Review: Reasonable Discourse With Jerks

By: Anthony Narisi

A packed house crowded into the Philly Improv Theater at the Shubin Theatre on Wednesday night for the most recent installment of Reasonable Discourse with Jerks. Host Jim Grammond took the stage and introduced the audience to the panel for the night, Philly’s popular sketch group Camp Woods, minus member Madonna Refugia.

For the next hour, this panel generated some very entertaining conversation, filled with jabs at each other, themselves, and just about anything even remotely related to any of the topics covered. And they covered many topics, ranging from the Faces of Death film franchise to childhood bullying and 9/11 conspiracies.

One of the funniest discussions of the night followed Grammond showing an Oreo filled with rainbow colored cream and explaining that people who are not supportive of the gay lifestyle are in outrage over this advertisement and threatening to boycott. From Brendan Kennedy’s image of a fat bigot giving in to temptation and eating an E.L. Fudge cookie of two elves fellating each other to various members’ outrage over the fact that the rainbow cookie doesn’t actually exist for consumption, the discussion was wrapped up neatly by Rob Baniewicz’s question, “Who gives a shit if a cookie’s political?”

One of the best aspects of the night was the chemistry not only between the members of Camp Woods, but also between them and Grammond. This was exemplified when Grammond raised the question, “What foods will you not eat?” and began going around the table one by one to get answers. However, as expected with such a lively panel, the order was quickly abandoned. Actually, it was abandoned as soon as JP Boudwin offered up the first answer: “Pass.” The conversation then turned to how Camp Woods would eat anything, from Boudwin and Kennedy’s recent dinnertime breakfast pizza topped with gyro meat to Billy Bob Thompson eating cake out of a used motor oil can. Even when the conversation was brought back to its original question, the members provided their usual absurdity and quirkiness, with Patrick Foy stating that Qdoba is better than Chipotle because the onions are easier to pick out of the pico de gallo and Sam Narisi announcing that he’ll still eat one, but he’s “never really been happy to see a baked potato.”

Other highlights included a recurring theme of hipsters prompted by Grammond’s experience with a conspiracy theorist referring to “mainstream” archaeology, Thompson’s ignoring the racist implications of a McDonald’s advertisement due to his disturbance by the fact that everyone was holding food and none of it had bites out of it, and Kennedy’s impression of a racist Elmo trying to make it in show business.


Review: House Team Night, Hey Rube + Davenger

By: Rachel Goodman

There was anticipation in the room on Saturday night, waiting for 8:30 to come at the Philly Improv Theater. This was not just an ordinary House Team night. It would be the second show for new team Davenger, followed by a performance from veteran team Hey Rube! Both teams had the audience rolling over in laughter.

Davenger came out first, receiving the suggestion of Family. After a brief moment where the troupe discussed a few stories about what the word family means to them, Hilary Kissinger and Dan Corkery stepped out and had everyone on the edge of their seats as they looked at each other and just “knew” each other’s thoughts. This continued to come back in various forms, as in the moment where Brian Rumble stepped out with Dan Corkery, attempting to read his thoughts, to no avail.

“What?” Dan’s character said after a moment of silence, followed by huge laughter from the audience. And the laughter kept coming in with Nick Mirra as the hypochondriac. His portrayal of a relative in a bubble suit at a funeral seemed so real that it almost looked as if you could take the helmet off of his head.

And then, of course, what would the mention of a funeral be without the mention of ghosts?

“I’m a medium, not a Ghost Buster!” yelled Alex Newman, as a psychic, talking to Cait O’Driscoll and Kevin Pettit, two people dealing with their aunt’s dead dogs and dead neighbor’s haunting them.

Next, Hey Rube took the stage with the suggestion of Puppy. Some of the most memorable moments of this set came from Alex Gross as the “retarded” dog who later ended up being a normal human who was playing a retarded dog so that he could get into the safe that belonged to Lizzie Spellman’s father. There was also a recurring theme where everyone was blaming their father for their shortcomings/mistakes in life and that nothing was their fault. This seemed to hold true when Rob Cutler brought home his new baby boy to Aaron Hertzog who was building a brick wall to hide from fatherhood. After Aaron’s character flicked the baby, later on in the set Jen Curcio was suddenly mooing and acting slow.

