LOL With It
Philly standup veteran Mike Rainey is releasing his first book, Terrible Advice on Amazon. He kicked off the self-published book release with a show at The Arts Parlor last Friday with performances by Philly’s Phunniest winners Tommy Pope and James Hesky. The seeds for Terrible Advice were planted when Rainey was flipping through a self-help book, and found the advice to be so awful it demanded a satirical retort. Instead of a soothing new-age narrator, he found it fun to write from the point of view of a world-class jerk-off.
We asked Rainey what’s the worst piece of advice he’s ever received. “A coworker handed me a mason jar full of grain alcohol, along with a bottle of Snapple. He said to mix the grain with the iced tea to cover up the smell in case I wanted to drink it on the ride home from work. I did not, partially because it’s a terrible idea to drink grain alcohol and drive, and also because the gent who gave it to me had a gold front tooth.”
And the flip side? “The worst advice I’ve ever given was telling the mother of my three children that I’m incapable of impregnating a woman. She fell for it all three times.”
The Delco behavior-support specialist for at-risk youth has been putting fundraisers together via Comedians For A Cause for the past three years with fellow comic Joe Mayo. “We have raised money for reputable organizations such as Autism Speaks, Easter Seals, and St. Jude’s Hospital. We also have done fundraisers for individuals who have needed financial assistance due to medical or tragic circumstances. If we hear of anyone with a worthwhile cause, then we’ll do everything we can to raise money and awareness for them, free of charge.”
Tight Six is a weekly comedy show and open mic featuring live music. It runs every Sunday night, upstairs at Fergie’s Pub (1214 Sansom Street). The show is run by six local comedians: Joe Bell, Mikey Garcia, Aaron Nevins, Elise Thomson-Hohl, Becca Trabin and Dan Vetrano. They are all in their 20s and have varying amounts of comedy experience. Each week features a different house band, which plays a set at the top of the show and then sticks around throughout the night, playing comedians on and off the stage. Previous house bands include Thee, Idea Men, OhBree, Rob, Lately, and The Rivals.
Says Aaron Nevins, “The room is packed every Sunday. A lot of spontaneous insanity tends to happen on our stage. Some of the most fun moments at Tight Six happen late into the evening, so it’s always worth sticking around.”
The band plays at 8 p.m., which is when comedians can start signing up for the show. The comedy begins at 8:30 p.m. Their featured drink special is the “Classy Special”, which is a Narragansett with a shot of Jameson for $5.
Regular Philly open-mic’er Nicole Yates lauds the unique style of the new mic, “The upbeat music keeps you from killing yourself after a bad set!”
You can find them on Facebook. Here’s video we found of the gang papering the streets of Philly in preparation for one of their mics…
La Salle grad Sam Fran Scavuzzo, is a 26-year-old Roxborough resident and organizer of a monthly show called A Bunch Of Improv, at the Grape Room (105 Grape St.). After coming through La Salle’s illustrious Improv 101 troupe, Scavuzzo was ready to start his own improv team, Cock Hat (as in, a chicken with a hat on!) with Stephan Clanton, Frank Farrell and Kate Linsner. Scavuzzo found time in between his full time gig as publication manager for Yellowbook to sit down with LOL With It for a few one-word-suggestions.
LOL With It: Formation?
Sam Fran Scavuzzo: We launched about one year ago. This upcoming Jan. 15 show will be our 12th, so we’re ready to celebrate our first birthday in February. In August 2011, I formed the improv team Cock Hat (as in a chicken with a hat on!) with Stephan Clanton, Frank Farrell and Kate Linsner. We performed for La Salle University’s Improv 101 team but were new to Philly comedy scene. In addition to booking gigs, we were looking to establish a steady show. I covered the Grape Room (105 Grape St.) as a reporter in Manayunk, and through those connections successfully pitched the idea of a monthly improv show.
It’s cool because there’s not a lot of comedy going on in Manayunk, and I think we’re attracting different crowds than at shows in other sections of Philadelphia.
SFS: Because the Grape Room is usually a music venue, we’re blessed with a great stage, lighting and tech equipment, if we want it. The show started on the Grape Room’s second floor, but we moved downstairs a few months ago and now have full range of the venue. For the show itself, our idea was to blend a few mediums and give newer acts a chance to perform, as well as established groups. A comic hosts the night and gets to do a set, in addition to the four to five improv acts. Additionally, at recent shows we’ve featured video shorts from Web Cereal, an online monthly comedy website created by Dan Angelucci.
SFS: Philly Comedy Month listed us as a spotlight show in November, so we tried to go all out for that one. That’s the month we featured the most acts (Gross Butler, Bad James, Rookie Card, Kait and Andrew, Chaperone, and Dan Scully) and drew the biggest crowd. More selfishly, we hosted a show one month that had several La Salle-centered acts. Comedian Dave Terruso hosted and Ryan Barry, of Jersey-based Helicopter Dance Off, performed — so that was probably the most fun for me.
