Top 5 of 2012: John Kensil's Favorite 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!

There are so many people and sketch groups that are outstanding, new and veteran comedians that inspire me to keep writing. Here are my five favorite moments from the past year.

1) I work with the Legendary WID. He makes me laugh. I know it's old school props and jokes but he is extremely quick witted, smart, and funny. I performed with WID at a bar/restaurant in Gloucester City NJ where the green room was in the kitchen. As WID and I were talking we heard a scratching noise that turned out to be a live raccoon. It dropped out of the drop ceiling, walked on the counter, and started licking the grease from a deep fryer that wasn't turned on. The owner came in and said "Is he back? Get the f**k outta here!" The raccoon waddled off out the screen door

2) At the same show, there was a very very large woman in attendance. WID asked her name and she said "Echo". WID's reply was " You can say that again!" Then he asked her what she did and she said " nothing".  WID came back with "Really? I thought you went to KFC and licked other people's fingers!" She didn't laugh.

3) Later that night, WID and I saw a gang member try to buy a pack of cigarettes at 28th and Oregon with 790 pennies. He was refused because he didn't have ID.

4) Every time Oakland Seligson performs at Helium open mic is amazing. He's like Jake Gylenthall rapping on Monster energy drinks.

5) Amir Golan always makes me laugh consistently.

5.5) Every time someone is roasted or moves to California some idiot dressed as Lincoln walks onstage only to be told to leave.

John Kensil started in Philly as a comedian, has performed across the country, and writes his own short films. You can check him out on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @johnkensil.

From the WitOut Archives: All You Gotta Do is Act Theatrically by Rob Baniewicz

Twice a month, WitOut digs through its virtual piles of old columns to repost something great you may have missed.

This post was written by sketch comedy writer and performer Rob Baniewicz, of Camp Woods and Meg & Rob fame.  

I went to a Catholic high school — a cheap one at that. This meant no sound system in a theater that held well over 200 people. I mean, there was a microphone… maybe two … but no body mics, nor any sort of system to pick up the sounds of a group or a chorus. And unfortunately, my high school felt the only financially viable shows were musicals, which, on the one hand, were guaranteed to bring in at least twice the crowd of 16-year-olds performing Stoppard but on the other hand, would elicit awkward cries of “What did he say?” when Caiaphas, in a deep, deep baritone sang, “Jesus must, Jesus must, Jesus must die.” I learned early on in my high school career that our lousy sound system could not be depended on to support the actors. This is what prompted me to connect with my voice and is something necessary for any sketch performer.

Let me start with a disclaimer — in my experience, I have found that a lot of improv folks come from a theater background. Consequently, in an improv show, I tend to hear most everything regardless if I want to or not. On the other hand, I’ve sat through dozens of self-obsessed sketches that are barely audible, the performers completely ignorant to the fact that there’s an audience in front of them. So forgive me if this seems like a no-brainer, but it needs to be said: people are paying to hear you, and even if they’re not listening, YOU WANT THEM TO.

To get started with some basics, let’s talk about remembering there is an audience and giving them the theater they deserve. My desire to project during a performance stemmed from the fact that I wanted my half-deaf father to hear me warble “Let’s Misbehave” during Anything Goes. Sure, my actions clued the audience in to the slinky sexual awkwardness that characterized my high school drama productions, but without my voice, I was merely a mime on a cruise ship.

So first, face the audience, dummy. No microphones is an inevitable side-effect of DIY performances and a fact that actors need to be flexible about when they’re doing shows in Philly. I can’t tell you how many sketches I’ve seen where I had no idea what was going on onstage, despite sitting only a few feet away. Talk to your fellow performers but face the audience. If you’re an ak-tor, you can call it “cheating out.” Moral of the story — don’t turn your back on the crowd who is there to support you.

Second, talk loudly. We’re doing these shows in bars, backyards, the Piazza and anywhere else that will have us. Figure out what your diaphragm is and use it (hint: it doesn’t go in a lady). You may feel like you’re yelling (and in some cases you are), but this is the only way to ensure that every joke is heard and thus, ensure that every joke is given its rightful opportunity to hit.

If you look at some of the more successful sketch groups in Philly — Secret PantsFeeko BrothersCamp Woods, and Animosity Pierre — they all have an inherent sense of the audience which enables them to perform theatrically. I know the idea of being theatrical may send a chill up some down and dirty sketcheteers’ spine, but a live show is theater, no matter what. To succeed is thus to act theatrically. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, if you can’t get up on stage and be heard, you might as well be performing to a windmill…

Man of La Mancha, anybody?

Four Ways to Manage the Comedy-Family Balance

By: Andrea Kuhar Isom

Oh hi, everyone! It’s me, Andrea! You probably haven’t seen me much lately because, well, I haven’t been to many shows, nor have I been standing awkwardly outside of the Shubin hoping to tell you how great you are. (Trust me, I STILL think you are the bee's knees!) But here’s what I am here telling you. Don’t give up on your dreams.

Here are 4 ways to keep your budding comedy writing career blossoming after, you know, you’ve got important diapers to change:

1. Work-share options: And by this I mean, share your work! Get an amazingly funny and responsible sketch partner! Make her learn all the hard lines so you don’t have to. Bonus points if she’s toddler-friendly, and also can tolerate your unique quirks! (Like, for example, losing your costumes the day before your show. How were you supposed to know they looked exactly like your "donate immediately" pile?)