“Son. I just want you to know that it is my fault that you’re like this. I flicked you when you were a baby and that’s why you moo like this.” Aaron said, receiving a roar of laughter from the audience.

But perhaps the most hilarious thing was when Alex Gross walked in as a very reluctant character and said, “Hey… my mom said that I have to play with you again…” and proceeded to “milk” Jen Curcio’s character.

If in the off chance anyone in the theatre that night was sleeping, they were no longer sleeping once Mark Leopold walked on as a wolf-dog, screeching at the top of his lungs at Lizzie Spellman for basically everything, including breathing. Finally in a future scene with this character, the moon, his supposed lover, breaks up with him and in a heartfelt moment he begins to howl.

Hey Rube completed their set with three of the main “father blaming” characters sitting down, repeating how far back they had been blaming their paternal lineage for their problems, when Lizzie comes in to blame her mother.

“Ooops! Wrong meeting!” she says, and walks away.

Overall, watching both of these teams was an incredible experience that anyone should be sure to check out and go along for the ride.


Review: Eddie Pepitone at Underground Arts

By: Becca Trabin

Eddie Pepitone performed on Friday night at Underground Arts--an enormous, multi-purpose art space in the basement of the Wolf Building on 12th and Callowhill, where Corey Cohen Comedy Productions (C.C.C.P.) has recently been putting up comedy shows. C.C.C.P. has brought Hannibull Buress, Neal Brennan, Todd Barry, and Dave Wait to Philly since opening two years ago. With openers Lisa Yost, John Nunn and Alex Grubard, Pepitone performed to a warmed-up crowd, one that was about twice the size of the crowd at his Ric Rac show last spring.

Pepitone hit the stage dancing and kept himself and the crowd amped up throughout the hour-long set. He brought in a young, hip audience, many of whom know him from his performances on Marc Maron’s WTF.  A lot of his stuff was material he did last year, but most was still as funny.

Pepitone can get away with a lot. He does characters in his bits, and each one is just him flatly barking at the back of the room with all his heart. Lesser comics might get pegged as one-trick ponies for doing the same basic yell over and over, but Pepitone kept the audience wanting more. He periodically broke character and laughed along with everyone while trying to deliver his tags. It came off as well-earned and joyful. Pepitone does his thing so well that he makes other angry comics seem like the poor man’s Pepitone.

And if watching a guy spew his well-crafted rage upon us for an hour wasn’t already fantastic, the crowd was invited to stay for experimental electronic band Black Dice’s show across the hall afterward.

 


Review: House Team Night - ZaoGao + Mayor Karen

By: Tony Narisi

The audience at Philly Improv Theater at the Shubin Theatre was treated to a great double-shot of local improv comedy Saturday night when two house teams kicked the evening off at 8:30.

First up was the six-person team of Mayor Karen. Basing their set off of the audience suggestion of Gandhi, the team started with some rapid-fire scenes. From a man deciding to stop abusing his wife after achieving inner peace to two men using “violent” protest methods to get a Dairy Queen re-opened, these scenes were short and sweet, with cuts coming in after only about three to five lines but still providing the audience with big laughs. As the form went on, the audience saw three recurring scenes being explored more in-depth—young Mother Theresa’s scandalous love affair with Jesus, people in eerie places surrounded by animals making extremely strange noises, and a little boy, Timmy, whose newly single father is trying to get him to clean his room and learn that actions have consequences. In their last scene, Timmy was executed while his father looked on hoping that he had learned his lesson. With this scene and many others throughout the night, Mayor Karen exhibited their skills in beat structure and stake-raising to the audience.

Next up was the five-person team of ZaoGao. Going with the audience suggestion of “penny coat,” the team performed an interesting form I’d never seen before, where characters remain on stage amidst the action the entire time, freezing in and out of movement as needed. As with Mayor Karen, they had good singular scenes, but their strongest moments came when they developed ideas through a number of scenes, as seen in the story of a woman who buys a house haunted by teen angst or Bad Luck Travis, the time-traveling explorer with a knack for destroying ancient relics. Possibly my favorite premise of the night was the one of Mr. and Mrs. Host. This couple is under the impression that their neighbors are constantly trying to see them having sex, while the neighbors actually have fake heads set up in the window, based on their thinking that the Hosts constantly want them to watch them having sex. With smooth transitions and good mental connections and references between scenes, ZaoGao put on a great twenty minutes of comedy that kept the laughs coming.


