The F Harold Comedy Festival is a well-run series of shows that attracts a different lineup of comedic acts each night. The festival, organized by Philly prov-man Rick Horner, features many of Philly's brightest improv, sketch and standup comedians.
"It's the recall of the spring starter festival for PHIT, [and it's] Philly-only," says Horner. "The original F-Harold grew into the Philly Improv Festival, which eventually came to feature improvisers from all over. I was trying to revive the Philly-only notion, but I wanted to add the other big pockets of Philly comedy, sketch and standup."
Horner is quite pleased with the current state of our city's improvisation scene. "Whether people came up through Comedy Sports or PHIT, the people who used to be in the audience are now onstage, so it's kind of like we've eaten our young," he says. "And the new fans coming to see their friends perform are also becoming fans of the people who've been around longer. It's exciting that it has that natural order."
Horner is a Philly native who studied at Second City, and is excited to perform in the festival with his group Whip Suit. An active member of the improv community, he recently produced Duofest and runs The Improv Incubator on Sunday nights at the Community Education Center (3500 Lancaster Ave.) He welcomes anyone to come to the incubator for "an evening of practice, exercises, collaboration and other assortedness."
Through Sun., June 12, various times, $10-$25, Walnut Street Theatre, Studio 5, 825 Walnut St., 215-925-2182, fharoldpresents.com.
Local dentist Paul Goodman and Philly comedy mainstay Jack Martin have teamed up to run a Tuesday night open mic at Noche. Their collaboration started when Goodman produced a comedy contest benefiting Operation Smile in August of 2010. It was the first time comedy was done at Noche but comedians from the area were gracious enough to donate their time.
Since then, Goodman and Martin have been hosting Rittenhouse Comedy every Tuesday. Tonight, they'll feature a free showcase hosted by Boston Comedy Festival winner Sean Quinn, featuring established local talent like Chip Chantry and David James. And for those inspired by the show, an open mic will follow. Even though it's known primarily as an eatery, Goodman says Noche is a fantastic spot for comedians to come drop a few funnies. "Noche constructed a removable stage for performance," he says. "The comedians love the room and the staff, [seem] to look forward to comedy Tuesdays each week." For the event, Noche will be offering Philly Beer Week giveaways and specials.
Tonight, 8-10 p.m., free, Noche, 1901 Chestnut St., 215-568-0551, noche215.com.
SNL's Goat Boy is performing all but one sold out show this weekend at Helium Comedy Club. This week he chatted with me about how much he looks like Kevin Bacon, cleaning up his act and, as always, heavy metal.
City Paper: Have you ever Kevin Bacon-gamed yourself?
Jim Breuer: Absolutely. I look like him a lot — to the point where [I] went on a cruise ... at 16, a bunch of teenyboppers were asking for my autograph. They were pretty convinced I was Kevin Bacon. He's stayed in great shape. I've given myself some pudge over the years. But I'm back in shape, I could maybe pass as his brother, but I don't have that hair ...
CP: What tricks are keeping you in shape these days?
JB: Fighting my food addiction. After any meal, I feel like I should be treated with a big fat chocolate chip cookie. I love pasta. I can eat six slices of pizza without blinking — even if I'm full. [After] weeks of eating grilled chicken and salad I'll throw two weeks worth of work out the window for a pizza. Now I jog a couple times a week. It's amazing what jogging does. It gets rid of everything.
Every Friday, Ryan Carey takes a look at who and what’s giving Philly the giggles.
Every year, Helium Comedy Club hosts the Philly's Phunniest comedy competition. Hundreds of hungry young comics come from all over the metropolitan region to tell jokes for glory and cash.
And one of the best parts is that you can help judge; the preliminary rounds are voted on by audience members via secret ballot. The top four from each preliminary round, held every Sunday after June 2, advance to the next round. The semi-finals are Aug 28 and Aug 29. The Finals are Aug 30. The final rounds are judged by local radio and TV personalities, and sometimes-headlining comedians or associates from Comedy Central.
The contest, which has grown every year, is up to 153 comics. Helium reports a lot more brand new names and faces this year than ever before."We try to keep the contestants to Philadelphia, South Jersey and the Philly suburbs, and we don't go near another major comedy scene," says Helium manager Jeff Lewandowski. "We don't want guys coming down from New York."
I asked Jeff whether he thinks this is the year Chip Chantry (pictured) will finally take the win. "I hope so, I feel like it's his time. There's a lot of good talent out there, but Chip Chantry has to be the lead. I'm probably a little biased towards Chip just from seeing him for so many years. There are a lot of new names and new faces, so there could be someone that comes out of nowhere. Kent Haines did that. He was only on the Philly scene for about a year, and he took the contest by storm and won it."
The preliminary rounds will be hosted by last year's winner, Doogie Horner.
Ryan Carey chats with Bedtime Stories creator Gregg Gethard (pronounced Geth-erd) about his last show.
