Bird Text: The Philadelphia Fan Testing Facility

If you are a Philadelphia comedy performer that produces a podcast, web series, sketch video, humor column, or any other online content let us know by emailing us at contact@witout.net so we can share it!


“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.


Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 76

A new open mic at Connie's Ric Rac (1132 S. 9th St.) hosted by Dan Vetrano and Joe Murdock begins tonight. The stage is open to all comedy performers and the hosts also encourage bringing a video to show on the Ric Rac's screen. Sign ups begin at 8:30 and the mic starts at 9:00.

Philly Improv Theater is now accepting applications to their Improv Conservatory class to take place this spring. The conservatory class will accept eight students to work with director Steve Kleinedler to develop a new "style of play". At the end of the eight-week class, the ensemble will perform a one-month run of shows at PHIT. Applications are being accepted until February 28.

This Wednesday touring show Comedians at Law will visit Helium Comedy Club (2031 Sansom St. Philadelphia). The show will feature performances from lawyers-turned-stand-up-comedians Alex Barnett, J-L Cauvin, Kevin Israel, Matt Ritter. Tickets can be purchased online.

Also this Wednesday Accidents Will Happen returns to The Adobe Cafe (947 E. Passyunk Ave.) This month's show will feature performances from: Rachel FoglettoDave TerrusoDan ScullyMatt MonroeMalwinaBino Brown, and Tommie Turner as well as a Dating Game and the "1st annual WitAccidents Open Mic Awards!" The show begins at 9:00pm and is immediately followed by an open mic.

This Thursday Bird Text brings their comedy show back to Helium Comedy Club for a night featuring stand-up from Mike Lawrence, Doogie Horner, Mary Radzinski, and Tommy Pope plus brand new Bird Text sketches. Tickets can be purchased online.

Comedy is Liberty will make their weekend show debut this Saturday at Liberties Restaurant & Bar (705 N. 2nd St.) with a show featuring headliner Tommy Pope. Tickets can be purchased online.

Chase N' Laughs Comedy/Karaoke/Fish Fry is this Saturday at Treasures Banquet Hall  (5549 Germantown Ave). Doors open at 5:00pm with free martinis being served until 6:00 and comedy beginning at 8:00. Tickets can be purchased by calling 267-405-2025.

Joe Conklin's 3rd Annual Comedy Showcase is also taking place this Saturday at Glen Mills Thornbury Rotary at Penn Oaks Country Club (150 Penn Oaks Dr. West Chester, PA). The night will feature a DJ, cocktail hour, dinner, and comedy from the "man of a thousand voices."

This Sunday Propoganda!, a monthly comedy show from Denver, CO., will come to L'etage (624 South 6th St.) for a free show featuring comedy from: Alex Grubard, Alex Pearlman, Doogie Horner, Scott Sharp, Brett Hiker, and Ray DeVito.

Philly Improv Theater will also have shows all this week at The Shubin Theater (407 Bainbridge Street). Some of their regular shows have changed days and times so make sure you check out their full schedule online.

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


Meet Your Nominees for the 2013 WitOut Awards: Best Sketch

It's almost time for the 2013 WitOut Awards for Philadelphia Comedy!  As we get closer to the show, we'll be rolling out a series of posts to help you get more acquainted with this year's nominees. Read all about 'em, and then be sure to get your tickets for the big event on January 13th at World Cafe Live!

The nominees for Best Sketch are:

The Outlier (Camp Woods)

The Return of Pat Burrell (Bird Text)

Rollersketch Presents “Johnny Fifties” (Secret Pants)

 

Mystery Science Andre 3000 (Camp Woods)

The Incredible Imbroglione (Secret Pants)

 


Interview with Luke Cunningham, Member of Bird Text and New Writer for 'Late Night with Jimmy Fallon'

Luke Cunningham is back in town to help Carl Boccuti, Chip Chantry and Johnny Goodtimes ring in the new year TONIGHT for A Motown New Year's Eve at La Stanza (2001 W. Oregon Avenue).  After that, he's off to his new job writing for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, where he'll be hanging out with The Roots, writing his ass off, and—fortunately for Philadelphia comedy—living in closer proximity to his sketch group Bird Text, which means we can expect a lot from them in 2013.  Luke chatted with WitOut a bit about what's gotten him to this point in his career, and what advice he has for comedy writers coming up in Philly.

