"We Hit You Hard and Fast with Hip-hop and Comedy!" - Interview with Alli Soowal of Beatbox Philly

On the last Friday of every month, ComedySportz is bringing in original outside acts for their 8pm time slot, ahead of their 10pm adults-only The Blue Show.  This month, ComedySportz Presents features Beatbox Philly, the Philadelphia version of a Chicago-born show that combines improv scene work with improvised raps and beatboxing.  The group's players are all also ComedySportz cast members: Alli Soowal, Darryl Charles, Sue Taney, Mark Leopold and Matt Lally. Here's Alli to tell you more about the group and this Friday's show.

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WitOut: For people who aren't familiar with it, can you describe what happens at a Beatbox Philly show?

Alli Soowal: We hit you hard and fast with hip-hop and comedy!  Our show is 45-55 minutes and it interweaves scenic improv with freestyle rapping— including improvised beats from our very own beatboxer.

WO: The members of Beatbox Philly are also all ComedySportz players, right? How did you guys decide to come together for this?

AS: We are!  Well, all of us except for Matt Lally, who is our beatboxer.  I've known Matt for years from the comedy scene, and we produced Comedy Month together, so when we were looking for a skilled beatboxer, I approached him and Dave Terruso to give me ideas of who would be good.  They both replied "ummm...you know Matt has skills because you've seen him perform!"  As for how the rest of us came together, Beatbox started in Chicago and we have had them perform at the Philly Improv Festival, plus I'm good friends with Rene Duquesnoy—one of the co-founders of Beatbox.  I had wanted to put together a hip-hop show for awhile, so I talked to Rene, and he came to Philly and offered workshops through ComedySportz Philly, including one just for CSz performers.  From that, I was able to gauge interest from other company members.  Rene gave his blessing to use the Beatbox name (there is also a Beatbox in Minneapolis), and Beatbox Philly was born!  We made our debut at last year's Fringe Festival, and it was so well received that we wanted to keep going.

WO: Do any of you have a rapping background? How did you learn to freestyle, and what do you do to practice?

AS: Interestingly enough, Mark Leopold is a self-produced rap artist—like hardcore gangsta style!  I won't give you his stage name because it's too dirty for the pages of WitOut.  He's the only one, though, who comes from that world.  The rest of us learned to rap from ComedySportz rehearsals and classes, as well as lots of practice alone in cars.  Rene teaches a "Mad Skillz" workshop each year at the ComedySportz Championships that several of us have taken.   We also incorporate rapping into our shows in some games ("Kick It," "Elimination Rap," "Beastie Rap," etc.), so everyone needs to be somewhat proficient in it.  When we practice, we go through a series of exercises designed to gradually pull raps out of you, and to increase your confidence.  Freestyling requires hella trust in your own brain to spit out words that you can make work into a cohesive song. 

WO: Do you guys have rap names? If not, do you want to make some up for everyone right now?

AS:

Darryl "Salt" Charles
Sue "Peppa" Taney
Mark "Misdemeanor" Leopold
Kevin "Left Eye" Lopez
Alli "Lady Boo" Soowal

Matt "MC Spinderella" Lally   

Not performing, but also a member, is Bobbi "M.I.A." Block.

WO: What are you most excited about for your upcoming ComedySportz Presents show?  Will there be any new or special surprises for audience members who are already Beatbox Philly fans?

AS: I'm so excited to be back with this awesome crew!  We had a blast with our past shows, can't wait to do it again.  As for surprises, there will likely be some special guest appearances but you will just have to come out to see it!


Catch Beatbox Philly at ComedySportz (2030 Sansom Street) this Friday, February 22nd at 8pm. Tickets are $12.


Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 78

A Bunch of Improv at The Grape Room (105 Grape St.) will celebrate their one-year anniversary at the Manayunk venue this Tuesday with a show featuring improv from Deleted Scenes, Rosen & Milkshake, Bed Savage, and Cock Hat. The show will be hosted by Ryan Carey and will also feature a new installment of Web Cereal, their monthly sketch comedy video.

This Thursday Comedian Deconstruction returns to L'etage (624 South 6th St.) for their "Couples Therapy" show featuring stand-up from Chip Chantry, Chris Rich, Alison Zeidman, and Joe Bell with improv from Bed Savage and Cake Bear.

This Friday Grammy-award-winning comedian Lewis Black will bring his Running on Empty tour to the Academy of Music for a one-night-only performance. The comedian is known for his "unfiltered and frank rants about the absurdity of politics and the world around us". Tickets can be purchased online.