Critical Mass: Take me back to the beginning...
Gregg Gethard: I've always been pretty interested in comedy. I said in my appearance on Carmen Sandiego in 8th grade that I wanted to be a comedian. I've always been kind-of a class clown. I did some comedy in college at the open-mic night. I did some weird fake interpretive dance routines to amuse my friends. I wanted to pursue it after college, but I got caught up in the crazy world of journalism. And I had to concentrate on that because I really loved my career. Concurrently, my little brother Chris started doing some things at the UCB theater in NY and became a sort of star on the rise. He hosted a show up there called "Nights of our Lives," every month they come up with a theme, and all the stories had to tie in to that theme. He had a theme called "the most embarrassing night of my life", and he knew I'd be good for that because most of my nights are embarrassing in some fashion. So that was the first time I ever really did comedy. I told a story about an unfortunate incident of flatulence during, a, uh... physical act. It went over really well and I got bit by the comedy bug so I started trying to do things down here in Philly. I met Greg Maughan who was starting up the Philly Improv Theatre. I told him I want to start doing a show down here, and he was gracious enough to let me. We started doing not just storytelling, but ANYTHING about the theme. It just really clicked with a lot of performers who were all coming together around the same time. And it found an audience. Four and a half years later, it's coming to an end.
CM: When did the venue change occur?
GG: It stayed with PHIT at the Shubin for a year and a half, the impetus for moving is that the theater was no longer big enough to hold the audience. It holds around 45 and it got too packed. Connie's was re-opening, and you can fit like a hundred in there. So we took the show over there and it was one of those things where, I couldn't believe how many people were coming to this thing. A lot of it was my friends and performers' friends, but there became an actual audience for it too. And a lot of the people in the audience ended up forming their own groups and now they do the show. It had like a snowball affect, becoming one of the biggest draws in Philly. We've been averaging around 50 or 60 people. The Carmen Sandiego night (featuring the blond-dreads guy from Rockapella) got something like 90 people.
As we mention in this week's Kaleidoscope, Chelsea Handler's coming to Tower Theatre tonight for the Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me Tour (8 p.m., $75-$85). One of her opening acts, Brad Wollack, chatted with me recently about his newfound celebrity, an awkward moment with Jennifer Aniston and whether or not Chelsea is as much of a lush as she lets on.
City Paper: Are you excited to come to Philly?
Brad Wollack: I’ve always wanted to get the ultimate cheese steak. That’s really why I’m looking forward to it. This whole comedy thing is just kind of secondary. Just an excuse for me to get there.
CP: What kinds of things do you talk about in your act?
BW: I touch on a bunch of things. I touch upon marriage, sex, drinking and driving, and Jesus Christ. I run the gamut on that one.
CP: Will you talk about Philly?
BW: I try to always do something local. I won’t talk about Stallone running up those stairs.
CP: What were you doing before Chelsea Lately?
Every Friday, Ryan Carey takes a look at who and what’s giving Philly the giggles …
Philly's standup comedy open-mic scene has achieved "booming" status within the past year or so. If you’re trying to get stage time, there's a spot for you to perform at least five nights a week. Setting up shop at Connie's Ric Rac (1132 S. Ninth St.) on Sundays at 7 p.m. is James Hesky, Darryl Charles and Mykal Carter Jackson, performing their Famous International Variety Show. James Hesky was kind enough to take some time out of his day to tell me the tale of the FIVS.
City Paper: So, what are the basics of the show?
James Hesky: We are open to all kinds of comedy — standup, sketch, music, and improv. Mykal Carter-Jackson started the show when he found a room at the Copabanana in University City and he approached Darryl about being a co-host. Darryl and I had been looking to start a room together, so Darryl asked Mykal if I could join in and that's how we got started. We decided to do the show at 7 p.m. so that we didn't interfere with Lickity Split, which was an important open mic for all of us and we wanted to give comics a chance to get to two mics on a Sunday or at least have the option of being done by 9:30 if they came to our mic.
CP: Why the change of venue?
JH: The Copabanana room was cool at first — our first show we had appearances from Bing Supernova from the Black Israelites — but we were in the basement and it was clear that they weren't really going to help us out much with promotion outside of doing some drink specials. Sometimes we would come downstairs and there would be outside furniture or some random umbrellas they were using from the weekend in the middle of the room. Then last fall we moved to Qba Lounge in Northern Liberties and briefly went under the Center City Comedy, LLC umbrella. We had a few good shows but there was a miscommunication and the venue owner was expecting a sold-out show within two or three weeks and so we parted ways.
CP: How did you guys end up at Connie’s?
JH: I had spoken with Connie's Manager Frank Tartaglia a few months earlier and he said they weren't ready to open on Sundays but just as we were finishing up with Qba, Frank emailed me to ask if we still were interested in running an open mic. Darryl, Mykal and I met with him and we agreed to wait until football season ended so we weren't competing with playoffs and a possible Eagles Super Bowl run (that was the hope for the city, at least).
