If you let IFC just play and play, somewhere between the Mr. Show reruns and Portlandia you might've caught Jon Dore's mockumentary/reality show. Originally broadcast on Canadian TV, The Jon Dore Show is a strange brew of funny, awkward, gross and adorable. Dore's in the midst of a run at Helium right now. Recommended.
Fri. and Sat., April 22 and 23, $25-$30, Helium Helium Comedy Club, 2031 Sansom St., 215-496-9001, heliumcomedy.com.
Every Friday, Ryan Carey takes a look at who and what’s giving Philly the giggles …
This week, I had the chance to chat with Matt McCarthy, who you know as the competing cable installer to Verizon’s Fios. What you may not know is that he’s a knockout stand-up comedian and he's performing at Connie’s Ric Rac tonight at 9 p.m. He opened up to be about his best and worst gigs and his stand-up hero Bill Hicks.
City Paper: What was that one gig that made you realize *DING* this is happening; I can get ready to quit my day job?
Around 9 p.m. last night I stopped in to visit the Laughs on Fairmount open mic, which is happening every Monday in the Urban Saloon's (2120 Fairmount Ave., 215-232-5359) back room. Co-hosted by Carolyn Busa and Mary Radzinski, Laughs on Fairmount is a free show that offers Philly's working comics a chance to hone their acts for the weekend. The room is comfortable with an outstanding ambiance and, for a Monday, usually has a pretty decent turnout.
Aaron Hertzog talked about how the Welfare System and crappy jobs inherently bring out the worst qualities in people. Luke Giordano joked about his neurotic preoccupation with fratty Nickelback fans. Matt Lally told a hilarious story about buying rubbers at Wal-Mart on a day when the aisles seemed to be flooded with old couples and Catholic Kindergarten daytrips.
Laughs on Fairmount is open to first-time comics, but is also one of the better free shows to check out if you're just a comedy fan looking for some Recession Era free entertainment. The Saloon has yummy grub and a solid selection of drink specials. So next Monday jangle your spurs, push through the swinging double doors and order yourself up a Sioux City Sarsaparilla.
Wow, I need to get a life.
Sid Ceasar and Milton Berle may have brought audiences to television throughout the dawn of the 1950s, but Ernie Kovacs was a one-man band, acting as producer/director/writer and visual presence whose creations inspired sketch comedies like Saturday Night Live and beyond.
This month, those innovations can be found in the Shout Factory’s newly released six-DVD release, The Ernie Kovacs Collection. Kovacs’ primary collaborator and wife, Edie Adams, gets her due, too, with the re-release of her autobiography, Sing a Pretty Song, most of which discusses her wild times on air and off with Kovacs.
Every Friday, Ryan Carey takes a look at who and what’s giving Philly the giggles …
The Philadelphia Joke Initiative presents Stage Fright: An Improvised Homage to Alfred Hitchcock. This week, I spoke with director Matt Nelson about the work that went into bringing the work of this spook master to the Philly stage.
Critical Mass: How did Stage Fright get started?
Matt Nelson: For some time now I’ve been circling the idea of adapting film to the stage with an improvised twist. Initially, I considered tackling a specific genre of film, but kept coming back to the realization that there are far too many sub-styles within any given genre. To properly mount any kind of adaptation – especially improvised – requires a clear viewpoint from the source material. After all, we don’t want to simply retell stories that exist on celluloid … we want to create new and imaginative works for audiences all while capturing the essence of what we’re basing our show on.
CM: How did you settle on Hitchcock?
MN: Once I decided to forgo genre and focus more on a director’s body of work, the choice became very clear to me. Over the course of 53 films and more than half a century, Hitchcock commanded cinema like few directors before or after. He pioneered so many techniques, styles and themes that were at one time revolutionary, and are now standard.
CM: What was casting like for Stage Fright?
