Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 69

Chip Chantry's debut comedy album Across From the Adonis is now available on iTunes. The album was recorded live in front of a packed crowd at Helium Comedy Club and can now be downloaded and enjoyed from the comfort of your own home for $9.99.

On Tuesday A Bunch of Improv at The Grape Room (105 Grape St.) returns with a show featuring improv from Nielsen, No Wait, Matt&, and Cock Hat and will be hosted by Rob Gentile. Doors open at 8pm with the show starting at 8:20.

This Thursday Comedian Deconstruction presents Girls Girls Girls (and Bed Savage) at L'etage (624 S. 6th St.) This month's show will feature stand-up comedy from Mary Radzinski, Cecily Chapman, Erin Mullville, and Nicole Yates and improv sets from The Amie and Kristen Show and Bed Savage.

This Friday The Arts Parlor (1170 S. Broad St.) will host The Sideshow: Short Attention Span Theater. The show will feature shorter acts (no longer than 15 minutes) and will hosts a mix of magic, stand-up, improv, sketch, storytelling, music, and more.

Secret Pants' annual Christmas show at Johnny Brenda's (1201 N. Frankford Ave.) is this Sunday, December 23 at 9:00pm. A Banner Year at the Ol' Bender Household: A Yuletide Holiday Extravaganza will be hosted by Chip Chantry and will feature sketch performances by: Camp WoodsManiPediSpecific Jawns, and Secret Pants as well as music by Emily and Micah McGraw and a burlesque showcase with Randi WarholTickets are available online.

Just another reminder that the WitOut Caption Contest for this month is live.  To enter  submit a caption in the comments section on the  caption contest post. The winner (as chosen by the editors of WitOut) will receive two free tickets to a ComedySportz show of their choice.


Philly Comedy Round-Up, Vol. 54

The first semi-final of Helium Comedy Club's Philly's Phunniest Person Contest was held on Sunday night with Darryl Charles, Pat House, Sean Jackson, Vince Patterson, and Tommy Highland moving on to Wednesday night's finals. The second semi-final round will be tonight at 8pm at the club.

This Friday, The Sidshow will celebrate it's one year anniversary with a show at The Arts Parlor (Broad and Federal St.) featuring Malone, Martha Cooney, Hate Speech Sub-Committee, Asteroid!, Mani Pedi, Iron Lung, and The Amie and Kristen Show. The show starts at 8:30 and will be followed by a party in the Arts Parlor space.

Mani Pedi will be hosting another ManiParty on Saturday, September 1 to help cover their travel costs to the upcoming Boston Comedy Arts Festival. Joining them on the show (at L'etage, 624 S. 6th St.) will be fellow BCAF performers Camp Woods and The Feeko Brothers.

Tuesday, August 28 will be the next ComedyDreamz show at The Barbary (951 Frankford Ave.) The show will feature performances by: Body Dreamz, Aaron Hertzog, Carolyn Busa, Steve Miller-Miller, The Feeko Brothers, Alejandro Morales and more. Cover is $5 with the doors opening at 9, show starting at 10, and as always, a dance party following.


Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 52

Last night, the seventh annual Philly's Phunniest Person Contest continued at Helium Comedy Club with Aaron Hertzog, Joey Dougherty, and Paul Easton moving on to the semi-finals. The competition continues Sunday, July 29 and the opening round continues until August 13 (full schedule here).

Submissions for Philadelphia's Comedy Month are now open. Interested groups can apply for the 8th annual Philadelphia Improv Festival (November 7-11, 2012) and the 5th annual Philly Sketchfest (November 12-17,  2012) online. More details on the month-long City Spotlight will be available later. Early submission ($20) for groups is open until until August 17 and the final deadline ($30) is August 31.

This Wednesday, Camp Woods Plus returns for another show at L'etage (624 South 6th St. Philadelphia) This month's show will feature the debut of Philadelphia sketch duo Tap City along with New York group Listen, Kid! As always, the show will feature brand new material from Camp Woods.