Review: Camp Woods Plus

An eager crowd packed L'etage Tuesday night for this month's edition of Camp Woods Plus, Philadelphia's only alternative sketch comedy showcase. Joining Camp Woods this month was New York duo We're Matt Weir and local sketch group The Judo Range.

The Judo Range opened the show with a mix of new sketches and material previously seen at their Philly Improv Theater show and The Theme Show. Their set was tight, and the strongest I've seen from them overall - getting solid laughs with sketches about the secrets behind national monuments, a plumber giving a priest advice on how he can "clean his pipes" and the origin of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The highlight of their set was a delightfully bizarre sketch called Chris McGrail's Shaving Corner in which McGrail bestows some wisdom on the fine art of  shearing. The Judo Range is a group beginning to find and develop its voice and figure out who they want to be on stage. Their sketches blend dark humor and some edgy topics with a surreal slant that will be fun to watch grow as the group continues to develop.

The last time I saw We're Matt Weir they were asking Philadelphians to put their mother fucking hands in the sky if they loved weed in front of Mayor Michael Nutter (and a packed house) at Philly Improv Theater. Less than two months later, the duo was back (with a little help from some friends) with a brand new set of hilarious material. The Matts opened the show by slapping a volunteer from the audience with some cash and continued with sketches that explored a man's search to find love despite his obsession with his own status as a worker in a sludge pit, an overly self-loathing stand-up comedian dumping his problems on the audience, a friendly hip hop group, and a nosy cooking show host that ends up looking for secrets of the wrong home cooked meal. We're Matt Weir combines high energy performances and offbeat premises or twists with strong joke writing to put on a consistently great show. Their style also uses many sketches that have the characters directly addressing the audience - making them feel a part of the show the entire time.

Camp Woods closed out the show, as always, with a set that well-represented their wide range of talents and showcased their unique style and comedic point of view. The set opened with a fantastic sketch about a group of heroes known as The Fart Fuckers set to embark on a quest. The sketch revealed the heroes were toys being played with by three brothers, one of which inserts his real life father issues into his characters actions and words. The sketch showcased Camp Woods' ability to pinpoint a dark issue or deep emotional problem a character has that manifests itself in a hilarious way that makes for a brilliant sketch. This is a tool they have used before, and will surely will use again, as it creates a sketch that is not only funny on the surface, but also has a deep, emotional backbone. The set took a turn for the bizarre with a pair of sketches featuring Mr. Abernathy, a man who tricks his neighbor into stealing a dog, and an Admiral with a strange problem that makes his saliva dissolve human hair. The sketches worked well, anchored by strong performances in those roles by Billy Bob Thompson (as Mr. Abernathy) and Brendan Kennedy (as the Admiral) as well as Sam Narisi and Madonna Refugia in the sketches supporting roles. Next we saw JP Boudwin as the Communist Math Teacher - who learns a little something from his students about America followed by Pat Foy as an Austin Powers impersonator who slowly realizes his life may not be as great as it used to seem. The set closed with a mourner (Rob Baniewicz) being consoled by a chain of stand-up spooners who may or may not actually know the deceased. The final sketches were full of great individual jokes as well as characters with a strong hook that comes through in their actions. With Camp Woods, it's always show and not tell - as the characters' true feelings and real personality come through in what they do and how they do it - never in exposition.

Camp Woods is working harder than anybody else in Philly right now, and it shows. They produce a new half hour of material every month and their shows are getting steadily stronger. They are a group that is hitting their stride, have found their voice, and know how each of their members individually fit in and work best. And it a joy to watch.


Stand-up Fashionista with Joe Moore: Hey Everybody

Here’s what everyone wore last night at Aaron Hertzog’s Hey Everybody at Philly Improv Theater at the Shubin Theater 5/21/12. Spoiler alert – Hey Everybody! Summer is here to stay, so break out those Baby Blue Jeans!

Aaron Hertzog – Grey Henley, untucked, with a rounded neck, sleeves rolled up to the elbows and a pocket on the left breast, white shoes with white laces and blue jeans.

