Matt Besser comes to Philly

07/13/2010

Comedian MATT BESSER is best known as one of the UCB4 (along with Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh) – stars of the Comedy Central sketch show Upright Citizens Brigade and founders of the famed NYC comedy theater of the same name.

Next weekend, this “wickedly funny man” (The Onion’s A.V. Club) will be bringing his show Woo Pig Sooie to Connie’s Ric Rac, courtesy of the PHILLY IMPROV THEATER.

Raised by a Jewish father and Presbyterian mother, the self-proclaimed Athiest grew up in Arkansas (thus the titular allusion to the Razorbacks Hog Call) surrounded by extremes of religion. In his show, Besser puts religion squarely in his sights, observing the ways in which church and state intersect in comically disturbing ways throughout America. Charleston City Paper describes the show as a “hilarious and somewhat stream-of-conscioiusness combination of sharp social criticism disguised as religion jokes, stand-up, and storytelling.”

Complete with head-to-toe U of A garb , the comedian brings his one-man comedic rant to Philadelphia for one night only on July 23rd.

The next day, he will also be teaching a pair of workshops at the Adrienne… so for a benjamin, you can brush up with Besser yourself.

Advanced tickets and workshop information can be via PHIT’s website.

MATT BESSER – WOO PIG SOOIE
PHIT @ CONNIE’S RIC RAC | 1132 S NINTH ST
FRIDAY, JULY 23RD @ 8PM
$20-$25 | BYOB


Matt Holmes top ten picks for DCM

07/01/2010

The Del Close Marathon is fast approaching (July 30th – August 1st) and we asked MATT HOLMES to share his top picks to help you sort through the madness of show listings.

It’s time once again for the annual Del Close Marathon in New York City. This is a humongous improv festival that runs non-stop for three days on four stages; it’s like the Woodstock of improv. More than 150 shows from all over the country will converge to take the stage.

This is the 12th year that the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre has organized and hosted this tribute to long-form improv guru Del Close, who trained just about everyone you think is funny. A $25 wristband will get you into any show (after probably waiting in line for a while, so get there early), except for some big-name special ones that cost $12 each.
More information is available at www.delclosemarathon.com.

Here’s my TOP 10 for this year’s Marathon (in no particular order):

Improvised Shakespeare
Sat 7:15 pm at UCB Theatre (with wristband) OR Fri 7:00 pm at FIT Kate Murphy Amphitheater ($12 separate ticket)

I actually haven’t seen this yet, but it’s gotten reviews beyond rave. I know that several of the performers in the cast are extremely hilarious and talented. It’s definitely got to be worth catching, even if you’re not a Bard-lover.

Baby Wants Candy
Sun 6:00 pm at UCB Theatre (with wristband) OR Fri 8:30 pm at FIT Kate Murphy Amphitheater ($12 separate ticket)

Whether or not you’re a fan of musical comedy, you’ll like this show. It’s big, it’s brassy, it’s improvised. The cast is TBA, but some of the funniest people in improv have been in it.

Mother
Fri 9:30 pm at UCB Theatre

Mother was the UCB Theatre’s biggest act for years, Cagematch winners and holders of the primetime Saturday slot. They reunite here to perform their signature formats, the Sleepover and the Soundtrack (which uses your iPod as the suggestion).

Big Bat
Sat 1:00 am at Hudson Guild Theatre

Take a slew of brilliant, hilarious people. Put them all on stage. Turn out the lights. Watch …no, Listen as improv happens. Close your eyes for this audio-only show.

Wicked Fuckin’ Queeyah & other middle-of-the-night shows at UCB
Sat 2:30 am – 6 am at UCB Theatre

Wicked Fuckin’ Queeyah is some big-name New York improvisers pretending to be a working-class Boston improv group, complete with the accent and tons of Red Sox gear. This is meta, fourth-wall-breaking, tongue-in-cheek, Boratesque improv. Warning: you might get beer on you.

If you thought Wicked Fuckin’ Queeyah was weird, come back even later (or earlier) in the morning for more 15-minute experimental shows. These include improv done by all impressions of Bono or Jay Leno or Michael McDonald, a live improv anime show, some kind of underground crunk clown improv, and UCBW (where the improvisers are pro wrestler characters). The Saturday-into-Sunday middle-of-the-night shows include an all-Ray-Romano show, a restaurant scene with a billion waiters, a tea party improv show, and Strip-prov (you laugh, they take off an article of clothing).

What happens when improvisers do improv for improvisers? This stuff. It’s worth catching at least once in your life.

Match Game ’76
Sun 2:00 am at UCB Theatre

This show is pure insanity. If you’re not familiar with the old game show, Match Game, watch a clip on youtube. It’s a show where a ton of drunk 70s celebrities write pun punchlines with contestants. Imagine 40 or so improvisers Halloweened-out as 70s celeb charicatures trying to play a game show but ususally just devolving into chaos. If you like drag shows or that video of the blueberry-stomping reporter choking, you’ll like this show.