2. Flexible Scheduling: Ok, if you are lucky enough to have the option to be Stay At Home, as we say in the business - you’re in luck! You no doubt have a short roster of creative un/under-employeed folks to keep you company at the playground. Pitch these people your ideas, and take advantage of their after-dusk freedoms! This is how you find out what’s really happening in Comedy World, when you are home wrestling certain people into a slumber.

3. Affordable Child Care: What’s that? You are shooting a video and your only trustworthy babysitter has bailed? No problem! Your pride-and-joy is now in your sketch. Rejoice. Your YouTube videos now stand a chance at getting tens of viewers.

4. Utilize your audience: Lastly, don’t forget that being a family-person means you have a built-in audience. What more could a budding comedian ask for? Tell them your jokes, recite your hilarious monologues, polish your stand-up routine! Chances are, your family could ignore you completely, and go right on loading Elmo into the dishwasher. But you should get used to that kind of thing. After all, you want to be a comedy writer right? Silent rejection is just part of the territory.

Andrea is a member of the sketch comedy duo Local Holiday Miracle. Catch them TONIGHT October 26th at 8:30PM at the Philly Improv Theater with Mani-Pedi.

Flagged Words (NSFW)

By: Anonymous

Some websites or online forums have filters in place that block people from cursing, using hateful slurs, or discussing inappropriate things.

Here I present an actual alphabetical list of the most interesting flagged or disallowed terminology, excluding the usual suspects you'd expect.

Do you think these were researched or came from case studies?
I didn't write these up to be funny. This is an actual list from an actual website system.

  • Analbeads
  • Baby batter
  • Baby gravy
  • Bearded clam
  • Beaver cleaver
  • Beef curtain
  • Boloney drapes
  • Bukkake
  • Bunghole
  • Butt pirate
  • Carpetmunch
  • Choad
  • Chode
  • Chocolate starfish
  • Cooch
  • Cornholer
  • Darkie
  • Dirty Sanchez
  • Dominatrix
  • Dong
  • Donkey punch
  • Eat her out
  • Eat me out
  • Felch
  • Fellatio
  • Fun bags
  • Golden showers
  • Gorilla salad
  • Honky
  • Jump your bones
  • Knob gobbler
  • Lap dance
  • Lesbo
  • Mangina
  • Mushroom bruise
  • Nipple clamps
  • Pickaninny
  • Pink missile
  • Pink velvet sausage wallet
  • Pocket rocket
  • Porch monkey
  • Purple warrior
  • Queef
  • Raghead
  • Reach-around
  • Slant-eye
  • Sweater kittens
  • Swing both ways
  • The shocker
  • Tijuana donkey
  • Wetback
  • WOP
  • Yard ape
  • Yellow devil
  • Yiffing

The N Crowd Seven Year Anniversary: BJ Ellis

The N Crowd has somewhat of a long history. Shows begin to blur together after seven years. It's hard to keep track of who was where and when things happen. It's also hard to pin down one great story or highlights. I've been with The N Crowd since the very beginning, so maybe that's the best place to start.

(As a side note, parts of this should be read with old timey 1920's music on a train car.)

Feb. 26th 2005 was my first audition for The N Crowd at 213 New Street. I remember getting there entirely too early (a trademark of mine) and just walking around Old City. I don't remember being nervous or anxious. I was excited to get in there and do some improv. I had done some in college and had met Jessica Snow and Greg Maughan a few months earlier to try and do something, but nothing really panned out.

The thing that stands out in my mind the most was how many people were there. There were alot. I remember everyone having headshots, resumes, ect. I had a college acting resume of sorts, although in retrospect it wasn't much to look at. I was a bit concerned that I didn't have a headshot. I think I even needed the term "headshot" explained to me as the term only applied to N64 Goldeneye in my mind. So, I flipped my paper over and drew a stick figure version of me and submitted that. I do specifically recall some sarcastic comments from some people that I should have come more prepared. Thinking about that now, I can't help but smirk as I write this reflecting on the past seven years.

I don't remember auditioning, other than it was a lot of fun. I recall huddling with Brandon, Mike, Akshay, and Jessica during breaks as I felt I had great chemistry with them. Auditions were Feb 26th and March 5th. So I don't know the order I met people. Some were at the first and not the second. Others at the second but not the first. Some, like me, came to both.

On March 6th, at around 7:20pm I got a email from Emily Dufton (Ray Reese's Managing Director) saying I was in. I still have the email thanks to the wonderful world of Gmail. I was excited and immediately told my parents and all of my friends on Myspace. This was before the opening of Facebook mind you.

The rest I suppose they say is history. We started at 213 New Street for 6 months... bounced over to the Society Hill Playhouse for 8 months... and then finally settled at the Actors Center in September of 2006. We've been all over the East Coast from Toronto to North Carolina.

I believe the last time I sat down and wrote it out, 40 people have been part of The N Crowd. Some, such as myself, have been here since the very beginning. I've gone through several pair of black shoes, black pants, and black shirts over the years. Some have come and gone. Steve Cohen was in the original cast, left for college, came back, left for college again, came back, left for 3 years, and then came back again.

I love The N Crowd and the people who are in it. I like saying that I am the Executive Director of a professional improv troupe. Looking back, I can honestly say I do not have any regrets. Looking forward, I am as equally excited for the future as I was on March 6th, 2005.

Long Live The N Crowd.