Interview with Todd Glass -- Performing This Week @ Helium

todd_glass3_20090716Philly native Todd Glass is coming to Helium Comedy Club this week for a string of shows with Chip Chantry Chip Chantry. Todd asked me to write it twice because he thinks Chip will get excited. [Scroll down for Chip's reaction!]
~~~~~

WitOut: Hi Todd! Where in the world are you?

Todd Glass: Hey, right now I am in Kansas performing with Jim Gaffigan.

WitOut: What's a comedy crowd like in Kansas?

Glass: Well if you're with someone as big as Jim you’re drawing his audience and they’re good. But the city doesn’t make the audience, the club does. If you have a good club it doesn’t matter where you are. Granted, there are cities that are more beautiful than others but as far as the way the audience acts it's based on how the club operates. In my opinion, the best comedy club in America is Acme Comedy Club in Minneapolis. Who’d think Minneapolis would have the best club? But when a club has high standards and respects the comedy, the audience will follow. They train the audiences. Helium, I give them an A++. One of the best clubs in the country. When Marc (owner of Helium Comedy Club) wanted to start Helium he went to the Montreal Comedy Festival and asked comics, “What’s your favorite club?”, and they kept saying Acme. So, Marc decided he had to check this place out. He went to Minneapolis, met with Louis Lee (owner of Acme Comedy Club), and made it happen.

WitOut: Do you have any memorable stories about shows you’ve done here in Philly?

Glass: It made me proud whenever I'd come to Philly with other acts. Once I was on tour with Louis C.K., Sarah Silverman, and David Cross, and when we came to Philly I so didn’t want it to be a bad crowd. The crowd ended up being unbelievably great. So great. And I was so proud.

WitOut: I know you’ve shot a couple pilots over the years, is that something you’d like to do again?

Glass: I just sold a pilot to Comedy Central actually, I’m very excited about it. It’s called The Todd Glass Situation. My character owns a college bar/restaurant--which is one layer of the show but it doesn't consume the whole show. It also deals with me being in the closet all those years…gosh I hate that term but what the fuck else am I gonna say? There’s never been a show about hiding in the closet. Like, what does it REALLY mean to be in the closet on a day-to-day basis? It’s important to who I am but I didn’t want it to be the A slot of the show so, it’s a layer, never the primary story. At least I hope it’s that way in the show.

WitOut: I’m curious, what is it you don’t like about the phrase “in the closet?"

Glass: “In the closet," ugh, I don’t know, it’s probably my own issue. It’s just so…flamboyant. Maybe that’s not it.

WitOut: Is it because it’s sort of a pithy way to describe it?

Glass: Yeah, see, you said it better than me. But also, ya know, sometimes you just don’t like something and ya can’t even explain it? It’s hard to explain but, obviously one day we won’t have that expression because we won’t need to.

WitOut: I was actually not going to ask about last year's WTF announcement unless it came up naturally since it seems interviewers always ask about it .

Glass: As far as the Maron thing goes, I don’t mind talking about it, I like the mix. I didn’t talk about it my whole life so I’m good talking about it. But yeah, I appreciate your thought to not ask. But, it’s a gigantic part of my life. If we pull it off right on the show it won’t be a gigantic part of the show. It was very rarely the A plot of my day. Mostly B or C slot. It’s not gonna drive the show. But I’ll say this, it’ll be funny obviously, but it’ll also hopefully shed a lot of light on the issue and make people say, “I never fucking thought about that.” Like, how to handle it when your parents are in town, or, if you're in a diner and three people there know but the fourth doesn’t. If you’re smoking pot and worry, “Shit, did I just misspeak and say something I didn't mean to?”

WitOut: Do you remember where your first set was?

Glass: Absolutely. It was at Comedy Works on 2nd and Chestnut. It was an amazing place. I first went when I was in high school. Some friends and I went to see comedy and I was completely unaware that there were comedians that weren’t household names but had followings. Established, really great comedians. It was a 300 seat room, we saw so many greats: Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Gilbert Gottfried, Richard Lewis, Tim Allen, Roseanne Barr, Eddie Murphy, Stephen Wright, just amazing comics. Eventually I went up there. I was almost 16, I had a very frenetic energy. Everyone was very kind and told me I’m funny but that I gotta calm down. Then, and I’ll never forget this, [The Legendary] Wid comes up and says to me, “You don’t have to change anything, you’re funny just the way you are.” I have a special place in my heart for him. He’s very supportive and that’s so fucking important.

WitOut: What do people most often recognize you from?

Glass: Good question, times have changed with social media and podcasts. So, either a show like Comedy Bang Bang, podcasting or Jimmy Kimmel since I’ve done that show quite a few times. But people still remember me from Last Coming Standing too.

WitOut: How do you view the Philly comedy scene now compared to when you started?

Glass: Right now there's a really good scene in Philly. There wasn’t for years but now there is, basically since Helium opened. It re-sparked excitement for comedy in the city. Between Helium and lots of niche one-nighters at bars or music venues or theatres, it's great. And there are a lot of new, really funny people in the last 7, 8 years. I love watching stand-up comedy and if I get to a town a night early I'll go to the open mic night. Some people are there for the first time, some have been there 7 times, but there's also established really good acts who just live in Philly and go down there. You see a lot of funny new people which is exciting.

See Todd Glass (with Chip Chantry) this Wednesday (11/27), Friday (11/29), and Saturday (11/30) at Helium Comedy Club (2031 Sansom St., Philadelphia, PA 19103) . 