MN: A large difficulty in translating his style to the stage is that Hitchcock was a very visual storyteller. He much preferred editing and symbolism to verbal storytelling. To this end, I was looking to cast improvisers who not only fit well with the 1940s/1960s aesthetic, but also who demonstrate an excellent command of nonverbal performance. Hitch was very clear that he felt the chief requisite for an actor is the ability to do "nothing" well; that they should be willing to be utilized and wholly integrated into the project. So without the use of cinematography, I wanted to handpick improvisers that I knew could push each show forward not only through character and story, but also through moments of aggressive visual silence to create what I hope will be a truly voyeuristic spectacle.
CM: How overwhelming was the preparation for this show?
MN: For the last four months, the cast has immersed themselves in the world of Hitchcock. Watching, analyzing and deconstructing the films, understanding and exploring tension and suspense, and bringing to life the types of Hitchcockian characters that are so definitively the cornerstone of that world. We looked for the Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart personas, villainous characters and, of course, the heroines.
CM: How much of the show is serious vs. comedic?
MN: Folks see improv as something funny, and Hitchcock as something much darker. This project aims to show that the two are not mutually exclusive. His films have moments of terrific levity and humor - and that is not an accident. The audience needs a break from the suspense. It's in those moments that they let their guard down, and great things can happen.
CM: Who can we look forward to seeing in Stage Fright?
MN: Mary Carpenter, Rob Cutler, Nate Edmonson, Kristin Finger, Jessica Ross, Joe Sabatino, Alli Soowal, Jason Stockdale and Ashley Villanueva.
April 15-May 1, 8-9:30 p.m., $10, Latvian Society of Philadelphia, 531 N. Seventh St., ticketleap.com.
The Philly Sketchfest participants who also dabble in stand-up are performing a comedy showcase at Helium Comedy Club (2031 Sanson St., 215-496+9001) tomorrow at 8 p.m. The first half of the show will be a stand-up comedy ace, with the second being a Sketchfest preview of sorts. Money raised will go to fund this year's PSF.
Inspired by the wildly popular SF Sketchfest (San Francisco being the hometown of co-founder Ben Maher), PSF is organized by Maher along with Dave Terruso and Matt Lally — the Previously on Lost auteurs of Animosity Pierre.
The show is $12 bucks, and watching each performer do both sketch and stand-up will illustrate the strengths that cater to scripted dialogue comedy vs. monologue joke telling. Because who wants to see a comedy show without a little anthropology, am I right?
Joining Animosity Pierre will be by BAD Creations (Darrel Charles and Monroe Martin), the Feeko Brothers (Billy Thompson and Christian Alsis), and Hate Speech Committee (Aaron Hertzog and Brendan Kennedy and guests).
The Feeko Brothers, comprised of Billy Bob Thompson and Christian Alsis, have been appearing all over Philly — Ministry of Secret Jokes, Meg and Rob’s final show, Philly Sketchfest, etc. I was able to track them down for a little Q&A before their big gig on Wednesday at Helium.
City Paper: How did the Feeko Brothers originate?
Billy Bob Thompson: We were both bitten by a radioactive comedy bug after owl parents were gunned down on our home planet that blew up.
Christian Alsis: Now that the joke answer is out of the way, we met at Temple University’s film school. We had both been hoodwinked into thinking we could become famous film directors. It’s that shame, unspoken of until just now, that helped us develop a bond.
BBT: Yeah, Temple was great! They not only took our money, but they took our youth as well!
CA: While we were there, we made a bunch of comedy videos for our classes and we really learned a lot about the collaborative and creative process.
CP: What were some memorable Milestones up to this point?
BBT: Our video “Coach & Kid” was featured on the main page of FunnyOrDie.com which is a comedy website mainly for rich and famous celebrities. Not sure why we were on it. Maybe they thought Christian was Jimmy Kimmel.
CA: Oh, screw you, Billy! You know how sensitive I get when you bring that up! I got two words for you: new SNL cast member, Paul Brittain!
BBT: I LOOK NOTHING LIKE HIM, YOU SON OF A BITCH!!!
