Comedian Tommy Pope (2012 Just For Laughs Festival, 2011 Philly’s Phunniest Person) can be seen is this clip from last night’s episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon applauding comedy legend Steve Martin during his entrance to the show. Look for his handsome face around the :45 second mark of the video.
Last night at Helium saw the return of The Bird Text Comedy Show, which featured a brand new Bird Text sketch as well as stand-up performances by Mary Radzinski, John McKeever, Doogie Horner, Tommy Pope and headliner Mike Lawrence. After the show I sat down with John McKeever and Tommy Pope of Bird Text for an enlightening conversation about comedy, the future of Bird Text and a big exciting new break for Tommy. Oh, and Doogie Horner showed up about halfway through and delivered a strong endorsement of Bird Text’s approach to comedy.
Dave Metter:What are some things that go into choosing what sketches you want to produce and whether or not you release them?
Tommy Pope: We’re not the kind of people who just rush shit out so you can see it. We want it to be good. If it’s not good we don’t put it out.
John McKeever: We won’t just rush to film something just so you can see something.
TP: Yeah, we don’t want to put a weekly video out but it’s also detrimental to our progress. Like, I also think we overthink things sometimes.
JM: We’re both busy and Luke [Cunningham, fellow member of Bird Text] is extremely busy now so production is not that easy, and we have ideas but unless they’re really good and we think it’ll make our name look better I don’t think it’s worth filming them and putting them out. A lot of people, especially sketch groups, have this idea that, “Throw enough shit to the wall, see what sticks.” We throw a lot of shit to our own wall and we’re like, “Just get rid of all the shit.” We’ve got a lot of shit that nobody’s ever seen because it’s not good enough.
DM: That you’ve shot or are only written?
JM: That we’ve shot but are not good enough.
TP: We also have stuff that’s written that we know is good enough but production…takes money. But we see other sketch groups and other people in Philly and, it’s a catch-22 because, if you don’t consistently put out people won’t seek you, they won’t subscribe, but they also won’t want to find you and what you’re doing next if you’re not consistent with quality. The next thing has to be better than the last.
DM: With most of the people coming to a show like this they’re probably expecting just stand-up, though some attending know you from your videos. I’m curious about your thoughts on how the audience adjusts between going from stand-up to a film sketch during a show.
TP: This thing we showed tonight we were looking at each other going, “That killed.”
JM: I think you’re right, it’s a curveball, and when you throw it into the middle of a show: stand-up, stand-up, stand-up, video, everyone’s like, “What the fuck?” ya know? But you get to see how an audience receives it before you release it on the internet. The first time we showed “The Real Househusbands of Philadelphia” it was here during a show and we were all in the green room and we thought, “If this doesn’t go well here then this isn’t seeing the light of day,” and that was our first real sketch and…it killed. We put it out a day or so later and it got like fifty-thousand views. So, it can be a good barometer.
TP: We were like, “What are we gonna do with all the money?! Let’s go to Wildwood and get weird!”
JM: We got Tommy and John airbrushed on a couple T-shirts.
TP: We have a lot in the pipeline always but we are very hesitant to release because we are always fearful that it’s not good enough, and to that point, it kind of hinders us and our progress. So I think we could be bigger but ya know, I think we’re a little too under the microscope.
DM: When you have an idea or premise, what’s the process of how you decide whether it’ll best fit as a stand-up bit or as a sketch?
JM: I think it’s so differentiated in my head that I know the difference between a bit, what would be good on stage, and what would be better in a sketch, and a lot of times when we think of a sketch we have 100% confidence in each other and we text each other, “Sketch idea, high-end premise” and it’ll be just the premise and if everyone’s like “haha” then we start. As far as stand-up goes, the way I’ve always written bits is I write about stuff that interests me and attaches to my other bits. But I think sketch has to be more quickly palatable.
TP: Sketches are popular because they’re popular to masses. With stand-up it’s like, it’s something popular but the intricate way of going about it makes it just yours. So for sketch, in order to break out to the masses you have to find something that people are interested in and it can’t be about some goofy fucking story about your wife or your girlfriend. You need something that people will immediately click with. There are so many [YouTube] channels doing like hacky Ke$ha parodies. We could easily find advertising dollars by being a hack-ass sketch group but we don’t want to do that, and we’re cutting our nose off despite our face, but at the same time it’s like I refuse to be that group who does Britney Spears and how it relates to the Super Bowl or whatever.
DM: How did you link up with Mike Lawrence?
JM: Mike knows Luke from stand-up in New York. Luke lived in New York for a while doing stand-up and did well there.
