Hey Rube Remembers Hey Rube

77649_369702319772818_2023223526_oHey Rube will perform for the final time as a House Team this Saturday night at Philly Improv Theater. The group made their debut in August 2011 and have since performed at venues all over the area and festivals including the New York Improv Festival, Del Close Marathon, and the Philadelphia Improv Festival. They were crowned Best New Group at the 2012 WitOut Awards for Philadelphia Comedy, and were nominated for Best Improv Group at the 2013 WitOut Awards. The members of Hey Rube and their director Matt Holmes took some time to reflect, and say some nice things about each other.

Aaron Hertzog on Dennis Trafny:
Dennis blows me away every time I see him perform. The only thing I know for sure when Dennis enters a scene is that at some point he is going to totally surprise me. He can take a seemingly everyday boring offer and come back with something that is (incredibly) completely off-the-wall but also somehow makes it easy for his scene partner to react to and build with. I don't know if it's a natural skill or something he's had to work tirelessly on (or a little bit of Column A and a little bit of Column B) but either way I am completely impressed. He can also bring great intensity to a character (seriously, look into those eyes), and inject some much-needed energy in a show at a moment's notice. Of course, this also makes for extra special moments when he decides to tone it down and show us his tender, soft side."

Tara Demmy on Mark Leopold:
"Before Hey Rube, I didn’t know Mark Leopold. He was just one of those guys with a really great name. Now I know him as one of the most talented performers I’ve ever worked with. His character work is the best (Dr. Dandelion) and he is a super intelligent and creative player, knowing when to give a set that necessary plot twist. When I’m in scenes with Mark I have trouble not just hanging out and watching him work, laughing along with the audience. One of my favorite moments was when Hey Rube was doing one of our usual group scene orgies and Mark came on and just sensually untied Jen’s shoelace. The best. Catch up with Mark playing "5 Things" at ComedySportz or doing a “props made out of only cardboard” sketch show with The Hold Up or even doing a show in the Philly Fringe (his 2012 Fringe show Archdiocese of Laughter was one of the best comedy shows I’ve ever seen—he made a rap out of my favorite hymn: Gift of Finest Wheat! Genius). See you there—I’ll be the girl in the first row wearing my 'I heart Mark Leopold' T-shirt."

Lizzie Spellman on Alex Gross:
The first time I really hung out with Alex, he took me to a gay club with a hot Asian chick. I've come to learn he is one crazy cat (and I'm not just saying that 'cause he owns way too many cat shirts). Alex is so fun to play with on stage. When he makes a choice he always fully commits to it. He can go super weird with a character, but it's always grounded in truth. I think if Hey Rube were a rock band, Alex would be the guy smashing his guitar on an amp and flipping off the crowd. I tell him all the time and I really mean it, he's become like a little brother to me. That's why I forgive him for drunkenly walking in on me in the bathroom and proceeding to pee in the shower. But that's another story..."

Mark Leopold on Aaron Hertzog:
"I first saw Aaron something like six years ago. I went to an open mic and did some terrible set where I impersonated Forrest Gump at one point, and I saw this big man with a big personality just own the crowd and receive their adoration with composure and charm. It was amazing. I then retreated to the suburbs for three years. When I got cast on Hey Rube, the only person I actually recognized was Aaron and I was immediately intimidated by the prospect of playing with him. My fears proved to be completely unfounded of course. Aaron is one of the sweetest, most open, gentle and loving people I've met. His ever-present playfulness is infectious and when you have the good fortune to be in a scene with him, it's such a familiar feeling of silly frolicking that you can't help but have fun. Fun. That's really the best way to describe what Aaron is like. He's just like someone who it's always fun to be around and with. He has a gift for vulnerability. He is just so brave and so foot-forward, always ready to give himself to the show or scene. Whether it's dark or emotional, serious or silly, Aaron commits totally and performing with him is so easy and simple because you know he is going to completely receive what you give and build with it. Some of the most satisfying moments of collaboration in my life have been with him. Aaron is wonderful and any city, town, or village that doesn't leap at the chance to welcome him is just tragically stupid."

Rob Cutler on Lizzie Spellman:
"Lizzie is commitment personified.  She’s an incredibly gifted performer, but the original characters she creates and maintains are nothing short of brilliant.  Whether she exhibits the child-like innocence of a three-year-old, or the decrepit bitter wisdom of a wicked crone, Lizzie will up the intensity with every passing moment.  She’s a multitalented performer, whose musical prowess is displayed often with her ukulele, singing some of the most irreverent, funny, and original songs I’ve personally ever heard.  She has a gift for character and her future on stage is limitless.  On the personal end, I’ve yet to meet a more patient and engaging personality.  She has kind words for everyone I’ve seen her interact with (even if they were complete assholes).  In short Lizzie is funny as hell, sweet as sugar, with talent oozing out of every pore.  We should all be so lucky as to have someone like Lizzie in our lives.  I’ll miss you Rubes!"

Jen Curcio on Tara Demmy:
"I will never forget the first time I met Tara.  It was at Hey Rube's first practice. I was really jealous of her because she was prettier, cooler and funnier than me. Then I got over it. Tara is a total improv pirate and for those of you who are not familiar with the term that means she attacks the scene. She is fearless in her choices, yet fully commits to and supports her scene partners' choices. Tara is able to play characters that have a sharp contrast in stage presence. She will support anything and add value to it. I feel so lucky to have been on a team with her, I learned a lot from watching her be an awesome improviser!"

