Top 5 of 2012: Matt Nelson's Top Five Whoa, So Glad I was in the Audience! Moments

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 contact@witout.net!

#5 - Sue Taney in Mother Truckers at Troika
03.09.2012 | Sideshow at the Arts Parlor
The concept for this Troika trio was pretty clear: Square Meg, Sweet n' Sassy Cassidy & Star-Spangled Sharlene were three truck-driving, sass-talking long haulers who conversed via CB radio. The characters were great, and the costumes were a sight to behold. But what really made this show something for the books was Sue's character and her obsession with snack foods. Planting herself in the bucket seat of her trusty big rig, Sue had packed a ridiculous number of munchies into a bag, which she proceeded to chow down on, dialogue be damned. This series of side-bits heightened to the point that Sue genuinely got her hand stuck in a tube of Pringles while diving for the last chip. A good part of the show was spent with a can shaped nub, and the resounding and so-satisfying pop that came with the eventual release of her hand was then instantly topped once more by Sue licking the Pringles seasoning off her arm.

#4 - Davenger at PHIF8
11.07.2012 | Prince Music Theater
As one of the newest house teams from PHIT, at this point I'd only had occasion to see Davenger a handful of times. Having been a fan of their coach Maggy Keegan for years, I knew this team was going to have "Harold" drilled deep into them, but I was hardly prepared for what would happen on the opening night of PHIF8. Shows like this remind me why the term "beats" is so spot on. Constructing their piece, they had a rhythm, pitch and level of synchronicity that is normally reserved for groups that have been playing together for years. All of these disparate moments became anchored to and eventually informed by a fantastic group game. Every cast member was leaning so far into every moment, that it felt like they couldn't even be bothered with gravity.

#3 - Aaron Hertzog at BCCAF
09.09.2012 | ImprovBoston Mainstage
Admittedly, this one may be a bit of a cheat, as it took place in Boston; but it featured (then-Philly resident) Aaron Hertzog, and to be honest, this moment transcended any particular place we might have been, because we were no longer in this world. The night before, Aaron had featured at The Brattle (the largest venue of BCCAF). I was in the All-Star set right after and got to take in most of his current act. It was a great set, and he lived up to the stage. But this wouldn't be his crowning moment. The following night IB had a showcase of comics featured throughout the week. Good stuff from Mary Radzinski, Pete Kuempel and many others. And they had to earn every bit of it... this was the last show on the last night of what had been a long festival. Even the locals had mostly bailed, and we were left with a few die-hards, staff, other comedians and a few randoms. Anyone who was feeling zapped and pulled thin was about to unknowingly receive a comedy face slap courtesy of Mr. Hertzog. Aaron came out and from the top injected more energy than I've ever seen from a comic not fueled by coke and living in the '70s. It's hard to describe what I heard and saw that night, but he went totally through the roof and off the rails in all the best, most captivating ways. I've never before or since seen a comic jump start and hold firm dominance over a room like Aaron did that quiet little Sunday night in Cambridge.

#2 - Kristin Finger's Ref debut at ComedySportz
10.13.2012 | Playground at the Adrienne
This entry is great example of what can happen when an improviser and an audience member create a perfect storm that you wish could be bottled (then hidden in a trunk and locked away forever). Kristin has been a ComedySportz player for years now, but made her debut as a Ref only two short months ago. The night had gone well... player challengers, ref challenges, 5-things... the teams had battled and laughs were flowing. As you might imagine, many family, friends and fans were in attendance on this particular night—but fortunately, so was a random man. A random man with a random suggestion. At one point towards the end of the show, she asks the audience for a noun, and this man shouts, "black!" Now, granted this fell more into the adjective category, but Kristin shrugged it off and took it, for a game called 185. Which she had already announced as the next game. For those unfamiliar with the game, this means nothing to you. For those that do, and most of the audience in attendance that night, what almost came to pass is quite clear. You see, the setup of 185 is a groaner-style punchline game where improvisers take a suggestion, and fit it to a pre-established formula: 185 suggestions walk into a bar. The bartender says "we don't serve suggestions in this bar," so the suggestions reply "pun punchline." Now go back and fill the blanks with that man's suggestion. The whole place lost it, especially as we saw the full scope of pending doom and shocked reaction crawl across Kristin's face. It was a show-stopper. After about two minutes of trying to gain the composure of eye-tearing laughter from everyone in the place, Kristin decided to get a new suggestion.