Also this Wednesday, comedy variety show Accidents Will Happen returns to Adobe Cafe (1919 E. Passyunk Ave. Philadelphia) for a night of stand-up from Jim Grammond, Omar Scruggs, John Nunn, Rachel Bensen, Lisa Yost, storytelling from Jamie Fountaine, sketch comedy from The New Dreamz and "Black Metal Legend" Necrosexual. The show is free and begins at 9pm and is followed by an open mic at 11.

This Saturday, The Sideshow makes another appearance at The Arts Parlor (1170 South Broad St. Philadelphia). The show will feature improv from Chaperone, Hot Dog, and Iron Lung as well as clowning from Kristen Schier. The show begins at 8pm and is $5.


Creator Spotlight: Gettin' Close with Mike Marbach of Gettin Close with Mike Marbach to Talk about The Sideshow

When he's not logging hours as Philly Improv Theater's Education Director or piddlin' away time on conversations with comedy unknowns like Rich Talarico (improviser and writer who's worked on a bunch of stuff no one's ever heard of like Saturday Night Live) and Greg Proops (from another show no one's ever heard of, Whose Line is it Anyway?) for his Gettin Close with Mike Marbach podcast, Mike Marbach's other regular gig is producing The Sideshow at The Arts Parlor. We sat down before Mike had to coach a practice for PHIT house team Asteroid (yep, he does that, too) to talk about what goes into producing a successful comedy showcase, and what's next for Sideshow this season.

Alison Zeidman: How did Sideshow start? Give me the origin story.

Mike Marbach: I [originally] wanted to do it in Chicago. In Chicago I was part of a group called Club Group Team, and we did a form that was very organic, very much like ZaoGao does now, a form called Punchline. And then there was also this form that somebody would do called Kumate, which was an improvised martial arts thing, and then what I wanted to do was have a revolving third spot, which would be something else that was completely different. It wasn't picked up. So, when I moved to Philly, I still had the idea in mind and because PHIT only has The Shubin two weeks out of every month, and I wanted something to fill that space, because I teach a lot, and I had a lot of students in classes that weren't seeing shows. There would be some weeks where there were zero improv shows to see, and I hated that. So that's one of the main reasons I started Sideshow, just to fill the in the gaps between PHIT weeks, so there would be at least one improv show to see each week.

AZ: But the idea is that it's its own entitity, too, right? It's not just something to do because you can't go to PHIT?

MM: Right. It's not an extension of PHIT. Your [free student] pass is no good at Sideshow. Because one of the other reasons I started it is that I wanted to have a low-cost place that allowed me to just give the money back. I don't make anything from doing Sideshow. The Arts Parlor costs very little to rent, and then any money above that goes right back to the performers, so it's pretty much whoever they can get to come out, because I don't do much in the way of advertising. Actually I didn't used to, now I'm starting to do a little bit more, becuase of course the more people that come to the show, the more money the performers make.

AZ: So are those the primary goals? More opportunities to be able to see comedy and see improv, and also more opportunities for performers to make a profit?

MM: Yeah, and there's a few other things to it too. There were groups that were popping up and premiering their act at places like CAGEMATCH or a festival, like the Philly Improv Festival or F Harold Festival or Duofest, and that's cool and all, but if I was improvising in those gorups I would definitely not want my first show to be in a high-pressure environment such as a festival. I'd much rather do it in a more controlled, fun, supportive environment—not to say that those aren't, but I mean, you can pack this place with as many people as you want, with your friends, with your family, and you have a lot less control like that at other shows.

AZ: So people can use it as a testing ground.

MM: Yeah. And that was one of the main ideas especially at the start, definitely more experimental. I really envisioned it just being more of a show for performers, rather than a show for anybody else. I didn't think it would grow the improv scene by any means, I just wanted a place where people could cut loose and do something that was different. Then that started growing pretty fast.

AZ: Have you ever had to turn someone down, if they pitched an act and it was just too weird?

MM: No, nobody's ever been turned down. People have been postponed, because [it's become very popular], but I've never turned anybody down for it.

AZ: Since it's an extension of the improv scene and a place to see more performances but also a place for people to workshop things, who would you say is the primary audience? Is it more insular, or open to the general public?