DM: How does Luke being back on the east coast, now that he is writing for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, affect Bird Text?
TP: Luke’s always been like the foundation of the structure of the sketches we write. He was in LA for a year but we’re excited he’s here and, it’s weird, no one recognizes his face or name from Bird Text which is unfortunate but he does a shit load of the creation of many of our sketches.
[Doogie Horner enters.]
Doogie Horner: Bird Text courts controversy wherever they go; they’re not going to apologize for being outspoken.
[Doogie Horner exits.]
DM:So you guys are thinking of doing a monthly Bird Text show at Helium?
TP: Yeah. We did a monthly thing here for four months during a summer on Tuesdays, but we hit all of the summer holidays that year which was rough.
DM: And when you’re doing monthlies you’ll be incorporating sketches?
TP: Yeah, we’d like to do three but this show date was short notice.
DM: Why was that?
JM: I don’t know, I think it’s because they always had an interest in bringing us back plus another comic cancelled the date and, I don’t know, I think they probably contacted a few headliners before they contacted us.
DM: Oh don’t say that.
JM: Oh no, in reality we were probably like sixth or seventh on the list.
TP: I love how optimistic you are, like, “Oh don’t say that.”
And the big announcement…
JM: So Luke got this thing with Fallon which is huge for us but also, Tommy is flying to LA soon to do voiceover work for Disney. He flew out for an audition, this woman saw him perform in Montreal and thought “that guy can crush voices,” brought him in, they asked him to do this mobster voice and he crushed it and they’re bringing him back.
TP: This is why everyone needs a best friend. That couldn’t have been delivered any more smoothly.
Dave Metter is a comedy writer from the Philly burbs. Follow Dave on Twitter @DaveMetter.
A new open mic at Connie’s Ric Rac (1132 S. 9th St.) hosted by Dan Vetrano and Joe Murdock begins tonight. The stage is open to all comedy performers and the hosts also encourage bringing a video to show on the Ric Rac’s screen. Sign ups begin at 8:30 and the mic starts at 9:00.
Philly Improv Theater is now accepting applications to their Improv Conservatory class to take place this spring. The conservatory class will accept eight students to work with director Steve Kleinedler to develop a new “style of play”. At the end of the eight-week class, the ensemble will perform a one-month run of shows at PHIT. Applications are being accepted until February 28.
This Wednesday touring show Comedians at Law will visit Helium Comedy Club (2031 Sansom St. Philadelphia). The show will feature performances from lawyers-turned-stand-up-comedians Alex Barnett, J-L Cauvin, Kevin Israel, Matt Ritter. Tickets can be purchased online.
Also this Wednesday Accidents Will Happen returns to The Adobe Cafe (947 E. Passyunk Ave.) This month’s show will feature performances from: Rachel Fogletto, Dave Terruso, Dan Scully, Matt Monroe, Malwina, Bino Brown, and Tommie Turner as well as a Dating Game and the “1st annual WitAccidents Open Mic Awards!” The show begins at 9:00pm and is immediately followed by an open mic.
This Thursday Bird Text brings their comedy show back to Helium Comedy Club for a night featuring stand-up from Mike Lawrence, Doogie Horner, Mary Radzinski, and Tommy Pope plus brand new Bird Text sketches. Tickets can be purchased online.
Chase N’ Laughs Comedy/Karaoke/Fish Fry is this Saturday at Treasures Banquet Hall (5549 Germantown Ave). Doors open at 5:00pm with free martinis being served until 6:00 and comedy beginning at 8:00. Tickets can be purchased by calling 267-405-2025.
Joe Conklin’s 3rd Annual Comedy Showcase is also taking place this Saturday at Glen Mills Thornbury Rotary at Penn Oaks Country Club (150 Penn Oaks Dr. West Chester, PA). The night will feature a DJ, cocktail hour, dinner, and comedy from the “man of a thousand voices.”
This Sunday Propoganda!, a monthly comedy show from Denver, CO., will come to L’etage (624 South 6th St.) for a free show featuring comedy from: Alex Grubard, Alex Pearlman, Doogie Horner, Scott Sharp, Brett Hiker, and Ray DeVito.
Philly Improv Theater will also have shows all this week at The Shubin Theater (407 Bainbridge Street). Some of their regular shows have changed days and times so make sure you check out their full schedule online.
If you have any Philly comedy news worth mentioning – send it our way with an email to email@example.com
One of the newest open mics in town, Comedy is Liberty, is expanding next week to become a full-on Saturday night stand-up showcase. Here’s creator Mike O’Donnell talking about the mic, as well as the upcoming show with headliner Tommy Pope.