~~~~~

chipchantryResponse from Chip Chantry:

Excited? Here's what I would be excited about.

1. I'd be excited if I was working with a headliner that does NOT belittle me in front of the staff, customers, and management on a nightly basis.

2. I'd be excited if I was working with a headliner who does not insist on having the venue pay HIM my check for the week, and who then takes a 40% "mentoring fee".

3. I'd be excited to work with a headliner who doesn't throw glasses of whiskey at me when I forget to get extra pickles with the panini that he likes from the deli all the way across town at midnight. And who screams at me about how he's friends with Jim Gaffigan, and how "friends with Jim Gaffigan get extra pickles, Goddammit!" And then he burns me with a cigarette and screams outdated racial slurs that don't even apply to me.

4. And I'd be excited to work with a headliner who doesn't force me to do wind sprints in front of the club right before I go onstage, so I'm all out of breath for the first minute of the four minutes he lets me do. And most of those four minutes are announcements he makes me read about how great Todd Glass is, and how Todd Glass is best friends with Jim Gaffigan, and how Todd Glass is so much funnier than I am, and how I should just quit comedy altogether and get a job cleaning up monkey shit at a monkey zoo. THAT'S NOT EVEN A REAL ANNOUNCEMENT, DAVE! AND I DON'T THINK THERE IS ACTUALLY A THING CALLED A MONKEY ZOO! IT'S JUST A ZOO!