MM: At first the main idea was that it would definitely be an insular show for performers, but even after the first show I quickly learned that that wasn't really the case. Maybe because of the fact that it all comes down to the money of things, that people know that the more people they bring to the show the more money they walk away with. But we definitely do get a lot of performers too, because as friends of each other we love seeing people step out of their comfort zones and do things that they don't normally do, or be in a space that they're not normally in.

AZ: Yeah it's interesting, whenever I've come to a Sideshow it's always been really packed, even though you're saying historically you haven't done too much marketing for it. But you said you're starting to try to do some more of your own promoting, instead of just leaving it to the performers?

MM: I could, but I kind of like leaving it to the people. I mean I produce the show, and I book the acts with the help of the guys from Beirdo, but it started off mostly just people that were in the shows doing the publicizing, and it kind of remains that way. I like the producing of it, the booking, but beyond that I don't really want to have that much to do with it. I don't know, it's done well so far without me pushing anything: We've gotten the attention of different papers, different online blogs and things like that, and we've been able to do partnerships with Troika that have been really successful...plus, there's only so many chairs.

AZ: Can you talk a little more about what really goes into putting on your own show? What you've learned, or maybe what advice you might give to somebody who wanted to start their own thing?

MM: Find a place that's cheap enough, because there may be nights when you're not going to make the rent. Don't pick a place where you're going to consistently lose money—and that's where the Parlor's been fantastic.

AZ: How did you find this place?

MM: Asteroid has practiced here weekly for about two years, and there was a group I used to coach called Leo Callahan who used to do shows here about once a month before they split, so I just kind of picked it up after they were done. Um...what else...ask admission. Ask people to pay for your shows. Free shows are cool, but I really feel that what we do has value, and maybe I'm only putting the value of $5 on it, but that's also because I want it to be super accessible. Plus it fits the space. This isn't a theater; this is a converted, sweaty dance studio. And really think about what kind of show you 're trying to put on. Think about if you want to do a variety show, or if you really just want to do an improv show. And vary up the acts within that as well. On Sideshow I'm not going to book three duos in a row, not just because duos can bring in less people—that's one of the reasons, sure—but also because I wouldn't want to sit and watch three duos in a row. And just make sure it's a good show, make sure it looks good. People that know me know that I'm very big on dress code. I'm not asking people to wear suits and ties when they come to a Sideshow show, but I want them to step up, I guess. Make it a production, just raise the production value. I have to do whatever I can do because of the fact that this is a sweaty dance studio, so I want to make sure that that atmosphere of a show overtakes the crappiness of the space.

AZ: Do you have any tips for somebody else who might be dealing with a crappy space? Does that come in with lighting, or hosting, or...?

MM: Yeah, hosting is huge. Make sure people can host. I'm not a good host, which is part of the reason why I don't want to be up there. And look at what you can do with the space. If you can clean it up, clean it up. If you can flip some things around and make it so you can control the lights, do that. When they were doing shows in here before, there were no blackouts, everybody ended their own shows. I'm very big on light pulls, when I'm doing a show, [because] my sense of timing in a show is not good, and I don't want to have that worry. So do what you can do with the space that way, as well.

AZ: What do you mean? Did you guys get the circuits moved or something?

MM: [Laughs] No, we just moved the space. Like when you look into the room, where the curtains are [on the side], that's anticipated as the stage. And they have like six lighting switches on the far back wall [on the same side as the curtains], so we changed it so that when you walk in, all the chairs are facing the front [and then we have access to the light switches]. And I block the windows during the summer so that the sun doesn't come in, and I have just the front two lights on. It's a very cheap way to go about doing it, but when you walk in you wouldn't really know that it's a cheap way to go about doing it, you're not thinking about it, it just looks better than it really is.

AZ: So you said you're trying to be hands-off with marketing and not really trying to make the show appeal to outside audiences, but it does seem like there's a lot of thought and professionalism being put into this. Is that just because this is the way you want your show and these are your personal standards, or do you feel at any level that you have to compete with what else is out there?

