Ten days left to submit to the Philadelphia Improv Festival


The window is getting narrow for you to submit your group to be apart of the 7th Annual PHILADELPHIA IMPROV FESTIVAL, taking place October 3-9 at the Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre. PHIF once again is teaming up with Philadelphia Comedy Collective partner Philly Sketchfest and local comedians to put on Comedy Month, running through October.

Submitted groups will be considered for performance slots Wed – Sun of that week. All submissions are processed via the online form. I recommend you review the submission guidelines so you can make sure you’ve got everything together. If you still have questions after reviewing the guidelines, they can be directed to submissions@phif.org




It’s time to get PHIT


I hope you’ve all resolved to get your comedy on… and during the next two weeks, the PHILLY IMPROV THEATER has what it takes for you to be the Biggest Winner:

Wed, 1/26
8:00PM – The Bully Pulpit ($10)
9:30PM – Rant-O-Wheel ($10)

Thu, 1/27
8:00PM – Hey Everybody! ($10)
9:30PM – Cagematch: Grimacchio v. Hans Gruber ($10)
11:00PM – The Gross Show ($10)

Fri, 1/28
8:00PM – Women w/ Class + Kristen & Amie Show ($10)
9:30PM – Rosen & Milkshake + Angry People Building Things ($10)
11:00PM – Hopper Bros Happy Magic Fun-Time Show ($10)

Sat, 1/29
8:00PM – King Friday + Asteroid ($10)
9:30PM – Fletcher + Mayor Karen ($10)
11:00PM – PHIT Improv Jam (FREE)

Sun, 1/30
8:00PM – Comedy University: Improv Kerouac + Guests ($10)

Wed, 2/2
8:00PM – Guilty Pleasures ($10)
9:30PM – TV Party! ($10)

Thu, 2/3
8:00PM – Hey Everybody! ($10)
9:30PM – Cagematch: 1/27 Winner v. TBA ($10)

Fri, 2/4
8:00PM – Suggestical! + Rare Bird Show ($10)
9:30PM – Medic + BWP ($10)
11:00PM – Sketch Open Mic: Sketch Up or Shut Up (FREE)

Sat, 2/5
8:00PM – King Friday + Asteroid ($10)
9:30PM – Fletcher + Mayor Karen ($10)
11:00PM – Never Have I(mprov) Ever ($10)
12:00AM – PHIT Improv Jam (FREE)


All shows are at the Shubin Theatre, 407 Bainbridge St.

Tickets and additional information available at www.phillyimprovtheater.com

Sometimes things are funnier in twos


Some improv groups are born out of classes or pieced together through auditions. Others are spin-offs from existing groups. Even still, some are quickly cobbled together in the spirit of experimentation. Rarely, however, is there an established group whose cast is not known at curtain time.

MATT HOLMES (of Rare Bird Show fame) is half of the improvised duo m@&. The other half of the ensemble is still somewhat of a mystery. M@& (pronounced Matt, and…) features Holmes and a random audience member attending that particular performance. At the top of the show, he asks the audience if there’s anyone who’s never seen improv before. Someone pipes up or raises a hand and just like that, they’ve found themselves the unwitting star of the show.

Here and there he may encounter a small audience that’s entirely improvisers, and even in those few cases, he’s managed to find someone who might have taken a class, but has yet to take to the stage in a show. “There’s at least a few people who’ve been brought by a friend or family member” says Holmes, “and they don’t quite know what’s happening.” Many would agree with him, that this comedy amongst strangers makes things little more dangerous and exciting.

The name came about before the concept, as Holmes was looking to work with improvisers he’d met both here in Philadelphia and along his travels. Then, as it sometimes happens prior to creating new and interesting works for the stage, somewhere in the back of his head, he got the idea for an experiment.

While attending Cabrini College, Matt spent the earlier days of his comedy career running and performing with On the Spot, a weekly short-form show. He’d always loved the interaction with audience members that short-form thrives on. So when the opportunity presented itself, he jumped in head-first.

“Matt is the only person I know with the balls and ability to do it alone.” Michael Harris is the Artistic Director of Baltimore Improv Group (BIG) and producer of the Baltimore Improv Festival, which recently featured m@&. “For Matt to be the lone improviser and balance the dual responsibilities of carrying the show and supporting a novice takes a skill and generosity that precious few improvisers possess.”

"Matt is the only person I know with the balls and ability to do it alone"

It would seem that festival producers are apt to agree with Harris. M@& has been featured at festivals and comedy shows in places like Atlanta, Baltimore, Minneapolis and State College, to name a few. And he doesn’t show any signs of slowing. After his current run of six shows in the Philly Fringe Festival, he’ll be featured here in his home city at both Duofest next month and the Philadelphia Improv Festival in November. Kristen Schier, a producer for Duofest, thinks it’s pretty easy for folks to enjoy the show. “M@& is effortless joy. Holmes’ simple approach is they key to his brilliance.”