I'm dreading this week.

~~~~~

Dave Metter is a Philly comedian, check him out on Twitter @DaveMetter, and check out his fake local news show Your News, Philadelphia December 5th and 6th at the Shubin Theatre.


Interview with Streeter Seidell of CollegeHumor Live, Friday Night @ The Trocadero

CHLiveTour-promo-clean150CollegeHumor's Streeter Seidell seems like the kind of upfront, no bullshit type of comic Philadelphia can appreciate. However, he admitted he's a little nervous about making his City of Brotherly Love debut when we talked about his upcoming show at the Trocadero Theatre this Friday. The White Wine author is part of the CollegeHumor Live tour alongside Jake Hurwitz & Amir Blumenfeld--stars of the long-running CollegeHumor.com web series Jake and Amir.

WitOut: Will it be the first time performing in Philly for all three of you?

Streeter Seidell: I think Jake and Amir did a college show in Philly once. But I haven't even been there until about a month ago, which was a great embarrassment for me. I was totally ashamed because I grew up in Connecticut and I'm a massive history buff and Ben Franklin fan. And I like eating fattening food so I was like, how have I not been to this city? But I thought it was a great city. I'm a little nervous because I've never performed in Philly and you do hear this terrible rumors about audiences in Philly being crazy mean.

WitOut: Yeah, it's nonsense. Just don't suck.

Seidell: Yeah, that's what I've been banking on. The problem is though, that I suck.

WitOut: So how did you get in at CollegeHumor?

Seidell: I was writing articles for the site when I was in college and just got on their radar and got hired right out of school.

WitOut: According to Wikipedia you were studying communications, did you have any idea what you would've done after college with that?

Seidell: Uh, I guess I would've worked at a talent agency which is where I had been an intern for a while. But thank god CollegeHumor hired me because I would've been a terrible agent.

WitOut: What was the experience like when CollegeHumor had a show on MTV, The CollegeHumor Show?

Seidell: It was so much fun. We were probably all 25, 26 and, it was a blast. I grew up watching MTV so the thought of having a show on MTV that I was acting in and helping write was extremely exciting. If only anyone watched it! Maybe I'd still be excited. But it was exhausting, frustrating, and extremely fun.

WitOut I saw you recently got a puppy? Will you be leaving it while you're on tour?

Seidell: Aw, I wish you didn't put it like that but yes I am.

WitOut: What can we expect at the show? What's the format?

Seidell: Well, I'm not all the way sure yet. Usually Jake and Amir come out and do their thing, I come out and do my thing. Then we'll do something together at the end. What exactly those things will be is yet to be determined. I'll do stand-up, which, if I can see the crowd, might involve making fun of a kid in the front row. But, I will guarantee you it will be very funny.

WitOut: Despite you sucking?

Seidell: I might suck, but the three of us together, our powers combined, can make one funny show!

WitOut: The Voltron principle.

Seidell: Exactly, or the Captain Planet principle.

WitOut: You've co-written some books but you recently published your first book White Whine (http://whitewhine.com, available in stores and online now) on your own, what was that like?

Seidell: Do you remember writing essays or papers for college? Imagine doing that 250 times. And that was kinda like what writing a book was like, except you can say whatever you want and someone will give you money for it. So it was pretty fun!

WitOut: You've done sketch, stand-up, television, books, is there a form you haven't done yet but would like to?

Seidell: Yeah, I guess, a movie right? Like, a major motion picture? Or, I'd really like to explore what I can do on Pinterest. That's a form I really have yet to conquer. It's really impressive, in a nine year career I've failed in almost every medium, which, not a lot of people can say. I'll try anything really.

WitOut: Right, like me pretending to be a journalist here. I just write dick jokes in Philly but, I'm talking to you now.

Seidell: Are you the Philadelphia Dick Jokesmith?

WitOut: You've heard of me.

Seidell: Dude, how did you get that job I applied for that, I sent in a packet and everything.

WitOut: Well I apprenticed under the previous Dick Jokesmith.

Seidell: Ah, nepotism.

WitOut: What advice would you give someone who is trying to find a way to a career writing comedy?

Seidell: There is no place to go to apply for that job so anyone who wants to be a comedy writer can just start being a comedy writer. I've always had kids ask me "I really want to do stand-up" or "I want to write videos" or "I want to make things on YouTube", well you shouldn't have to want that cause you can just do that. There's really no excuse to not just start doing it and, you'll be pretty terrible for a while but then, hopefully, you'll get a little better. And maybe one day I can be threatened by you and do everything in my power to stop your rise to fame.

WitOut: If you could be any animal, what would it be?

Seidell: Besides "better human"?

WitOut: That's fine.

Seidell: Otherwise I was gonna say "Swedish person."

 WitOut: That's basically the same thing. Anyway, thanks Streeter!

~~~~~

See Streeter Seidell, along with Jake & Amir, when CollegeHumor Live hits the Trocadero Theatre (1003 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA), this Friday November 15th and 8:00pm. Get tickets here.

Dave Metter is a Philly comedian, check him out on Twitter @DaveMetter, and check out his fake local news show Your News, Philadelphia Friday December 6th at the Shubin Theatre.


Photos from Philly Improv Fest Tuesday

The 9th Annual Philadelphia Improv Festival kicked off yesterday with a show featuring Hell On Wheels, Bed Savage and Due Diligence. Here are some photos from the show...

