"The N Crowd" Improv Tonight @ The Actors Center -- Interview w/ Vegas Lancaster

vegas lancasterThe N Crowd has a weekly Friday night show at 8pm at the Actor’s Center. This April marks the 9th anniversary of their short-form improv show (think: 'Whose Line' games). This February, the N Crowd will be performing at the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival. Visit their website phillyncrowd.com.


WitOut: Who is your comedy inspired by?

Vegas Lancaster: Lewis Black, I think I was trying to emulate him when I first started. The political humor always makes me laugh. He has this way of building energy that is really impressive. His timing is amazing. He starts down low and builds up to a crescendo of emotion. A crescendo of anger. I have a smile on all the time, so I don’t know if angry works best for me. But the building of emotions up to the level of fireworks for something as silly as candy corn is really cool. Comedy in front of a live audience and the shared experience of laughter is what I really like. I think it is very special.

WitOut: Who are your other favorites?

Lancaster: I would have to say Steven Colbert and John Stewart. They take such a dry, otherwise boring material and make it super entertaining. The make things people should know about interesting to hear about. Comedy is such a silly field and they are doing important work at the same time. Other than that, I would have to say I also like Flight of the Concords.

WitOut: What is your favorite type of comedy?

Lancaster: I watch comedy cartoons late at night. I also really enjoy live comedy. The experience of laughing with an audience feels really special. It is easy to stay home and watch YouTube videos, but I hope we always have live entertainment because I think it is really special.

WitOut: What is the main difference between The N Crowd and Whose Line is it Anyway?

Lancaster: We can say dirty words. It's also really special about The N Crowd that the majority of our audiences every week are people who have never been to an improv show.

WitOut: What do you think is The N Crowd’s success mantra for bringing new people and turning them into improv lovers?

Lancaster: Everything we are doing is based off of audience suggestion. At the beginning of the show we will ask for a relationship between two people, or a word. We try to get on their level and take their verbal and non-verbal feedback. Whatever they are responding to, we hit on and keep doing.

WitOut: What is your favorite controversial issue to talk about?

Lancaster: I really like hitting on current events. Whatever is on people’s mind in the past week; some things I don’t want to gross people about by talking about it soon. It is really easy to do that during improv because you have to make stuff up. But I also like to do it in standup.

WitOut: Is there any particular show or topic you can remember when you really pushed the limits?

Lancaster: We do so many shows, I forget what we did after we are done. The audience hopefully remembers forever. A couple weeks ago I was doing jokes about Rich Incognito and his racial jokes. We Occupy Wall Street. Election season is also a fun time for us.

WitOut: What side is The N Crowd on?

Lancaster: As a group we do not take any political affiliation. The demographic of the N Crowd, I think, aligns pretty well with the political demographics of Philadelphia. The N Crowd, LLC has no political affiliation.

WitOut: If it weren’t Philly, what city?

Lancaster: That is really difficult to say. The N Crowd is a Philadelphia grown show; we are an independent comedy group. We are close to NY, there is a lot going on up there. In a city like NY, or LA you have got a whole industry for entertainment and a whole industry preying on them; there is a lot of
nonsense. You don’t have so much of that in Philly. The comedy scene has been growing steadily for the past few years. It is more of a niche to fill here. There is a lot of great stuff in Philly. There is room for us to do our thing.

WitOut: What are some of your favorite comedy groups in Philly?

Lancaster: Suggestical, they make up a musical on the spot.

WitOut: Anything else you would like to leave our readers with?

Lancaster: We put on a fun show, if they haven’t seen it. It is all about coming out and laughing!


Check out previous WitOut interviews with members of The N Crowd w/ B.J. Ellis, and last year's new members.

More about The N Crowd:

From Philly Improv Festival

Comedy Show Round-up: May 3, 2013


The Comedy Works - 7:00pm at Georgine's Restaurant

The Bat - 7:00pm at Philly Improv Theater

Mitch Fatel - 7:30 & 10:00pm at Helium Comedy Club

The N Crowd - 8:00pm at The Actor's Center

Dog Mountain - 8:30pm at Philly Improv Theater

Doylestown Comedy Cabaret - 9:00pm at Poco's

Sketch Up or Shut Up - 11:00pm at Philly Improv Theater

Open Mics

Hodge Podge - 8:00pm (7:30pm signups) at Hodge Podge, 1212 South St., Philadelphia

If you run a Philadelphia-area comedy show or open mic let us know so we can share it on our calendar and in our daily show round-ups by sending us the information from our submit a show page to contact@witout.net.

