I like people who can wear a chip on their shoulder like a badge of honor. Your grievances and grudges are what make you interesting. Why not own them?
So it’s not especially a stretch to say that it’s easy for me to love Greg Fitzsimmon’s first hour long special, Life on Stage. An award-winning writer, producer and stand-up comedian, his comedy unabashedly explores social and familial constructs. While seemingly provocative, Fitzsimmons is playfully clever in his approach to unearthing the absolute absurdity that is so often prevalent in modern American life.
Greg Fitzsimmons: Right. I’ve been working in New York. I took the weekend off to come home for Halloween and Trick or Treat with the kids.
WitOut:How was Halloween?
Fitzsimmons: Great. It was very cute. We did trick or treating on one side of the neighborhood, changed costumes and then did the other side. My son is 13 so he’s off with his boys. You know, a real teenage party. I think that was his first one.
WitOut:I’m sure they just sat around and did their homework.
Fitzsimmons: They’re really on the edge. I don’t think they’re doing anything that wrong yet but they’re definitely thinking about it. They’re ready for it. They’re only in the planning stages.
WitOut:You’ve been all over the place this past year. How is tour?
Fitzsimmons: It’s not so much a tour as it is going out to places on the weekends, in between working on the show. This past year, I’ve definitely been on the road a lot doing shows to promote the special. But it’s been a lot of TV stuff. I was executive producer on another show earlier this fall and then just banging out these podcasts twice a week and a radio show once a week. It’s pretty exhausting. I haven’t had a moment.
WitOut:What show are you currently working on?
Fitzsimmons: I created a comedy talk show pilot for FX with this guy Josh Topaulski, who has a website called The Verge. It’s kind of a Daily Show format.
WitOut:How did podcasting make its way into your mix?
Fitzsimmons: Well, I was doing the radio show for just an hour. I was getting these really great guests and all of the sudden, the hour would go by so fast. So, my producer said that we could do another hour and put it out as a podcast. We did that for awhile and people eventually wanted more than one a week. I was on the road a lot of weekends so I started doing [podcasts] from the green room in clubs and now I pretty much just record interviews with people during the week. I’ll try to bank a few and then put those out.
This past week, I sat down with Colin Quinn and at the end I said to him, “How often do you and I get to sit down and talk, uninterrupted for two hours?” It’s very rare. It’s great. I think it started out casually–and it still feels casual– it doesn’t feel like a job. Now there is all of this advertising coming in, which is really just found money.
Fitzsimmons: No. When I started doing stand-up, my Father was really supportive of me. He said, you know, just make sure you write. Write a lot. I think that he knew that it was going to be a tough business and that writing was something that I could always–I wouldn’t say fall back on, but something that I could do in conjunction with stand-up. I’ve always been focused on it.
I’ve always been doing something else. After I did stand-up for a couple of years, I moved to New York and did a two year acting program. So I did that and went out on the road on the weekends. Then I moved to LA and auditioned for acting stuff. I never had any luck but I did it a lot for awhile.
There have always been different directions that I was going in. When my son was born, I started writing for TV so that I could be around more. That’s been twelve years or so in between writing, doing stand-up and hosting stuff on TV.
On a good day it feels like, yeah, you have your hands in a lot of things. On a bad day you feel like you’re being pulled in too many directions. In this business, it’s a pretty good way to keep your sanity–to be able to not have all of your eggs in one basket.
WitOut: A lot of your new special deals with parenting, social class and race. Your kids go to school in LA and so you’re definitely surrounded by a lot of that. Can you speak to us about where that material comes from?
Fitzsimmons: I grew in New York and my Dad was a radio guy. He was very liberal. Very outspoken. Our family’s identity is very, I think, Kennedy Democrats. And I grew up in a place that was very economically and racially diverse.
My kids are in a Spanish Immersion program at a public school in LA. My wife grew up in the city in New York. We try to replicate something that has that same kind of diversity and we’ve been really luck with that. They’ve got a school that has very committed parents and the kids are great. At the same time–not to put down private schools–your kid can get a false sense of feeling like they’re the greatest fucking thing that has ever been born. I want my kids to feel like pieces of garbage that have to work their way out of it for the rest of their lives. That’s the drive they need.