Hell On Wheels

Hell On Wheels 2 - Phif13 - DM

Hell On Wheels 1 - Phif13 - DM

Due DiligenceDue Diligence 5 - Phif13 - DM

Due Diligence 4 - Phif13 - DM

Due Diligence - Phif13 - DM

Bed Savage

Bed Savage 6 - Phif13 - DM

Bed Savage 5 - Phif13 - DM

Bed Savage 4 - Phif13 - DM

Bed Savage 3 - Phif13 - DM

Bed Savage 1 - Phif13 - DM

~~~~~

All photos by Dave Metter.


“This Is Why Everyone Needs A Best Friend” - A Chat with John McKeever and Tommy Pope of Bird Text

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.


The Renaissance Faire and Japanese Bathhouses – Interview with Lizzie Spellman, Funny Person and Opening Act for 'Call on Mister Blue'

Call on Mister Blue, a new play directed by Harry Watermeier and performed by Tara Demmy, Luke Field, Bryan Kerr, Brent Knobloch and Craig Lamm will show this Thursday, January 31st and Saturday, February 2nd at The Arts Parlor. The show will also feature the comedic ukulele songs of Lizzie Spellman as an opening act.  Lizzie put her ukulele down to talk about her comedic influences, musical background, and her parents hating her.


Dave Metter: What is your comedy background? Is musical comedy your first foray into comedy writing? Is your real name something garishly Eastern European and Lizzie Spellman’s your stage name?

Lizzie Spellman: Well I basically started in comedy through musical theatre. So I was always really into music and singing. I didn't really know people sang comedy songs until my dad started playing me old comedic singers he used to listen to like Allen Sherman and Tom Lehrer. Lizzie Spellman is in fact my real name. Although my full name is Elizabeth Esther Spellman. Because my parents hate me.

DM: When and how did you end up learning to play the ukulele?

LS: I actually didn't start 'til much, much, later in life. I was never that motivated to learn, but after I worked at the PA Renaissance Faire (I know, I know), where a lot of people played instruments, I thought I'd try to teach myself guitar. I was also unemployed and living with my parents so I had a lot of free time. I picked up the ukulele my second year at the Faire (I know, I know), in 2011.

DM: Do you ever perform sans-uke? (Note: Sansuke is the name of the help staff at a Japanese bathhouse.)

LS: I work as an actress (when I have work) in the Philadelphia area. I'm also an improv performer with the PHIT team Hey Rube and the indie team Apocalips. The Japanese bathhouse may account for those two years of my life that to this day I still can't recollect.

DM: What was your first gig like?

LS: Frightening actually. When I first started writing songs I was so scared that they were terrible. It took me like two years to perform them. I was asked this past summer by Mike Marbach to perform in The Sideshow. I agreed and it actually went over really great but the whole time I was shitting my pants...not literally...I think.

DM: What led you to musical comedy?

LS: I had originally attempted to write "serious" music which only lasted a hot second 'cause it was awful. They were so cheesy, I might as well have written about rainbows and meadow frolicking. The first comedy song I wrote ("The Money's on the Table") was written as a joke that I had with a friend.  After that I wrote a song for another friend ("The Text Message Song") and I realized writing comedy songs was just a lot easier.

DM: Who are some of your musical comedy and…atonal comedy influences?

LS: There are a lot of girls out there now writing comedy music, especially on ukuleles. I particularly like the NYC band Summer & Eve. But my favorite comedy duo is probably Flight of the Conchords. My big non-musical influences are Carol Burnett and Gilda Radner. They're not afraid to make fools out of themselves for the sake of comedy.

DM: What comes first, the melody or the lyric? Or the joke?

LS: The joke definitely. The way I write songs, I always need the topic first before I can start writing the lyrics. A lot of my songs are just based on weird things I've heard other people say. Hopefully those people haven't figured that out yet...oops.

DM: What is your dream gig?

LS: As a comedian, I have no idea. I've never really been in the category of stand-up before, so I'm still figuring things out. I figure if it’s a gig that pays, that's freaking awesome!

DM: How did you end up as the opening act for Call on Mister Blue? Have you worked with any of the performers before?

LS: I was asked by my friends Tara Demmy (who is also my roommate and teammate on Hey Rube) and Harry Watermeier who is directing. They're big supporters of my music so I was very flattered to be asked to open for their show. It's gonna be a fun night!

 

'Call on Mister Blue' is TONIGHT, Thursday, January 31st and Saturday, February 2nd at 8pm at the Arts Parlor (1170 S. Broad Street). Admission is $5.

Dave Metter is a comedy writer from the Philly burbs. Follow Dave on Twitter @DaveMetter.