On the last Friday of every month, ComedySportz is bringing in original outside acts for their 8pm time slot, ahead of their 10pm adults-only The Blue Show. This month, ComedySportz Presents features Beatbox Philly, the Philadelphia version of a Chicago-born show that combines improv scene work with improvised raps and beatboxing. The group’s players are all also ComedySportz cast members: Alli Soowal, Darryl Charles, Sue Taney, Mark Leopold and Matt Lally. Here’s Alli to tell you more about the group and this Friday’s show.
WitOut: For people who aren’t familiar with it, can you describe what happens at a Beatbox Philly show?
Alli Soowal: We hit you hard and fast with hip-hop and comedy! Our show is 45-55 minutes and it interweaves scenic improv with freestyle rapping— including improvised beats from our very own beatboxer.
WO: The members of Beatbox Philly are also all ComedySportz players, right? How did you guys decide to come together for this?
AS: We are! Well, all of us except for Matt Lally, who is our beatboxer. I’ve known Matt for years from the comedy scene, and we produced Comedy Month together, so when we were looking for a skilled beatboxer, I approached him and Dave Terruso to give me ideas of who would be good. They both replied “ummm…you know Matt has skills because you’ve seen him perform!” As for how the rest of us came together, Beatbox started in Chicago and we have had them perform at the Philly Improv Festival, plus I’m good friends with Rene Duquesnoy—one of the co-founders of Beatbox. I had wanted to put together a hip-hop show for awhile, so I talked to Rene, and he came to Philly and offered workshops through ComedySportz Philly, including one just for CSz performers. From that, I was able to gauge interest from other company members. Rene gave his blessing to use the Beatbox name (there is also a Beatbox in Minneapolis), and Beatbox Philly was born! We made our debut at last year’s Fringe Festival, and it was so well received that we wanted to keep going.
WO: Do any of you have a rapping background? How did you learn to freestyle, and what do you do to practice?
AS: Interestingly enough, Mark Leopold is a self-produced rap artist—like hardcore gangsta style! I won’t give you his stage name because it’s too dirty for the pages of WitOut. He’s the only one, though, who comes from that world. The rest of us learned to rap from ComedySportz rehearsals and classes, as well as lots of practice alone in cars. Rene teaches a “Mad Skillz” workshop each year at the ComedySportz Championships that several of us have taken. We also incorporate rapping into our shows in some games (“Kick It,” “Elimination Rap,” “Beastie Rap,” etc.), so everyone needs to be somewhat proficient in it. When we practice, we go through a series of exercises designed to gradually pull raps out of you, and to increase your confidence. Freestyling requires hella trust in your own brain to spit out words that you can make work into a cohesive song.
WO: Do you guys have rap names? If not, do you want to make some up for everyone right now?
Darryl “Salt” Charles
Sue “Peppa” Taney
Mark “Misdemeanor” Leopold
Kevin “Left Eye” Lopez
Alli “Lady Boo” Soowal
Matt “MC Spinderella” Lally
Not performing, but also a member, is Bobbi “M.I.A.” Block.
WO: What are you most excited about for your upcoming ComedySportz Presents show? Will there be any new or special surprises for audience members who are already Beatbox Philly fans?
AS: I’m so excited to be back with this awesome crew! We had a blast with our past shows, can’t wait to do it again. As for surprises, there will likely be some special guest appearances but you will just have to come out to see it!
Catch Beatbox Philly at ComedySportz (2030 Sansom Street) this Friday, February 22nd at 8pm. Tickets are $12.
This Saturday’s ComedySportz shows are being billed as a “Battle of the Sexes.” That’s right, it’s guys vs. gals! The 7:30 show will feature the refereeing talents of Kristin Finger; voice talents of Noah Herman; and dudes Langston Darby, Todd Rodenhiser and Sean Curran against ladies Sue Taney, Danna Young and Alli Soowal. The 10pm show will have Noah back, this time as the ref; Alli Soowal back to lend some sweet vox; boyz from Round 1 Sean and Todd will return as well, this time with Kevin Regan; and the girlz for Round 2 will be Sue and Danna once again, with Kristin switching out of her ref jersey to play in with them.
