the intense power to turn scenes upside down (in a good way, not a natural disaster way, maybe I shouldn’t have compared her to a natural disaster). Tara is a lot like the Lincoln assasin—OK, I’m done. Tara is spectacular. I’ve learned so much from her and am glad to not only call her a teammate but a friend. I don’t know what I’d do with out her. Tara, never leave me!”

Tara Demmy on Carly Maurer:

“Carly is the master of commitment. That girl knows what she wants in a scene and she gets it. She is a super intelligent and cognitive player, but does not let that get in the way of her yesAND-ing her fellow Iron Lungers’ outlandish initiations. Carly’s facial expressions (whether it be a tired kitten or a disappointed yoga teacher or a young teen boy picked last for basketball) are the best, especially when they are accompanied by a long pause—genius. Watch out Harold Pinter!”

Carly Maurer on Simon Burger:

“Simon is all about commitment. When he steps out with a character or physicality you have to jump on board because you know he’s going to stick with it. He has a way of really engaging his scene partner which helps bring the scene to life. Simon also brings his own brand of wit and intelligence to the group which keeps us all on our toes.”

Simon Burger on Corin Wells:

“I took my first improv class with Corin, and she has improved more than anyone else in that class, by far. Corin is a fountain of hilarious experience and a powerhouse on the stage, and I would put her on my improv super band.”

 

Is there such a thing as a sophomore slump for improv teams? We may never know, because clearly these guys love each other and have their ish together, and I’m sure we can look forward to spectacular scenes from this group for years to come! Decades, even. They could be the Rolling Stones of improv groups! Only with less drug use. Or maybe more! Time will tell!

See Iron Lung this Friday at ‘Sideshow Presents: Iron Lung’s 2-Year Anniversary Show/PARTY’ (featuring a special announcement—hopefully it’s not that they’re breaking up, or I’ll have to take back everything I just wrote about their potential to be an immortal supergroup!). Show is 8pm at the Arts Parlor (1170 S. Broad Street). Admission is $5.

Want even more Iron Lung? Check out the latest episode of the Gettin’ Close with Mike Marbach podcast!

Top 5 of 2012: Matt Nelson’s Top Five Whoa, So Glad I was in the Audience! Moments

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–if you’d like to write one, pitch us your list at contact@witout.net!

#5 – Sue Taney in Mother Truckers at Troika
03.09.2012 | Sideshow at the Arts Parlor
The concept for this Troika trio was pretty clear: Square Meg, Sweet n’ Sassy Cassidy & Star-Spangled Sharlene were three truck-driving, sass-talking long haulers who conversed via CB radio. The characters were great, and the costumes were a sight to behold. But what really made this show something for the books was Sue’s character and her obsession with snack foods. Planting herself in the bucket seat of her trusty big rig, Sue had packed a ridiculous number of munchies into a bag, which she proceeded to chow down on, dialogue be damned. This series of side-bits heightened to the point that Sue genuinely got her hand stuck in a tube of Pringles while diving for the last chip. A good part of the show was spent with a can shaped nub, and the resounding and so-satisfying pop that came with the eventual release of her hand was then instantly topped once more by Sue licking the Pringles seasoning off her arm.

#4 – Davenger at PHIF8
11.07.2012 | Prince Music Theater
As one of the newest house teams from PHIT, at this point I’d only had occasion to see Davenger a handful of times. Having been a fan of their coach Maggy Keegan for years, I knew this team was going to have “Harold” drilled deep into them, but I was hardly prepared for what would happen on the opening night of PHIF8. Shows like this remind me why the term “beats” is so spot on. Constructing their piece, they had a rhythm, pitch and level of synchronicity that is normally reserved for groups that have been playing together for years. All of these disparate moments became anchored to and eventually informed by a fantastic group game. Every cast member was leaning so far into every moment, that it felt like they couldn’t even be bothered with gravity.

