The N Crowd: Seven Year Anniversary Series

Later this month, Philadelphia short form improv group The N Crowd will celebrate its' seventh anniversary. We've asked some members of the group to share some stories about the history of the group in celebration.

Mike Conner - Location, Location, Libation

The N Crowd is an all-star drinking team formed in April of two thousand something or other... whenever seven years ago was.  We first performed short-form improv comedy in an unairconditioned building that functioned as a Karate Dojo by day and a big stuffy brick oven at night: really the ideal locale for the performing arts.  After the forging of the Dufton Trail (a sticky residue of dried piss coating the venue's sole toilet seat), the N Crowd decided it needed to branch out by moving to the Society Hill Playhouse.

 The Society Hill Playhouse differed from the Karate Dojo mainly in that they didn't appreciate the performers taking massive gravity bong rips on the premises.  The core of N Crowd debauchery now migrated to a North Philly shithole known as 353 West Master (cut cut cut faster).  Fueled by Captain Morgan and ginger brandy, the Master Street house became a place for N Crowders to socialize, play foosball, and incur concussions.
Over the next few years, various members of the N Crowd got jobs/had kids/got arrested/went to rehab/began abiding by the teachings of the honorable prophet Elijah Muhammad.  The party times died down, then roared back, then died down again, then elevated to crazy meth-orgies, and finally leveled off to a respectable whir.  Around this time, the N Crowd made a final move to the Actor's Center in Old City, their current home base.
The Actor's Center is a great place with a wonderful landlord (who I don't want to piss off by writing something snarky here).  It has been our home for a few years now.  Our cast has never been funnier; our audiences have never smelled lovelier; and our drinking, though not as prolific, has never been honed into such an unadulterated form of turpitude.
The N Crowd performs every Friday at The Actor's Center (257 N 3rd St. Philadelphia). Their seven year anniversary show will be held on April 27. You can purchase tickets for the event online.

Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 42

Signups have started for Helium Comedy Club's 2012 Philly's Phunniest Person Contest. Past winners of the title include David James, Steve Gerben, Kent Haines, Anton Shuford, Doogie Horner and Tommy Pope. Preliminary rounds for this year's contest run from June 3rd through September 9th. Contestants must be from the Philadelphia area and perform between four and half to six minutes of original material. Comedians can sign up online by clicking this link.

This Tuesday at L'etage Polygon Comedy Celebrates their birthday with a show featuring Jimmy Viola, Beirdo, Dream Machine and Kait & Andrew. Doors open at 7:00 and the show begins at 8:00.

Wednesday brings another edition of Mayor Karen Presents in which the PHIT House Team hosts a show of stand-up, improv and music. This week's performers include New York stand-up comedian Erin Judge, PHIT House Team Hey Rube, and a surprise musical guest.

Also this Wednesday Philly Sketchfest presents: Characters - a night of character based sketch comedy at Helium Comedy Club. The show is a fundraiser for this year's sketch fest and will feature performances by Animosity Pierre, Fastball Pitcher Bob Gutierrez, Bing Supernova, Hillary Rea, Rob Baniewicz, and The Feeko Brothers.

Camp Woods Plus returns to L'etage Thursday with a show featuring all new material from Camp Woods plus sets from New York sketch group Unisex and Philly's own ManiPedi.

Speaking of ManiPedi - this Friday the sketch group is holding their own fundraiser for their trip to the 2012 Ladies Are Funny Festival in Austin, Texas. ManiParty will feature performances from Aaron Hertzog, Brendan Kennedy, Mary Radzinski, The Kristen and Amie Show and ManiPedi themselves. They will also be auctioning off items (which you can bid on here via email) and having a bake sale. $10 gets you into the show, all the beer you can drink, and the satisfaction of knowing you've helped them get to Austin.

This Saturday at Connie's Ric Rac The Chris Gethard Show comes to Philadelphia. The show, dubbed NY is Better than Philly will feature a series of competitions between Chris Gethard's crew of New York Comedians and Gregg Gethard's squad representing Philly. The Philly team consists of Brendan Kennedy (Man's Man Competition), Aaron Hertzog (Freestyle Rap Battle), Ian Vaflor (Music Competition) Alex Gross (Dance-off) and Mike McNeil (Sports Trivia). Tickets for the event can be purchased online.