As the level-headed officials for the first and second matches, respectively, we knew we could count on Kristin and Noah to answer a few questions about what fans can expect on Saturday—without TOO much smack-talk. (Although, honestly, we were kinda trying to get some going. Fight! Fight! Fight!)
WitOut: Do you know which games you’ll be playing? Are there any games in the regular ComedySportz rotation that you feel could be particularly suited towards highlighting the strengths of either team?
KF: As ref for the 7:30 show, I’d love to challenge them to the game of “Story,” but perhaps with an added twist! And the classic, “I kissed a blank.” These games shall test their wits equally!
NH: You can be sure that we’re going to play some of our debate style or elimination games, such as “Objection” or “Story. “If you were hoping for a Girls vs. Boys “Elimination Rap Battle,” your wish just might come true.
WO: What do you think makes either gender/team better than the other when it comes to comedy—or just life in general? Hyperbole encouraged.
KF: I bet you want me to answer this with a whole lot of “men suck” attitude, well that’s not gonna happen! They are an equal opponent, but to quote the amazing Tina Fey, “Know what? Bitches get stuff done.”
NH: I’m not going anywhere near “what makes your gender better than the other when it comes to comedy?” But in terms of how the gender battle will affect this Saturday’s ComedySportz match, in my experience women have to pee much more than men. Will that affect their ability to play on Saturday? Who knows!
WO: Is there anything riding on this match? E.g. will the losing team have to wash the other team’s ComedySportz jerseys for the next month, or anything like that?
KF: I’ll put it on the table right now, when the ladies take the win, the boys must bow to us Wayne’s World style and say, “we’re not worthy, we’re not worthy, we’re scum…” in front of the entire audience!
NH: Is there anything riding on this match? Nothing but pride and back rubs!
You can see ComedySportz shows this and every Saturday at 7:30pm and 10pm at The Playground at The Adrienne (2030 Sansom Street). Tickets are $17 for adults; $14 for students.
On the last Friday of every month, ComedySportz is bringing in original outside acts to perform ahead of their 10pm adults-only Blue Show. This month, ComedySportz Presents features Adrift, a nationally-touring show created by Philadelphia Improv Festival producer Matt Nelson. Matt performs with a rotating cast, improvising scenes that take place over several days of being stranded together on a life raft. In this edition, Adrift will be kept afloat by Eoin O’ Shea, Todd Rodenhiser, Sue Taney, Daryll Charles, Danna Young and Mary Carpenter of ComedySportz.
Adrift at at NCCAF. Photo by Kevin Thom.
WitOut: Can you give a brief overview of the origins of Adrift?
Matt Nelson: Adrift was created four years ago for the Philadelphia Improv Festival. I’d just ended several-year runs with a couple groups, and wanted to still do a longform set in my own festival. I figured I’d rope in a bunch of amazing people that my co-producers couldn’t possibly say no to. I made a short list, and that first show included locals Kristen Schier and Kelly Vrooman, as well as Brian O’Connell from iO West and Steve Kleinedler (at that time, still a Bostonian). I looked at the list and thought to myself, “Hey these people would be amazing to be shipwrecked with.” And that’s when the show concept was born. It was so much fun that I decided to keep at it. It became my own personal all-star show, giving me a chance to work with incredibly talented people I might otherwise never get to play with. Joe Bill, Jeff Griggs, Jill Bernard, Dave Sawyer, Topher Bellavia, Tara DeFrancisco, Rachel Klein—people who make your comedy heart swoon. After I locked down Emo Philips for my NCCAF show two years ago, I became pretty fearless about asking anyone whose work I really admire.
WO: What brought Adrift to ComedySportz?
MN: ComedySportz actually approached me to do the show. Adrift is a show that doesn’t play all the time, and with my format their cast can get really involved. Between the two, I think it’s a nice fit for their Final Fridays format, and I suppose they must have thought the same. I’ve had quite a few of their cast members in various rafts, and they’ve always been a blast to play with… so it was pretty much a “yes” from the word go. Then I was told I could pick from anyone in the cast, and it was like being a kid in a candy store. I decided to opt for mostly new players—because aside from doing a few local gigs and festivals, Adrift is a road show, and I only bring 1-2 Philly improvisers with me to those.
WO: You have some really amazing ComedySportz players in the cast for this show. What are some skills they bring, either as individuals or a group, that you’re looking forward to having for this performance?