WitOut: You’re heading up a new open mic and stand-up showcase, Comedy is Liberty. Can you give a brief history of how it got started?
Mike O’Donnell: I went to the Philly CAM (Community Access Media) Christmas party. I was talking to a film producer friend of mine, Sonny Vellozzi, and he told me that a local promoter wanted to get more into the comedy scene because it’s really growing. The promoter was consulting the new owners of the bar Liberties in Northern Liberties, so we scheduled a meeting to look at the room and agreed we could work with the space. Comedy is Liberty was born.
WO: What’s the philosophy behind the name of the show?
MOD: It’s one part marketing, one part philosophy. The name of the bar is Liberties (705 N 2nd Street 19123) and the section of the city is called Northern Liberties, so I figured it would be easy for people to remember if I called the show “Comedy is Liberty.” The philosophy part is based on a quote from Oscar Wilde: “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you.” Recognizing that stand-up comedy is truly one of the purest ways to express freedom of speech is important. Comedy is liberating because it often gives the audience a brief moment to suspend all of their preconceived notions and see things from a different perspective. Plus you’ll hear better dick jokes than the censors will allow on T.V.
WO: A bunch of new Philly open mics have popped up recently. What are the advantages of dropping by Comedy is Liberty?
MOD: The room and the people. I’ve been doing stand-up comedy since 2000. I’ve seen a lot of people start rooms and not every space can make it work. I would have never started this room if I did not think the space would work. And it works. The feedback I have gotten from the comics has been positive and we’re still trying to improve. We are working with the owner to provide a “set of the night” gift certificate to the comic that has the best set. I also plan on offering interesting services down the line like recording sets and animating a comic’s bit.
Most importantly, the people that are involved with the show are why people should come down. Besides doing stand-up comedy, I have acted and worked in film, and there is still a wide margin of networking that needs to happen between sections of the Philadelphia entertainment community. I have been reaching out to my writer, actor, animator and filmmaking friends to come to shows. People like Stephanie Yuhas and Matt Conant from the Project Twenty One film festival and Loren Lepre, who runs a bi-monthly short film festival out of the Trocadero. I want everyone who is involved in the arts in Philadelphia to check out the room. You’ll enjoy a great show, and just maybe end up collaborating with someone you meet there on a future project. The fact that I started the room with a film producer and a local promoter is a perfect example of this. I look at it as continuing the road that WitOut started when you organized sketch, improv and stand-up into one site that people could look for.
WO: Who are Starman and New Jack, and why do you think they’ve taken an interest in promoting the mic? [Editor's note: see promo video below]
MOD: New Jack and Starman are professional wrestlers and comedians. New Jack has been known as the craziest wrestler to ever step into the ring. Plus he scared kids straight on Maury Povich. New Jack has begun to run out of new wrestlers to kick the shit out of, so he is getting more into stand-up comedy. He has some epic stories and will be dropping by Comedy is Liberty to hone his jokes and tighten up the delivery of hilarious New Jack adventures.
Starman is a wrestler from spacewho was featured on one of Nintendo’s first Pro Wrestling games. Starman decided to make a comeback after seeing a movie called The Wrestler. He is getting back in shape to provoke the Amazon into a match and New Jack is his mentor. Starman knows that cutting promos is a big part of getting popular as a wrestler, so he plans to stop by Comedy is Liberty occasionally and work on his microphone techniques.
WO: The first Comedy is Liberty weekend show is next Saturday, February 9th, with headliner Tommy Pope. How did you book Tommy?
MOD: I met Tommy through comedian Mike Rainey and we hung out personally before I really saw a lot of his act. We were just having fun joking around over beers and then a week later I saw him do 30 minutes and was really blown away. Then he follows that up with the Bird Text videos, which are amazingly funny. Sonny Vellozzi loved his act too, and when we were starting the room he asked if I could reach out to see if he could headline the first weekend show. I called Tommy and luckily he was available.
WO: Give us your top 3 reasons why people shouldn’t miss the February 9th show.
The talent. Besides Tommy Pope I have booked Darryl Charles and Mary Radzinski, who are also hilarious. I am very proud of the talent I was able to put together. Everyone is a seasoned comedian and some of the best that Philadelphia has to offer.
The timing. It is the weekend after the Super Bowl, which is a notoriously blah weekend. Instead of being depressed that we are in the grips of winter and football is over, take control of your situation and see a show that will really make you laugh and get you involved in an amazingly fun experience.