#1 - Kait & Andrew at PHIT
12.02.2012 | Shubin Theatre
My top spot goes to a show that probably had the smallest audience of any on my list. A few short weeks ago Kait & Andrew did a 7PM show at the Shubin, sharing a bill with Matt&. Kait & Andrew had a pretty decent show, punctuated by their classic fourth wall-breaking banter that makes them so endearing and honest. It was fun, but not exceedingly stand-out—until the last scene, where everything changed. Kaitlin started the scene off by coming unglued at Andrew... startlingly so. Andrew came right back at her. The scope of the argument was that he had spent 8 years training to be a hide-and-seek champion, meanwhile she'd felt completely neglected in their relationship. In turn, he felt she wasn't supporting his training, which he was doing for the betterment of their relationship. Over the course of the next few minutes, the two would spew accusations at one another, managing to pull out callback after callback of damn near every element of the show up until then. From fantastical gifts like Mayan Bee Fighting to seemingly insignificant expressions and sighs, everything was ammo. And during this escalating vitriol volley, neither forgot for a moment to ground everything to the characters, their shared relationship and raw emotions. It was like the first 20 minutes were merely a set up to this moment of explosion. The slow fade to black as Andrew moved to cover his dog's eyes left me with shivering excitement and disbelief at the high-stake magic I'd just been witness to.

Matt Nelson is Executive Producer of the Philadelphia Improv Festival and Managing Director of Figment Theater. In addition to running the annual improv competition Troika, Matt can be seen performing in the touring show Adrift. You can follow him on Twitter at @ma77nelson.


Tweets of the Week, Vol. 10

Follow Witout on Twitter for updates from our site, as well as retweets of more of the best 140-character-or-less jokes from Philly comics.


Top 5 of 2012: Aaron Hertzog's Five Favorite Sketches

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 contact@witout.net!

The Feeko Brothers - Two Doctors

The opening to Crotch the Throne, one of my favorite shows of the year, Two Doctors is an amazing sketch both in premise and execution. Watching the Feeko Brothers (Billy Bob Thompson and Christian Alsis) say the exact same thing at the exact same time (and discover that they say the exact same thing at the exact same time at the exact same time, and discover that they discover...you get it) for an entire sketch is pure joy. The two doctors ask each other fantastically detailed questions to find out how similar they actually are, and their answers are as unexpected as they are hilarious (“I don’t drive. It’s dangerous. I power walk everywhere.”) The sketch reaches its peak as the two sing together and try to harmonize their “all time favorite, trapped on a desert island forever with it” song; The Weight by The Band.

Camp Woods - Imposters

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Camp Woods created more comedy in Philadelphia than anyone else in the past year. They challenged themselves with a monthly show at L’etage at which they promised a brand new set every month, and they more than met their goals. With that much material created I could have done a list of just my Top Five Favorite Camp Woods sketches from 2012 - but I think I talk about them enough. Imposters was a great sketch about a mother (played by Billy Bob Thompson) who throws an 18th birthday party for her daughter (Madonna Marie Refugia) and hires an Austin Powers impersonator (Pat Foy) as entertainment. The sad man slowly realizes exactly how sad his life is as he tries to hit on the girl every time her mom leaves the room to get the cake (which she keeps forgetting because she’s “fucking stupid”). He finally realizes he is living his life in the past, as all of his choices in life have lead him to his fate as a “true impersonation” of the swingin’ sixties spy character. Depressing, but hilarious.

Camp Woods - Mystery Science Andre 3000

This sketch made its debut at The Theme Show. I’ll let it speak for itself.

http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/db8cf12b0d/mystery-science-andre-3000

Secret Pants - We’re You, From the Future

Secret Pants really kept peeling back the layers on this onion-of-a-sketch they performed at November’s Camp Woods Plus. The concept involved the Secret Pants of today travelling back into time to Meg and Rob’s Last Show to inform the Secret Pants of that day that it would not, in fact, be Meg and Rob’s last show. More visits from more versions of Secret Pants from more distant futures created a hilarious rapid fire back-and-forth between all of the groups that eventually lead to the discovery that even though Meg and Rob would not be gone forever Bryce would have to cry like they would, because the fate of all humanity depended on it. Thank you, Bryce, and thank you, Secret Pants.

ManiPedi - Suicide Gary

Suicide Gary is ManiPedi's cautionary tale of a man (Briana Kelly) who, after failing to commit suicide, is left to hang under the bridge where he tried to end his life as a lesson for teens that life is worth living. It’s like an “it get’s better” campaign, only nothing ever does. A teacher (Aubrie Williams) leads a group of students (Kaitlyn Thompson, Shannon Brown, Madonna Marie Refugia)  to learn from Gary and ask him questions like “does it hurt” (it does) and “how do you eat” (sometimes a bird flies near his mouth). One of the more morbid students becomes infatuated with Gary’s situation while another antagonizes and bullies him into trying to once again live up to his nickname. Neck-snappingly funny.

Aaron Hertzog will always be a Philly comedian. No matter where he may or may not currently live. You can be his #friend on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.


Tweets of the Week, Vol. 9

Follow Witout on Twitter for updates from our site, as well as retweets of more of the best 140-character-or-less jokes from Philly comics.


Another WitOut EXCLUSIVE: The Making of Tweets of the Week - Featuring Luke Field & Judd Apatow

 

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

Luke Field is a Philly Improv Theater instructor, a member of PHIT House Teams Asteroid! (improv) and The Flat Earth (sketch), and one half of the improv duo Hot Dog.