A lot of my material comes out of guilt. I think I feel a certain white guilt with how fortunate I’ve been. Stand up, to me, is about [exploring] what are you thinking about, what makes you uncomfortable or angry, what is it that you can’t wrap your head around. For me, social class seems to be one that is just illogical. It’s the fabric of every society.
WitOut: What about the book? Is it a product of that guilt or is a way for you to kind of wear your mistakes on your armor?
Fitzsimmons: I was an English major in college and I had been writing my whole life. I wanted to write a book since I was five years old. I finally felt like I had lived enough to warrant writing a book about my life. It feel like there are two very different sides of my life and I wanted to explore that earlier part of my life. I wanted to show how it affected the second half.
I grew up very rebellious. The first half of my life, there was a lot of drinking and drugs, fighting and womanizing. It was very different from what my life is today. I just wanted to have fun and go down that road. It ended up being much more deeply about my relationship with my father.
My intention was probably much lighter than what the actual process ended up being.
WitOut: We know that you had a complicated relationship with your Father. Does talking about it so publicly affect that?
Fitzsimmons: He actually died 20 year ago. In a weird way, you still have a relationship with the [deceased] person. I think about him a lot. I think my kids feel his presence in a way. It didn’t end on good terms, really, and that’s sad.
WitOut: Does talking about it help your reconcile with that?
Fitzsimmons: I guess. On some levels, it is. I wish that I could I was that mature and that it was all reconciled. I’m still like a little baby. I definitely have more understanding [of him] now as a parent.
WitOut: You’re coming to Philly on this week. Are you looking forward to coming over here?
Fitzsimmons: (Laughs) Oh my god. Your voice just went up an octave when you asked that.
Yeah! I love Philadelphia! I think Philadelphia is great. It’s one of the few cities that I really enjoy getting up and walking around. The crowds are awesome. They’re really down to earth. There is that Italian-Irish thing there, which is always kind of rowdy and blue collar. It’s fun.
Editors’ note: We are the editors of WitOut.net. We are also starting a free, weekly, stand-up comedy showcase every Wednesday at Rembrandt’s Restaurant & Bar (741 N. 23rd St. Philadelphia). So we decided to take advantage of our editorial power for shameless self-promotion. Is that okay with you? Good. Here we go.
AZ Why did we decide to start this show?
AH: You know the answer to that.
AZ: Tell me again. I like hearing the story.
AH: I think this is the type of show that Philly needs. The scene has been growing in the past few years and there are open mics practically every night of the week, and there are a lot of comedian-run monthly showcases, and I think the next step up is a weekly show where comedians can work on longer sets. I would love to do this show every night if I could, and make it like a Philadelphia version of The Comedy Cellar in New York. But until I find a venture capitalist to back that business plan, I’m going to have to stick with once a week at a bar that will let us do it for free. Philly has a lot of great comedians, and part of the goal with the show is to expose more of the public to some of the great local comedy Philly has to offer.
What are your hopes and plans for the show?
AZ: I’m really looking forward to having a show that gives Philly comics an opportunity to perform longer sets, and hopefully perform them in front of a crowd that’s made up of more than just other comics–of course we love seeing comics support one another, but we also want a “real audience” for these shows. Which brings me to my other hope for the show: that people will come. So we’re working on some creative ideas for marketing and promotion, and reaching out to people who are good at getting the word out about events in the city, and hopefully we’ll be able to show a lot of new people that Philly has a really strong, talented crop of local comedians. And if they’re introduced to them here with a free show, hopefully they’ll continue to follow and support their work elsewhere.
Can you talk a little bit more about why we wanted to keep the show free? Are we just dicks who don’t want to pay people?
