Ten Questions With...Pat House

Pat House is a stand-up comedian who started in Philadelphia, has since moved to New York, but is still around Philly quite a bit. He is also the host of the upcoming In the Beginning... a City Spotlight show that will present some of Philadelphia's top comedians showing videos of their early performances, while roasting themselves along the way and (hopefully) showing how far they've come.
How and why did you get into comedy? As a young kid, watching comedy on television intirgued me. I was too young to understand the jokes, but I remember loving the fact that these people were just making other people laugh. When I was in high school, the "Comedy Central Presents..." series launched (as well as "Last Comic Standing") and I watched an ungodly amount of stand-up. I took notice of a lot of comics, their individuality and developed some favorite comedians. Then, during my freshman year of college I saw Dave Attell, Lewis Black, Mitch Hedberg and Mike Birbiglia at the Tower Theater and I was blown away. This night literally changed my life. I was laughing like I had never laughed before, and I distinctly remember thinking "I HAVE to try this!" I imagined me being on stage, getting those laughs and I knew I just had to at least try it - even just once. It became an obsessive thought. Then on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2004, I went to the Laff House for their open mic and have not stopped since day one.

How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? I have no idea. I started off with set-up/punchline type-jokes that were completely fictitious, then once I became more comfortable on stage, my set-up/punchline jokes took a more personal angle. Now, I still have some set-up/punchline type of jokes, I have a few stories, I have some observations. It's a mess. I'm influenced by so much comedy that whan it comes down to it, I have no idea what I want to do, so I'm trying different things until something clicks.

Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? I love performing at Helium. It's my home club and they have been nothing but amazing to me. Helium is the place where I've built my entire act. From open-mics, to guest sets, to hosting to featuring. I learned more there than anywhere else. When that room is sold-out, the electricity is unreal. Because of Helium, I have literally opened for most of my favorite comics - Attell, Alexandro, Giraldo, Fitzsimmons, Maron - and dozens of others. Helium is literally my second home. If I have a free night, I'm there.

Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? I think I'll go with the first time I was asked to host a full week at Helium. I hosted a few open-mics there, but getting the full week was like getting called up to the big leagues. It was like So wait...you WANT me to open for Nick DiPaolo?!? AND you're going to pay me for it?!?

Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? Or a sort of method that you use to develop comedic material? I don't really have a creative process, I usually just jot down random ideas and come back to them later. Lately, I've been going to the library for an hour or two a day. No computer, no phone, no iPod - just my notebook. I've been making more of an effort to carry a notebook with me at all times, I think that helps a little. I find that the more I read, the more I write. When i'm going through book after book, I always feel I have more ideas and I seem to 'notice' more things, as opposed to when I'm not really reading and kind of in a lull. So because of that, I read as often as I can, but sometimes the laziness wins. I still think some of the best lines are the ones that just come to you. You have an idea, something clicks and it works immediately.

What is it about stand-up that draws you to it? It's a rush. It's euphoric. It's addicting. There is absolutely nothing like having a killer set. I always want to perform. If I have a bad set, I want to get on stage again and redeem myself. If I have a great set, I can't wait to get on stage again and hopefully re-create that feeling. There's no middle ground, I always want to get on stage. I feel the most comfortable on stage. I know it's totally cliche, but I feel that I can be myself on stage. The freedom is unlike anything else.

Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? Chip Chantry is my favorite joke-writer. He's constantly running creative and original ideas by me and usually they're solid jokes from the start. Chip has a natural talent for joke-writing. Whether it's material, roasting or a specific project, he always has the ability to crush with solid jokes, delivery and commitment. Steve Gerben is an incredible performer. I love his ability to take his deeply personal experiences and make them hilarious. He's animated, he really sells his bits and he's always working on something - new material, short videos - I love his creativity. Mike Rainey...I don't even know where to begin. I think he's the only comic in Philly that has actually made my cry laughing. Like, actual tears running down my cheeks. The whole Philly scene is incredible. There's so much I could say about everyone.

Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? Every show has gone smoothly and according to plan!

What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow? I sincerely believe that being supportive, being nice and helping others does wonders. The support in the Philly comedy scene is astounding and I miss it immensely. There's no shame in asking for help or giving another comic friendly advice. As long as ever-yone tries their best, take risks and is there for each other, on stage and off, that's all it needs.

Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy? I just want to do comedy full-time. I'm not looking for celebrity status or to have my name up there with Pryor or Carlin. My ultimate goal is be a full-time working comic. If comedy can pay my bills and provide a comfortable/fun lifestyle, I'd be more than happy.


Center City Comedy's Third Anniversary Show

Three years ago Chris Cotton, H. Foley and Conrad Roth started a new Thursday night open mic at The Raven Lounge. They saw Philly as a city with a lot of talent, and a shortage of stage time - and decided to take matters into their own hands. In the three years that have passed a lot of mics have come and gone but Center City Comedy is still going strong as ever on Thursday nights. Roth has since moved to San Francisco, but his departure made way for Tom Cassidy to join the group in helping run the open mic. The Thursday night mic at The Raven Lounge has been a place where more established comedians can work on new bits, where new guys can get up and join the Philly comedy community, and has become a room where visiting comedians love to do drop in sets. Various comedians from out of town have commented on how great the crowd is, and how lucky Philly comics are to have a spot like the Raven as an open mic room. The guys have also branched out, helping other comics start their own rooms at various places in the city and Philly has gained a strong open mic scene since. Center City Comedy has also started to produce their own sketch videos, and  has become an LLC.

Tonight, the third anniversary of Center City Comedy at the Raven Lounge will be celebrated with a show in which favorite comics from the past three years as well as hosts of other open mics around the city will perform. The guys will also give out awards throughout the night, and the show will end with a party in the upstairs room at the Raven. Festivities start, as usual, at 9pm and the party will probably last all night.


Philly's Phunniest Reunion Show

It's been almost an entire month since Helium Comedy Club crowned Tommy Pope 2011's Philly's Phunniest Person - and it's already time for a reunion of some of the comedians that made the final round of this year's contest. Tonight, the club will host the Philly's Phunniest Reunion Show featuring sets from Pope, along with runner up Darryl Charles and third place finisher John McKeever, as well as comedy from fellow finalists Chip Chantry and Andy Nolan. The show starts tonight at 8 and you can buy tickets online or (and I would recommend this option) call the club at 215-496-9001, mention any of the performers names, and get free admission. Check out some videos from tonight's performers below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdKdhZ7hQpk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtnDlKu0FRY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWA5ii_V_PY&feature=channel_video_title

