Monday, June 16, 2008

INTERVIEW: Don Montrey

Don Montrey's got his hand in a lot of the comedy in Philadelphia. He's a writer and performer in the sketch group BAD HAIR, he does short-form improv for ComedySportz Philadelphia and every year he writes for 1812 Productions' THIS IS THE WEEK THAT IS. And perhaps most importantly, he created and hosts the monthly comedy show Die, Actor, Die. Tonight, Don and D.A.D. present the competition The 2nd Annual Dirtiest Sketch In Philadelphia featuring defending champions Secret Pants, Meg and Rob, The Sixth Borough, John Kensil, Doogie Horner and more at The Khyber (56 S. 2 St.), 8PM, $5.

Did you always want to do comedy?
Yes and no. Well, yes and unknowingly yes. I went to college for theater and I'd always done stuff that is been fun or funny. So that was always in the background, but when I went to college I went for legitimate theater and even there with my buddies Ryan and Fran we would goof around and always do funny things together. So we were always doing comedic stuff in that way. We were huge fans of Kids In The Hall and Mystery Science Theatre 3000, so there was always that undercurrent of comedy in everything we were doing. And when I came to Philly, I came as an Arden apprentice and that's the least funny thing you can do. I was trying to be an actor and after the apprenticeship program I did the acting thing for a while and I got tired of it. And I tried to do the film making, but I eventually left that because I didn't like the community. I found the community to be really kind of mean to each other. It just turned me off, while I find that the comedy community is actually really supportive here. There are obviously always going to be people that don't like each other, but when you find your little niche of people, they are very, very supportive of each other. And I think that's been great.

Why do you think that is with comedy and not film making? Is it an "us vs. them" thing?
It might be. I think also there is a lot of know-how that's involved in making a film. You have to know all of the technical stuff and if you don't know the technical stuff you're an idiot. While in comedy if you have it, you have it. You can just work on your skill without having to impress other technically advanced people that have this know-how and skill. Where in comedy if you're funny, you're funny.

There's no education.
There's really no education involved and you either are or you aren't and people are really supportive of that. And I also think with comedy there is that thing of us versus them because you have to get up on that stage and really put yourself out there. And everyone that is in the comedy community knows what that is like. And so I guess in a way they are all kind of pulling for you. Or they just respect what they are doing because they've been there themselves.

You've done improv, sketch, and stand-up for a while now. Do you still get nervous on stage?
Absolutely. A couple hours before a show of Die, Actor, Die I'm really nervous and I get grumpy. But once I get up there and I get my first laugh, I'm good. And the other thing is that because I'm the host of the show, I have to make sure that I'm a good opener for all of these guys. And also that I'm a good guy in between to keep it all going and the audience isn't going to turn against me because then the next guy has to win them back. That's always a little nerve-wracking.

Why did you initially start Die, Actor, Die?
Because there was nothing like it in Philadelphia. I was a really big fan of shows like Invite Them Up, Tinkle and Comedy Death Ray and we had nothing like that in Philly. There was nothing that was a booked show that was a mix of stand-up and sketch or just people doing funny bits, which I wish Die, Actor, Die had more of. I don't know how many times I've put out the word to the improv community saying "hey, if you just have something funny that you want to do, here is a venue." Here's an opportunity, I don't want it to be improv, but I would love it to be is just some funny character that you do or funny bit, come and do it.

Where did the Dirtiest Sketch in Philadelphia idea come from?
Jackie Clarke did it up in New York and I always thought that it was a great idea and Philadelphia is a really good town to do that in because Philadelphia is kind of blue collar town, with a blue collar attitude. I don't mean the Southern Blue Collar, but the working class guy. They like beer and they like getting down and dirty. So I thought the Dirtiest Sketch would be a great thing for Philadelphia and I actually tried to contact Jackie Clarke because I didn't want to just take the idea. I sent her an email but I don't know if the email address I had was correct because I never heard back from her so I just figured I'd do my version of what I think it is. And I certainly always give her props for coming up with because it's a really good idea. I think one of the things that is really great about it is you are saying "hey, this is what tonight is going to be." Which is kind of saying "we all agree that if you laugh at this it's ok, because that's what it's all about,we're trying to be dirty, filthy and offensive." And in doing so, I think everyone has a really good time. Everyone lets their hair down and you do things that you normally wouldn't do or you never think of doing and it usually works pretty well.