AH: Well first of all, I hate that money exists and I wish I could live in a hut on an island and hunt and farm and fish for food and just be free. That sounds like a joke but I’m being serious. But, in terms of the show, since one of our goals is to raise awareness about comedy in Philly we thought a great way to do that would be to have a free show, so it’s a low-risk access point for new audiences. Doogie Horner’s Ministry of Secret Jokes was a great free show that brought a lot of people out to Fergie’s in Center City on a monthly basis, and we want to build a consistent audience of people who know that there’s going to be a great show at Rembrandt’s every Wednesday night, and who can tell people they know that they can come to the show and it’s going to be free and it’s going to be great and they’re going to have a good time. Plus we want this to be a show that has a feel, for the audience, that it’s professional and the line-up is well put together, but is also a show where the comedians should feel free to experiment a little, and work out newer material during a longer set. At open mics where there are more comics and therefore sets have to be shorter, one new joke might be the only material a comic gets to do that night.
Since we’re not getting fat pockets off the big stacks of cash we’d make if we charged people to come and see this show, what are you looking to get out of it, as a comedian?
AZ: I think it’ll be good for me to get more experience hosting shows, and I also want to push myself to write a lot more frequently so I can have something new every week. I also like how much flexibility and trust the bar is giving us in running this show–I think it’s exciting that we’re building this from the ground up, and we’re going to have this challenge of making sure it’s successful. That also makes it a little scary, and I think we’re both going to have to think really creatively and work really hard to make sure it works and really have an impact on Philly’s knowledge of and interest in its local comedy scene.
We have some of the best comics in the city on the line-up for the first show, and we’ve actually booked the rest of the month already, and that’s pretty stacked as well. How do you think being on a show with all these really exceptional writers and performers will affect your performance?
AH: Not only do I want the show to be great top to bottom for the sake of the audience, but I think it’s a great opportunity for all of us as comedians to push each other to keep getting better. It’s healthy competition–not that it’s a contest and we’re going out there to try to outshine each other every week, but I know that personally I’m going to have to bring it in order to keep up with the talent that we’re going to book on this show week in and week out. I’m never going to be able to half-ass it and mail in a set if I don’t want to look like somebody who doesn’t belong on the show. That’s how you get better–when I was a kid and I played basketball, I didn’t get better by playing against kids I was already better than; I got better by playing against older kids who were a lot better than me, and having to work to keep up. Also I’m just looking forward to being able to hang out with all of these people on a weekly basis and see them trying out new jokes, and talking about new jokes, and getting their opinion on my new material, and just all working together at getting better. #Friendship.
You and I are big supporters of the local comedy scene and we know a lot about what’s going on within it. But at this point it’s still difficult to know about Philly comedy if you’re not IN Philly comedy in some way. What do you think we–or anyone else performing in the city–needs to do to get more of the general public aware of the local talent?
AZ: I think the main thing is that if you’re putting on a show, you should never be satisfied with just getting an audience that’s only made up of your friends and fellow performers. If you’re trying to do this seriously and not just as a hobby, you need feedback from and exposure to a real audience to be able to learn and grow. Of course it’s great to be supportive of each other, but I don’t think any of us will consider ourselves successful if we’re just doing this for each other all the time. So we should be looking for as many ways as possible to expose new people to our shows. List and promote your show on local online events calendars, send out press releases, get out on the street with flyers, whatever it takes. Find new audiences, bring them in, win them over and keep them coming back–whether that’s coming back to Free For All, or “coming back” in that they find their favorite comedians at our show, and then go seek them out to see them do more at other shows, too.
Also: We all just have to be really, really good. Put on a good show that’ll live up to or even exceed the hype you’re giving it when you’re promoting it.
If you are a Philadelphia comedy performer that produces a podcast, web series, sketch video, humor column, or any other online content let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can share it!
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 email@example.com!
5: “Fruit cup? What’s that, a jock strap in San Francisco?”
4: “I just saw an Asian woman in the parking lot — she was all excited. I asked her why and she said it was Erection Day!”
Note: 4 & 5 were told by the same guy, same set, on Election Night 2012.
3: “I don’t have a muffin top, I have a mushroom cloud!”.
Note: That was told by a middle-aged woman and it sincerely made me laugh.
2: A guy on break from his dart league jumped up on stage during a very sparsely attended open mic at the same venue to announce “I want to tell a couple of black jokes. It’s okay…I checked.”
Note: Horrific, stupid and unforgettable.
1: [paraphrasing] “Honey Boo-Boo — what a motherfuckin’ train wreck that is….”
