Friday, August 29, 2008

INTERVIEW: Meg & Rob

It was roughly around this time last year that the Philadelphia sketch duo Meg & Rob formed for the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Since then, they’ve performed at Bedtime Stories at the Shubin Theatre, as part of the sketch comedy extravaganza Welcome To The Terrordome and on their own shows across the city. And this Fringe Fest, they will be teaming up with local improv group Rare Bird Show in Improv and Sketch Comedy from Rare Bird Show & Meg and Rob, Respectively at The Adrienne Mainstage (2030 Sansom St.); Fri. 8/29 10PM, Sun. 8/31 9PM, Wed. 9/3 8:30PM, Thurs. 9/11 8:30PM, Sat. 9/13 10:30PM, $10

Your decision to do comedy together is something of a myth now (“while sitting at lunch, Meg said, ‘Does anyone want to start a sketch comedy troupe?’ And Rob said, ‘Yes.’”). How well did you know each other at that point?

Meg: We knew each other for about a year.

Rob: Yeah, before anything came up. We got along because I first went to find out if Meg was single.

M: The first time he introduced himself to me, he came over trying to be really friendly and speak on my terms and he said “say, do you like indie rock?” (laughs)

R: (laughs) Because that’s the most ridiculous thing you can say to somebody.

M: “You know, I just guessed because of your hair and your glasses.” (laughs) And he had been kind of getting a little bit close, so finally one day I went “you don’t have a crush on me, do you?”

R: By then I already knew, so it was already off limits.

M: But he did walk away immediately after I asked that.

R: Yeah, it’s an awkward question to be asked by anybody.

M: It was great too because we had the turning chairs, so I just turned around and asked it. But yeah, we knew each other for at least a year before we started.

Did you talk about comedy?

R: A little bit. We first bonded over Arrested Development because that was still going on at the time.

M: And with two of our other friends at QVC we had done entries to The Office promo contest.

R: Yeah, it was like the advent of a lot of those Youtube competitions where you make a promo for The Office. So we did and we were proud of what we did, they were good.

So what did you expect when you first started working together?

R: Well, we knew each other really well, so we both knew that we were really creative people striving to have some kind of creative outlet. My films were more towards the comedic and weird sort of thing, and her writing was more towards the weird and comedic realm.

M: And it was kind of a slow process too because it was true that I said once at lunch “does anyone want to start a sketch comedy group?” and Rob said “yes”, but it was a lot slower than that. Because we first doing a group with all of the guys who we had done The Office promos with and that wasn’t really working out…

R: It was more of their trepidation towards during live stuff, which Meg and I wanted to do.

M: So it was about time to sign up for the Fringe Festival and I had a show that I had been working on since college, which was the [“Reviving The Lecture Circuit] show. I really needed someone else to do with me, so I just said, “hey, let’s do this.” So we did that and then started doing more traditional sketch stuff.

R: Yeah, that was pretty much the beginning of the consistent working.

So you, Meg, we working on that first show as just something you would do yourself?

M: No, I knew I wanted to do it with someone else. I had talked to with a friend of a friend about doing it with me, but he was flaky, so I had just put it aside.

R: So it could’ve been Meg & A Friend of a Friend.

Where did the idea for “Reviving The Lecture Circuit” come from?

M: I was a writing major in college and every writing major as to take a senior seminar class and mine was “Writer as Performer”, which seemed perfect to me, but it was awful. The professor just didn’t teach anything except “if you’re given a time limit when you perform, you better stick within that time limit.” But the one good thing I got out of it was I wrote a paper on lecture circuit comedians of the mid to late 1800s which I got really into because it seemed like kind of intersection between what I saw as stand-up as one person talking about things and sketch as character work. But those two things are really nebulous, but these people were doing stand-up things but under personas and I was really into that especially because they would do it in the same venues that people would do serious lectures.

Can you give me an example?

M: Mark Twain did it. Then there were other guys like Petroleum Nasby, that wasn’t his real name. Josh Billings, Bill Nye, yes, there was a guy named Bill Nye. They were humorists of the day that would go around on the lecture circuit. I think it was Petroleum Nasby who purported that you would see a live animal show, they built it up as this big spectacle. It was just something about that that really attracted me, so I started writing character monologues in a similar style.


(From the "Reviving The Lecture Circuit", a timely monologue by Presidential candidate Skip Henley)

What you done since that first Fringe run?