Judd Apatow is The Judd Apatow.


Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 66

In case you missed it, sketch group ManiPedi was featured as the cover story for last week's Philadelphia Weekly. Pick up a copy while they are still in newsstands around the city and read the article online.

Tonight begins another run of shows at Philly Improv Theater (at The Shubin Theatre, 407 Bainbridge St. Philadelphia). Their run kicks off at 9pm tonight with The Monthly Hour with James Hesky and following it will be the final edition of Aaron Hertzog's stand-up comedy showcase Hey Everybody, with shows continuing for the next two weeks. You can find their full schedule and purchase tickets online.

A new open mic will begin this Thursday night at Roosevelt's Pub (2220 Walnut St. Philadelphia). The new open mic promises that it takes place in a private room at Roosevelt's with a real stage, no loud TVs and drink specials every week! Sign ups begin at 7:30 with the mic starting at 8.

The next Camp Woods Plus at L'etage (624 S. 6th St.) will be next Thursday, December 6th and will feature sketch comedy from New York group We're Matt Weir as well as Philly groups Daring Daulton and American Breakfast. As always, the show will be headlined with a set of brand new sketches by Camp Woods.

Nominations are now open for the 2013 WitOut Awards for Philadelphia ComedyPerformers may nominate up to three choices in 13 different categories for the awards, which will be held on January 13, 2013 at World Cafe Live. Nominations will be open until November 30.

WitOut is now accepting submissions from performers and comedy fans for our Top Five of 2012 list series. We are encouraging anyone to write about their favorite moments, shows, performers, sketches, quotes, or anything at all to help us recap and remember the past year in Philadelphia comedy. You can pitch your Top Five of 2012 idea to contact@witout.net

If you have any Philly comedy news worth mentioning – send it our way with an email to contact@witout.net


Another WitOut EXCLUSIVE: The Making of Tweets of the Week - 30th Street Station Edition

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PR_9hb82BUM&feature=youtube_gdata_player


Comedy Love Letter - From Aaron Hertzog to Philadelphia Comedy

Dear Philadelphia Comedy,

All of it. Every open mic that lasted for two weeks in a bar I’d never want to step foot in unless they let me talk at half-listening strangers. Every fire hall gig in the middle of nowhere booked by a gravelly disembodied voice on the phone with a promise of pay I wasn’t sure I’d really receive. Every awkward improv scene where I wasn’t sure what to do so I just got louder, repeated what I’d already been saying, and tried to be a bigger, sillier, goofier fool. Every line of every sketch where I’ve agonized over details that don’t even matter, like the full first and last name of a character whose name is never even said.

All of it. Every time a new joke does well at an open mic and gives promise of a new few minutes added onto the act. Every set in front of a crowd that just “gets it” and lets me go where I want to go and follows me there with no judgement, just acceptance...and of course, laughter. Every improv scene where I’m still not sure what to do but it just clicks into place and makes sense and flows together and builds (and I still become a bigger, sillier, goofier fool). That time when the crowd laughed just because we wrote that my character’s name was “Meredith.”

Six years ago I stepped onto a stage at an open mic for the first time with a page full of jokes about dicks and how college was more like an episode of I Love the '80s (“do you guys remember this thing from our childhood?”) than any wild and crazy party time portrayal of college from any TV show or movie. Six years later and I’m still getting on stages, still talking about dumb stuff, and still loving every single minute of it.

I love the laughter. I love the struggle. I love the people. I’ve met some of the best friends I’ll ever make doing this. People I have every single thing in the world in common with. People I have absolutely nothing in common with besides the fact that we do this. But just that one single thing means that I could talk to them for hours. There’s nothing I feel more comfortable talking about or gushing over or heatedly debating than comedy.

This city put that in me. Running around to multiple mics in one night with a group of friends. Staying late after a show to do karaoke and drink until the law says we have to leave. Packing as many people as we can into a park on Memorial Day for a picnic. Giving each other awards that only matter because we say they do.

Doing comedy is certainly difficult, but it is definitely worth it. Getting to say whatever you want to say and making people laugh is the absolute best feeling in the world. It is freeing. It is powerful. But it would be nothing without the people I've met along the way. When I say this letter is to “Philadelphia Comedy” that means that it is to you. Have we talked a few times at open mics about nothing? Then this is to you. Did you think I was a dick before you met me because when I first started I was too shy to talk to people? Then I’m sorry, and this is to you. Are you someone that knows me well enough that you’re going to make fun of me mercilessly after reading this? Then this is definitely to you.

I have to be leaving you soon. But you will never leave me.

#Friendship.

 

Aaron Hertzog is an L.A.-bound Philadelphia comedian. He is the host of 'Hey Everybody!' at Philly Improv Theater (final show Nov. 26th), until recently a member of PHIT House Team Hey Rube and a founding member of  The Holding Court Podcast.  He leaves Philly on Nov. 28th; be sure to say hi to him one last time before then.