Interview with B.J. Ellis re: 8 Years of The N Crowd

The N Crowd is turning 8 this year, and to celebrate they're throwing a special anniversary show and party at Ruba Club this Friday.  Read on for more details and reflections on the Crowd's history from Executive Director B.J. Ellis.

WitOut: How did The N Crowd form?

B.J. Ellis: The N Crowd was formed after a pair of auditions held by Ray Reese and Emily Dufton in February of 2005. Mike Connor, Jessica Snow, Brandon Libby and myself were the original cast from that audition.

WO: How has the group evolved over the years?

BJE: The group has evolved in a few ways over the years. Many changes were behind the scenes. As we all gained more experience over the years and as technology changed, we found easier ways to make the show run smoother. For example, the way we sell tickets went from cash-only that week to the ability to order tickets for shows 3 month out.. I honestly can't imagine running the show now without the benefits of technology we now use. Our show is also way funnier now than it was in 2005. We came across some old archive footage of one of our first shows. After watching it I thought to myself, "Whoa...that... isn't...very funny. Yeesh." I feel that the quality of our shows has really evolved. The cast has also changed a lot over the years. I believe over the 8 years nearly 40 people have been in The N Crowd.

WO: What are some of your favorite moments in N Crowd history?

BJE: That is truly a tough question to answer. I enjoy just about every week I am here. My favorite moment nowadays is coming in on a Friday and knowing we have a sold out show. In the early years of The N Crowd, we would have weeks that no one came to the show. Today...I honestly couldn't say when the last time that happened.

WO: Do you have any new goals or plans for the N Crowd as the group enters its 8th year?

BJE: A few goals, a couple of plans. Maybe a hair-brained scheme or two.

WO: What can fans expect from the anniversary show this Friday?

BJE: We are going to be at The Ruba for our anniversary show this year. Unlike our usual shows, this venue has a cash bar. We also will have some pizza there for consumption and after the show there will be dancing. The show starts at 8:30 pm, which is alittle later then usual, just in case anyone goes to The Actors Center [our typical home] accidentally.

The N Crowd 8-Year Anniversary Show is this Friday, April 26th at Ruba Club (414 Green Street). Tickets are $12, which includes the after-party.

Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 87

Julia Scotti wrote this post about moments of awakening, understanding, and her evolution as a comedian and person.

The Not Just Comedy Show brings its mix of stand-up, improv, and music to The Grape Room again this Tuesday for a show featuring performances by: Mikaela Hamje, Chris Wood, Scott Speegle, Dr. Tony, Bed Savage, and musical guest Rev. TJ McGlinchey.

Metro Comedy Live comes to Helium Comedy Club this Wednesday for an evening of stand-up comedy from Nema Williams, Ed Blaze, and Vince Barnett.

This Wednesday through Saturday ComedySportz Philly Presents: Friends of Alcatraz at The Playground at The Adrienne Theater. The improvised puppet show for grown-ups returns with a cast featuring Kelly Vrooman, Dave Jadico, Joe Sabatino, Rob Cutler, Caitlin Weigel and Rachel Whitworth.

This Thursday the Lawnboys Comedy Showcase comes to Puck in Doylestown for a show featuring stand-up comedy from Aaron Hertzog, Omar Scruggs, Tim Raymus, Fady Khalil, and Matt Lips.

Figment Theater's bimonthly Vagabond Sessions is back this Thursday; this time at The Maas Building (1325 N. Randolph St.) The show will feature improv performances by: The Chain, Half-Life, The AD Showcase with Andrew Stober and Maggy Keegan, and The Table.

Jay & Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon Movie will play this Thursday at The Keswick Theatre. After the feature the audience can participate in a question and answer session with Jay and Silent Bob themselves, Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes.

This Friday short-form improv group The N Crowd celebrates their eight-year anniversary with a show at RUBA Hall.