Temple Stand-ups Move on In National College Comedy Competition

Temple University's comedy team has advanced past 2011 defending champions Penn State in Rooftop Comedy's 2012 National College Comedy Competition. The team, which consists of Alex Grubard, Tim Ryan, Paul Kenton and Chris Whithair beat Penn State in online voting to move on to the next round which they will compete against the winner of NYU and Columbia. The contest started with a showcase at Temple, in which a team of eight comedians were chosen to perform at Helium Comedy Club in another live showcase at which judges narrowed the team down to it's current four person status. Now, online voting will determine which schools keep advancing for their chance to be named champions and win a performance at the 2012 Just For Laughs Chicago Comedy Festival. If you'd like to do your part in voting to help Temple move on, keep your eyes on Witout's Facebook and Twitter for updates on when the next round of voting begins.

Interview With: Corey Cohen of The Big Show

Corey Cohen is a comedian and show promoter in Philadelphia. His new weekly comedy talk show The Big Show premiers tonight at 8:00 pm at Underground Arts (The Wolf Building - 12th and Callowhill). Tonight's show features comedians Mike Logan, John McKeever, and Jim Grammond and music from Joe Hardy of Sherman. We caught up with Corey to talk about his new show.

Witout: Tell us about the idea behind The Big Show and the planning stages. 

Corey Cohen: I’ve been milling around the idea since back when I was in the Sixth Borough, and in some ways it’s another version of Steal This Show, which I did a handful of time over at Connie’s Ric Rac a couple years ago. Once I got involved with Underground Arts, I went back and thought about what kind of show I would want to do, what I hadn’t seen in Philly thus far, etc. I ended up deciding on the talk show after the Late Nite Cabaret during the Fringe, which was a blast and a really fun experiment in comedy. We just had stand up comics perform, sat down and talked a little about their bits and their personal lives, and in the end it was a really special night. After that I knew it was worth getting into this kind of show, and I started to develop it as a weekly or bi-weekly comedy revue and chat show.

WO: What's your role going to be in the show? (Are you strictly a host or are you going to be performing bits or showing videos or anything like that?)

CC: I’m doing it all, possibly to my own detriment. My main role is host and producer for the show, but I’m planning on being kind of the driving force of the program, and I want it to reflect my personality. That is to say the show will also be weird, neurotic, inquisitive, funny (you’d hope) and a little esoteric. Even if that makes me sound like a douche-nozzle, I stick by it.

WO: What's the format of your show? How is it going to stand out from the other comedy shows around the city?

CC: I think the venue is going to make the whole show feel different. It’s a pretty big room with cabaret seating and staging, not to mention the bar and food, so my hope is this environment will initially change people’s idea of what a comedy show like this can be. Hopefully it will surprise and intrigue people, especially new folks who might have never seen a local comedy show.

The format is pretty much a regular stand-up show, with music, some fun segments, comics, and some interviews. I like to interview the comics a lot because everyone is different, and I just think that comics tend to be unusual, original thinkers. And even if they are assholes, there is something to that, too. I like people, and I want that to come through in the end. Like, check out these weird ass people who want to make you laugh. Now eat that cheeseburger.

WO: Producing a weekly show is a big endeavor - do you have help with the production of the show or is it all you?

CC: I have a couple people helping with writing segments and making some new content, but the main brunt of producing and writing the thing is on me. That being said, the show is also very dependent on outside performers, and my genuine hope is that more people will become involved over time. As time goes forward the show may end up bi-weekly, but even so, I will always be on the lookout for help. I’m trying to encourage people who are doing comedy in Philly in some capacity to look at this show as being friendly to them, and that it’s a great place to try something new.

WO: What kind of guests are you looking for on the show? What kinds of bands are you looking to book? Is there a certain style you are trying to present with your choice of guests or are you just trying to pull from the full spectrum of Philly comedy?

CC: I’m looking for stand-ups mostly, but I’d like every show to have some other comedy element, whether it be a segment I write for myself and my co-host that night, or someone coming up and doing a sketch. We’ll also be able to show video easily, and obviously music is going to be a big part of it, too. I wanted to have music to keep the show moving, and because every band has it’s own kind of vibe that can add a magical quality to the night. There a couple of bands I’ve always wanted to work with, and that’s what got me into the idea initially. I think the music is key, though, and I’m psyched to have bands coming through, and to be able to talk to them about their art.