SFS: Our Jan. 15 show features PHIT house team Hot Dish, Apocalips, and Angry People Building Things, in addition to Cock Hat — now featuring Hannah Datz, Matt Lamson and Sunny Kanneganti. Lamson will also MC. Doors open at 8 p.m. $5 cover (21-plus, kids!).
Check out Cock Hat on Facebook for updates on the show, which happens third Tuesday of every month.
Super Crappy Funtime (SCFT) is a podcast hosted by Philadelphia comedians Dan Scully and Kevin Lau. Like most of our local comedy podcasts, it's just two comedians talking about stuff. No gimmicks. No shtick. It’s just two laidback funny guys tackling big issues, like pop culture, local comedy and other weekly podcasts. (They often have guest comedians from the Philly scene.) Recently, Dan and Kevin sat down with us to talk all things crappy and fun.
City Paper: How did you guys get started?
Dan Scully: Podcasting always seemed like a fun, low-effort way to essentially "get more stage time." I had toyed with the idea of starting one, but didn’t have the technological know-how to do IT. Kevin had the geek cred, so we just started winging it and, before long, fell into a great rhythm.
Kevin Lau: I used to have a podcast before I started comedy in Philly, but the idea of SCFT stems from Dan and [Philly Comic] Dan Eastman wanting to do a podcast that I was going to produce. Then I dropped out of the comedy scene because I didn't love what I was doing and I wasn't sure if it was for me. On my time off, all I could do was think about comedy and what current life experiences I could turn into a joke. So one day I texted Scully from a Barnes and Noble to ask if he was still interested in doing it and he said "Fuck Yeah!"
CP: Has SCFT affected your craft outside of the podcast?
DS: Forcing myself to follow a schedule, and to record podcasts even when I'm not in the mood has curtailed my lack of discipline. Speaking in hourlong intervals about minutiae has helped cut the fat out of my comedic voice. Also, between promoting the show and scouting guests, I've become more active in the scene and have made important friendships and connections with other comics.
KL: Having a weekly show has definitely been good, because [it forces me to meet] deadlines. Artists, especially comics, are the laziest people you can ever come across and I am no different, but I am better about now because I don't want Dan mad at me.
As Philly becomes more and more of a comedy-farm market for big-industry cities, we continue to say goodbye to beloved acts. One of them, Aaron Hertzog, Helium emcee and host of Philly Improv Theater's "Hey Everybody" showcase (final show tonight at 10 p.m.), emigrates to L.A. this week — but not before a little farewell one-on-one with us.
City Paper: So what's the plan?
Aaron Herzog: This Wednesday, I leave for L.A. [Temple grad] Luke Giordano has offered to let me stay in his apartment for the first month. Then in January, [Philly comedians] Brendan Kennedy and Shannon Brown are moving out and we're all gonna get a happy home together.
CP: What's the career strategy?
AH: I started out with standup, and then gradually got into sketch and improv. So the plan is to hit standup the hardest, because that's what I'm most ready to showcase. I'll do open-mics and try to cash in on any connections I have out there. I think [former Philly comic] Blake Wexler still runs a show out there. I recently opened for Kyle Kinane at Helium, and he told me I could contact him when I get out there, and he will recommend me for some shows.
CP: In terms of paying bills, do you have money saved, or a job lined up?
AH: No, I'm in no position to do this financially. I'm taking a huge leap. I have a few day-job connections that I can possibly cash in on. I have a little money saved up but not a lot at all.
CP: Who's going to be the new editor of your very successful Philly comedy blog, witout.net?
AH: Alison Zeidman. Last spring, I put a message on Facebook that I was going to look for some contributors, and she started writing some articles and show reviews, and everything she did was fantastic. I knew I was moving about four months ago, and I told her that she was my No. 1 choice to take over the site. And she was not smart enough not to accept it. (It's a completely thankless job!) But we've been tag-teaming it together for a little bit now. I had started slacking off a little because I was sort of checked out, but she lit a fire under me to get more new writers, so we've had a lot more content over the last few months.
CP: This is one of the bigger waves of talent leaving Philly. Are we ever gonna attract comedians?
Check out these links to vids by out-of-town sketch groups, and then see them perform live at the fifth annual Philly Sketch Fest at the Prince Music Theater (1412 Chestnut St.), tonight and Saturday. For time and ticket info, click here.
Onassis (NYC) — "Pushing Rod Stewart"
A twisted sketch recorded live at Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre in New York. It's about pushing Rod Stewart — literally. Onassis performs tonight at 9 p.m.
Brick Penguin (D.C.) — "Put It In My Mouth"
This is a ransom-negotiation scene between a kidnapper and his wealthy, weird hostage. Brick Penguin performs tonight at 10:30 p.m.
Friends of Gertrude (Boston) — "The Origin of Party in the USA"
A dramatic re-telling of how Miley Cyrus's hit single came to be. Sat., Nov. 17, 7 p.m.
Boosh Kla-Klau (NYC) — "Sex In The City For Dudes"
What if the HBO hit had a different demographic? Sat., Nov. 17, 9 p.m.