Indeed, simplicity would seem to be a driving force behind the whole project for Holmes. “I have this big, open loose thing where I can do whatever I want on stage.” He adds, “and what I want to do is have fun, make it easy for me and for my partner, and have it be funny for everyone watching. If my m.o. were more complicated, I couldn’t do this show.”

With never knowing who he might pull up, each night is gamble… where the only thing that’s certain is that the volunteer will be as much a part of the show as he is. “We’re a team up there. I’m not trying to make fun of them of just use them. We’re playing together.” Even with the more reluctant audience members, Holmes makes an effort to keep them in the show. During one performance, he had a girl who wasn’t quite playing along and was unsure of what to do. He could tell she wanted to leave the stage, and then she finally did. “(So) I do a scene where she’s back in her seat in the audience, but I’m serenading her.” It’s these different sort of moments that create fun challenges and take shows into interesting places. “I want the audience volunteer to think it was something fun that they liked doing.”

Sometimes the volunteer finds huge success on stage in the process. In Minneapolis at Brave New Workshop, the man pulled up had never seen an improv show before. In a scene where Holmes was a gunfighter, he’d accused the man of using his mother as a human shield. The man came back with a line about how he really didn’t technically kill her. Suddenly they found themselves in a chain reaction where the volunteer was indirectly responsible for all these deaths. “He found this really funny game for us to play… that was all him.”

That sort of playfulness seems nearly instinctual. “Once in a while a non-performer will come up with a killer line or know just how to play along.” Holmes has had people not believe that he doesn’t plan at least some of what happens. If the audience member is good, he’s heard people murmur about whether they were a plant. He also likes to use the suggestion in a very obvious way so that the audience can see it couldn’t be planned unless he was paying someone to sit there and yell it at him. “I’ll usually try to start something at first, at least to get us going… but I’ve started scenes later on where I’m just sitting there, letting my partner push us in a direction… I’m not plucking out improv geniuses or diamonds in the rough… It’s not a conspiracy, we’re just playing pretend.”

"Probably the strongest game improviser I know"

It’s said that one of most equally frustrating and complimentary things an improviser can hear after a show is that the audience doesn’t believe it’s made up. Recounting the recent m@& show in Baltimore, Harris attributes choice and openness as factors in making it seem so effortless. “Matt’s character choices not only drew the audience in, but led his scene partner out of his shell and into active participation… it was one of the highlights of the Baltimore Improv Festival.”

Nathan Edmondson and Alexis Simpson have been improvising with Holmes for the better part of a decade in their highly acclaimed group, Rare Bird Show. They’ve witnessed firsthand how easy he makes it to work with them. “Matt has (an) insane natural talent as an improviser and is a true student of comedy,” says Edmondson. Simpson agrees, “he’s like a wind up toy… just give him a word and let him go. He is probably the strongest game improviser I know.” They both feel comfortable and confident sharing scenes with him. Edmondson adds, “when you’re on stage with him, you can rest assured that the funny will happen.”

With any luck, we can rest assured that the funny will continue to happen. Holmes sees himself continuing this for some time. “It’s nice to have something that really challenges and excites me… I haven’t had any terrible, awful, shameful shows with this project.” He’s got a run of shows coming up here in Philly, and something tells me we’re likely to see him on the road again as well. “The show is just really easy to do while I’m visiting someplace, ’cause it’s just me… the audience is already there.”

Who knows who his next scene partner might be. “If an audience member can bring their 80-year-old grandmother or their 16-year-old cousin or their blind date and maybe see them up on stage in a comedy show, I think that’s an interesting night out.”


Insomniac Alert: Get Dazed and Amused this weekend


Ever get an itch for live comedy at 4AM? Then your insomnia-fueled dreams are about to come true my friend, as improvisers from both Philadelphia and Los Angeles take to the Adrienne’s Second Stage tomorrow for DAZED & AMUSED: THE 24 HOUR IMPROV MARATHON.

Produced by the PHILADELPHIA JOKE INITIATIVE and directed by MARY CARPENTER, the second year of this ambitious show runs from Friday at 10PM until Saturday at 10PM, featuring a full 24 consecutive hours of non-stop improv. Joining Carpenter on stage are Los Angelenos ALEXIS SIMPSON & THOMAS FOWLER (both former Philadelphians), in addition to local comedians MARIO FRABONINATHAN HOLT, KAREN GETZ, ALLI SOOWAL, JIM CARPENTER and DAVE DRITSAS.

The cast plans to keep a bit of variety in their games, performing both long and shortform formats. While they will remain on stage for the full marathon, cast members are allowed two 30 minute naps… however they must do so in full view of the audience, in one of two cots that will sit onstage. The only time anyone will be able to leave the stage is to use facilities, because according to cast member Simpson “hey, who wants to see that?”

In a world where the actors create everything, sleep-deprived hallucinations should pose no threat. “Not only did we survive,” recalls Carpenter of last year’s endeavor, “we put on a fantastic show.”

She adds, “Improv always makes people ask ‘How’d they do that?’ Doing it for 24 straight hours, well that’s ‘How’d they do that’ to the nth degree. For those final minutes, the entire audience was on its feet.”