I’d say in the end though, I’m looking for any act that is funny, unusual, and genuine. I also have “serious” guests in the works, mostly because I want to expand the spectrum to include local people who have interesting ideas. I also figure if I play my cards right, nationally touring headliners would want to stop through from time to time.

WO: One of the cool things you do with Corey Cohen Comedy is bring in out-of-town headliners and have them perform in some alt rooms around town. Where did the idea for that come from? Will you still be doing it now that you have a weekly show to produce?

CC: That came from getting more involved with booking a couple years back. I did a couple of these national comedy shows at Connie’s, and it was actually a comic named Kenny Zimlinghaus who suggested I look further into bringing down guys from NYC and LA. I did, and he was absolutely right, there were a lot of awesome comics who never came here, because they have these kinds of routes they usually stick to. After a couple years though, I have some great relationships with a lot of amazing comics, and my intention is to keep them coming and actually step things up a notch. Headliners coming in soon, like the return of Eddie Pepitone on May 25th, will hopefully be some of the biggest shows I’ve been able to put on so far. I have an enormous amount of help from Underground Arts, who believes in what I’m trying to do, and has been supportive to the point that I can really bring some cool acts now.

In the end, I want to see Underground Arts, The Big Show, the headliners and all the local guys who work so hard to receive a boost from one another, and really widen the range of who knows about and goes to see comedy in Philly.

Also it would be nice to maybe get laid out of all of this.

Comics who are interested in performing can contact Corey Cohen by email,, put THE BIG SHOW in the subject.

March Madness Comedy Competition Finals Tonight

Eight stand-ups will take the stage tonight at Helium Comedy Club to participate in the final round of Rittenhouse Comedy's 2012 March Madness Comedy Competition. The month-long event started with 72 comedians competing at various open mics throughout the city to move on week by week to make it to tonight's final eight. Each open mic was a wing in the bracket- style competition with comedians advancing each week until only two remained from The Famous International Variety Show, Laughs on Fairmount, Rittenhouse Comedy and Center City Comedy. Tonight's final eight comedians are: David Ray Ageykum, Mike Logan, Alex Grubard, Tim Ryan, Gordon-Baker-Bone, Steve Lichtenstein, Omar Scruggs, and Trevor Cunnion. Comedians will be give six minutes to perform and the show will be judged by audience vote. The show will be hosted by Ryan Shaner. Tickets for tonight's show are available online.

Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 41

Kevin McDonald of the  Kids in the Hall will be teaching a two day, 14 hour workshop at Philly Improv Theater. The class will focus on teaching writing through performance and using improv skills to create written sketches. The class will be held Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm and the price is $300. More information and signups can be found on PHIT's website.

Helium Comedy Club has recently announced an upcoming special event - Richard Lewis will be headlining the club Thursday April 26 to Saturday April 28. Lewis is known for his many television and film appearances including roles in Curb Your Enthusiasm and Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and was number 45 on Comedy Central's list of the 100 Greatest Standups of All Time. Tickets for the shows can be purchased online.

Comedy web site Everything You Like is Stupid has gone through a bit of a redesign, making older posts easier to find and navigate through. The site is updated daily by former Philadelphia and now Los Angeles comedian and writer Luke Giordano.

The lineup and date for the next Camp Woods Plus has been set. Thursday, April 12 at L'etage Camp Woods will feature Philadelphia sketch group ManiPedi and New York's (by way of Philly) Unisex. Camp Woods Plus presents a brand new half hour of comedy from Camp Woods every month along with two featured guest sketch groups and is quickly becoming one of the hottest tickets in town.

This Friday, April 6 marks the return of the Fighting Burrito Comedy Showcase to The Grape Room (105 Grape Street, Philadelphia). This week's show will feature stand-up comedy from: Darryl Charles, Jim GintyRob DeSantis, David Ray Agyekum, Nicole Yates, Noah GoldStein and TJ Hurley.

Tyler Rothrock and Randy Tongue have started a new monthly open mic in Bethlehem at Roosevelts 21st (21 E. Elizabeth Ave Bethlehem, PA). The first Monday of every month Rothrock and Tongue will host the open mic and then, with comics permission use parts of the set for a Comedy Mix Tape Podcast featuring stand-up and sketches from that night's show. The first episode is already available online.