MN: I’m so excited about this cast. Overall, ComedySportz players bring a style of play that comes only from a strong connection built over time doing weekly shows. It’s a family—a very generous, playful family with tons of heart. Let me see if I can highlight a few things though…
Eoin O’shea: Eoin approaches things with a sort of tempered chaos, bubbling just under the surface. No matter how methodical a scene is, there’s always something dangerous and exciting potentially lurking around the next corner.
Todd Rodenhiser: Todd is a menagerie of big, bold, beautiful characters. They’re born from a whole other plane of existence, and it’s always thrilling when they come out to play.
Danna Young: Danna is a quirky, vibrant player than can play the duality of what you think is a light character, only to surprise you with strong choices and emotional reactions that can turn on a dime.
Darryl Charles: Darryl understands comedy like few others I know. The way he processes every little gift, it’s like he took an evolutionary step somewhere— always working out the best possible arcs for relationships, but always in the flash of a moment.
Sue Taney: Sue is a powerhouse player who just exhales hilarity. She’s like one of those storage saver bags where they shrink down all the fluffy stuff —she could take three minutes of silence and not have a moment of dead air.
Mary Carpenter: Mary is the crown jewel of Philly comedy, and I wish more comedians saw her more often. I don’t think I could run out of things to say. I have never, and I genuinely mean never, seen anyone on stage as generous as her. She can communicate so effectively with her face alone, it’s scary. If a show were a knife fight, you’d never have to check your six, because Mary’s got your back without fail.
Catch Adrift at ComedySportz (2030 Sansom Street) this Friday, January 25th at 8pm. Tickets are $12.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org!
#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.
By: Tony Narisi
The Philly Improv Theater at the Shubin Theatre saw the last installment of the Rant-O-Wheel this Monday night. As the night got started, host Jaime Fountaine filled the wheel up with ten nouns shouted out by the audience and began bringing the finest Rant-o-wheelers in Philadelphia onstage to tell a story, real or made-up, in five minutes or less using three of these words.
First up was the pair of Darryl Charles and Sue Taney, tackling six words instead of three. Using “creamed corn,” “tortellini,” “Steve Buscemi,” “Jersey Shore,” “Skittles,” and “sabotage,” Darryl and Sue told the story of a boy who began an anti-Willy Wonka campaign. Jaime played the role of conductor and had some sadistic fun that really upped the laughs, switching the narrator every word at times or pointing to both of them and forcing them to speak in unison.
Next up was Tom Whitaker, who used “rain dance,” “lava lamp,” and “candle” to deliver a superb monologue, in the form of a video message to a recent ex, lamenting the fact that he’ll never find real love in the City of Brotherly Love. Perhaps most remarkable was his delivery, which consisted of a believable and consistently straight face and a stare into the distance, addressing his ex as “you” the entire time.
Following Tom was Larry Napolitano, who quickly breezed through his words of “donkey lips,” “nothing,” and “Dustin Hoffman” in a rant about how he is miserable regarding his aging to get to what was apparently on his mind all along—a hilarious tirade against Ferris Bueller that eventually ended in the murder and defiling of his corpse on his father’s broken car.
Next up was Hillary Rea who used “swing,” “guffaw,” and “side boob” to recount her childhood fears and embarrassments, which included earthworms being thrown at her and a perpetual fear of boys seeing her incorrectly worn Days of the Week underwear. While hearing her memories, the audience couldn’t help but laugh along with Hillary as they remembered their own rough patches in childhood.
Cara Schmidt came next, using “band,” “Jellies,” and “Aquanet” to reveal one of her deepest darkest secrets to the audience—she’s not that good at driving, as evidenced by her twelve cars in seven years. Throughout her monologue, the audience got a very funny peek into the mind of sixteen-year-old Cara and her six attempts at the driving exam, including her various attempts to sway (or bribe) the system.
Finally, Jaime herself finished the rest of the words on the wheel, using “vagrant,” “chicken soup,” “artichoke,” “yellow,” “burp,” and “Rain Man” to tell the story of Rant-o-wheel itself, in a final monologue that was both heartwarming and laugh-inducing. She then ended the show by saying that Rant-o-wheel isn’t dead, it’s just going into hibernation. So if and when the Rant-o-wheel comes out of its slumber, do yourself and these performers a favor and make sure to check it out and support some great local comics telling some very funny stories.