Note: I think that was the whole joke. And what 2012 compilation could ever be complete without a Honey Boo-Boo reference?
Chris Dolan is a standup who lives in the Montco burbs. He has emcee’d the Phila Comedy Academy Graduation Showcase, and placed second in several comedy contests, making him the Gold Medalist of Silver Medalists, kinda. You can follow him on Twitter @CMDolan99
I went into Roosevelt’s last Thursday knowing one person and having been in the audience of exactly one open mic before that night.
Before sign-ups were supposed to start, comedians gathered in a small room tucked away in the recesses of the bar, commenting on the handmade curtains and the absent bartender. (She was there by time the mic started.) It didn’t take long for the room to fill, largely because it only holds a handful of people.
Jess Carpenter is one of the five founders of the new weekly event, now named R Open Mic. He wasn’t hosting, so he had plenty of time to talk to me about the mic, which he thinks holds promise, both as a place to debut new material and as a place to film polished stuff.
Peter Rambo: So tell me about this open mic. How did it come about?
Jess Carpenter: Actually, I told Brian that I was looking for a room ’cause, I’m sad to say, I was getting sad going to open mics and seeing the same comics tell the same jokes. So I was telling Brian that I wanted to do a room where we would have a theme, and every week or every two weeks, we could have a list of words or a list of subjects and people could do [jokes inspired by that.] It gives them a reason to write.
So we decided we’re going to do that once a month, and just have the mic as a regular mic [the rest of the time]. He found the room, ’cause he does Quizzo here, and it looked pretty good. It looks small enough. It’s small enough to where it’ll feel full, and the comics can also be out here [in the main room] to talk. Most comics, after they get off stage, they have that adrenaline going, and you don’t really want them in the mic talking during someone else’s set.
PR: Yeah, you can’t really hear anything [out here]. You can’t hear them in there, and vice versa.
JC: That’s what I like about it. It’s a great little room. We’ll see how it works though.
PR: There’s not a whole lot of seating.
JC: No, 18 people [are on the list] so far, and there’s standing room. And there’s the pole there. That pole is actually a great place–I put the curtains up so you can actually film here, and since it’s a small enough room it’ll always feel like [you’re getting nice applause].
PR: Is there a rotating cast of hosts?
JC: Yeah, the third Thursday I won’t be here cause I have my other show.
PR: Comedian Deconstruction?
JC: Right. There’s five of us, so we’re always going to just try and take [turns with] hosting. To be honest, I could care less about hosting. I just want to see new jokes.
I want to see Philly become a hotbed. Boston was a hotbed in the ’90s I think, and that’s where comics were coming out with the new concept of comedy. Why can’t Philly be that?
PR: Do you know the other hosts very well?
JC: Yeah, they actually do B.a. Comedian. Brian and Andrew are B and A, and Tim is the musical part. He does guitar. And Dan and I are literally opposites. He does jokes about being a straight guy that seem really gay, and then I love to follow him ’cause I’m a gay guy who seems really straight. If I make it, he’s going to be my opener. It just works out really well.
It was really nice, because we met at an open mic, we were very-like minded and liked talking after. We liked going outside and talking during the mic while other people were doing their sets. And just going and popping in to see the people we liked. And that’s what so good about this room, you can do that. You can pop in and out.
PR: This mic is really close to the Raven Lounge. How do you think that’s going to affect the night?
JC: It’s great, ’cause we want to make sure people can get to both. I think it’s like eight or nine minutes to get from one side to the other. Maybe 12 minutes. People can do both. If you can have comics hit multiple mics a night, you can have a comic totally screw up a joke or a set and they can make a note and try that set 15 or 20 minutes later, versus waiting a week or two weeks to try it again.
And this is a bar, they’re fine with staying open, so people can either go here early and go there late, or vice versa.
PR: When’s the first theme open mic?
JC: The second Thursday of the month.