CP: How's it been going?
JH: We've had about a dozen shows there, including hosting a couple rounds of the "one shining moment" March Madness comedy tournament, which completely filled the room for three straight weeks. Since then, things have been a little more subdued but we have developed into a fun room to work out new material in front of a supportive audience. We have a fairly regular group of younger comedians who come by, like Ian Fidance, Rick Rowboatin, Ken BDC and Alex Pezotta as well as some of the guys who are more established, like Mike Rainey and Luke Giordano. Recently, Roger C Snair (AKA Roger The Road Rager) has been showing up, and he may be one of the most fun people to watch perform. Also Frank Tartaglia has been getting up most weeks [to perform] and [he's] really doing some funny stuff.
For more information, visit conniesricrac.com.
Every Friday, Ryan Carey takes a look at who and what’s giving Philly the giggles …
Louis Katz is a funny comedian. You might have seen him last night on Jimmy Fallon. His Comedy Central Presents... special this year was, in my opinion, one of the best of the season. His album is even better. He’s sneaking through Philly for a one-night show tonight at Helium. I spotted him on my radar and harassed him for a bit. Enjoy.
City Paper: How long have you been a comedy writer?
Louis Katz: I’ve actually never had an official standup writing job. In my bio, it says that I first wrote jokes for Carson, but it was a write-in thing. I haven’t been on a show staff, although I work on Marc Maron’s old online show. I also worked on a few pilots for Dave Attel. I have a good reputation as a writer, but I do most of my writing for myself. I think the album is much better than the special. The special, which they edit themselves, is on TV. The album, they let me do a whole edit myself. The album is exactly my vision; exactly what I want it to be. My vision for my standup.
The Bird Text comedy group — consisting of Tommy Pope, Luke Cunningham and John McKeever — has a show slot the first Tuesday of every month at Helium. You may know them from their YouTube vids, especially the local hit "Real Househusbands of Philadelphia."
Since they started, they've been featuring emerging headliners from around the northeast, like Last Comic Standing's Nikki Glaser (who was also featured prominently in the documentary I Am Comic.).
Tonight they will be bringing in Boston Comedy Festival Winner Jim Tews as well as Dan St. Germain, who you might have seen on The Jimmy Fallon Show and World of Jenks or heard on WTF with Marc Maron. Tommy and John will also be performing, along with Helium favorite James Hesky (Luke is busy in L.A. writing for The Sportshow with Norm McDonald).
Tonight, 8 p.m., $10, 215-496-9001, heliumcomedy.com.
Every Friday, Ryan Carey takes a look at who and what’s giving Philly the giggles …
Though it sounds like it, Happy Magic Fun-Time Show is no place to bring your kids. But that's the shtick. An attempt at a Mr. Rodgers, Sesame Street and Lambchop's Play Along gone terribly wrong because the hosts are bumbling, vulgar idiots.
The Hopper Brothers are played by Brandon Libby (33) and Mike Conner (29). You may recognize them as the founding members of The N Crowd — a local short-form improv troupe where they met in 2005. They started out doing yearly Christmas shows with the personas (and sweaters) that would go on to become the Hoppers. The very Steve Martin-inspired duo would "wear stupid sweaters and say ridiculous things in between singing Christmas carols." In 2008, with casting help from Philly Improv Theatre CEO Greg Maughan, they put together a full-length musical called The Hoppers Hit the Road. It premiered to solid reviews at the 2008 Fringe Fest.
"The name comes from the HBO show The Wire, which we are both fans of," says Libby. "The little drug runners are referred to as 'hoppers' so I decided that would be a perfect name. And yes, we are aware of the North Carolina family gospel ensemble, but not until after our creation had existed for a bit."
With that in mind, the Hopper Brothers forge on to do a monthly "kid's show" at Philly Improv Theater. Libby says one of his favorite parts is how the puppeteers are not hidden. They wear black but their faces are white so their reactions really pop out.
"We host and sprinkle in a few Hopper Brothers' songs, but we are rounded out by a motley crew that includes a talking dog, our curmudgeonly stage manager, and a band of puppets. The real joy of the show is watching our insanely talented cast (B.J. Ellis, Vegas Lancaster, Alan Williams, and Steve Cohen). The Happy Magic Fun-Time Show asks a lot of its actors. It's a mix of long-form, short-form, sketch, music, puppetry, video, and anything else you can dream up. With all these elements, it's fortunate that we have a group capable of pulling everything together."
Usually performing on a Friday, the Hopper Brothers are getting PHIT's prime Saturday night slot (9:30 p.m.) while a bunch of Philly's improvers are headed out to the Chicago Improv Festival. Tickets are $10 and you can stay for PHIT's free late-night improv jam at 11 p.m.
For tickets, visit phillyimprovtheater.com. In the meantime, enjoy a video of The Hopper Brothers performing "The Grandma Song."
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