Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 18

The final preliminary round of the 2011 Philly's Phunniest Person Contest was held last night at Helium Comedy Club. Steve Balbier, Munzy K, and Gary Vider advanced to the semi-finals, which will be held next Sunday, and Monday at the club. Tickets can be purchased ONLINE.

Bye Bye Liver: The Philadelphia Drinking Play is searching for talented actors (men and women ages 21-40) with experience in improv, theatre and sketch comedy to join its ensemble. Also searching for an assistant director, pianists and guitarists, stage managers, and technical directors. Visit for more information or contact to schedule an audition.

The Philly Fringe Festival is fast approaching. This year's Fringe Festival will feature various comedy shows including twenty-four, Friends of Alcatraz, Dark Comedy, Fresh Laughs, PHIT House Team Shows, The Groundswell Players Present The Speed of Surprise . PHIT has recently announced they will be bringing the famous Cambridge Footlights to perform at the Adrienne on Sunday, September 18th at 7:00pm. Tickets will go on sale soon.

Tomorrow night The Barbary will play host to another Comedy Dreamz show featuring sketch, stand-up, and short films. Doors open at 9 and the show starts at 10. (Facebook Event)

Center City Comedy has released a new sketch - Painballing With Rambo. The sketch features performances by James Hesky, Billy Bob Thompson, Mary Radzinski, and Andy Nolan as the titular character - as well as a slew of other Philly comics in supporting roles. Check it out right here!

Ten Questions With...Steve Kleinedler

Photo by Ben Snitkoff

Steve Kleinedler is an improviser and director who recently joined the Philadelphia scene after working at ImprovBoston. He is currently directing the PHIT Fringe Festival show twenty-four.

How and why did you get into comedy? I was always interested in theatre, and I slowly slid into comedy in high school in the early 80s when I took part in a program for teenagers affiliated with the Flint Community Players. Every Saturday for 2 years, about a dozen of us would play around, and we gravitated toward improv without fully even realizing it was improv, per se. I don't think I got into comedy intentionally, it just sort of happened.
How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? I'm a verbal player. I'm quick to make connections and see patterns verbally, and I have a good command of the English language. I've done several hundred radio interviews for work, and I can talk fluently at length on many subjects. Doing improv is an extension of that skill.
Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? After a while, venues blend together. Essentially they're all rooms with an audience, so it really makes no difference to me as long as they're acoustically sound.  My favorite show was not one I was in, but one I directed: Backstory, up at ImprovBoston, in which the story unfolded backward in time, like the movie Memento. The actors spent eight weeks rehearsing and then had an eight week run, and it was really intense, and they nailed every single performance. All the actors attended every single rehearsal (except for one person who missed one week because she was in Ireland), so it was insanely tight. Favorite shows I was in is my two-person show with Harry Gordon: Directions with Steve & Harry.
Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? The first time I did Adrift (PHIF 6, I think), I literally met Kelly Vrooman about 2 seconds before we went onstage. We took our places in the dark, the lights went up, and she and I locked eyes and *immediately* had a fully fleshed out backstory and we were both on the same page. Without saying anything! It was amazing. And then I got to make out with Kristen Schier. It was quite a show.
My favorite moment that I wasn't a part of involves Mary Carpenter, both in Dangerous Minds at Duofest 2, and in Matt Nelson's Stage Fright. I can't narrow them down, but it's a joy to watch her act.
Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? Not a conscious one. By now, it's just sort of ingrained and I just sort of do it.
What is it about improv that draws you to it? When it's on fire, it's one of the most gratifying things to watch as an audience member. As a director, when you see your cast hit it, it's also immensely gratifying.
Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? Right now, I'm going to say the entire cast of 24 (the fringe project I'm directing for PHIT).
Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire?  I did this outgig -- a Christmas party at the police union up in Boston. They were in a mood to party and they were NOT in a mood to watch a show; additionally, the three guys I performed with had gotten into an accident on the way there. (I got a call from them -- I was stuck in the traffic behind the accident they were a part of!) When we saw how hostile the site was to us, we immediately cut our 45 minute set down to about 20 minutes.  We played 'Interrogation' -- and when we asked for a crime that had been committed, one person responded from the back of the room: "Ate a crap." That pretty much sums up the night. It was awful.
What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow? I moved to Philadelphia four months ago because I'm completely jazzed about the scene. When I decided to move on from Boston, I could literally have moved anywhere in the country I wanted to, and I chose Philadelphia in large part for the comedy scene that so many people from so many backgrounds have worked hard to create. The opportunity to perform here is greater than in most cities (mostly because rental spaces are so plentiful and relatively inexpensive), and it's so nice to see performers and producers take advantage of that.
As the different groups and organizations work together more and more, the stronger the community will become. A rising tide lifts all boats. I see so many encouraging signs that everyone wants a vibrant comedy scene in Philadelphia. There's plenty of room for all of the existing organizations (and then some). The movers and shakers behind PHIT, PHIF, ComedySportz, to name just three, all deserve a huge deal of credit for bringing the city to its current level of comedy offerings, and the addition of newer umbrella organizations like Polygon just point to the vibrancy of the scene. I can't imagine doing this in any other city. The trajectory is definitely on an upswing.
Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy?  My only goal ever, was to be in an opening credits sequence. I did some video sketch comedy in the late 90s, so I hit that goal. I am fortunate that I have a good day job, which leaves my evenings and weekends free to pursue theatre. My focus is on directing and coaching, so what makes me happy is helping other improvisers continually improve.

