Sure we got Jon Gabrus’ take on Philly, but what about Justin Tyler? Oh, we’ve got that too:
By my count this is your sixth run of shows in Philly. What’s your favorite thing about the city?
JG: You guys keep inviting us back, and that is more than enough. We love the city, it is a 20 dollar Chinatown bus ride away and always a good time. (Greg) Maughan puts us up and puts up with us, and being able to do that is enough to make that guy a saint in the Tybrus bible.
JT: Our favorite thing about Philly? Besides official Tybrus mascot Brandon Libby? That’s tough. Something about Philly brings out the best in Tybrus, maybe it’s the crowd, maybe it’s how accommodating you guys are to us, or maybe it’s the whiskey that keeps sliding into our hands down here.
You’ve done a lot of different divergent comedy with Tybrus – in addition to your sketch show, You’re Out Too Far, we’ve seen everything from monoscenes to complete freeform improv. What can audiences expect on this run?
JG: Great question, and probably something we can’t answer just yet. We will definitely be doing improv, as to exactly what form we do… That is a decision to be made on stage. We like to just go up there and see where that particular set takes us. Sometimes it is just a matter of ‘wanna do a monoscene tonight?’ ‘Yeah.’
JT: I completely agree. Most sets we just make a decision right before we go onstage, whether it be monoscene or some other specific form. Then we do our Panda Warm-up and then we’re on.
You both have other popular projects you work on – Pig Brooch, Fwand, Sidecar, UCBW, writing and acting… what is it about Tybrus that brings you back?
JG: Justin is my writing partner/neighbor/one of my best friends (and I just say ‘one of’ in case he doesn’t call me his best friend I don’t want to make things awkward). We are always hanging out together, he lives a block away in Brooklyn, and we are constantly working on writing projects together, and a plethora of drinking projects. We have all these other projects going on but they are side projects. We know where our bread is buttered.
JT: Michael Delaney of Stepfathers here in New York once referred to Billy Merritt as his ‘improv wife’, and that is the best way to describe the relationship Gabrus and I have. Which one of us is the wife is a matter for public debate. Gabrus is my best friend (Things are not awkward), we truly do live about a block from each other and see each other on an almost daily basis. The first improv scene Gabrus and I ever did together was a race between Superman and The Flash. That’s a cosmic alliance if I’ve ever heard one.
We see a lot of pretty crazy characters come out on stage. But when watching it’s clear there’s a level of personal investment – you own those characters as a piece of yourselves. Do you see a lot of your character work being autobiographical?
JG: It is safe to say that both of us are pretty crazy people on a very basic level. So all we have to do on stage is let our mask of sanity slip a little bit in a certain direction, and you have a fucking nutso character that is grounded in reality. Justin is a really talented actor and makes it look great/easy up there. But there is definitely a lot of ourselves or each other in our character work.
JT: To make a character real there has to be at least a little piece of them inside of you, even the ones that wear other people’s skin on their faces. Gabrus is two kinds of machines, optimized for your benefit: an idea machine and a commitment machine. Our characters can get crazy because of the unique and grounded environments that they live in.
We’ve also seen a lot of crazy coming out off stage. How much of what you do on stage carries with you when you leave?
JT: It all comes off with you and Gabrus and I have made it our personal quest to live out every improvised moment we create on stage. Especially our characters drink a lot and then take off their clothes.
JG: To be 100 percent honest this question can pretty much answer every other question. Why do Justin and I work together because we both are fucking nuts. It is so rare that you bump into someone in life whose sense of humor lines up almost totally with yours, and then also their outlook on life, and how they act in public is very similar.
JT: We’ve both performed with a lot of different people but we always come back home. Someday we’ll both live in a tiny bungalow in Key West, watching re-runs of Dawson’s Creek all day, writing a joint memoir that involves jail time. And our wives will be there too.
JG: We were meant to perform together or at least fight each other in a bar.
JT: We may be doing both this weekend.
Justin Tyler is a writer and actor in New York City, and a member of the late UCB Harold team Havana Clambake. He is a founding member of sketch/improv groups Cubicle and Sidecar, which perform regularly all over New York. Justin is a monthly contributor to Jest Magazine and the artistic director of Pig Brooch Inc., a New York based theatre company, which produced his play, Happy Mundanes, in the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival.