Last week of Comedy Month underway

11/16/2010

Posts have been lacking the last few weeks, as I’ve been otherwise occupied deep in the hilarity of the Philadelphia Comedy Collective’s COMEDY MONTH. Both the PHILADELPHIA IMPROV FESTIVAL and the PHILLY SKETCHFEST enjoyed incredible acts playing to record audiences. Recaps of those weeks will be coming soon.

Last night kicked of the final week of Comedy Month, with selections from the PHILADELPHIA JOKE INITIATIVE entitled These Guys Are Good Vol 1. We saw the comedic illusions and body manipulations of flexible comedian JONATHAN BURNS. THOMAS CHOINACKY gave audiences a taste of his obsession with an excerpt from his show Thomas is Titanic. Finally, UN Ambassador and Nobel Laureate BUDDY FELCH dropped jaws with tales of his experiences with Ghandi, the Dalai Lama and other high profile figures. The evening was hosted by the incredibly funny CHRIS COTTON.

The fun continues next with These Guys Are Good Vol 2. In the hopper for tonight are videos and sketches from I’D RATHER BE HERE PRODUCTIONS, the musical comedy stylings of TODD CHAPPELLE, and variety show comedy from 2 DUDES & A DUDE (featuring former 6th Borough sketchers COREY COHEN & JASON MESSINA).

Here’s a look at the rest of PJI Week:

TUESDAY
8PM: THESE GUYS ARE GOOD VOL 2

WEDNESDAY
8PM: NED TALKS

THURSDAY
8PM: THE N CROWD GOES LONG
10PM: COMEDY GONE BAD

FRIDAY
8PM: PREVIEW – A VERY LADIES & GENTLEMEN CHRISTMAS SPECIAL
10PM: COMEDYSPORTZ PRESENTS GAME, SET, MATCH GAME!

SATURDAY
CIF’S NATIONAL COLLEGE IMPROV TOURNAMENT
12PM, 2PM, 4PM & 6PM: EASTERN REGIONAL PRELIMINARIES
9PM: EASTERN REGIONAL FINALS

All shows are held at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, 2111 Sansom St in Center City Philadelphia.

Mixing sketch, stand-up, film, music, education, parody and a healthy dose of competition, this eclectic last week is the perfect topper to what has been an incredible Comedy Month. Come join us as PJI explores the bizarre and surreal corners of today’s comedy.

Tickets and additional information

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Comedian Profile: Nathan Edmondson

06/16/2010

Editors Note: In this segment, we step away from the stage and take a look at comedians in the Philadelphia area… Learn a little more about where they come from, what they do while not performing and of course the question we all ask ourselves… Why do we do it?

NATHAN EDMONDSON

Might have seen him in: Rare Bird Show

Hangs his hat in: Fishtown

Stomping Grounds: Franklin, PA

Pays the Bills as: Actor, Filmmaker, Theatrical Director of “Terror Behind the Walls” at Eastern State Penitentiary, Teacher, Care Giver, Standardized Patient, sometimes Bouncer, and Doer of What Needs Doing

Projects: I’ve just started directing a new PHIT house team!  Great group of extremely talented individuals.  Can’t wait to see what they’re able to create together.  I think they might take over the world.  I’m scared.

Reel 9 Productions is my film production group that we launched in the last few months.  Currently, we’re working on a documentary focusing on some individuals in South Philly called, “Born and Raised.”  Our first film, “Number 9,” was just accepted into the New Filmmakers Film Festival in NYC, and will be playing July 28th somewhere up there.  End of this month, we’re playing at the New Hope Film Festival.  We also received an Accolade Award for that piece which surprised the heck out of us!  We shot “Number 9” at Eastern State Penitentiary in two days.  My film partner, Erin, ran the camera while holding the boom mic and carrying all the extension chords because our rental equipments’ batteries weren’t charged.  She followed me around doing stupid stuff until we had enough footage to make a coherent, dramatic film.  We’re looking forward to some fun, new projects coming soon.  If you can laugh, we might need your help…

Other Hobbies: I love watching movies.  If I had to pick one hobby, I think it would be just to watch movies.  Fly-fishing is a past-time I’d like to reincorporate more regularly.  Traveling is a lot of fun.  In January I was out volunteering at the Sundance Film Festival, staying in Salt Lake City and soaking in the mountains and lakes of varying size.  I was just touring around Ohio visiting Haunted Houses for work.  Ohio is flat.  Yoga is good in so many ways, especially to balance out Muay Thai kicks.

Why Improv?

I grew up watching Stand Up, Stand Up and thinking it’d be great to be a stand up comedian.  Then there was Whose Line Is It Anyway (British version).  In college, I studied theater and auditioned for every improv troupe around, got into them, but was too busy (scared) to be able to join up.  Once I moved to Philly after graduation, I took up improv to stay creative between acting in theater productions.  I was lucky enough to fall in with Matt Holmes and Alexis Simpson, and Rare Bird Show became my creative outlet for 4 years.  I could get my performance fix without having to commit to the rehearsal schedule of doing theater so it fed the bug enough while I worked a soul(and time)-sucking desk job.  It’s funny, when I told my close friends here in Philly I was joining an improv troupe, my buddy turned to me and said in all honesty, “Don’t you have to be funny to do that sorta thing?”

Improv has allowed that freaking crazy, spontaneous kid who used to jump around his grandmother’s house with abandon to show up again in my life.  Now I’m addicted to the rush of being on stage: that fear and adrenaline that pumps through your system and the pressure that it’s up to you and your team to make it entertaining.  So much of life can be (and often has to be) tamed, planned and overly analyzed.  When you’re on stage, you just have to be in the moment and react.  Commit.  React.  Do it NOW.  It’s refreshing.  And it’s such an intellectual endeavor when you look at it objectively.  I like that side of it too.  I think mostly I just like being a ham and being stupid in front of people.  We’re all such idiots in life.  On stage you’re given the chance to live that openly and share it with a group of people and people ENJOY it!  It’s a great thing to be a part of.

I’ll conclude with the memory of my very first improv performance.  I was nine years old and my neighbor and best friend decided that we should do a clown show for the block of kids and their parents.  I was filled with dread as we found ridiculous, over sized costumes and applied colorful face paint.  My friend told me how she’d introduce the show, we’d dance around, she’d do this funny thing and then I’d do something and then we’d dance some more.  Our rehearsal was about as long as it took to write that sentence.  We were off finding patrons and soon a dozen kids and mothers were sitting on the side walk in front of my porch.  FEAR gripped my stomach.  We danced around, my friend said some stuff that wasn’t so funny then she pushed me out in front of everyone and I froze.  “……hi……um…..” and I don’t remember the rest.  Next thing, my friend is walking around in her swim suit for some reason screaming nonsense at the top of her lungs and people left.  Lady across the street suggested we rehearse a bit more before charging 10 cents a pop.  Ta Da!

If you know someone who you think should be profiled, we’d love to hear about them.


City Council Bill 100267 and what it means for comedy

05/20/2010

Since it was introduced to City Council on April 22nd, Bill 100267 has created quite a stir in many entertainment circles. Introduced by Councilmen Bill Greenlee and Darrell Clarke, the bill calls for promoters of special events to apply for a free permit from the Philadelphia Police Department 30 days prior to each event.

According to Greenlee, it’s an attempt to curb event-driven distruptions throughout the city. While the bill hits promoters and is clearly targeted at nightclub events and similar social gatherings, the language of the bill could cause repercussions within performing arts communities.

Reviewing the bill, we see that permits will be needed by the entities promoting and producing events, and those that look to profit from them. It exempts paid media outlets, ticket sellers (off premises), performers (paid strictly to perform), agents, politicians, political committees, non-profits and of course the City of Philadelphia itself. It also allows PDD to deny a permit up to 10 days prior to the event, and without cause.

The area that we as comedians need to look most carefully at is how the bill classifies an “event.” It’s simply described as “any activity requiring a special assembly occupancy license.” The COP website states that a license is required for restaurants, bars, catering halls, night clubs and other gathering places with dancing and a lawful occupancy of over 50 people. The site also notes that they exclude theaters with fixed seating. So while we may not feel that we fit within the definition of a dancing establishment, the presence of an exclusion for fixed-seat theaters means the city thinks otherwise.