Alex Gross on Jen Curcio:
"Oh, geez. Jen is the worst. I’m just kidding! I know that really freaked you out Jen but seriously, I’m just kidding. I swear! Jen is one of the kindest and weirdest people I know. She is always thinking of others before herself and she’s given me countless car rides home. Her paranoia and craziness are right on par with mine, which makes me feel like she’s my improv twin. I’ve done some of my favorite scenes with her and she is always a joy to work with, no matter how many times she initiates scenes with hints of a gangbang starting. Jen is an improv powerhouse who isn’t to be fucked with and I’ve had a blast working with her. Rubes for life."

Dennis Trafny on Rob Cutler:
"Rob is the 'Phil Hartman' of Hey Rube: really solid in every scene and he reigns in the crazy. He never gets scared on stage and is always cooler than the other side of the pillow. I don't think I've ever seen him hesitate. Not once. Never. Not even for a second. No 'uhhhh's or 'ummmm's. Nothing. He's a beast. He also plays characters smartly, and on many occasions, very cleverly ties all the preceding scenes together.  He is no one-trick pony either.  He has a gift with puppetry and is awesome in Friends of Alcatraz . (If you haven't seen it, you should!) Good luck with your future projects Rob!"

Matt Holmes on Hey Rube:
"It's sad to see Hey Rube end, but things that burn brightest snuff soonest.

I got more out of directing Hey Rube than I ever thought I would. First, I learned to get past your perfect idea for how things should go. It's better to be flexible and make it work. It took us a few months to all get in the same room together at the same time, but that didn't matter much.

Then, I learned all kinds of insights about improvising, telling a story in a visual medium, teaching people, using people's strengths and working together on their weaknesses, building something together in small steps, and creating a show (style, format, framework) that is a signature."


Hey Rube's final show will be Saturday, February 9 at 10pm at The Philly Improv Theater at The Shubin Theater (407 Bainbridge St.) Tickets can be purchased online.

Ten Questions With...Rob Cutler

Rob Cutler is a member of new Philly Improv Theater House Team codenamed Brandybuck. He also performs with The N Crowd, Dumdumstupiddumb, and is in the upcoming Fringe Festival puppet improv show Friends of Alcatraz.

How and why did you get into comedy? I always loved to make my family laugh. My father had a great dry wit, and I just tried to keep up with him growing up. Plus, the majority of the work I've been able to do in Philly as an actor has been comedy related, and its been something of a niche for me. As I got older, I found that nothing quite matches the experience of performing before a group of people you don't know and having them truly enjoy what you are doing.

How would you describe your style as a comedian? What influences and factors do you think contribute to that? I tend to go darker. I like walking the line between uncomfortable and funny. Andy Kaufman was a huge influence on me. I can't touch his level of creativity, but his work informs my style. I like playing with taboos and social norms and turning them on their head. That said, I don't think I'm very funny, as I tend to play the "every" man or straight man in most of my scene work.

Do you have a favorite show or venue you like to perform at? What about it makes it fun or special for you? I love working with Ladies and Gentlemen if only because the work we put in during rehearsals really shows in the performances. Musical improv is incredibly challenging, but when its done well it can be amazing. In terms of venue, I like the ones that serve alcohol.

Do you have a single favorite moment in Philly comedy or one that stands out? I thought Banana Breakup's set at duofest was pure genius. Meg Favreau's roast was hysterical. For me personally, I had a great set during Stage Fright, where I got to play the killer and strangle Ali Soowal on stage, I suppose that was a highlight.

Do you have any sort of creative process that you use with your writing or your performance? I read a newspaper everyday. (not online) It keeps me up to date on pop culture stuff I would otherwise be oblivious to, and it gives me an idea of what's going through the world's collective consciousness. It helps to keep tuned in, even to things I don't find particularly interesting, in order to relate to your audience, regardless of what walk of life they come from.

What is it about improv (or stand-up, or sketch, whatever you do...) that draws you to it? As an actor, its a great opportunity to experiment with new characters, physicality, environments, etc. It keeps you sharp. The bonus is that its the most actively supportive "scene" in Philly. The talent level is enormous and deep, there are constantly new faces, and the is ALWAYS something going on. The people involved are what keeps me going, even when I feel like I've hit a creative wall.

Do you have any favorite performers in the Philly scene? Why are they your favorites? Matt Holmes. Rare Bird Show was one of the first things I saw and I immediately thought "that is someone I want to work with." (Yes, he's the director of my team and this may seem like brown nosing, but its true)
I get to work with a ton of my favorites with the N Crowd, Ladies and Gentlemen, Superheroes Who Are Super, dumdumstupiddumb, and Stage Fright, so I've been really lucky to work with incredibly talented people.

Do you have any bad experiences doing comedy that you can share? A particularly bad bombing or even an entire show gone haywire? I block them from my memory. We all have bad shows, but dwelling on them only hurts you in the long run. You figure out what went wrong, work on it, and move on. If I had to name one, I suppose playing a show to 6 people in a 200 seat room in New York was rough. One of them was asleep by the end of our set. Also, my first audition for PHIT, back when they were doing the first round of house teams. I had the flu and had to run to the bathroom of the Shubin to throw up in between scenes. I remember wretching to the sounds of laughter coming through the wall.

What do you think the Philly comedy scene needs to continue to grow?
A permanent home. Having a dedicated space will do wonders for this blossoming community

Do you have any personal goals for the future as you continue to perform comedy?
I want to do sketch. I have a ton of half finished scripts, but I don't have a group to work with. I'd like to try standup, but sketch is the priority.