All proceeds after production expenses benefit EDUCATIONWORKS, a non-profit organization that provides unique educational opportunities and academic enrichment for students in the Philadelphia area.

PJI has a variety of ticket options available… so if you want to just catch the opening or closing, want to come see middle of the night insanity or are brave enough to forge through the whole shebang, there’s an option to fit your both your wallet and your sleeping habits (or lack thereof).


FRI 8/27 @ 10PM – SAT 8/28 @ 10PM
TICKETS: $7 – $24

Comedian Profile: Alan Williams


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?


Might have seen him in: The N Crowd, Ladies & Gentlemen, Meadowbrook Public Library Storybook Players (2nd place overall for 2010 Troika)

Hangs his hat in: Old City

Stomping Grounds: Ithaca, NY

Pays the Bills: Biopharmaceutical Marketing

Other Hobbies: reading, writing, ‘rithmetic… and karaoke

Why Improv?

Improv is my sanity saver. When the drudgery of my day-to-day life starts to bring me down, improv lifts me up again.

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

From Around the Blogs


A few interesting reads from around the improv blogs…

This Weekend: Adsit and Gausas at the Adrienne


The PHILLY IMPROV THEATER is putting on a special weekend of shows at the Adrienne, headlined by comedic super-duo, Adsit & Gausas.

SCOTT ADSIT is well known on both the UCB and Second City stages, and has a solid following with his work on the Adult Swim show Moral Orel. However in the last few years, he is most likely recognizable for his role as Pete Hornberger on NBC’s 30 Rock.

Philadelphia native CHRISTINA GAUSAS, named one of “The 10 Funniest New Yorkers You’ve Never Heard Of” by New York Magazine, has been seen onstage in groups like Gravid Water and Assscat 3000, as well on the small screen in featured appearances on Late Night w/ Conan O’Brien and Important Things w/ Demetri Martin.

The duo brings their special hour-long one act of high-stakes improv to Philadelphia this weekend, which is highlighted by complicated and clever characters known to evoke both comedic and visceral reactions in audiences (TimeOut NY).

The shows on Friday and Saturday are anchored by the PHIT house teams, the Amie & Kristen Show and a special edition of Blind Troika.




Opening Tonight: Rogers and Hammerstein Are Dead


Tonight marks the long-awaited opening night of Ladies & Gentlemen: Rogers & Hammerstein Are Dead, presented by the Philadelphia Joke Initiative.

Ladies & Gentlemen aims to create full-length completely improvised musicals, with each new run of shows paying homage to noted composers and songwriters of musical theatre. Future runs may well be inspired by the songs and lyrics of Irving Berlin, Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber or Gilbert & Sullivan.

First up however, are the darlings of the golden age, Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein – known for such Broadway classics as Oklahoma!, South Pacific, The King & I, Carousel and The Sound of Music.

Over the last few months, the cast (under the direction of Jason Stockdale) has been completely immersed in the world of the famed songwriting duo, studying everything from song structure to character archetypes to dance styles – making sure that what they belt out is not only on key, but also on point. Every night will be a different musical, yet the goal is to have each one ring true to the musical tropes that R&H became so famed for throughout the 40s and 50s.

Ladies & Gentlemen features: Kennedy Allen, Mark Bringhurst, Olivia Brubaker, Olwyn Conway, Rob Cutler, Apple Milkshake, Joe Sabatino, Kristen Schier, Kelly Vrooman & Alan Williams.

The show opens tonight (May 13th) with a grand reception, and continues through May 29th.


Troikapalooza: Round 3 plus The Ones


Tonight’s Round 3 show will decide the last slot in the Troika Finale. Having already staked their claim are the Meadowbrook Public Library Storybook Players and Confidential. One last team will win tonight and earn a shot at being named 2010 champs. Your groups include:

DECONSTRUCTING STEVE feat. Jessica Snow, Jason Grimley & Rich Keller
THE SELF-LOVE VIDEO PODCAST feat. Gillienne Nadeau, Claire Halberstadt & Jake Alvarez
PASIONES DE PASIONES feat. Andy Moskowitz, Ralph Andracchio & Mike Marbach

The show begins at 9:30PM, and after the performances, the audience decides the winner via ballot.

Then you’ll want to stick around for a special treat. 2008 Troika faves and current Cagematch champs J, B-Libs and the Richness aka THE ONES YOUR MOMS WARNED YOU ABOUT will be doing a special FREE show at 11PM.

It’s a night of Troika past & present, and you decide the future!


THE ONES… – 11:00PM (FREE)

Troika continues with Round 2 tonight


After an  amazing 2010 debut last week, TROIKA continues tonight with Round Two.

Featured this evening are BJ Ellis, Sue Taney and John Nolan as Basil Poledouris… Jessica Ross, Jana Savini and Dan Stabb as Viewers Like You… and Dan Rich, Jake Beckerman and Nick Gillette as Confidential.

We’ll also be drawing Round Three teams during the show tonight as well. Tonights winner will advance on to face R3 winner and R1 champs, the Meadowbrook Public Library Storybook Players at the Championships on May 6th.