It’s also important to note that although they do not make the distinction, lawful occupancy is different from seating… so while your venue may not seat 50 people, it could potentially be occupied by that many. Public entertainment venues that are up to code should have some sort of official signage that notifies you as to the legal maximum occupancy.

As comedians commonly producing our own events, we are constantly striving to simply fill our houses; barely able to imagine our audiences overflowing to the point of causing civil unrest. Even though the thought of breaking down our folding chairs and busting out an unauthorized dance party a la Footloose is unlikely if not hoped for (I’m looking at you Kristen), Greenlee and the bill sponsors appear to be sticking to their guns. Which means that without defeat of the bill, as soon as June standard venues like the Shubin, Ric Rac and the Playground may need to make some adjustments in their operations or face extreme bureaucratic red tape (e.g. ComedySportz filing for over 100 permits a year) – all while under risk of being shut down anyway.

Who is in the clear?

  • Theaters with fixed seating
  • Non-profits producing & promoting their own events
  • Venues with a legal occupancy under 50

Who is potentially at risk?

  • Larger venues that utilize folding chairs for patron seating
  • For-profit producers & promoters
  • Regular entertainment venues unlicensed or not compliant with city code
  • Comedians who perform under at-risk producers and promoters
  • Venues that financially depend on revenue from independently-produced events

How can I be heard?

Reach out to the sponsors of the bill, as well as the Council President, and let them know your thoughts on this matter. If we can’t stamp it out all together, demand the language be amended to exclude seated performances, raise the lawful occupancy maximum or otherwise adjust the bill to no longer include low-risk events of a theatrical nature. Emails can be directed to:

You can also sign the petition at PetitionSpot.

What can I do if the bill is enacted and I’m at risk?

  • If you rent or sublet, ensure the venue meets the exclusionary standards
  • If you’re bordering on occupancy limits, renegotiate your lease to exclude non-essential areas
  • If you’re venue doesn’t work, find one that does
  • If you produce regular shows, consider a non-profit tax status
  • Discuss creating a non-profit production/promotion entity with other groups
  • Consult legal council specializing in entertainment… I’m no expert
  • Stop doing comedy… You’re clearly too dangerous

Review: Local improviser unearths darker side in Gravedigger

05/19/2010

Last week I got a chance to catch Gravedigger: The Plays of Mark Borkowski at the Walking Fish Theatre. Now in its final week, the production features three one-acts penned by the award-winning playwright and Kenso native.

The first act was The Mutilation of St Barbara, featuring Kirsten Quinn and Billy Edwards as a couple in their apartment, arguing about art, arousal and how they’ve come to find themselves so far from where they started as a couple. Edwards plays his character a bit too heavy handedly, and unfortunately as such comes off a little over the top to allow the scene to resonate the way I was wanting. Quinn throws out some nice anger, although the level and depth on her face plays much more piercingly than her vocal performance, and as such she owns her character best when left to silently boil. Michelle Pauls harnesses the tension well with her direction of the players moods and movements, while playing very subtly with the levels of contrast in this darkly comedic scene about an even darker relationship. While the best moments were silent and Mutilation ended up being my least favorite of the three, it still served as a nice primer for the rest of the acts.

The second act, A Gravedigger’s Tale, features Rob Cutler as the titular character. As an improviser, I’m well versed in Cutler’s comedic side, and it was nice to see him unleash a grittier, more bleak character than I’m used to. You might not expect to sympathize with a character that is so clearly little more than a heroin-addicted sychopant (so much so that he doesn’t even get a name beyond that of his job), but Cutler manages to use the purely pathetic nature of the Gravedigger to his advantage. Throughout the scene he leverages the character’s meagerness to play the fool for laughs, but more endearingly, wins us with a quiet empathy he shows for a drugged-out whore (played decently by Karina Croskrey). Kenneth John McGregor kills as a rough-and-tumble street kingpin who has the Gravedigger under his thumb. McGregor manages to make us laugh while never doubting his seriousness… and his booming voice coupled with his towering stature command the pace of the scene, for which he does not falter. Edwards makes another appearance in this act as a mid-level low-life, and redeems well as the character to hate in a graveyard full of hateful people. Kudos to Stan Heleva for his brave use of A LOT of dirt in a very intimate space. While some patrons might object, the dust on my tongue made me feel less like I was sitting in a theater and more like I was watching from behind a tombstone.