We Can All Change, a new monthly show from hosts Dan Scully, Mike Logan, Setoiyo, and David Piccolomini at O’Neals Pub (611 S. 3rd St.) will debut this Friday with a show featuring performances from Jared Rosado, Elise Thompson-Hohl, Lou Misiano, and Pat Barker.

The Tough Stuff Comedy Show will also debut this Friday at Headhouse (122 Lombard St.) The show will feature stand-up performances from Alex Grubard, Mary Radzinski, John Nunn, and H. Foley. After their sets, the comedians will sit down with hosts Sidney Gantt and Kevin Ryan, where they will share "their most embarrassing and crazy stories." Tickets are available online.

ComedySportz Philadelphia presents: BeatBox Philly this Friday at The Playground at the Adrienne Theater (2030 Sansom St.) The show will feature some of your favorite members of the ComedySportz Philadelphia team performing a mix of improvised scenes and freestyle raps. Tickets can be purchased online.

This Friday at The Arts Parlor (1170 S. Broad St.) The Sideshow presents: The 2013 Oscars Improv Jam. For the third straight year comedians from around Philadelphia will get dressed up and enjoy a night of improv, parody videos, food, and BYOB drinking. Following the jam there will also be a showing of film sensation The Room.

The Captain Action Comedy Show is this Saturday at the Conshohocken Cafe (521 Fayette St. Conshohocken). This month's show will feature performances by Anton Shuford, Michael Donovan, and Elise Thompson-Hohl with a Captain Action Comedy Quiz Show and more from co-hosts Sidney Gantt and Dave Terruso.

Comedy Corner at Broad Axe Tavern (901 W. Butler Pike, Ambler, PA) will feature stand-up from Andy Nolan, Jim Ginty, and Alex Pearlman with guest sets from Chris Dolan, Caitlyn Feeney, and Dave Topor. Tickets can be purchased online.

This Sunday Chase N' Laughs presents: A Night of Comedy at Jollie's Live (822 N. Broad St.) The show will feature stand-up from Miles Green (BET's Comic View) and Philly's own Craig McLaren. More information can be found online.

The crew from the Comedy Food Sports podcast were given press passes to Wing Bowl 21 and used their access to create this video of the goings on from the event.

Submissions for the 15th Annual Del Close Marathon are now open. The improv festival will take place June 28-30 on multiple stages throughout New York City. The marathon is known for bringing improvisers from around the country together for a few days of performances ranging from traditional improv institutions to crazy, late-night shows. The deadline to submit is April 2.

The early application deadline for this year's Duofest, to be held right here in Philadelphia from June 6-9, is this Friday, February 22. Interested improv duos will have until then to take advantage of the lower application fee of $22. The final deadline to submit is March 2 (at a price of $32). More information can be found online.

Philly Improv Theater is currently holding sign-ups for auditions to add three new improv teams to their roster. One team, directed by Ralph Andracchio, will be cast as a PHIT House Team and will perform on Saturday nights at the theater. The other two teams, directed by Rob Gentile and Alex Newman will be PHIT's first Harold Teams, and will perform on Tuesday nights. Auditions will be held March 9-10 and to secure an audition you can email your name, phone number, a preferred audition time, and details of your past improv training (if you have not completed PHIT's Improv 201) to contact@phillyimprovtheater.com.


Deets on the ComedySportz "Battle of the Sexes" from Refs Kristin Finger and Noah Herman

This Saturday's ComedySportz shows are being billed as a "Battle of the Sexes."  That's right, it's guys vs. gals!  The 7:30 show will feature the refereeing talents of Kristin Finger; voice talents of Noah Herman; and dudes Langston Darby, Todd Rodenhiser and Sean Curran against ladies Sue Taney, Danna Young and Alli Soowal.  The 10pm show will have Noah back, this time as the ref; Alli Soowal back to lend some sweet vox; boyz from Round 1 Sean and Todd will return as well, this time with Kevin Regan; and the girlz for Round 2 will be Sue and Danna once again, with Kristin switching out of her ref jersey to play in with them. 

As the level-headed officials for the first and second matches, respectively, we knew we could count on Kristin and Noah to answer a few questions about what fans can expect on Saturday—without TOO much smack-talk. (Although, honestly, we were kinda trying to get some going. Fight! Fight! Fight!)