CA: WE LOOK EXACTLY LIKE BOTH OF THEM, ASSHOLE!!!
Kevin Smith should feel right at home in Philly. He’s amassed a legion of deeply devoted fans — the type of people who have named their dogs Brandi Svenning and Loki, or own a closet full of Silent Bob trench coats. It’s only natural that his Philadelphia fans would be just as loyal to him as they are to, well, everything else.
Before the big guy (actually, not so big anymore, as he’s shed 65 pounds) even took the stage, watching the boozed-up crowd of fan boys and girls was already worth the trip in entertainment value. Batman and Superman tees, replica Mooby’s uniforms a la Clerks 2, “Jay” wigs complete with fake blond tresses, and an assortment of Flyers jerseys littered the 1,300-seat Keswick. As soon as Smith walked on stage, he quipped that the Devils beat the Flyers, and all hell broke loose.
Smith is known for his easy-going sensibilities and everyday-man persona. He sauntered comfortably around the stage wearing a jersey and jean shorts (really, Kev?) and spent the first hour or so discussing his new film, Red State, which is inspired by the so-called villainy inherent in many fundamentalist religious organizations, particularly the Westboro Baptist Church. Smith was never haughty or even particularly fervent about the background of the film and the adventures of filming or promoting — he just talked about what happened along the way. And the things that happen to him along the way are often funny as hell.
After his Red State spiel, he opened up the floor for audience questions. The first came from a guy who asked Smith how his dogs were doing (so enveloped in Smith’s life that he knew the dogs weren’t doing so well). Instead of seeming fazed by such a personal question, Smith launched into an almost-15-minute account of the health of each of his dogs. There was the distinct impression that we were watching two buddies talk over beers. That’s just the kind of guy Smith is.
And then we saw the softer side of the dick- and fart-joke director. An audience member asked Smith to talk about some of the stars he had worked with, and he responded with story after story about the late George Carlin. He mentioned that Carlin was exceptionally detailed in his acting approach, more so than Smith could ever imagine was necessary on his type of movie. He said that Carlin taught him that it was OK for intelligent people to curse, and that above all, the man “didn’t just execute, but elevated everything he did.” Then, Kevin Smith got choked up.
Every Friday, Ryan Carey takes a look at who and what’s giving Philly the giggles…
In September of 2008, Philly stand-ups Chris Cotton and Conrad Roth met each other at the bar after the Wednesday Laff House open mic. Strangers, they tried to think of small-talk to pass the moments.
First thing that came out: “I wish there was somewhere else we could go to get on stage and work on our comedy.”
Cut to March 31, 2011, and the wildly popular Center City Comedy ‘open-mic showcase’ is packing in audiences to capacity every Thursday night at the Raven Lounge on Sansom. Started by Cotton and Roth out of necessity (for comedy as well as an ice-breaker), Center City Comedy has attracted and nurtured many young talents who have grown into skilled comics.
Cotton boasts about comics like Darrel Charles and James Hesky who got a lot of their stage time at CCC, and have since moved up in the local comedy scene to host at Helium.
“Some of the younger guys, this is the only place they’d come during the week. I’d tell them, they need to go to the other places too. Just coming here, I feel honored, but comedy is about you becoming the best comedian you can be. To do that you have to be everywhere all the time, telling jokes.”
Time magazine recently compiled their Top 140 best Twitter feeds, and many are household names: Ashton, Kanye, Bieber, Conan, Colbert, Chelsea, The Onion — even fictional characters like Homer Simpson. They are listed in no particular order, but are available for ranking via your votes. But Time’s list isn’t perfect. Here are seven great accounts that fell under their radar.