Sam Narisi – Blue hoodie with a white un-zipped zipper, white draw strings, a plaid shirt, untucked, with a beige base with teal/purple vertical stripes and thin red/pink horizontal stripes buttoned to the top with 2 collar buttons buttoned, black shoes with white laces and white soles and grey pants.

Juliet Hope Wayne – Dark brown shirt with a white lamb with pink ears, black eyes, and black nose and mouth, over a light blue t-shirt poking out at the waist, black shoes with white laces, white sole and white wavy lines on the sides, and blue jeans.

Darryl Charles – Dark navy blue polo shirt with thin white stripes, a golden crest over the left breast, over a white t-shirt visible over the collar, white shoes with white laces and grey soles, and blue jeans.

Chip Chantry – Grey t-shirt with the letters “pants.” in black, over a white undershirt visible over the collar, dark navy blue shoes with a white letter “N”, black digital wrist watch on the left hand and blue jeans.


Bock's Scores by Gerry Bock: The Monthly Hour with James Hesky

Hello there Sports Fans! With the Fly-boys out of contention for Lord Stanley’s Cup and The Phightin’ Phils paving the way for what ought to be another “Come-Back Kiddo” season, you can’t help but feel the electric spirit of sports in the (215). The passion for Philly Sports burns bright and lights up schoolyards, bars, semi-truck weigh stations and Philly Improv Theater at The Shubin Theater at last night’s presentation of “The Monthly Hour with James Hesky.” The following is a summary of every mention of SPORTS during last night’s show, as well as the performer it can be attributed to:

James Hesky: The Olympics, Baseball, NFL, Football, Triathalon
Mikey Gleason – N/A
Carl Boccuti – N/A
Jim Grammond – N/A
Darryl Charles – N/A
Mary Radzinski – N/A
Mani-Pedi – N/A
Doogie Horner – N/A
Chip Chantry – Pat Burrell

Truly an exciting night for Philadelphia Comedy and Philadelphia Sports! My apologies to any that may have slipped through my five-hole! See you all at next month's Monthly Hour with James Hesky!

Gerry Bock is a freelance sports writer and former Publisher/Reporter-in-Chief for the Port Richmond Gazetteer, which he published independently for 37 years before gladly fell prey to the siren call of retirement last May.


Review: Baltimore Invades Philly - Plan B

By Rachel Goodman

The start of our invasion from the South was sure to keep everyone awake with laughter! Plan B from the Baltimore Improv Group (BIG) performed right after Hey Rube at the Philly Improv Theatre on Friday, May 18th at 7 P.M. Plan B, a short form troupe, followed a great performance by Hey Rube.

Right from the start Plan B was sure to include the audience in their short form games. Michael Harris hosted the first game, a set up where the remaining three members (Alex Greenland, John Ulrich, and Matt McCall) stood on stage in a triangle formation, using audience suggestions as their road map.

"Where were you born?" Harris asked an audience member.

"Valley Forge," one woman answered.

"What does Valley Forge make you think of?" Harris asked another man.

"The Revolutionary War."

Another of these questions led to Hollywood as well as Diamonds as words of inspiration for the other two sets of scene partners in the triangle.

Suddenly the stage came alive with two men from the colonial time period, Johnny Depp and many other characters who were Johnny Depp in disguise only. We even got to see a man who kept losing his significant other's most prized piece of jewelry (even when they were simply shopping in a mall).

Next up for their performance they made Greenland leave the stage while the audience helped them prep for the next game: "Interrogation." The audience gave the troupe two words ("remembering" and "dog") and the goal for Greenland was to guess these two words while being interrogated under very comical circumstances.

Lastly, we were entertained at the retelling of Jack and the Bean Stalk. Not only did we get an interesting twist when the troupe reenacted the story (his little sister was sold into slavery in order to help his diabetic mother who, as it turns out, at one point had an affair with the giant), but they were asked to replay their creation as different genres as collected from audience input.

Suddenly, we witnessed Jack turn into a real jerk, seduced by the “Giant-ess” when the scene was done Lifetime romance style. And on a different “take” the troupe brought us to the dangerous world of World War II as Jack had to crawl his way through the battlefield, before getting his beans and climbing his bean stalk.

Never without creative and funny ideas and scenes intertwined with their short form games, Plan B was a very entertaining and hilarious group to watch get up on stage and play off of each other!