WitOut: Do you know which games you'll be playing? Are there any games in the regular ComedySportz rotation that you feel could be particularly suited towards highlighting the strengths of either team?

KF:  As ref for the 7:30 show, I'd love to challenge them to the game of "Story," but perhaps with an added twist!  And the classic, "I kissed a blank."  These games shall test their wits equally!

NH:  You can be sure that we're going to play some of our debate style or elimination games, such as "Objection" or "Story. "If you were hoping for a Girls vs. Boys "Elimination Rap Battle," your wish just might come true.

WO: What do you think makes either gender/team better than the other when it comes to comedy—or just life in general? Hyperbole encouraged.

KF:  I bet you want me to answer this with a whole lot of "men suck" attitude, well that's not gonna happen! They are an equal opponent, but to quote the amazing Tina Fey, "Know what? Bitches get stuff done."

NH: I'm not going anywhere near "what makes your gender better than the other when it comes to comedy?" But in terms of how the gender battle will affect this Saturday's ComedySportz match, in my experience women have to pee much more than men. Will that affect their ability to play on Saturday? Who knows!

WO: Is there anything riding on this match?  E.g. will the losing team have to wash the other team's ComedySportz jerseys for the next month, or anything like that?

KF: I'll put it on the table right now, when the ladies take the win, the boys must bow to us Wayne's World style and say, "we're not worthy, we're not worthy, we're scum..." in front of the entire audience!

NH: Is there anything riding on this match? Nothing but pride and back rubs!

 

You can see ComedySportz shows this and every Saturday at 7:30pm and 10pm at The Playground at The Adrienne (2030 Sansom Street). Tickets are $17 for adults; $14 for students.


"I'm So Excited about This Cast" - Interview with Matt Nelson of Adrift (Performing at ComedySportz this Friday)

On the last Friday of every month, ComedySportz is bringing in original outside acts to perform ahead of their 10pm adults-only Blue Show.  This month, ComedySportz Presents features Adrift, a nationally-touring show created by Philadelphia Improv Festival producer Matt Nelson.  Matt performs with a rotating cast, improvising scenes that take place over several days of being stranded together on a life raft. In this edition, Adrift will be kept afloat by Eoin O’ Shea, Todd Rodenhiser, Sue Taney, Daryll Charles, Danna Young and Mary Carpenter of ComedySportz.

Adrift at at NCCAF. Photo by Kevin Thom.
Adrift at at NCCAF. Photo by Kevin Thom.

WitOut: Can you give a brief overview of the origins of Adrift?

Matt Nelson: Adrift was created four years ago for the Philadelphia Improv Festival. I'd just ended several-year runs with a couple groups, and wanted to still do a longform set in my own festival. I figured I'd rope in a bunch of amazing people that my co-producers couldn't possibly say no to. I made a short list, and that first show included locals Kristen Schier and Kelly Vrooman, as well as Brian O'Connell from iO West and Steve Kleinedler (at that time, still a Bostonian). I looked at the list and thought to myself, "Hey these people would be amazing to be shipwrecked with." And that's when the show concept was born. It was so much fun that I decided to keep at it. It became my own personal all-star show, giving me a chance to work with incredibly talented people I might otherwise never get to play with. Joe Bill, Jeff Griggs, Jill Bernard, Dave Sawyer, Topher Bellavia, Tara DeFrancisco, Rachel Klein—people who make your comedy heart swoon. After I locked down Emo Philips for my NCCAF show two years ago, I became pretty fearless about asking anyone whose work I really admire.

WO: What brought Adrift to ComedySportz?

MN: ComedySportz actually approached me to do the show. Adrift is a show that doesn't play all the time, and with my format their cast can get really involved. Between the two, I think it's a nice fit for their Final Fridays format, and I suppose they must have thought the same. I've had quite a few of their cast members in various rafts, and they've always been a blast to play with... so it was pretty much a "yes" from the word go. Then I was told I could pick from anyone in the cast, and it was like being a kid in a candy store. I decided to opt for mostly new players—because aside from doing a few local gigs and festivals, Adrift is a road show, and I only bring 1-2 Philly improvisers with me to those.

WO: You have some really amazing ComedySportz players in the cast for this show.  What are some skills they bring, either as individuals or a group, that you're looking forward to having for this performance?

MN: I'm so excited about this cast. Overall, ComedySportz players bring a style of play that comes only from a strong connection built over time doing weekly shows. It's a family—a very generous, playful family with tons of heart. Let me see if I can highlight a few things though...