1.Charlie Sheen | @charliesheen
For better or worse, the unemployed winner with Adonis DNA has aided March madness in giving the American cubicle workforce something fuel its perpetually dire morale. Whether you love him or you hate him, he’s a self-sustaining dynamo; even if you don’t think he’s worth talking about, the fact that you’re talking about talking about him means that he’s altered the landscape of mass media. And his twitter feed — like Sheen himself, I suspect — seems to be 66.6% schtick and 33.3% genuine batshit. Taking our minds off the economy, the earthquakes, and other sure harbingers of the pre-apocalypse, Sheen himself may very well be one of the four horsemen. But at least he’s wearing a clown suit and keeping us blissfully ignorant as our final generations come of age.
“We must bombard with Warlock Napalm, that traitor and loser whore #DUH-neese POOR-ards. a vile kidnapper and now dog thief. hate. SBW c”
2. Chuck Klosterman | @CKlosterman
This cultural sherpa and collumnist for Spin, Esquire, ESPN and more, has no blog for fans to follow. Therefore, his twitter feed is the closest we can get to this best-selling author of pop manifestos. Klosterman’s tweets are a mix of sports commentary, opinions on trending topics, and (mostly) links and retweets that he has discovered as (often, unexpectedly) relevant. Almost like a Wholphin of Twitter (Wholphin is Dave Eggers’ collection of weird, interesting videos you wouldn’t normally know about), Klosterman finds those quirky nuggets that fall through the cracks, and reminds us that Presbyterians is an anagram for Britney Spears.
“As a writer, I will probably never be selected for the Pro Bowl. But if I was, I feel like I could rush for maybe 60 yards.”
3. Dana Gould | @DanaJGould
This Simpsons writer — called (by Patton Oswalt) the father of alternative comedy — is, quite simply, one of the funniest human beings of all time. And let's be honest, skyping and getting your news are important items, but the internet is fueled by LOLs. Every single one of his tweets is either sheer gold, or an occasional notice about when he’ll be performing in your town — equally valuable.
“America’s concern about radiation levels in Japan has risen dramatically since 1945.”
4. Humble Brag | @Humblebrag
Re-tweets of people who are bragging about something in the form of thinly-veiled self-deprecation — you know, because bragging is only socially acceptable as long as you maintain the appearance of humility.
“RT I’m watching myself on TV right now (which is just an odd experience in and of itself) and I’m taken aback by how much I’m sweating--in HD”
5. Huffington Post | @HuffPostEnt
If you’re a pop-culture junkie — and why wouldn’t you be if you’re putzing around on Twitter all day — then The Huff is a must have Twitter feed. In many ways, Twitter itself is like a continuation of the Huffington Post for web 2.0 (in that, it provides the collective murmur of our cultural feed-bag). In just skimming the Huff’s Twitter feed, I found out that Mariah Carey just had her babies, Amy Adams will play Lois Lane in the next Superman movie, and Tom Hanks will be on 30 Rock — all in about 4 seconds. What that data means in the scheme of things is arguable, but you can’t argue that it’s all available rigt there, on the Huff.
“A year away from the next Batman film, they’re already planning another series reboot. http://huff.to/hqlqME”
6. Lifehacker | @lifehacker
Lifehacker is sort of a modern continuation of the Whole Earth Catalog. Except, now the earth is filled with obstacles beyond, “must build a shelter and must cultivate edible crops”.
“Here’s how to make your Brita water filter better in around five seconds http://t.co/iif84Mf"
7. Anthony Jeselnik | @anthonyjeselnik
This comedian has been making a huge splash in the last few years as a sort of dark, ultra-modern Mitch Hedberg. His word economy is potent, which makes him a natural tweeter (Can’t believe that’s a word now). Additionally, he doesn’t tweet his every thought, he only usually tweets well-crafted jokes. The down side of this is that we only hear from him twice a week or so, but reading all five hundred superb tweets in his back-catalog is likely gonna put a dent in your afternoon. Careful, while they’re not exactly NSFW in the expletive sense, they’re grossly inappropriate in most other senses.
“On Thanksgiving, I visit the hospital and deep fry turkeys for the kids in the burn unit, just to see the looks on their ‘faces.’”
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