M: Well, that show was a learning experience. After that show we agreed that we wanted to do more traditional sketches. Because that show is six 10-minute monologues, which is good and fun, but the other thing about that show is that I wrote most of it and then Rob helped me edit and punch up the jokes. But now we are totally 50-50 on writing and we’ll write and toss back and forth. And now we are trying to do a lot more movement and interaction.

How was performing in Chicago and Minnesota this summer?

R: Chicago is a great town.

M: Chicago was fantastic.

R: And it was definitely an audience of people we didn’t know, so it felt good to not have the Philly thing where, especially now, we are all going to each others shows. It’s sometimes easier than you’d like it to be, so it’s good to get out of our shell and win. Where as Minnesota was the opposite.

So Chicago went well overall?

R: People stood up and went “Bravo!” Who says that? That happens in the 1800s. Whereas Minnesota was more of a theater crowd, so they weren’t necessarily looking for comedy.

M: And it was a much different event, because in Chicago we were there to do Snubfest, which is a comedy festival. In Minnesota, it was a fringe festival. So I think that had a lot to do with it.

R: And also in Minnesota we did win over the audience, but there were also some really rough shows where people walked out and people read newspaper.

M: Yep, and one guy ripped paper into little pieces during the show.

R: And he was reading the guide to the festival, but then after the show waited around to ask us what the next show was going to be.

M: We did “Reviving The Lecture Circuit” out there and in one of the pieces I eat cake and I didn’t realize until I got out there that the cake had gone bad. So that added to the joy of the experience.

Your Fringe show this year is with Rare Bird Show. How did that happen?

M: Well, they invited us, which is a huge honor because they’re fantastic and so energetic and spastic. Part of the reasoning behind it is very practical because if you do a double-bill it costs less to mount a show. But also it’s a nice pairing to see two bits of comedy because sometimes in Philly I feel like improv gets too separated from everything else. I like the idea of putting improv and sketch together.

What does the future hold for Meg & Rob past the Fringe Fest?

M: Well, we are applying to festivals that we may or may not get into. So far, not. (laughs) We’re maybe going to work on a web series promo.

R: Because the Internet is the future.

M: Yeah, we have a vague pilot script.

R: And we’d like to do an East Coast tour, a legitimate tour with some of our friends locally. M: And one of the things that’s really exciting about this show is that we are working with Don Montrey as a director and I’m hoping to do more of that in the future. We had one two-hour session where we just did three sketches. And it was so helpful to have someone watching and having someone pull out the bits of movement that can make things pop. So I’m definitely hoping to do more of that.

So is this show all new live material?

R: All new.

M: It’s all new, not all live, but the one thing that is very exciting that we are 90% sure is going to happen is that everything is going to have video background.

R: Oh, don’t put that on the record.

M: I know, but it’s such a selling point for the show.

R: I know but…yes, everything is going to have a video background-

M: Whether it’s a still image or video that we are interacting with, which I am really really excited about.

(A pigeon loiters nearby)

R: Do you remember The Goodfeathers on Animaniacs?

No.

10 comments:

Greg said...

Rob, I remember The Goodfeathers on Animaniacs... although at the time I didn't get the joke.

briancraig said...

"say, do you like indie rock?"

i can hear that in rob's voice!


also, i remember the Goodfeathers, and i, too, didn't get the joke then, but i liked it all the same. i can't believe dave didn't remember that.

vincent said...

hey! you stole my line!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0BvqyF8-mo&feature=related

check out 3:23.

i'll get you for this Meg&Rob...if it's the last thing i do!

Anonymous said...

If I knew somebody interested in comedy named Bob, I would start a tribute sketch comedy group called "Gregg and Bob."

Also, everybody go see this show ASAP. It's really great.

-G

Meg said...

Why don't you do the show with an ear of corn and call it Gregg and Cob?

Rimshot!

Meg

Chip Chantry said...

Comedy is great, but there is very little money in it. Quite often, I have to Beg and Rob.

I am going to start a comedy duo with the lowest of the low and a member of the elite called Dreg and Snob.

They'll star in a disaster/horror movie called Plague and Blob.

My dad was in a right wing organized crime family in the 198o's. It was called the Reagan Mob.

Paul Triggiani said...

Chip's one and only film appearance was called "Shemg and Knob."

It isn't what it sounds like.

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