The Sideshow returns to The Arts Parlor this Friday to once again team up with Figment Theater for the third and final first-round match of in the annual Troika Tournament. This week will feature improv from teams comprised of: Cait O'Driscoll, Ryan Barlow, and Shannon Devido; Karen Coleman, Mike Butler, and Quinton Alexander; and  Jason Grimley, Marc Reber, and Sue Jay.

ComedySportz The Blue Show returns this Friday night for the improv group's monthly visit to a magical land where there are no penalties for being dirty.

The Captain Action Comedy Show returns to the Conshohocken Cafe this Saturday with a show hosted by Sidney Gantt and Dave Terruso featuring stand-up from: John McKeever, Ben Fidler, and Mike Logan.

The Troika Tournament comes to a conclusion this Saturday at The Sideshow when the three winners from the opening rounds battle in a head-to-head-to-head final round to determine the 2013 Troika champion.

Saturday is Jerzee's Comedy Night at Jerzee’s Sports Bar & Pizzeria (2609 Mount Carmel Ave. Glenside, PA) with a show featuring: Pat Kelly, Dan Manhon, Darin Martinez, Lou Misiano, Bobby Lorello, Bryan Leichter, and Erik Whitcare.

The second Comedy is Liberty Weekend Show is this Saturday at Liberties Bar & Grill. This month's show will feature comedy from Chip Chantry, Steven Bryan, and Alison Zeidman.

Gorged! returns to The Bean Cafe this Saturday night with a free stand-up show featuring: Aaron Hertzog, Jon DelCollo, Joe Bell, Nikki Black, and Rob Zawatski.

Baltimore's Wham City Comedy Tour makes a stop in Philadelphia this Saturday at Goldilocks Gallery (723 Chestnut St., 2nd Floor). The show is described as "a two-hour cross-genre variety show, showcasing the very best from Baltimore’s award-winning artist collective and fabled party starters. Expect stand-up sets, videos, dramatic monologues, and ensemble sketches in a tightly-run, visionary performance." Philly's own The New Dreamz will also perform.

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

New N Crowd Cast Members: 6 Months In


This past summer, one of Philadelphia's longest-running short-form improv groups, The N Crowd, held auditions in search of a fresh crop o' cast members.  But no one wants to hear opinions from a bunch of green-ass newbies who don't know what they're doing yet, so we decided to check in with them after their first six months.  Here they are reflecting on what it's been like being part of the group so far.

Bert Archer: "[Cast member] Jessica Snow probably doesn't know this story, but I was one of her "pillars" in a show in 2008.  As soon as the game started, I made it my job to try and throw her off.  Every time she tapped me for a suggestion I gave her a vulgar phrase, and it didn't phase her at all.  She killed it.  I not only fell in love with her...but with improv as well. A year later I would do my first-ever improv performance in front of a crowd...with Jess Snow.  It's going to be great to see what her and I, and the rest of the Crowd, can do."

Alison Zeidman: "I auditioned for The N Crowd because Corey Holland (who's now on the team with me, and also my duo partner in Steve Rogers is Dead) told me he thought I should. I didn't have any short form experience, and I didn't even know they were casting new members until Corey told me about it.  After my audition, I think I texted him something like, 'Bahahahhahahahahahahha well that was terrible. I guess short form's not for me.' Then I got a callback. And now I'm on the team.  I'm having a great time and learning a ton from everyone, so I hope they don't consider casting me a mistake. Because now we're like family, and I don't want to be the unimpressive middle child of The N Crowd. I'm already the unimpressive middle child in my biological family."

Corey Holland: "Being on The N Crowd has given me the chance to perform short form improv for audiences that many times have never been exposed to improv before.  I also perform with indie teams Malone and Steve Rogers is Dead, both of which are long form teams.  Some seem to think you have to choose a preference of which you like better, or which IS better, but performers should stay open minded. Experience and practice all styles to better yourself on stage.  Every member of The N Crowd is immensely talented and involved in at least a baker's dozen other things, but still has time to put on a weekly comedy show every Friday night.  Consistently awesome shows are rare...like holographic card rare.  More people should come see The N Crowd. We have T-shirts."