MM: No, I'm not really trying to compete at all. It's just something that kind of now has...it's just kind of associated with me, so I just want it to be as good as it can be. When I say I'm hands-off for the most part, that's the night of. But leading up to that I do everything I can to make sure the show is going to be good. And even though I say I don't really do any marketing stuff I do make all the Facebook pages, and I contact different news people out there from time to time to try and get some things, but beyond that, not too much more.

AZ: We already covered this a little bit with the mission of the show and the benefits it has for performers, but is there anything you feel sets Sideshow apart from other shows in the city, even if you're not necessarily trying to compete with them? Something that's just a different element that you have, from the audience's viewpoint?

MM: It's going to be a well-balanced show. You're going to see at least three different acts, whether that's a stand-up, a sketch and an improv group, or three very different improv groups, you're going to get a good sampling of comdy that night. There's going to be something that you like. And it's just the atmosphere in that room, in that sweaty dance studio, when it becomes Sideshow, which is so extremely supportive of people. We've had different teams debut there, we've had teams debut new forms there, and the mood is just kind of electric.

AZ: And where did the name come from? There are a lot of things that I could guess contributed to it, but is there an official backstory?

MM: Well, the original main idea was to show acts that you weren't really going to see anywhere else, lots of new or weird things, almost like a carnival sideshow. People doing things they wouldn't normally do, types of improv you wouldn't normally see. Just weird concept things that people just wouldn't be able to do anywhere else, that maybe aren't quite right for PHIT.

AZ: Do you have an example?

MM: A lot of the Troika stuff. Troika in general—a lot of those things tend to be more concept-heavy, so that turned out to be perfect for Sideshow. So yes, it just goes back to seeing weird and different things. Which I'm still looking for. It's not necessarily the prime directive anymore, so much as just giving people just another space to perform, and just making sure there's a show once a week. We've been on a long hiatus because I also don't want to take away from any shows that are happening. So when F Harold was going on I canceled a show, then PHIT had six weeks of shows, then we had Duofest, then more PHIT weeks, but now we're back. And we've got the show this Saturday which I'm calling Short Attention Span Theater. You get up to 15 minutes to do whatever the hell you want to do. If you want to spin plates you can spin plates. If you always wanted to do a one-person improv set, or attempt stand-up, sing a song, whatever people want to do, they can do it.

AZ: What do you have scheduled as of right now?

MM: Right now it's a little improv-heavy. I'm reaching out trying to get people to really vary up what we're doing, to make sure we have some of that balance I was talking so much about.

AZ: From purely a producer's standpoint, other than just scrambilng to fill in more acts right now, has there been any big challenge, or something that went wrong, that was a good learning experience? Or just a fun disaster story?

MM: Um, hm....not really. I guess I've been kind of lucky with things. It's a very well-liked show, and there haven't really been any problems.

AZ: How about any favorite moments?

MM: I've seen a lot of teams have their best shows here, which is awesome to be able to say.

AZ: Do you think that comes from the low-pressure environment?

MM: Yeah, I think that's definitely one of the reasons, plus they get a crowd that's full of people that they are bringing, so it's all people who are there to support them. One of the days, if I remember the date exactly, it was November 18th, 2011—

Luke Field [coming in for Asteroid rehearsal]: Never forget.

MM: Yes, never forget. Iron Lung was debuting, there was the team Bed Savage having their first show, Get a Room also performed, and I think maybe Kristen [Schier] was doing some clowning. And there were about 100 or so people, and each team walked away with $85, and that was just the icing on the cake, because each team had awesome shows, in front of a fantastic crowd. So that was one of my favorite moments. Plus all of Troika, and I'm sure this Saturday and all of the rest that we'll have will also be favorite moments.

AZ: Anything new that you're planning for this season? It sounds like you're really trying to push people to experiment.

MM: Yeah. We did a one-act play, Hidden in This Picture, which I directed last year, and this year I want to get some plays written by Philly people. That one was written by Aaron Sorkin, but I want to get some more original stuff so that we put on plays that were written, directed and performed by Philly comedians. So that's one big goal this year to finally make happen, and also just to continue to put on some well-balanced shows and watch people continue to learn and grow. And to do whatever I can to keep Luke Field out of here.