A Great Debate featuring Darryl Charles and James Hesky (Round One)

James Hesky and Darryl Charles are two Philadelphia comedians and the founders of the deep, dark, dank cellar of the Podcast World - Cheapodcast.  Darryl and James have tackled one of the biggest hot button questions of the 20th century… who are bigger assholes, Football players or Basketball players.  Over the next three rounds, we’ll let them make opening statements, rebuttals, and concluding arguments. By the end, we should all be a little more enlightened:

Let the debate begin!

 James Hesky: Basketball players are worse than Football players.

Being a bad person is to basketball as taking steroids is to baseball. Even the hero of the NBA, Michael Jordan, was a degenerate gambler and a philanderer who quit on his team and his sport to see if he could try another sport for another year. Hall of Famer Charles Barkley famously said “I am not a role model” and then backed it up by getting a DUI and used the excuse that he was rushing to go get a BJ. And these are the guys who are the face of the league.

Hey, remember that time all those football players got in a brawl with fans? Me neither. But it happened in the NBA because Ron Artest got a cup thrown at him.

You know what I hate? How Peyton Manning always shows up for the season 30 pounds overweight and just decides he’ll play his way into shape during the season and be ready for the playoffs. Oh wait, that’s what Shaquille O’Neal did for the entire second half of his career.

Even after they retire, NBA players can’t stop being horrible human beings. As the GM of the Knicks, Isiah Thomas used his position of power to sexually harass one of his employees. The worst part is that people in the NBA don’t even think that the fact that he’s a sexual predator is the worst thing about him, he is still most infamous for simply being a terrible GM.

Darryl Charles: Football players are worse than basketball players:

Imagine you could build the perfect asshole (person, not body part). The person would have to be arrogant, rude, obnoxious and self-centered. This person would have to be fantastic at exploiting weakness for the joy of others, awesome at hurting those weaker than him. The person should have an imposing physique, making sure intimidation happened on sight. They should be rich and famous, allowing for mindless adoration and a group of hangers on that would only feed the ego of this asshole. In short, this person should be a football player.

Football is a tough sport. It is a sport where large men dress in pads and run into each other to establish dominance on the placement and movement of a small ball. It is a game in which pain is a weapon and avoiding it will most likely lead to a loss. Physically tormenting your opponent is only surpassed by psychologically tormenting your opponent to the point their concentration is shaken and their game is rendered inept. This is going to breed an asshole.

The list of current and former players is as deep as Tiki Barber’s bank accounts, before he got divorced from his wife after leaving her while pregnant for an 20 something intern at a broadcasting job he wasn’t good at and used to ridicule the team that let him rise to enough popularity to get said job: Ray Lewis (alleged murderer!), Lawrence Taylor, Dan Marino, Bill Romanowski, Ben Rothlisberger, Terrell Owens, Chad OchoCinco, Plaxico Burress, Joe Namath and even Bill Bellicheck. A list of the exploits of the aforementioned people is a thorough how-to on assholetry.

Murder, harassment, steroid abuse, finger biting, attempted rape, cheating (both in the game and in life), cockiness, erratic behavior, bullying and general assholy behavior are hallmarks of the NFL and it players and coaches.


Interview with Down The Show's Abigail Bruley

Abigail Bruley is a writer, actor, and producer of Philly themed video comedy project Down The Show, which will premiere its' second episode tonight at Connie's Ric Rac (Facebook Event).

Witout: Where did you get the idea for "Down the Show?"

Abigail Bruley: A deep, dark canal in the back of my brain. On my first visit there, I ran into Corey Cohen and Doogie Horner holding Moleskins and cheering me on. Those two may never know, but they were a main catalyst for me.

WO: Tell us about the production process for the show.

AB: Well, let's just say I spend a lot of time alone, laughing or crying to myself. You're a comedian, so you know, it's long periods of torture followed by short bursts of elation.

WO: How do you balance between creating new material and showcasing already produced sketches? What is the selection process like?

AB: If it makes people laugh that don't know the people in the sketch, it's in.

WO: Have you had to do a lot of Philadelphia comedy scouting in your time producing the show? Do you have any fun stories or experiences watching comedy around town?