WitOut: What was the process like for getting hired on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon?

Luke Cunningham: The process is long but simple. You submit by invitation. The producers reached out to my agent and asked if they had any writers who would like to submit. My agent asked if I'd like to do it again—this was the third time I had submitted for Fallon—and I was put into the packet pool. For the next four days, I had to submit my ten best jokes every day by 5PM EST, 2PM for me because I was living in LA. The previous times I had submitted, I only participated in the initial four days. This time, I submitted for a total of twelve consecutive show days. It was like The Hunger Games but for jokes. People were getting eliminated while I got to stay. After twelve days, they flew me in for an interview. I flew in Sunday, interviewed Monday and was back out on a flight that night.

The interview was cool because I was in a room with Jimmy and  the producers. When I said, "I'm from Philadelphia," that got a round of applause. They love hiring people from Philadelphia because The Roots love having people from our hometown on the staff. Though after my interview, I was convinced I did not get the job. I had spent most of the time in the room listening to A.D. Miles and Jimmy riff on the Lakers.

I've gotten to the "In the room..." interview a few times. At that point, they want to make sure you're not crazy, unwashed, violent, etc. Tina Fey described it as "Hire who you want to see in a hallway at 3AM." Luckily, I am at my peak in hallways at 3AM.

Read more


Bird Text: DUI Jesus

If you are a Philadelphia comedy performer that produces a podcast, web series, sketch video, humor column, or any other online content let us know by emailing us at contact@witout.net so we can share it!


Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 67

This Wednesday will mark the Final Guilty Pleasures with host Brendan Kennedy. The show will feature performers Chip Chantry and (most of) Hate Speech Committee along with co-host Roger C. Snair. Brendan will also be revealing his successor as host. This Sunday, we continue our goodbyes with The Roast of Brendan Kennedy.

This Thursday L'etage (624 S. 6th St.) will host The Final Camp Woods Plus. The monthly show produced by the sketch group has been a showcase of brand new sketches every month and will culminate with a show featuring New York's We're Matt Weir and Philadelphia groups American Breakfast and Daring Daulton.

This Tuesday No. 2(#2)(Number 2)  will debut at St. Stephen's Green (1701 Green St.) The open mic will be hosted by Robert X and Chris O'Conner. Signups begin at 7:30 and the show starts at 8.

Comedian David Ray Agyekum was recently featured on MTVU's College Quickies. You can watch his video online.

Bird Text released this teaser video for their upcoming sketch DUI Jesus. Watch it, and be on the lookout for the full sketch on December 12.

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


Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 59

The lineup for the 8th Annual Philadelphia Improv Festival has been announced, and is available online. This year's festival runs from November 7-11 and will be held at the Prince Music Theater (1412 Chestnut St.)

Bird Text is filming two commercials in the area in the upcoming weeks and are looking for extras to be part of the shoots. Interested actors can send a message, along with a resume and headshots to their Facebook page or to BirdText@gmail.com

This Wednesday, Philly Improv Theater House Team Asteroid! begins its month-long run of the B-Movie show, an improvised tribute to the low budget sci-fi/horror films from the Golden Age of Hollywood. You can purchase tickets online.

Also on Wednesday is The Pornologues, a show dedicated to the hilarious discussion of pornography by some of the funniest comedians in Philadelphia. The show will be held at L'etage (624 S. 6th St. Philadelphia) and is a fundraiser for this year's Philly Sketchfest, which will be held November 12-17 at the Independence Theater as part of Comedy MonthYou can purchase tickets online.

This Friday, Pat House is hosting another Comedy Night at Maggie O'Neil's (1062 Pontiac Road, Drexel Hill) as a benefit for breast cancer. The show will feature House, Pat Barker, Aaron Hertzog, and Jared Bilski.

If you have any Philly comedy news worth mentioning - send it our way to contact@witout.net