LF: Did you get that on tape? He's out to get me.

Look for updates on The Sideshow at http://www.facebook.com/#!/SideShowImprov and see the first show of the season TONIGHT (July 14th) at The Arts Parlor, 1170 South Broad Street (at Federal Street). As always, the show is just $5.


Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 39

The second opening round of Troika was held Friday night at The Sideshow with the team of 3AM (Rob Baniewicz, Maggie Keegan, Jason Stockdale) moving on to the finals. The third and final opening round of Troika will be this Friday, March 23 at 9:00 at The Sideshow and will feature Chaperone (Frank Farrell, Meredith Weir,  Steve Kleinedler) Virginia Clemm Sideburns (Cara Schmidt, Claire Halberstadt, Dennis Trafny) and Pickle (Jen Curcio, Mike Marbach, Scott Hinners).

The second annual March Madness Comedy Competition is in full swing, with the second round beginning last night at The Famous International Variety Show at Drinker's West. Moving on to the third round from last night are: David Terruso, Rachel Bensen, Mike Logan and David Ray Ageykum. The contest continues at open mics throughout the week.

The first ever NYC Improv Fest will be taking place this week at The PIT in New York City and Philadelphia will be well represented. Performing at this year's festival will be Iron Lung (Wed. 7pm Striker Theater), Mayor Karen (Wed. 7pm, PIT Underground), Hey Rube (Wed. 9pm, PIT Underground), King Friday (Sat. 5pm, Striker Theater), Michael Loves Greg (Sat. 6pm, Striker Theater), and Asteroid (Sat. 8pm, PIT Underground). Full schedule and ticket information are available online.

Center City Comedy has released another video in their Blitzkrieg Vodka series. The second commercial parody can be viewed online.

Following the popular internet meme format, some Philly comics wrote and produced this Sh!t Philly Fans Say (part 2) video. The video is written and directed by comedian Katie Kohler and features Philadelphia area comedians Chris Smith, Bob Marsdale and Sidney Gantt.


Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 38

The second annual March Madness Comedy Competition kicked off last night at The Famous International Variety Show at Drinker's West. Moving on to the second round of the competition are: David Ray Ageykum, Josh Guarino, David Primiano, Rachel Bensen, Erik Whitacre, John Deal, David Terruso, Mike Logan. The first round continues tonight at Laughs on Fairmount (The Urban Saloon, 2120 Fairmount Ave. Philadelphia).

Last Friday at The Sideshow this year's Troika competition kicked off with a show pitting The Mother Truckers (Jessica Snow, Mandy Dollar, Sue Taney) against Rogue (Alan Williams, Corin Wells, Mike Butler) and WKKM Channel 17 Action News (Karen Coleman, Katherine Banford, Maureen Costello). The Mother Truckers emerged victorious moving on to compete for the 2012 Troika championship. Round two of Troika this Friday at The Sideshow will feature Operators Standing By (Bert Archer, Michael Hochman, Steve Cohen) 3/9 (Alli Soowal, BJ Ellis, Katie Monaco) and 3AM (Jason Stockdale, Maggy Keegan, Rob Baniewicz)

This Wednesday brings a pair of great independent comedy shows for you to enjoy. Camp Wood Plus returns to L'etage (624 S. 6th St.) and will feature Camp Woods along with Animosity Pierre and Pink Axe. Doogie Horner's Ministry of Secret Jokes takes its' usual spot at Fergie's Pub (1214 Sansom St.) and promises more of the same comedy, games, and ritual.

This Thursday at L'etage Comedian Deconstruction's March Madness will feature improv groups Grimacchio and Nielsen performing sets based off the stand-up of Sidney Gantt and Pat Barker.

This Friday marks the premiere of a new regular show from Philly Improv Theater House Team Mayor Karen upstairs at Plays and Players Theater (1714 Delancey St.). The show will feature James Hesky, Medic and music from Friends with Murder. The show will cost $10 and proceeds will go to a Mayor Karen festival travel fund.


Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 35

This weekend the Arts Parlor will host the first in The Sideshows series of one act plays. The Sideshow: Hidden in This Picture features the one act originally written in the late 80's by screenwriter extraodinaire, Aaron Sorkin. It's a single scene focusing on a first time director dealing with an egotistical writer a penny pinching producer, a dim witted assistant and an invasion of cows that arrived to ruin his oscar winning shot. The show stars Nathan Edmondson, Bert Archer, Matt Nelson and Daniel Jaquette and is directed by Mike Marbach. The show will play Friday February 24 at 10:30pm, Saturday February 25 at 8:30pm, and Sunday February 26 at 3:00pm.

Last week in a show at Temple University the team of comedians was chosen to represent the school in this year's National College Comedy Competition. The first round of competition will be held at Helium Comedy Clubon Sunday, March 18 at 7:30pm and will showcase the Temple team facing off against a team of comics from Penn State. The comedians representing each school are Temple: Tyler Wolf, Alex Grubard, Matt Kase, Paul Kenton, Steve Lipman, Jordana Lipsitz, Tim Ryan, Chris Whitehair Penn State: Kyle Dodson, Bill Hood, Stephanie Wain, Sean Becker, Dave Porter, Tom Wong, Spencer Frank, Kevin Gallagher.

Last week, for his Newsmakers Podcast, comedian Luke Giordano sat down to interview his childhood hero George Lucas. To see how things turned out for Luke you can listen to the episode on his website Everything You Like is Stupid.

Last week comedian Ted Alexandro headlined at Helium Comedy Club. If you missed it, that's a shame, because he's great, but at least you can still read this interview with him from CityPaper.

Sign-ups for ComedySportz Philly's spring classes have begun. The company is offering three levels of classes each at the early registration price of $179 (until March 7). You can sign up for classes online.

 


Philly Comedy Round-up, Vol. 34

This Saturday, Comedians for a Cause will hold a Benefit Dustin Walls at Connie's Ric Rac. The show will feature comedians  Joe Mayo, Mike Rainey, James Hesky, Tommy Pope, Dave Terruso, and Eric Todd and all proceeds will go to the family of Dustin, a local friend to many comics who recently passed away after a fight with cancer. Donations can also be made via Pay Pal to mrainey@gmail.com

There are multiple chances this week to get out and see some storytelling. On Tuesday Second Stories Presents: Dream Date (7:00pm, The Dive) will feature stories from Alanna Kennedy-Gorman, Alejandro Morales, Lia Brennan, Alex Gross, Hillary Rea, Larry Napolitano,and Jaime Fountaine. Wednesday's Tell Me a Story: Yesterday (7:00pm, Shot Tower Coffee) will feature stories from Carolyn Busa, Martha Cooney, Jaime Fountaine, Alejandro Morales, Larry Napolitano, Dave Terruso, Becca Trabin, Todd Shaeffer.

This Wednesday Rooftop Comedy will come to Philadelphia's Temple University to help pick the team of student comedians that will represent the Owls in this years' National College Comedy Competition. The show will be at 8:00pm in The Owl Cove in Mitten Hall on Temple's campus and will feature student comedians vying for a spot in the March 18th competition against Penn State at Helium Comedy Club.

On Friday, The Arts Parlor (1170 S. Broad St.) will host The Sideshow: Powerballin' . The show will feature improv sets from Asteroid! Beirdo and a Powerball Team, where PHIT Training Center students can put their name in a hat for a chance to be picked to perform with a few improv veterans.

Rittenhouse Comedy will host Kryptonite For Your Relationship this Tuesday night at Noche. The Valentine's Day show will feature sets from Lisa Yost, Shanell Travis, Sarah M., Steve Miller-Miller, Mary Radzinski, Paul Easton, Alex Pearlman, Conrad Roth, Reggie Conquest and will be hosted by Jack Martin.

Center City Comedy recently released this promo video featuring Carolyn Busa, H. Foley, Tom Cassidy, Chris Cotton and Conrad Roth. The video promotes their website and a mysterious hotline. What happens when you call? Give it a try and let us know.