AB: Yes, scouting is a new thing thing for me. Being the FNG to the scene, I'm always blown away by the crazy, innovative material that comes pouring out of these people, it's amazing! Also, it's no secret that comedians are nerds, but I feel like I've being gradually clued in to this whole new level of nerd that I never really knew existed, or, at least, didn't want to believe existed. There are the 'safe' nerds that are into comic books and Sci-Fi and then there are these people, in the seedy underworld of nerd. It's fascinating.

WO: Do you have a set format for the show in mind or do you plan on playing with things and keeping it loose?

AB: We will always have stand-up mixed with sketch. We will always have a new logo, hand-painted by a local artist and hand-drawn title cards painted by me. We will always have a new theme song by the maniacally-talented Ryan Kerrigan and we will always work with a new local band for background music. The editing will always be the vision of Andrew Laputka, because he's so damn good at it. Besides all that stuff,  it is unrestrained.

WO: What are your plans for the future of the show?

AB: Oh man, who knows. I don't want to think about where it will end up – probably in the back of a van somewhere. I just want to continue collaborating with people and putting something out there on a consistent basis. I used to be a perfectionist and now I realize how limiting that can be. I feel very good about letting people in on our process and allowing our audience watch us grow and working stuff out in front of them.

WO: Have you got any pitches for the show from people who were clearly crazy? Tell us about it!

AB: I'm a chick at the wheel, dudes hate that. I've been threatened with sketches. I've been bullied into including jokes I wasn't completely behind. It's rough out there, and I haven't completely figured out how to handle it yet. I try to remember that it's coming from a good place, that it's the result of a strong desire to be a part of something, which will never be a bad thing. I have learned it's best not to work with any overactive egos, though, however, simply because they are no fun.

Mark Leopold "Interviews" Aaron Hertzog

Mark Leopold is a Philadelphia improviser, sketch comedian, employee, driver-who-talks-on-his-cell-phone-but-is-constantly-scanning-the-road-for-police-officers-because-then-he’ll- totally-just-drop-his-phone-into-his-lap-and-pretend-he-was-just-resting-his-head-on-his-hand- and-they’ll-never-even-have-a-clue, and a friend. He is a member of the PHIT house team Hey Rube as well as a new addition to the cast of Comedysportz and he does sketch comedy with his group The Hold-up. When he isn’t doing one of these things he is busy doing other things, like working and laundry, and so while he sincerely wishes he was able to be a real interviewer, the best he is able to do is interview people in his head while he drives different places. Today, while on 476 north, Mark took some time to sit down in a very quaint coffee shop in his head with Philadelphia comedian, improviser, sketch guy, and Hey Rube teammate Aaron Hertzog.

MARK LEOPOLD: Hey Aaron, it’s me Mark!

AARON HERTZOG: (laughing) Hey Mark.

ML: I’m glad you took the time to sit down with me today.

AH: I’m happy to do it Mark.

ML: So let’s just dive right in, who are you and what have you done with my son?

Aaron laughs and Mark joins him. Aaron stops laughing and looks at Mark expectantly.

ML: Do you want money? Is that it?

AH: I don’t have your son, I didn’t even know you had a son.

ML: I don’t in real life, but I do here.

AH: Here in your head?

ML: Yes. Here in my head at the coffee shop which, now that I stop and think about it for a second, is just the coffee shop from Inception where Leonardo DiCaprio explains the premise of the movie to Ellen Page.

AH: You want to make everything explode? This is your day dream after all.

ML: Get real Aaron! That would be so derivative.

The coffee shop explodes but, since my memory isn’t great, the way it is rendered leaves a lot to be desired.

AH: That was fun.

ML: Eh.

AH: You didn’t think that was fun?

ML: The whole thing just felt forced.

AH: …okay then.

There is a moment of uncomfortable silence as Mark looks at a speck of something that is floating in his coffee. He hopes it’s just a coffee ground, but with all the explosions and everything, it seems more likely to be a piece of debris. He picks it out of his coffee and wipes his fingers on a napkin. Aaron tries to force small talk.

AH: I don’t drink coffee.

ML: No?

AH: No, I don’t like the taste.

ML: Yeah, I could see that.

AH: I guess I’m not an “adult.”

ML: Do you still like the smell of gasoline?

AH: Yeah.

ML: Me too, but not as much.

AH: That’s weird how you grow to like some smells when you grow up and you stop liking others. You always hear about acquired tastes, but you don’t hear much about acquired smells.

ML: Like body odor.

AH: I don’t think that’s true.

ML: I think I read somewhere that Matthew McConaughey doesn’t wear deodorant because he thinks women like the way he smells naturally.

AH: I bet he smells like vanilla.

ML: …but like, really manly vanilla.

AH: That wouldn’t work out as well for me.