Eoin O'shea: Eoin approaches things with a sort of tempered chaos, bubbling just under the surface. No matter how methodical a scene is, there's always something dangerous and exciting potentially lurking around the next corner.

Todd Rodenhiser: Todd is a menagerie of big, bold, beautiful characters. They're born from a whole other plane of existence, and it's always thrilling when they come out to play.

Danna Young: Danna is a quirky, vibrant player than can play the duality of what you think is a light character, only to surprise you with strong choices and emotional reactions that can turn on a dime.

Darryl Charles: Darryl understands comedy like few others I know. The way he processes every little gift, it's like he took an evolutionary step somewhere— always working out the best possible arcs for relationships, but always in the flash of a moment.

Sue Taney: Sue is a powerhouse player who just exhales hilarity. She's like one of those storage saver bags where they shrink down all the fluffy stuff —she could take three minutes of silence and not have a moment of dead air.

Mary Carpenter: Mary is the crown jewel of Philly comedy, and I wish more comedians saw her more often. I don't think I could run out of things to say. I have never, and I genuinely mean never, seen anyone on stage as generous as her. She can communicate so effectively with her face alone, it's scary. If a show were a knife fight, you'd never have to check your six, because Mary's got your back without fail.

Catch Adrift at ComedySportz (2030 Sansom Street) this Friday, January 25th at 8pm. Tickets are $12.


Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 74

This Wednesday at Chris' Jazz Cafe (1421 Sansom St.) the Tight Six crew will host Not Jazz 2, an evening of stand-up comedy featuring John Nunn, Mary Radzinski, Dan Scully, Trevor Cunnion, Gregg Gethard, and Keane Cobb.

The Sideshow Presents: Iron Lung's 2 Year Anniversary Show/Party  this Friday at The Arts Parlor (1170 S. Broad St). The show will feature improv from Iron LungKid Twist, Cock Hat, and Bed Savage as well as sketch from The Flat Earth and stand-up from Sidney Gantt.

Comedian and ventriloquist Jeff Dunham will bring his array of characters to perform at the Wells Fargo Center (3601 S. Broad St.) this Friday. Tickets are available online.

In addition to their regular, weekly shows ComedySportz Presents: Adrift and ComedySportz' The Blue Show will be held this Friday at The Adrienne Theater (2030 Sansom St.) ComedySportz Presents is "an ongoing series of fun, new comedy shows featuring your favorite CSz Players and Philadelphia comedians." Always on the last Friday of every month The Blue Show promises to feature "your favorite players doing stuff no Brown Bag could ever rectify."

The Center Square Fire Company (1298 Skippack Pike, Blue Bell PA) is celebrating their 100th anniversary this Saturday with a comedy show featuring stand-up from The Legendary WID, Mike Morse, Robin Fox, and Grover Silcox. Tickets for the show can be purchased online and include a souvenir cup, beer, soda, and snacks.

Jim Gaffigan visits Philadelphia for a show at the Tower Theater (69th and Ludlow) this Saturday. Tickets can be purchased online.

The Captain Action Comedy Show makes its Saturday debut this week at the Conshohocken Cafe (521 Fayette St. Conshohocken) with a show featuring Jim Ginty, Jon DelCollo, Aaron Nevins, Dave Terruso, and Dan Vetrano.

This Sunday Bedtime Stories Presents: Behind the Scenes at a Soft Rock Radio Station in Nahua, NH at Connie's Ric Rac (1132 S. 9th St.). The show will feature comedians telling the stories behind WHFMTOWNDZ-FM (The Breeze On Top of the Mountain Near Nashua) — the number two rated soft rock/adult contemporary radio station in New Hampshire’s second biggest radio market.

ComedySportz for Kids — a "fun-sized version of our long-running comedy show only shorter, sillier and kiddy-er" will be this Sunday at The Adrienne Theater (2030 Sansom St.) The monthly comedy show for children will take place at 11 am. Tickets can be purchased online.

Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe are looking for new artists. Live Arts will select up to 5 artists through an audition process. If selected, artists will be presented in a showcase format for two nights, will receive a stipend of $500 and 5 hours of rehearsal time in the LAB in preparation for their performance. Live Arts is seeking work which demonstrates a commitment to forward thinking ideas and aesthetics. Any live performance genre is acceptable including theater, dance, music and performance art. Visit www.livearts-fringe.org/jumpstart to sign up and read the guidelines, eligibility, and FAQs.