Think just because it’s 2012 we’re going to stop running Top 5 of 2011 lists? Nope. As long as you keep sending them, we’ll keep posting them. Well, maybe not, “as long as” maybe for just a week or two. Go ahead, try us.
We’re not talking about the Appalachian Trail or even Kilimanjaro… (Sue starts singing “Africa” by Toto, Darryl says “That’s racist!” And runs off crying) We’re talking vodka. America’s Sweethearts, Darryl Charles
and Sue Taney
, agreed to take on the arduous task of tasting *almost all of Pinnacle’s 34 flavors to bring you the “TOP 5 PINNACLES LIST.”
5. Cake - We’re gonna eschew some kinda “Have your cake and eat it too” or a “Let them eat cake” or “Like a fat kid loves cake” (who are you calling fat?! Sue runs off crying…) reference and just say birthdays will no longer be spent in Applebee’s like the slobs of suburbia anymore. We wanna spend it alone, in a dirty wife-beater, watching reruns of intervention drinking this stuff. It’s that good, even if it is the most alcohol-like tasting thing on this list. Also, Darryl wants to say this is probably the only food stuff available on set at a Max Hardcore shoot. Well, that and shame.
4. Marshmallow - Less alcohol taste than #5 and it tastes like friggin marshmallows! And not in a nasty, super sweet way either. You can almost taste the powdered sugar that should surround each shot of this stuff. You’ll feel like the stay-puff marshmallow man just jizzed in your mouth, in a good way.
3. Whipped - The OG of the flavored vodkas could have been number one based solely on nostalgia. We could write loving essays about all the memories this wonderful creation has made hazy and forgotten. It comes in 3rd though, but if there’s any place to start the flavored vodka journey, it’s here.
2. Le Double Espresso - Move over Bloody Marys, there’s a new breakfast drink in town! Like coffee? Good, now imagine all that taste (and some of the caffeine) but as a vodka! Looking to get smashed at work? Just add a shot to your coffee (or add a shot of coffee to your vodka) and mum’s the word. This flavor leaves your breath smelling like coffee, not booze.
1. Butterscotch - “This is gonna be a problem” are the words of any serious drinker who tastes this stuff. Others will say “wow, this tastes like butterscotch,” or “This is amazing,” or “I need an adult!” That good. We’ve compared it to the taste of butterscotch smart water, if such a thing existed. See the problem? Neither do we.
TOP 5 CHASERS for the TOP 5 PINNACLES LIST aka WHAT TO GET THE PERSON WHO HAS EVERYTHING: Are you still chasing shots with a drink? Pfft. That’s so 2010. We’ve moved onto the diabetes type 2 approved, solid chaser list. All of these chasers compliment any of the vodkas perfectly but some are just slightly more yum than others.
5. Meats! - Preferably ham or bacon but steak would do just fine if you’re in a pinch. Just a smack of meat is all you need to achieve the delish salty/sweet combo, no need to eat the entire animal.
4. Chocolate chip cookies - Many of our favorite vodkas are almost sugary sweet so it’s nice to chase it with something that’s more of a mellow sweet. Bake ‘em from scratch or get left-overs from your holiday party, pop ‘em in the microwave, and you’ll be well on your way to morbid obesity.
3. Chocolate covered pretzel - It’s pretzels and beer for the new Willenium. Bonus points if the pretzel has jimmies or nuts on it or if you dipped the pretzel in chocolate yourself… because we’re keeping score, right?
2. Chocolate and peanut butter granola bar - An entire bar is a little much but cut one of these babies into sixths, stick a toothpick in each one and the whole affair turns super classy. Pinkies up!
1. Reese’s cup/pieces/fast break/big cup/whipped/minis/sticks - Anything the Reese’s company poops out makes the best chaser for these tasty vodkas because what goes better with sweet vodka than more sweets?! Now all you have to do is pick out what color Hoveround you want when you become too obese to walk.
*after tasting many of the Pinnacle fruit flavors, we decided that they were pretty similar to other fruit vodkas on the market and just weren’t tasty enough to make the list. Mix any of them with cranberry juice and have a good f’n time.