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vW16-BB8eAw


Mark Leopold "Interviews" Aubrie Williams

Mark Leopold is a Philadelphia improviser, sketch comedian, employee, future-skin-cancer-victim-because-he-doesn’t-really-believe-the-scores-of-studies-linking-sunburn-to-skin-cancer-risk, 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 Rittenhouse Square with Philadelphia comedian, improviser, sketch lady, and King Friday member Aubrie Williams.
MARK LEOPOLD: Hey Aubrie, it’s me Mark!
They knuckle dap ironically.
AUBRIE WILLIAMS: Boom.
ML: So let’s just clear up the question which everyone is asking. Are you related to Alan Williams?
AW: Nope, we just have the same last name.
ML: What about my friend from college Tom Williams?
AW: Again no.
ML: And you were never married to either of them.
AW: I was not.
Mark scans his list of notes about what to cover in this interview.
ML: (making thoughtful noises) Okay then…moving right along. Tell me about your childhood.
AW: Well I grew up in the suburbs so…
A panhandler walks by them slowly with a sign reading “Out of work (line break) lost my home (line break) Anything helps” Mark becomes very interested in his notes and begins making amendments and additions which will later prove to be nothing more than a series of squiggly lines, but he assumes that the panhandler will not be able to determine the difference. Aubrie meanwhile speaks in the slow halting fashion of someone who is focusing more on a passing panhandler than on the response she is giving.
AW: …there…wasn’t…a…lot…to…do…so…I…found…ways…to…amuse…myself…with…stuff…like…I…don’t…know…stuff…and…
The panhandler, having passed a far enough distance away to be spoken about, is now approached by an older man around forty seven and given what appears to be five dollars. Mark ponders what his responsibility in such situations is. People always say not to give panhandlers money, but is it uncharitable not to? Or conversely, is it wrong to give them money?
ML: Would it be wrong to give him money?
AW: I don’t think so.
ML: But what if he’s like a drug addict and he uses the money to buy drugs. Am I responsible for that?
AW: I don’t think so.
ML: I read a Steven King short story once about a guy who makes like a hundred grand a year pretending to be a panhandler and now I doubt the honesty of every panhandler I meet.
AW: That doesn’t seem fair.
ML: I saw a guy down on Columbus Ave. with nicer sneakers than me.
AW: He might have gotten them before he lost everything.
ML: I think by definition, that means he hasn’t yet lost everything.
AW: Just his home and his livelihood?
ML: Yeah…but he still has some really nice sneakers.
AW: You’re a glass half full kinda guy aren’t you?
ML: I think it’s the little things in life that make it worth living.
AW: I need an example.
ML: Okay, like when you’re driving down the highway in the rain and you go underneath an underpass and there is that momentary respite from the sound of the rain hitting your roof.
AW: I don’t think these people have cars…
ML: …and they probably spend more than just a moment beneath underpasses…
AW: What?
ML: I imagine they live below underpasses.
AW: Do they?
ML: Yeah, they have little villages right?
Another panhandler walks by, a woman this time. Her sign is even sadder. It’s so sad I won’t even read it to you. It’s just super sad.
AW: Wow.
ML: Yeah…that sign…whew.
AW: Gut-wrenching.
ML: Does it seem like there are more panhandlers now than there used to be?
AW: When?
ML: I don’t know, before.
AW: It’s probably because of the economy.
ML: Weird…if you lost your job would you ever consider becoming a panhandler?
AW: I’d have to be in pretty dire straits.
ML: I don’t think I could do it.
AW: Too proud?
ML: No, I just couldn’t be on my feet all day. They’re just walking up and down the same forty feet of pavement all day.
AW: Yeah, they’re actually pretty industrious if you think about it.
ML: There is a hierarchy of the laziness of the poor and I would put panhandlers at the least lazy end.
AW: Who’s on the other end.
ML: I’d rather not say.
AW: Very diplomatic.
The sad sign lady is back and we discover that the sadness of her sign compounds with each reading. Mark starts blinking a lot. Aubrie weeps openly.
ML: (clearing his throat gruffly) Well…
AW: …yeah…
ML: I’m going to scoot now…
AW: …yeah…
They knuckle dap sincerely, happy to share a moment of physical contact with another human being. It may be the saddest knuckle dap of all time.
Oh God, the sad lady is coming back…

Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 20

Tonight at the Raven Lounge at 9PM, improv group Rookie Card will do a little something different with their monthly show. Rookie Card Presents: Not Rookie Card will feature groups that feature members of Rookie Card, got it. So, instead of seeing the gang all together you will get to see Sue Taney and Darryl Charles, along with the rest of Hate Speech Committee, Marc Reber will join the fellas of Rintersplit, Tom Whitaker will perform with I Do, and the night will be hosted by Jake Alvarez.

This Thursday, also at the Raven Lounge, Center City Comedy will celebrate their Third Anniversary with a show featuring favorite comics from around Philly. After the show, the guys will have a party upstairs at the Raven. More details to come later this week.

This week is another week of shows at the Philly Improv Theater, the first in a six week run at the Shubin. The line-up includes favorites such as Chip Chantry's One Man Show (With Special Guests)Reasonable Discourse with Jerks, Cage MatchHey Everybody, The Gross Show and PHIT House Team Night.

Philly Mag's G Philly recently ran this article about the upcoming Q Festival. In it they talk to festival producer Alejandro Morales, as well as Greg Maughan of PHIT. Shows run at various venues throughout Philly from Monday, October 10 through Saturday, October 15th.

October will be a busy month for Philly comedy. In addition to the six week PHIT run and the Q Festival it is also the second annual Comedy Month. The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater will feature three weeks of comedy from the Seventh Annual Philadelphia Improv Festival, The Fourth Annual Philly Sketchfest, and the first ever City Spotlight. We posted about the Improv Festival last week, and added all the shows to our calendar - and we will add more info about the rest of Comedy Month soon!

 Super DPS wrote this review of Alex Gross and Ian Vaflor's Pro Mania Fringe Festival show. The review mentions performances by James Hesky, Joe Dougherty, Brendan Kennedy and Dennis Trafny. Check it out.

 


Fringe Show Review: Friends of Alcatraz

Alcatraz is a cat with a serious attitude, and a lot of friends. These friends also have issues of their own, which all come out in the hilarious improvised puppet show Friends of Alcatraz. You read that correctly, its a puppet show.