Dan King: We’ll give ourselves two weeks to do it, and then on the second one …
JC: Yeah, so on the first Thursday, we’ll come up with five different subject matters, and then the second Thursday, that’s when they can do jokes. You don’t have to, but you can choose to. I think we’ll go out of a hat, so people can put suggestions in. We pull five because we don’t want a bunch of comics feeling that they just wrote the same joke another comic wrote, but it shows that there’s less stealing than people think. There’s a lot of ideas floating out there that people just grab.
It’s funny because, Jerry Corley, who’s one of my favorite comedy coaches out there, says every day, just write stuff from the newspaper, even if you’re never going to use it, but if you write a good enough one and you’re watching TV and you see it, you know you’re on the right track.You see a lot of that on Twitter.
I see Chip [Chantry] doing a lot of that. I like the way Chip tweets, ’cause he makes it condensed. Brevity is everything when it comes to comedy.
PR: Do you have any words of wisdom for someone who’s just starting? Like at this open mic? Like me?
JC: Respect the light. Always respect the light. Always thank people. It sounds corny, but they remember you. You’re going to meet more comics at open mics that are going to get you work, than you’re going to meet by calling people. If you like another comic’s stuff, tell them, “That’s a great joke.” Don’t offer advice out of nowhere. It could be good advice, but some comics can’t take advice. But if they ask, tell them.
Oh, rule number one. Rule number one. Don’t say “good set” if it wasn’t a good set. Don’t say anything. But don’t say “good set.” If someone had a shitty set, and they walk off stage, do not say “good set.” They know they had a shitty set. But if they had a good set, and you said “good set,” but you never said good set or shitty set [before], they know that you meant it. “Good try,” say that, but don’t say “good set.”
PR: It sounds a little patronizing.
JC: Yeah, you don’t want to sound patronizing. But you’ll see it, trust me, you’ll see it. Actually, watch. [Turns to Hillary Rea] Hey, do you hate when someone says good set and you had a shitty set?
Hillary Rea: I don’t tell people that if I didn’t like it. I just run away or walk away. And if I feel like I did shitty, it’s just … Irish Goodbye.
JC: See! Ah, it’s horrible. ‘Cause, your tail’s already between your legs, and someone says good set and you’re like …
PR: Were you there?
JC: Were you just there? I’m bleeding here.
PR: Do you use open mics to farm talent for other shows?
JC: I’ve been starting to do virgin comics at Comedian Deconstruction. I might take an opener from here and bring them over there. I think what I might start doing is one of the five things that we pull out of the hat, I might make one of those one of the themes we do at Deconstruction that month. If it works here, it gives me a week to put them on the show. I think that could work. If I have a theme and someone does a really good joke about it, and they have three or four minutes to follow it with, why not give them a real show to play with. There’s nothing better than that feeling of being in a show. It’s like, real claps, you know? Better than a bringer.
I got on stage for the first time as a stand-up and told six jokes in less than three minutes. The crowd laughed, probably because they knew it was my first time, and I felt good. I’ll try not to exit on that high note.
R Open Mic happens every Thursday at Roosevelt’s at the corner of 22nd and Walnut. Sign-ups are at 7:30pm and the show starts at 8pm.
It being the case that a good many of the bars I’ve been to in Philadelphia seemed to take a kind of perverse pleasure in playing their house music at decibel levels which could joggle teeth loose from their sockets, when the legs of my barstool began to quake & trill to a bass & beat I could not readily identify the source of, I was not concerned. No, what concerned me instead was that I was to be on assignment, covering the debut of a new comedy show I was unable to locate.
“Excuse me,” I hailed the bartender, “is there an open mic here tonight?”
Watch as quizzo master/comedian Johnny Goodtimes talks to The Legendary WID about a few of the bands and comedians he opened for in the past. The clip also showcases some highlights from one of WID’s sets at Philly Improv Theater.
Mary Radzinski is the sassiest lady-comic to ever hoist up a pair of ovaries and get ‘erself up on a stage full o’ people ready to laugh at her unique lady-take on wimmin stuff and—just kidding, I’m not going to do that to her.
Mary Radzinksi is the co-host of the Monday night open mic Laughs on Fairmount at Urban Saloon (along with friend and fellow funnyperson Carolyn Busa), and one of the newest additions to the Helium Comedy Club hosting roster. She’s one of the friendliest faces in the Philly comedy scene, an exceedingly talented writer and performer, and really, really funny.
In short, Mary is swell. For further proof, read on:
Alison Zeidman: For people that maybe aren’t familiar with you, can you talk about how you got started in comedy?
Mary Radzinski: Six years ago I took a comedy writing class as part of Main Line School Night, and there was a graduation show at the end. So the first time I did stand-up it was a graduation show, and then I did a couple ones-y little things with people in the class because we were like “We’re rockstars, this is amazing!” And then I didn’t do anything. I waited a couple years, and four Julys ago I got onstage at an open mic and I’ve been religiously doing that since.
AZ: What made you want to get started again?
MR: My best friend lives in Fairmount and at the time there was [another] open mic here [at Urban Saloon]. And she was like, “Oh let’s go to this bar, there’s an open mic, it’s Monday nights”—which is funny, same night—and that got me to do it.
AZ: You’re one of the newest Helium hosts. Did you do anything special to prepare for your audition?
MR: I think having done the audition a couple years ago and then…you know, we’re all still so new in this game, but I think just getting onstage all the time [was the most helpful]. In terms of specific preparation for that show, just being confident in my jokes and trying not to second-guess myself. When I first heard about the audition again, I was like “I need to write all new material!” The self-doubt sets in and stuff. But then I was like no, and I just tried to tweak a few jokes and maybe strengthen some things that had been going well, and just tried to do my jokes and get out of my own head.
And I have hosted in some clubs, so I think that’s helped more in preparation of that longer set for a club show, and knowing like what’s a good five minutes, what’s a good ten minutes, what’s a good fifteen minutes. And being at Helium while my friends are hosting and watching it, more than anything, I think has given me a little confidence and prepared me.
AZ: Now I’m going to try to not ask you the question you’re not going to like—because I think it’s a touchy question for any female comic. So I don’t want to ask, “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy?” or even “What’s it like to be the first female comic on Helium’s regular host rotation?”, but more like, how do you celebrate that accomplishment, and acknowledge that, yeah, that is significant, but at the same time, keep the focus on the fact that comedy should be comedy, regardless of gender? How do you strike that balance?
MR: I think about it all the time, because I do think it’s a numbers game. Helium in Philly has not had a female host [in their regular hosting roster] yet—but I mean, I know Helium’s not against females by any means—so I’m excited and I’m proud and I hope that it’s because it’s at the time that I’m a good comic, or that I will be a good host or an asset for whoever they pair me with as the headliner and that sort of thing. I do think it’s a numbers game where—I was just talking to somebody about this, where if in a lineup of ten comics, there’s only one girl, and if that girl’s not funny, that just leaves a bad taste for a lot of audience members [in terms of female comics in general].
But I’m trying not to let that “girls aren’t funny” thing get me down, and knowing that I wasn’t going to become a host there until I was a funny comedian, regardless of gender, makes me feel confident now. I do have as one of my openers, “I don’t like girl comics either,” and that can be taken several ways—some females can be like, “Why would you do that?”—but I also feel like it’s just sort of knocking that sort of preconceived notion…
AZ: Oh totally. It’s commenting and poking fun at the idea that that’s even a thing.
MR: Yeah. And a lot of times, when people ask, “Who are your favorite comics?” I don’t necessarily immediately think of women. I think of people who have made me laugh. So I want that. And I think that stereotype can be negative, but I also think it’s a fun challenge to break through. There’s always going to be someone who’s like “You’re really funny for a girl, I don’t usually like girls,” and you get that all the time, and I’ve learned not to take that the wrong way because there are fewer female comics, and so a lot of times when people don’t see a ton of comedy—it’s totally a numbers game.
AZ: Your first hosting gig is going to be with Hal Sparks, right? What are you excited about for that week?
MR: Honestly it’s so funny, in my head I’m just like “I don’t care who it is! I would want to open for anyone there!” But I’m excited. I don’t know a ton about Hal Sparks—I’ll clearly do my homework—but from what I understand I think he does have a decent female following, and you know, could that be why they paired me with him? Probably, but I also like that—because I’m just looking forward to a full room.