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


New Year's Eve Comedy Show Round-Up

Traditionally comedy shows are a popular choice among those looking to make plans for a New Year's Eve out on the town. What better way to ring in a new year than with friends, food, drinks, and laughter? We decided to round up all the New Year's Eve comedy options we could find in the Philadelphia area to help you make your decision on where you'll be starting 2013.

The Northeast Comedy Cabaret (11580 Roosevelt Blvd) will hold two shows (8pm, 10:30pm) featuring comedians Sudsy, John Kensil, Steve Golassa, and Darin Martinez. The 10:30 show will feature a champagne toast and party favors. Reservations can be made online or by calling 215-676-5653.

The Doylestown Comedy Cabaret (625 N. Main St. Doylestown, PA) will feature an 8:30 show with performances by Julia Scotti, Amir Gollan, Bill Chiang, and Bob Marsdale. Tickets are only available through online presale. For any questions call 215-322-6642.

The South Jersey Comedy Cabaret (200 North Route 73 Marlton, NJ) will host two shows (8pm, 10:30pm) with comedians Patrick O'Donnell, Simply Dee, Vince Valentine, and Mike Casey. The 10:30 show will feature a champagne toast and party favors. Tickets are available through online presale. For any questions call 215-322-6642.

ComedySportz New Year's Improvin' Eve (2030 Sansom St.) will feature two shows (7:30pm, 10:30pm) with "hilarious new games, free pizza and drinks for fans, Auld Lang Syne in gibberish and yes, even Baby New Year." Tickets can be purchased online.

New Year's Eve with Gary Gulman at Helium Comedy Club (2031 Sansom St.) will have two shows, the 8pm will include appetizers from 6:00PM - 7:30PM and a ticket to a future show while the 10:30pm show includes a champagne toast at midnight, dessert, and a ticket to a future show. Tickets can be purchased online.

New Year's Eve with Mike Bonner at The Laff House (221 South St.) will also have an 8pm and 10:30 show with tickets to the late show including "butlered hors d’ouvres, champagne toast at midnight and more!" The show will also feature comedy from Philly's own Keith from Up Da Block. Tickets can be purchased online.

Chip Chantry, Carl Boccuti, and Johnny Goodtimes will be hosting A Motown New Year's Eve at La Stanza (2001 W. Oregon Ave.) The show will feature performances by Doogie Horner, Tommy Pope, Luke Cunningham, John McKeever, Mary Radzinski, and Pat House. After the comedy show there will be a "Motown/Funk/Soul dance party" with DJ Honkeytron. Admission includes the show and dance party along with food and alcohol. Tickets can be purchased in advance via PayPal by sending $50 to 20snye@gmail.com (PLEASE choose "Personal" as the transaction type).

 

 


Comedy Love Letter - From Steve Kleinedler to the City of Philadelphia

This is a love letter to Philadelphia, and by extension, to the comedy scene that you have all created here and welcomed me into.

Philadelphia is where I actively chose to live after considering a wide array of options. Performing as a vistor in PHIFs, a Troika, some N Crowd shows, and several one-off shows exposed me to what Philadelphia has to offer. Inexpensive rehearsal and performance spaces mean that anyone with an idea and the drive can start a production. In addition to the established companies, numerous successfully produced shows in bars, empty store fronts, galleries, and the like, make Philadelphia's scene reminiscent of the theatre scene in Chicago in the late '80s and early '90s. Discussions with Mary Carpenter, Greg Maughan, Matt Nelson, Alexis Simpson, Alli Soowal, Kristen Schier, and Jason Stockdale spurred me to move to Philadelphia 16 months ahead of schedule, and I'm glad I did.

The creative spark here is very strong. Across numerous companies and troupes, hundreds of people perform regularly. Groups of like-minded friends can form troupes (like Iron Lung, Malone, and Nielsen did) and what's more important, they can get gigs. The structural framework of PHIT, ComedySportz, the N Crowd, and other existing companies in combination with the opportunities provided by the producers of Polygon, Comedian Deconstruction, Sideshow, and the Grape Room, to name just a few, means anyone with an idea or drive can get stage time. There aren't that many cities that allow for this kind of opportunity—space is just too expensive in most cities—and people who take advantage of everything there is to offer have helped create a comedy calendar where something is happening almost every day of the month.

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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.