Twilight’s Child finds us joining a grieving couple in a diner for the final act, where the pace is slowed considerably. We get to enjoy Pauls onstage this act, playing a lamenting mother, inches away from complete madness. Pauls draws us in from the start, as I could have sat there an hour, entranced and unnerved by her sitting in a catatonic state of loss and pity. We quietly watch as the father, played superbly by Dennis Smeltzer, tries with all his waning energy to pull his wife back from nothingness. Juggling grief, anger, public embarrassment and desperate hope for a love he no longer can see, Smeltzer nails what I so long for in theater – a transparency where Smeltzer the actor disappears and all I’m left with is the character. I would be quite startled to find a happy, appreciative actor after the curtain falls. Whatever he’s tapped into for this role, I hope each audience gets to see it throughout the run. McGregor returns as the diner’s  proprietor, with just enough wit staccatoed  in as to not pull us down with the couple. Twilight’s Child is an incredibly slow and exacting reveal, thanks I’m sure in no small part to having Borkowski at the helm. It’s nearly always fantastic when a playwright can direct their own work, and I could find no exception here. Finally, the last moments leave us with an act of desperation so absurd, so contrastingly ridiculous, it can’t help but lift our spirits as we walk out the door.

Although the hometown Kensington angle doesn’t quite resonate through the work as something that could only happen here… I’m sure glad this show happened in my neighborhood.

Be advised, this show contains strong language, nudity, sexual themes, violence, sexual violence and drug use.

GRAVEDIGGER: THE PLAYS OF MARK BORKOWSKI
THROUGH MAY 23RD
WALKING FISH THEATRE | 2509 FRANKFORD AVE
$18 GENERAL ADMISSION / $12 STUDENTS & SENIORS
TICKETS AND DETAILS AT walkingfishtheatre.com


Accolades Rain Down

10/02/2007

A huge congratulations to a few dear improvisers who took home Barrymore Awards last night!

Dave Jadico (of CSz & Lunchlady Doris) won for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical, for his portrayal of Henry, Mortimer and the Mute in Mum Puppettheatre’s production of The Fantasticks.

Karen Getz (of CSz, Lunchlady Doris & Tapestry’s Killer Pussy / Gwendolyn & Cecily) won for Outstanding Choreography / Movement, for her work on the Prince Music Theater’s production of Hair.

Brian McCann (of CSz) won the City Paper Award for Outstanding Ensemble in a Play, for his performance of James Lingk among the cast of Theatre Exile’s Glengarry Glen Ross.

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Congratulations folks!


Someone, PLEASE!!!

07/28/2007

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Someone PLEASE go see this tonight and report back to me!!!!

How dare they do this for ONE NIGHT ONLY! And on a Saturday (ComedySportz) during the Del Close Marathon no less? This thing could be an improvisor/comedian dream.

 Ever since the Brady Bunch Live I’ve been dreaming of the day another American warped values sitcom would be twisted into a live stage version. And now, ladies and gents, Full House Live. Tonight only (double drat) at Plays and Players.

Info? Full House: LIVE!

Plays and Players Theater
1714 Delancey Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Saturday, July 28, 2007
10PM // Tix $5
ONE NIGHT ONLY
http://www.myspace.com/fullhouselive

Seriously.


Marsala Featured in Hedgerow Production of British Farce

07/13/2007

If you’ve been to an N Crowd show recently, you may have sadly been missing the presence of Anthony Marsala. The reason for this absence is that he’s been preparing for his featured role in It Runs In the Family, opening tonight at the Hedgerow Theatre in Media. The play was penned by the master of farce himself, Ray Cooney, who’s biggest success was the extrememly popular Run For Your Wife, which played for nine years at London’s West End Theatre (making it the theatre’s longest running comedy of all time).

The production marks the sixth year for Hedgerow’s Annual Summer Farce series. It’s directed by Andrew Chown & Penelope Reed and runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 2pm.

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Hedgerow Theatre | 64 Rose Valley Rd – Media, PA
7/13 – 9/9, Thu – Sat @ 8pm, Sun @ 2pm
Discounts available through the Philly Fun Guide for select shows June 13 – 19