Comedian Patrice O'Neal is in Philly this weekend for a string of shows at Helium Comedy Club. But first he chats with us about prepping for the roast, his battle with fast food and, as a 45-year-old vet, how he's staying relevant among the constant influx of fresh-faced up-and-comers.
City Paper: Your performance on the recent Charlie Sheen Roast seemed more natural than the other performers. Was it entirely off-the-cuff?
Patrice O’Neal: I prepared, but you leave space to maneuver. Sometimes you’re able to go off script and improv. It’s like sports: The art goes with the preparation and professionalism, and vice versa. As long as you have your fundamentals — preparing what you want to do and writing it down — [you'll be] fine. Ssometimes you have to be involved with the situation that’s in front of you — like a tired L.A. audience. It's not like I was planning on being a crusader. I was just trying not to suck.
CP: What's it been like having Diabetes?
PO: I got the diagnosis when I was 21 or 22. It’s starting to take its toll now. It’s one of those diseases that are bad, but it’s such a long deterioration process. As opposed to cancer or HIV, diabetes is such a gradual attack, and then one day you wake up and your feet are hurting and your eyes are blurry and then you’re scrambling. [But if you eat right], it’s something you can attack and have a long healthy life.
Ryan Carey on who and what's giving Philly the giggles ...
ComedySportz has been performing a live improv competition almost every Saturday for 19 years. If you've never been to check it out, the event is set up like a sporting match — with two teams competing in improv games against each other. A referee governs the action, times the games, calls the fouls and gets suggestions from the fans. A sound man called Mr. Voice gives scoring updates and comments on the action. The home team in blue is the Philadelphia Fighting Amish and the visiting NJ Turnpikes are in red (all part of the same troupe, of course).
Despite the Medieval Times/Harlem Globetrotters vibe, the competition is very real. The points are derived from the a mount of audience laughter in a number of rounds. And points are subtracted when a team fumbles (i.e. someone can't think of a line quickly enough). There are audience vote rounds as those judged by celebrities.
I asked the group's Don Montrey whether the audiences usually gravitate toward the hometown Fighting Amish. "We had a game just last Saturday where there was this group of kids who loved New Jersey and they were very vocal for it. We encourage that, we encourage the audience to support their team because it gets really, really fun."
Every Friday, Ryan Carey takes a look at who and what’s giving Philly the giggles …
"At my resort in Jamaica, there was a bar next to the pool, but there's a type of chlorine they put in the pool that turns red if you piss in it. Don't you think that's a dirty trick? My bracelet said All Inclusive!"
On the spectrum between Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor, Tony Woods is probably at 70/30 on the Pryor side for his debaucherous stories, and occasionally colorful language. But Woods has a unique light-hearted vocal delivery that suits his generally unagressive and universal point of view. He tells stories, for instance, about what a pain it was to be in kindergarden, and the inherent absurdity of the Little Red Riding Hood tale.
While never unaccessably cerebral, Woods has no problem sprinkling some philosophy into his act. "You can't laugh unless you've been hurt before. If I tell a joke about getting tazed, and you've never been tazed, and you've never seen anybody getting tazed, than it doesn't mean [anything] to ya!"
You may have seen Tony's hilarious Comedy Central Presents special or his appearences on VH1's I Love The '90s, the Friar's Club Roast of Chevy Chase, Showtime at the Apollo, BET's Comicview or Conan O'Brien — but this weekend, the D.C. native is playing Philly.
Tonight, 8:30 p.m. & 10:45 p.m. and Sat., Sept. 17, 8 p.m., 10 p.m. & midnight, $20, Laff House, 221 South St., 215-440-4242, laffhouse.com.
Man Cave is a testosterone-laden Monday feature that highlights the weekend haps of a pop culture-loving Philly dude.
This weekend I checked out one of Philly Improv Theater's many contributions to the Fringe Festival. Produced by Alex J. Gross and Ian Vaflor, it's a pro-wrestling spoof called Pro-Mania!. Any wrestling fan will want to see this, because I know you have a good enough sense of humor to appreciate the peccadilloes of your favorite variety of sports entertainment. Pro-mania! is more silly than satire though, and the half-sketched half-improvised show (much like an actual pro-wrestling event, if I'm not mistaken) is an absurdist cavalcade of high-enegery, very crowd-interactive shenaniganry. Odd chanting ensued.
Iris Holcombe, created and performed by Eric Singel of the popular Philly sketch group The Waitstaff, an older wedding coordinator who is generally well-meaning but way behind the times when it comes to the gay agenda. Singel wrote the Wedding Consultant monologue in 2005; it was first read by Ariel Coleman-Turner (now a member of Second City), and it went on to win a Madhouse “Best of Season” award. In 2007, Singel read the monologue himself at Boston’s 1X1 Solo Works Festival, on the one-year anniversary of the Marriage Equality Act.
I asked Singel whether he thought Pennsylvania will be getting on board with marriage equality. “What people have to remember about Pennsylvania — especially those of us who are fortunate enough to live in Philly or Pittsburgh — it has the second oldest population in the nation. Ultimately it will become a moot point because it will get to the Supreme Court. Someday, I think people will look at it the same way we look at old photos from the 50s of segregation.”
The Wedding Consultant, which started as Iris Holcombe’s monologue, now boasts five other characters.
Singel has been performing with The Waitstaff since 2008, and this Fringe Fest will be the first time since then that he won’t be on stage with his cohorts as they finish their Fringe run of The Real Housewives of South Philly Jump The Shark. Last spring LOL With It brought you up to speed on the magic that is Waitstaff’s Real Housewives shtick, and Housewives Jump The Shark marks the group’s ninth festival appearance.
The Wedding Consultant runs through Sept. 17, $20, Walnut Street Theatre, Independence Studio 3, 825 Walnut St. MORE INFO HERE.
The Real Housewives of South Philly Jump the Shark! runs through Sept. 18, L’Etage Cabaret, 624 S. Sixth St. MORE INFO HERE.
Every Friday, Ryan Carey takes a look at who and what’s giving Philly the giggles. Today, he chats with Tommy Pope, who was named Philly's Phunniest at Helium Comedy Club on Wednesday.
City Paper: Congrats on winning Philly’s Phunniest! How long have you been doing comedy?
Tommy Pope: I started comedy at the end of 2008. My brother always tried to talk me into it [and] he finally got me down to Helium’s open mike. Back then, it was one of the only public open mics. At that time, you just signed up and hoped to get on. I got on once in the first three months, and then another quarter year went by before I got on again.
CP: How did it go? Was it immediately gratifying, or did you bomb at first?
In May, we blogged about the beginning of the 2011 Philly's Phunniest competition, the yearly contest to find the funniest standup comedian in Philadelphia. All summer long our local jokesmiths have been serving up their choicest observations, their most potent punchlines, their leanest tags and least-awkward callbacks. The final round is tonight, and eight of the city's very best will be throwing down for an important credit in their resume: Philly's Phunniest.
If you consider yourself a fan of the Philadelphia comedy scene, this is more or less the can't-miss night of the year, so snatch up tix for this super showcase while you can. And good luck to the contestants: John McKeever, Pat House, Mike Rainey, Gordon Baker Bone, Gary Vider, Pat Barker, Chip Chantry, Andy Nolan, Tommy Pope, and Daryl Charles. Stay tuned tomorrow, when we'll announce our Philly's Crown Clown 2011.
Tonight, $8 p.m., $20-$27, Helium Comedy Club, 2031 Sansom St., 215-496-9001, heliumcomedy.com.
Ryan Carey takes a look at who and what's giving Philly the giggles ...
Kung Fu Necktie is holding it's first comedy variety show Tuesday night hosted by Northern Liberties' own Maureen Costello. Aptly named Tuesday Night Live, the show will feature standup, sketch and improv from some local LOL WITH IT favorites. Here's the lineup:
Fastball Pitcher Bob Gutierrez (pictured) pitched for the world famous Chicago Cubs Baseball Organization from 1979 until 1987. He likes talking about baseball, specifically the days he spent playing. He, ahem, wasn't very good.
Jon Goff is a comedian who gives Power Point presentations narrated with jokes — the way we all wish they did it at the office. (Hand in your laser pointers at coat check, please).
Pasiónes de Pasiónes, a fully improvised telenovela, features three white boys who used to settle for Telemundo when nothing else was on, but now
Every Friday, Ryan Carey takes a look at who and what’s giving Philly the giggles …
During the late-nineties and early-aughts (shudder), I was a young comedy fan watching shows like Comedy Central Presents, A&E's Comedy Showcase, and NBC's Late Friday. Really popular acts like Chris Rock and Jeff Foxworthy were living large and guys like Louis Black, Mitch Hedberg and Dane Cook were gaining a lot of momentum. Everybody had an angle, a super-memorable gimmick. But there was another category of standup that seemed less celebrated: folks who simply had funny jokes.
These schtick-less performers weren't loud or weird or interesting in appearance. They simply opened their mouths and said funny things. Guys like Nick DiPaolo, Greg Giraldo, Louis CK, Marc Maron and Patton Oswalt were zeros in the fame game but batted a thousand whenever you could catch them for five minutes on TV. Nowadays, they are comedy household names, because eventually the Internet hit puberty and craftsmen can be judged for the actual quality of their work instead of their marketability.
Journeyman Greg Fitzsimmons is one of those guys. Luckily, today he's reaping the benefits of sticking it out through decades of relative obscurity. His podcast, Fitzdog Radio, is in the top 25 for comedy podcasts on iTunes. You should check out the episode from last November where he dissects Philly's ethnic culture and interviews our own Darryl Charles.
I recently had a chat with him where he talked about working in his undies, why he loves playing at Helium Comedy Club and his stance that Philly is actually part of New Jersey ...
I knew going into the Borgata on Saturday night that Russell Brand had a long and risible career in standup comedy. His effectiveness as an actor in films such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek (but not so much in Arthur) comes down to his turn-on-a-dime mania as a comedian, to say nothing of his lanky swaggering rock-star stance. Plus, I’d seen his standup specials Russell Brand: Doin' Life, Russell Brand in New York, and Scandalous, where the comic moves like Jagger and talks like an ex-coke addict. The point is: I knew what to expect.
I was just hoping for a little bit more.
The druggy lothario-turned-sober comedian talked quickly for 90 minutes (exactly, I could see his self timer) without a punch-lined joke or written-down idea to speak of. The ramble Brand’s got had much to do about masturbation, consequences, marrying a pop singer, New Jersey's reality television brands and the (not) funny differences in American and English terminology. Cheeky bugger. Don’t get me wrong. Brand wasn’t bad or as annoying as Robin Williams. I simply wanted him to veer from the non-scripted script of his so-called ribald and psychedelic life into something as wild as he appears and as wisely thoughtful as his books make him out to be.
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