Friends of Alcatraz begins with the titular cat (played by actor/director/designer Kelly Vrooman) explaining the format of the show. The stage for Friends of Alcatraz is set up with a camera so that the audience may watch the puppeteers on their left, or a screen showing just the puppet action to the right. The set up lets the actors play with the space and the camera to make for an extremely visually interesting show. The cast uses the depth of the stage and the different size of puppets to fill in background characters and create a complete visual world around the puppet work, and audiences can see how they do it for themselves.

The technical work is just one of the excellent aspects of this show. The cast (Vrooman, along with Joe Sabatino, Jason Stockdale, Rob Cutler, and Dave Jadico) does a great job bringing the puppets to life and giving them each a depth and soul beyond their plush exterior. The design of the puppets helps in this, each crafted with a unique look that seems to draw the characters' voices and personas out of the actors.

An audience member's suggestion of "a breakup" when asked for something incredible that recently happend to them initially drew ridicule from Alcatraz the cat, but lead to a show full of relationships with their ups and downs, break-ups and make-ups and big laughs throughout.

Friends of Alcatraz is an extremely unique theater experience and is thoroughly satisfying for it's comedy, showmanship, and presentation. Here's hoping the end of it's Fringe Festival run is not the last we see of Alcatraz and the gang.


Fringe Show Review: Tongue & Groove

Philadelphia improv group Tongue & Groove debuted its' new show, "Six" at this year's fringe festival. The show's name is derived from the way the group gets suggestions from the audience, via cards with six word autobiographies. These short blurbs are used by the members of the ensemble to create rich characters with deep relationships between each other as well as set scenes, perform character monologues, and play improv games.

The members of Tongue & Groove have developed a improvisational style that they describe as "serio-comic, realism based, 'Actors Improv'" in which they focus on the relationship between the characters in the scene, to dramatic and hilarious effect. Whether the scene was serious or comedic, or a mixture of both, it was constantly interesting to watch the interaction between the players.

The show began with each actor reading a card with a six word biography written by an audience member for inspiration. The scenes started with a bang as cast members Ed Miller and Casey Spaulding jumped into each others arms for an intense make-out session which led to a scene exploring the amusing perils of young love. Other recurring characters and scenes included Frederick Anderson and Beth Dougherty as actors waiting to go on an audition who slowly develop an admiration for each other, Dougherty and Bobbi Block as a couple in trouble after Dougherty loses her job as a lawyer and takes work in at a hippy farmers market, and Block and Josh Rubinstein as siblings who never really got along having to deal with the declining health of their mother. All of the scenes showcased the group's ability to mix realistic deep relationships showcasing the funny moments in the drama of everyday life.

The scenes were interspersed with monologues from characters created from more of the six word biographies, actors creating their own six word bios from a single word suggestion, some improv games, and larger group scenes. The show wrapped up with the actors in a line in the front of the stage, each taking turns reciting memorable lines from the characters they portrayed during the show.

Considering the show was filled with rich characters, deep relationships, and moments of honest hilarity each one of the members of the cast had a lot to return to in the closing. With "Six" Tongue & Groove was able to take six words and create a full world of people you grew to care about, feel for, and laugh with.

 


Laughs on Fairmount Showcase

Tomorrow night at 8pm at the Urban Saloon Mary Radzinski and Carolyn Busa will celebrate six months of their Monday night Laughs on Fairmount Open Mic with their first LOF Showcase. The two co-host the mic, held every week in the back room at the bar across the street from Eastern State Penitentiary and have now expanded to include a weekend showcase. The first show will feature comedians Sean Preston, Nicole Yates, Noah Goldstein, John Kensil and will be headlined by Pat House. The hosts of the show had a few words to say to encourage you to attend:

Carolyn: Hey, Mare, I'm super excited about this Saturday's six month anniversary show of Laughs on Fairmount! I really need something like this to look forward to, especially after the dentist appointment I just had.
Mary: Ginger-vitis?
Carolyn: I hate you.
Mary: No you don't.
Carolyn: Why don't you go get a spray tan?
Mary: Oh gosh, Carebear, not until Saturday morning. I want a fresh glow for the show.

The first Laughs on Fairmount Showcase will be held Saturday, September 17th at 8pm at The Urban Saloon (2120 Fairmount Ave.) Tickets are $10 at the door. More information can be found on the Facebook Event Page.