Missin Earl (NYC) — "The Ballad of O.J. Simpson"
A Bill Brasky-style musical tribute to O.J. Simpson. Sat., Nov. 17, 10:30 p.m.
The man who invented jackass comedy is still kicking, and has been on tour performing standup comedy for about two years. True to form, his standup act is very strange. It’s funny in the same vein as his patently asinine antics, thanks to an unfathomably weird delivery. The subject matter of his act is fairly unoriginal (“Things were better when I was a did, before texting.”) Still, Green's honest chaotic mania lets you know he's genuine, even if it’s unsophisticated.
For all his weird "alien inhabiting a human body" shtick — which he's still unofficially doing at 42 years old — there are a few surprising and impressive nuggets of cerebral philosophy to be found in his routine. A bit about how robot servants and texting will start to reverse evolution recalls the existential backdrop of Wall-E. And his rant about how married people shouldn't have Facebook has roots in Judeo-Christian ethics, despite being intentionally buried in overtly obnoxious profanity.
We asked Green what it was like moving from his online talk show on The Tom Green Channel to the world of standup comedy. "The transition to standup was real good. I did it for a while as a teenager and loved it, but stopped doing it when I started the original Tom Green Show. There are some similarities between standup and what I was doing on the show. After doing the show for a decade, you really get into the rhythm of understanding what it is that my audience likes, what kind of weird things make people laugh. You have to work hard to come up with ideas, they generally don't write themselves — not the good ones, anyway. So you have to get into the work ethic. But I always loved getting on stage and performing, so it was pretty seamless."
One of the headlining acts at Philly Improv Fest — running now through Sun., Nov. 11 — is BillyHawk, an L.A.-based duo of iOWest-trained improv-ers Brian O'Connell and Jeff Hawkins. This week, O’Connel sat down with me over a pint of fine local Märzen to explain why he thinks you might shit your pants if your attend their show tonight at the Prince Music Theater (1412 Chestnut St.).
City Paper: So what's the BillyHawk back story?
Brian O'Connell: Jeff and I [took] classes together at iOWest in Los Angeles. We both really seemed to click in Level 5 with instructor Miles Stroth. He coached us on a team called The Happy Time Rainbow Bunny Squad, where we dove pretty deep into the long form known as “The Deconstruction.” That team faded away and we sort of drifted into other stuff, [until] one day I just called him up and was like, "We should play together again." And now here we are!
CP: What type of character does your improv have?
BO: The "work" we like tends to be harsh but not abrasive. We enjoy laughs and entertaining an audience, sure, but what we really want is for an audience to care. We want you to cheer and shit your pants in wonder. Part of the reason we do this show is because we don't have the opportunity to explore many dark truths with our other groups. We tend to put ourselves out there [by] talking truthfully about our lives, so that can be a little scary. We got a pretty good review in Phoenix a few years back: "Billyhawk was even able to mine the comedy gold from a scene about blood cancer, which is not easy to do." We felt pretty good about that.
After you get your vote on Tuesday (do it!), head to the Prince Music Theater (PMT) on Wednesday for the first night of the eighth annual Philly Improv Festival, which also serves as the kickoff for Philadelphia Comedy Month. This week, we caught up with two of the week’s performers, Jessica Arjet (Austin, Texas) and Kristen Firth (Philly via Austin as of this August) of Firth&Arjet, who you can catch at PMT on Thu., Nov. 8 at 7:30 p.m.
City Paper: How did you two end up in improv?
Firth&Arjet: We both started out on the acting side of the theater world [but] improv has some great advantages in performance: You can feel the audience’s energy and feed off it. You also get absolutely honest reactions and deep connections more than when the material is filtered through a playwright, director, actors and more. Besides, improv is just so playful and delightful. It's so much fun to see what is going to happen next.
CP: Do you find the two-woman team experience unique, as opposed to co-ed troupes?
F&A: Absolutely! It's not that we do “chickprov,” but we have a huge commitment to our basic characters and the relationships between. Also, in improv you can't help but draw from what you know and who you are. We are both women, dealing with being female in this crazy world.
Podcaster and television personality Adam Carolla is sitting down with Dennis Prager for a unique event at the Kimmel Center on Saturday. They are going to be doing “an evening with” style sit-down with conversations on a variety of different topics. The 90-minute-show will include an audience Q&A.
If you’re un-familiar with Prager, Carolla says of him, “He’s on the old-school AM radio. I’ve always been a fan of the guy, I get a lot of wisdom from him. I always listened to his radio show, and eventually I [went on it] and we were really good together.”
The event is not a scripted comedy show, but rather a two-man panel discussion. “There are political topics, family, kids, basically anything that comes up. It’s really not very, very strictly formatted. We get into politics, we get into relationships, we get into religion,” says Carolla. He has participated in Dennis Prager’s “Prager University,” an online collection of videos offering short lectures on various topics. Carolla’s topic was luck.
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