#3 – Aaron Hertzog at BCCAF
09.09.2012 | ImprovBoston Mainstage
Admittedly, this one may be a bit of a cheat, as it took place in Boston; but it featured (then-Philly resident) Aaron Hertzog, and to be honest, this moment transcended any particular place we might have been, because we were no longer in this world. The night before, Aaron had featured at The Brattle (the largest venue of BCCAF). I was in the All-Star set right after and got to take in most of his current act. It was a great set, and he lived up to the stage. But this wouldn’t be his crowning moment. The following night IB had a showcase of comics featured throughout the week. Good stuff from Mary Radzinski, Pete Kuempel and many others. And they had to earn every bit of it… this was the last show on the last night of what had been a long festival. Even the locals had mostly bailed, and we were left with a few die-hards, staff, other comedians and a few randoms. Anyone who was feeling zapped and pulled thin was about to unknowingly receive a comedy face slap courtesy of Mr. Hertzog. Aaron came out and from the top injected more energy than I’ve ever seen from a comic not fueled by coke and living in the ’70s. It’s hard to describe what I heard and saw that night, but he went totally through the roof and off the rails in all the best, most captivating ways. I’ve never before or since seen a comic jump start and hold firm dominance over a room like Aaron did that quiet little Sunday night in Cambridge.

#2 – Kristin Finger’s Ref debut at ComedySportz
10.13.2012 | Playground at the Adrienne
This entry is great example of what can happen when an improviser and an audience member create a perfect storm that you wish could be bottled (then hidden in a trunk and locked away forever). Kristin has been a ComedySportz player for years now, but made her debut as a Ref only two short months ago. The night had gone well… player challengers, ref challenges, 5-things… the teams had battled and laughs were flowing. As you might imagine, many family, friends and fans were in attendance on this particular night—but fortunately, so was a random man. A random man with a random suggestion. At one point towards the end of the show, she asks the audience for a noun, and this man shouts, “black!” Now, granted this fell more into the adjective category, but Kristin shrugged it off and took it, for a game called 185. Which she had already announced as the next game. For those unfamiliar with the game, this means nothing to you. For those that do, and most of the audience in attendance that night, what almost came to pass is quite clear. You see, the setup of 185 is a groaner-style punchline game where improvisers take a suggestion, and fit it to a pre-established formula: 185 suggestions walk into a bar. The bartender says “we don’t serve suggestions in this bar,” so the suggestions reply “pun punchline.” Now go back and fill the blanks with that man’s suggestion. The whole place lost it, especially as we saw the full scope of pending doom and shocked reaction crawl across Kristin’s face. It was a show-stopper. After about two minutes of trying to gain the composure of eye-tearing laughter from everyone in the place, Kristin decided to get a new suggestion.

#1 – Kait & Andrew at PHIT
12.02.2012 | Shubin Theatre
My top spot goes to a show that probably had the smallest audience of any on my list. A few short weeks ago Kait & Andrew did a 7PM show at the Shubin, sharing a bill with Matt&. Kait & Andrew had a pretty decent show, punctuated by their classic fourth wall-breaking banter that makes them so endearing and honest. It was fun, but not exceedingly stand-out—until the last scene, where everything changed. Kaitlin started the scene off by coming unglued at Andrew… startlingly so. Andrew came right back at her. The scope of the argument was that he had spent 8 years training to be a hide-and-seek champion, meanwhile she’d felt completely neglected in their relationship. In turn, he felt she wasn’t supporting his training, which he was doing for the betterment of their relationship. Over the course of the next few minutes, the two would spew accusations at one another, managing to pull out callback after callback of damn near every element of the show up until then. From fantastical gifts like Mayan Bee Fighting to seemingly insignificant expressions and sighs, everything was ammo. And during this escalating vitriol volley, neither forgot for a moment to ground everything to the characters, their shared relationship and raw emotions. It was like the first 20 minutes were merely a set up to this moment of explosion. The slow fade to black as Andrew moved to cover his dog’s eyes left me with shivering excitement and disbelief at the high-stake magic I’d just been witness to.

Matt Nelson is Executive Producer of the Philadelphia Improv Festival and Managing Director of Figment Theater. In addition to running the annual improv competition Troika, Matt can be seen performing in the touring show Adrift. You can follow him on Twitter at @ma77nelson.