ML: Yeah, me neither, I’m an Old Spice man now. I made the switch. It took a little while for my armpits to stop burning when I put it on, but I think the nerve endings are dead now. So it was tough, but hey, I really like their commercials.

AH: Well you had no choice then.

ML: True. Op! This is my exit Aaron, I gotta run.

AH: See you! Friendship!

ML: Friendship!

The coffee shop re-explodes.

First and Last Words with Joe Moore: Ministry of Secret Jokes

Much can be, and has been, said about the Ministry of Secret Jokes. I was present for the show on August 8th, and since there was no oath taken beforehand, I am free to reveal events of the evening.

Below are the first and last words from each comedian who appeared on stage:

Comedian : First word / Last word

Steve Gerben: Hello / Story
Doogie Horner: Thank / Night
Chip Chantry: Hey / You
John McKeever: Give / Attention
Micah McGraw: Hi / Yeah
Baby Doug McGraw: Is / Ok
Corey Cohen: Yeah / Phone
Conrad Roth: Thanks / Horner
Bing Supernova: More / Not
David Terruso: Hello / Much
Black Wexler: You / Mother
Brendan Kennedy: Something / University

It should be noted, some of the performers appeared on stage multiple times through out the night. The words listed are their first from when they first spoke into a microphone, last words are final words spoken in the entire evening.

Joe Moore is a comedy fan and sometimes-performer. You can follow him on Twitter.

Unsolicited Advice: "Being a Comedian While Maintaining a Family" by Mike Rainey

Comedians love giving advice, most of the time when they’re not even asked for it! Unsolicited Advice is WitOut’s chance to give Philly comics the opportunity to do just that, without looking like a know-it-all so-and-so.

If you are thinking of making a career in comedy, don't start a family. However, if you are an immature, reckless, simpleton who has no qualms about shunning the lifestyle of a well-adjusted adult in order to pursue your dream of becoming an entertainer, then continue reading as I will gladly show you how I've done it. It's of utmost importance to decide early on in life if one would like to pursue dreams or start a family and spiral into the abyss. Thirty two years into my life, I've decided I'd like to have a career in comedy, but I also enjoy providing for my family so I have to teeter somewhere in the middle.

I began my career in comedy over eight years ago. Around that same time, I found out my girlfriend and I were expecting a baby. I fuckin' love babies so I was pretty excited about the whole deal. Fortunately, once the baby came, my lovely fiance Jaime handled the brunt of the responsibilities while I caroused from open mic to open mic and performed roughly one show per weekend. This continued for about three years until my second daughter came along. I had to contribute a bit more at home, so comedy had to take a backseat now. I would wander into the occasional open mic and only do about 15-20 shows a year for the next three years. Then, Jaime and I found out we were expecting our final offspring, my son. When it comes to safe sex, Jaime and I have the planning skills of middle school rave organizers. If Jaime and I ever started a White Stripes-type band, we'd call ourselves Reckless Fuckers. So, logically, once our family starting rolling five deep, I decided it's time to dedicate myself to comedy.

Honestly, being a comedian with a family is an absolute trainwreck. I can't sit at the computer to write without breaking up a fight, cleaning up a mess, commenting on whether an outfit looks alright or not, changing goddam batteries on toys, answering why I'm on the computer, answering when I'm going to be off the computer, figuring out why the fuck one of the other four people or two cats in the house is crying, or just simply having someone stand over my shoulder as I type. Also, when I announce that I have to leave to do a show, the responses from the ladies of my home range from tears to anger. All in all, I wouldn't trade my life for anything. But please, if you have a dream to be a comedian and you do not have a wife or children, run with that dream. For the love of God, run like the wind! Or don't. The world is always in need of fresh roustabouts.

Mike Rainey is a Philadelphia comedian and host of The Donkey Show, a weekly comedy show on He is also one of the organizers of Comedians for a Cause.

If you’re a comic and want us to post your Unsolicited Advice, send us an email at

ComedySportz Announces Rookie Class of 2011

After 2 days, 20 hours and 100 amazingly funny people, ComedySportz is proud to announce The Rookie Class of 2011:

Alan Williams, Darryl Charles, Sue Taney, Kevin Lopez, Mark Leopold, Daniel Dorff, Rachel Sydney, Kevin Regan, Langston Darby and Lulu Krause.

ComedySportz calls new cast members “Rookies” out of tradition, but that title should in no way undermine their talent:

“These guys are really going to impress!” says Rookie Trainer, Jason Stockdale. “We are adding a group of very funny performers to our company. I’m looking forward to working with them over the coming months and can’t wait for them to hit the ComedySportz Arena and destroy everyone with their skills.”

The Rookies begin training this week and will debut mid-Fall.

ComedySportz performs every Saturday night at 7:30 and 10PM. Starting in September, ComedySportz expands its programming with “Final Fridays” — a series of new shows the last two weeks of every month.