In the past, Jack McBrayer (30Rock’s Kenneth the page) was consistently the put-upon contestant.

onesixtyone
Sat 11:00 pm at UCB Theatre

onesixtyone are some hilarious improvisers. They’re the people who started what has become WIT (the Washington Improv Theater) in DC. They are a sure bet for some good, smart, funny improv that you and your friends will be referencing to each other for the ride home, if not for months after.

Omelet
Sun 1:00 pm at UCB Theatre

Imagine you’re eating in a Denny’s and two old ladies at the next table are having the most interesting conversation ever. That’s this show. It’s calm, quiet, patient, and hilarious.

Derrick Comedy
Sat 8:30 pm at FIT Kate Murphy Amphitheater ($12 separate ticket)

Derrick does sketch comedy and just did a movie (www.derrickcomedy.com), but seeing them do improv is a whole other ballgame. Dominic Dierkes, DC Pierson, and Donald Glover (NBC’s Community) are UCB Theatre improvisers that can’t be described without using the word “expertise.”

Upright Citizens Brigade
Sat 6:00 pm at UCB Theatre

This is the UCB4. Maybe you watched their Comedy Central sketch show or their ASSSSCAT special on Bravo; maybe you know that Amy Poehler is one of them (she probably won’t be there) or that the one guy is Sparky Polastri from Bring It On; maybe you know that the theatre is theirs and that they trained all the other funny people performing during this festival.

These guys are improv masters; they know what they’re doing, and this is them having fun and making stuff up. It’ll probably lean more towards talking to the audience and kind of bullshitting about whatever comes to my mind (as opposed to actually doing theatrical improvised scenes and characters), but it’s definitely worth catching this show.

Matt Holmes is a co-founder of Rare Bird Show and performs a full improv comedy set with a complete stranger from the audience as part of his project, m@&. He has also been involved with many other improv projects, including teaching workshops at improv festivals, improvising an all-audio improv show in the dark called “The Bat”, coaching improv groups, teaching with the Philly Improv Theater, and performing an mp3-infused improv project that was crowned grand champion of season 2 of Troika.

You can see Matt perform at the Del Close Marathon with Rare Bird Show Friday, July 30th, 10PM at Hudson Guild.


But What About The Ty In Tybrus?

04/04/2008

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.

Come witness the love yourself… tonight @ 10pm & tomorrow @ 8pm.  

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.


Putting The Brus In Tybrus

04/04/2008

It’s once again Shubin week for the Philly Improv Theater and this month’s special guest is the NYC improv duo, Tybrus. I recently chatted with Jon Gabrus on their impending trip to our city.

Jon, by my count this is your sixth run of shows in Philly. What’s your favorite thing about the city?

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.

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?

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.’

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?

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.

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?

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.

doorbkgrdb.jpeg

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?

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. We were meant to perform together or at least fight each other in a bar. Also Matt, I think the question could be even worded as how much of what we do in life carries with us on stage? Either way, we are excited for this weekend. I know personally I am going to ensure that Maughan doesn’t sleep at all.

————-

Tybrus performs tonight at 10pm and Saturday at 8pm. They’ll be joined by Holmes/Maughan, Tongue & Groove and the Ninjas. They will also be teaching a workshop on Saturday entitled Finding the Game.

PHIT @ The Shubin
407 Bainbridge Street
Fri @ 8pm: Tongue & Groove with Holmes/Maughan
Fri @ 10pm: Tybrus with the Ninjas
Sat @ 8pm: Tybrus with Holmes/Maughan
Sat @ 10pm: Tongue & Groove with the Ninjas
$10/show

Jonathan Gabrus is a writer and actor living in Brooklyn. He has studied improv under Michael Delaney, Paul Scheer, Billy Merritt, Amy Poehler, Matt Besser and Matt Walsh. He is a current member of UCB harold team fwand. He performs sketch and improv around NYC and beyond with Justin Tyler as part of Tybrus, their sketch show You’re Out too Far ran at the UCB for seven months. His other UCB credits include: Sketch Cram, Hot Sauce 4th Floor Walk-up, UCBW, The Documentary, and Glue Trap Theatre. Gabrus has written for Spike TV, Heavy.com, Collegehumor.com, Toyfare Magazine and ClipsQuips.com. He has appeared on Late Night with Conan O Brien, Best Week Ever, I Love 80s/90s/Toys, Spike Video Game Awards and many Internet shows. He can also be seen in a bunch of commercials and promos, usually as the slacker or shirtless slacker.

The Philly Improv Theater (PHIT) is the only longform improvisation theater in the Metro Philadelphia area. Founded in 2005, PHIT is a nonprofit theater company that embraces the art of improvisation as an end rather than a means – creating and producing improv, sketch, and alternate comedy shows in the tradition of theaters like Chicago’s Second City and New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade. To further this philosophy, PHIT offers it’s own take take on the theories and concepts behind good improvisation in a full curriculum of classes for performers of all skill levels taught by local talent and through master classes with distinguished performers and teachers from all over the world (including Impro author Keith Johnstone, Joe Bill and Mark Sutton of The Second City, and former SNL writer Ali Farahnakian). In addition to performing as part of PHIT’s weeklong residency at The Shubin Theatre each month, local improv troupes produced and presented by PHIT have toured extensively on the East Coast and performed in festivals throughout North America.