AZ: OK, and this will hopefully be a fun question: What would be your fantasy hosting gig? Who would feature, who would headline, who would heckle that you would get to shut down, and who would come up to you afterwards and tell you that they really liked you? Anyone in the world.
MR: Oh my god…that’s amazing. Oh god, there’s so many. I mean my favorite comedians, like I love Louis CK, to open for someone like that…this is going to get me!
AZ: Have you ever seen High Fidelity? This is going to be like at the end when that reporter interviews him and asks for his all-time top 5 songs or albums or whatever it is, and he’s calling her every fifteen minutes to change his list.
MR: Yeah! I will definitely think about this…
AZ: You can send it to me later if you want.
MR: Can I? Because I definitely love that question, and I totally…if I give you an answer now, I would be texting you later to change it.
A week later, after a lot of thought and apologies for the delay, Mary sent me her responses. She reserves the right to change them at any time.
Headliner: Louis CK
Feature: Hannibal Buress or Kyle Kinane
Heckler: Some self-important dick from Everywhere, USA, or Adam Carolla
Person Who Liked Me: Seth MacFarlane or Bill Murray, or Sarah Silverman—along with the entire waitstaff from the venue. And then long after the show was over, Adam Carolla.
Tonight, Center City Comedy at The Raven Lounge is celebrating its fourth anniversary. The open mic has consistently provided a full room for comedians to work on their acts and test new material in front of always-eager crowds. The spot has earned a reputation from out-of-town acts visiting Philly as a place to hang out with local comics, or even get a late-night set in after their shows. The Center City Comedy crew (Chris Cotton, Conrad Roth, H. Foley, Tom Cassidy, Ryan Shaner, Kevin Ryan, Chris Whitehair) have branched out to working on producing online video content (Babe Ruth Time Traveller, We Rent). We asked H. Foley, one of the early members of Center City Comedy, some questions about the past four years, and the future.
WITOUT: At a time when open mics come and go within a few months, you have kept Center City Comedy at The Raven Lounge alive and kicking for four years – what do you think are the keys to your success?
H. FOLEY: Well, we always put the audience first. We promoted the show as much as possible and we were very lucky to be surrounded by so many talented comedians. It was really built on a lot of hard work and dedication, not just from us but the community as a whole.
WO: What are some of your favorite moments from the open mic over the past four years?
HF: I asked the boys this question, and everyone said all the anniversary shows really stuck out in their minds. Plus, the night Patrice O’Neal came by, and the night we had to pull Conrad from hosting because he got so wasted and took his balls out.
WO: Do you think Center City Comedy has had an influence on the Philly comedy scene? How do you think you’ve left your mark?
HF: That is a tough question. I hope so, but you would have to ask the comedy community that. It was never our intention though. We just wanted to create an environment where the city could see how funny the Philly comedy community is, and it worked because it is.
WO: You’ve passed the hosting duties of the weekly mic down to new groups of comics a few times – how do you decide who you’d like to take over as hosts and when do you feel like it’s time to bring in new blood.
HF: We look at who is working hard, and who really wants it, and who we think would fit into this little dysfunctional family. Right now Ryan Shaner is in charge, and we recently brought Kevin Ryan into the mix, and it is really working out. Tom Cassidy has ran it for the last year and did a great job. Tom has been a big part of our group, and he is someone I love and consider to be a part of our family.
WO: How did you transition from hosting open mics and shows around the city to producing comedy videos for the web?
HF: It was always our plan, we were never just about running an open mic. We know what we want to do and just keep taking steps to make it happen. We now film all the time and are writing scripts and trying to just keep moving forward.
WO: Since the show has started, some of you have moved to other cities, but have stayed loyal to your roots, what keeps you coming back to Philly for more?
HF: I mean that is what it is all about, remembering who we are and where we are from. We love Philly, and realize how lucky we are to be a part of the Philly scene.
WO: What’s next for Center City Comedy?
HF: We just want to keep working hard and chasing our dreams. I do want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has performed with us over the last four years, and especially want to thank Alex Gross of Superdps.com who is helping us to take the next step. I also want to wish you, and all of our friends who have the heart to push to the next level, the very best of luck.