The atmosphere. Liberties has on old time feel to it that I really like. Both the upstairs and downstairs bars are gorgeous and after the comedy show ends a DJ will start. It is going to be a party and we’re going to have a lot of fun.
The Humor Has It Comedy Show (Maximillian’s Restaurant, 3001 Naaman’s Creek Road, Boothwyn, PA) this Saturday will feature performances by: Bradley Beck, Fastball Pitcher Gob Gutierrez, Mike Rainey, John McKeever, and headliner Tommy Pope. Reservations can be made by calling 610-485-3500.
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!
I love seeing comedy in Philly but with a day job outside of the city it’s difficult to make it to too many shows. Since I’m a writer/performer on The Monthly Hour, I usually try to make it to that show, and since it’s a variety show, I get to see a lot of different acts there. So here is my list of the top 5 guest appearances on The Monthly Hour that I’ve actually seen (I missed a couple shows—sorry, ManiPedi—and was not allowed out of the basement at the Shubin Theater for others).
5. Brendan Kennedy Some may call it a sentimental pick, but I thought his stand-up at the November show was great. Brendan is heading to LA in January to eventually park cars for a living, but in the 2 months before his departure, he has graced us with a number of great performances. The Philly Comedy scene is going to miss Brendan Kennedy. Minus the drunken slurring, he is what funny people in this city should strive to be. A great stand-up, a member of a spectacular sketch group (Camp Woods), host of an awesome show at the PHIT (Guilty Pleasures) and a member of a crappy improv group (Hate Speech Committee—and for the record, I’m not saying all improv is crappy, just Hate Speech), Brendan embraces all things funny. Plus, he discovered Roger Snair.
4. Tommy Pope Picking a Tommy performance seems like cheating, but I remember this one as particularly funny. Tommy had a great year in comedy and getting the chance to see people like him perform in an intimate theater like the Philly Improv Theater at the Shubin Theater is a really cool thing.
3. Omar Scruggs
When Darryl Charles couldn’t perform at Philly Sketchfest due to a hole in his neck, Omar stepped in at the last minute and performed Darryl’s part. We asked Omar to act like a warm-up comedian from Def Comedy Jam which was completely incongruous with the wholesome “Morning Show” that he was opening for. Omar came out and yelled so many profane things at the audience that he ran out of breath. Later he came back out and ended the show with an amazing ad lib, “All right, you muthaf’ers, I’m back!” The crowd went nuts. Really one of the funniest moments I saw live this year.
2. Christian Alsis Christian came on the show and performed stand-up. If you’ve only ever seen Christian be a Feeko Brother and have never seen him do stand-up, you’re missing out. Billy Bob Thompson might be the good looking one in the duo, but Christian is definitely one of the top two funniest members of the Feeko Brothers. What made Christian’s performance even better is that he stayed onstage after his set and performed as himself in a pun-based game show sketch. He learned his lines in the 30 minutes before the show and really did a great job of “acting” confused.
1. Chip Chantry and the Chip Chantry Players This was such a simple bit, but one that still makes me laugh. Chip and the Players (aka Carl Boccuti) came out as a new improv group. Upon taking a suggestion from the crowd, they took a few notes on paper and then promised to come back the following month to perform some “improv” based on that suggestion. So simple, but so incredibly funny.
Thanks to everybody that was a part of The Monthly Hour this year and thanks to everyone in the Philly comedy community. Keep it funny and friendly.
Mikey Gleason is a stand-up comedian, a filmmaker, and a writer/performer on The Monthly Hour with James Hesky at Philly Improv Theater. Follow him on Twitter at @mikeygleason and subscribe to his YouTube channel. It would help him cry less.
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 email@example.com so we can share it!
Philadelphia’s own Dom Irrera will be headlining at Helium Comedy Club this week. The home-grown comedian is known for his many stand-up specials, television and film work, and is a fixture at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal.
The Laff House’s Thanksgiving Weekend line-up will feature headliner Alex Thomas, known for his appearances in films such as Why Do Fools Fall in Love, Just Married, and Don’t be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. The show will feature 2011 Philly’s Phunniest Person Contest winner Tommy Pope and will be hosted by TuRae.
The final Hey Everybody! at PHIT will take place one week from today at 10pm at The Philly Improv Theater at The Shubin Theater (407 Bainbridge St. Philadelphia). Host of the show Aaron Hertzog is moving to Los Angeles and will be sending his show off in style with performaces by: Chip Chantry, Brendan Kennedy, Joe Dougherty, Mary Radzinski, Jim Grammond, Christian Alsis, Alison Zeidman, and Rob Baniewicz.