Steve Grande: "What I have enjoyed most about being in The N Crowd, aside from the awesome cast members and the atmosphere, is the fact that we get to perform to sold out non-improviser crowds on a weekly basis. I know that a lot of other shows don't have that opportunity, and as a person who produces comedy shows in New Jersey, I feel like this is a scenario that we all strive to obtain. Over the past six months, I have seen first-hand the hard work and dedication that its members have put into this troupe in order to have that reputation. I am extremely happy and humbled to be a member of a group that has been a cornerstone of the Philly comedy scene for the past 8 years."

Matt Lamson: "I was so excited when I first got on The N Crowd because I prefer short form improv, whereas long form seems to be more prevalent in Philly. At first, I was a bit humbled and felt almost anxious being around these seasoned players, but everyone on the team is super chill and we've become fast friends.  I've had so many awesome opportunities with The N Crowd like playing in the Philadelphia Improv Festival, at Pottstown's Steel River Playhouse, and next week I'm traveling to North Carolina [for the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival].  I can't wait to see see where we go as a team."


You can see The N Crowd this and every Friday at The Actor's Center (257 N. 3rd Street) at 8pm. Tickets are $12 in advance; $15 at the door.

The WitOut Caption Contest – Win 2 Free Tickets to The N Crowd!

Once a month, the WitOut Caption Contest will give you the opportunity to win two free tickets to a local comedy show. This month’s prize tickets are generously being donated by The N Crowd.

To enter, submit a caption for the photo below in the comments section of this post, and check back on November 30th at Noon for a post revealing the winner. The author of the winning caption (as determined by the editors of WitOut.net) will receive two free tickets to an N Crowd show of their choice.

Photo courtesy of The N Crowd
Photographer: Katie Reing
Pictured: BJ Ellis, Mike Connor, Brendan Norton

The N Crowd is a short form improv comedy troupe that performs every Friday in Philadelphia. Founded in 2005, The N Crowd has performed over 400 times in the Philadelphia area... including appearances at the Philadelphia Improv Festival, Bethlehem First Night on New Years Eve, and the Philly Fringe Festival. Every week, The N Crowd produces around 80 minutes of completely unscripted comedy. Every show is different and and every show is filled with hilarity. Tickets are available at http://www.phillyncrowd.com/.

Is your theater interested in providing a photo and prize tickets for a WitOut Caption Contest? Email alison@witout.net to set up your sponsorship!

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.

The N Crowd: Seven Year Anniversary Series

Later this month, Philadelphia short form improv group The N Crowd will celebrate its' seventh anniversary. We've asked some members of the group to share some stories about the history of the group in celebration.

Mike Conner - Location, Location, Libation

The N Crowd is an all-star drinking team formed in April of two thousand something or other... whenever seven years ago was.  We first performed short-form improv comedy in an unairconditioned building that functioned as a Karate Dojo by day and a big stuffy brick oven at night: really the ideal locale for the performing arts.  After the forging of the Dufton Trail (a sticky residue of dried piss coating the venue's sole toilet seat), the N Crowd decided it needed to branch out by moving to the Society Hill Playhouse.

 The Society Hill Playhouse differed from the Karate Dojo mainly in that they didn't appreciate the performers taking massive gravity bong rips on the premises.  The core of N Crowd debauchery now migrated to a North Philly shithole known as 353 West Master (cut cut cut faster).  Fueled by Captain Morgan and ginger brandy, the Master Street house became a place for N Crowders to socialize, play foosball, and incur concussions.
Over the next few years, various members of the N Crowd got jobs/had kids/got arrested/went to rehab/began abiding by the teachings of the honorable prophet Elijah Muhammad.  The party times died down, then roared back, then died down again, then elevated to crazy meth-orgies, and finally leveled off to a respectable whir.  Around this time, the N Crowd made a final move to the Actor's Center in Old City, their current home base.
The Actor's Center is a great place with a wonderful landlord (who I don't want to piss off by writing something snarky here).  It has been our home for a few years now.  Our cast has never been funnier; our audiences have never smelled lovelier; and our drinking, though not as prolific, has never been honed into such an unadulterated form of turpitude.
The N Crowd performs every Friday at The Actor's Center (257 N 3rd St. Philadelphia). Their seven year anniversary show will be held on April 27. You can purchase tickets for the event online.