Is there still a line that can't be crossed?
I have no idea. I really don't know because I've only done it one year. When I emailed the groups this year, I really challenged them because I thought everyone did really good stuff last year, but they didn't get as dirty as they could have. The people that really got the dirtiest were Rowan & Hastings and it wasn't even music, it was a video where one of them jacked off into another guy's omelet and the other guy ate it. [laughs] So that was pretty dirty. That was pretty far and I really kind of challenged everyone this year, "I really want you guys to go really really dirty", I really want you to think about it. I said "here's your point of reference. I heard that at one of the shows in New York someone took a shit on stage. That is your point of reference, so go with that." I don't know if it's true, but it's a good story.

There's going to be a panel of judges that will decide the winner. Who are they?
Johnny Goodtimes, Scott Johnson and Adam Gertler. Johnny, of course, is the Quizzomaster in Philadelphia. Scott Johnston is a man about town that does about everything in every festival, Fancypants Cinema, the Philly Film Festival's Festival of Independents and then Adam is a contestant on the Next Food Network Star this year. It's funny because out of the three of them he's the real celebrity at the moment.

What is the criteria that will be judging the sketches on?
Scale of one to five in three categories: Dirtiness, Funniest and Douche Chilliness. I had to explain to them what Douche Chills were, which is something that makes you recoil in disgust but you can't not turn to look at it. You're repelled and enthralled at the same time. That's what Douche Chillness is.

There are some many barriers of obscene that have been broken down, comics are doing abortion jokes, Holocaust jokes, etc., is that anything that this point that is still shocking?
I don't know, I guess we'll have to see. But I think when you're in a show where everything is supposed to be dirty and offensive, I think the audience likes the way that you get dirty. Because I don't think you can just get up there and say dirty words and make fun of people, I think you still have to have a point of view and I think that's where the creativity and fun comes in.

What are your plans for the Fringe Fest?
I'm doing two things with the Fringe. I'm directing Meg & Rob in their Fringe show, which I am very excited about because I've wanted to move into directing sketch because a lot of sketch groups just need that outside eye to help them tighten up things and to help them get laughs. There are a lot of really good sketch groups in town and they all do really good work, but any kind of performer needs that outside eye. Especially with comedians, they need someone that can say "this is funny, but this is funnier, so let's get rid of this." And with my friend Juliette Pryor, who I went to college with, I'm doing a variety/talk show called "The Don and Julie Show" upstairs at The Khyber and it's going to be as we described it a mix of Regis & Kelly meets the Mike Douglas Show meets whatever the hell else we want up there. And we've got comedians booked, Doogie [Horner], Chip [Chantry] and Steve [Gerben] and we've got some of our actor friends as fake celebrities and we'll interview them that way. So I hope it will just be a fun hour of just a bunch of different stuff.

Is there anything else you want to do in the future with Die, Actor, Die?
I don't know. It's been doing well, we have a nice base audience, but I would love to see it grow. I'd love to get some well known people down and I really don't know how to do that because to get anyone in there, it would cost money. I would love to see more people come out and experiment, I don't think there's that yet. Maybe they don't feel safe doing it and I can understand that, you have to setup an environment where it's safe to do something silly and goofy, but if I had to pick one I think it would be that. I would like to see people come out and try new things.

1 comment:

Pruneface said...

Good interview! Next time I come to D.A.D., I will try new things. I will get on stage and eat rhubarb pie, then do an interpretive dance of a tree going through the seasons.