Friday, May 30, 2008

UPCOMING RAP ALBUMS by Aaron Hertzog

We don't write about music on here much, but Philadelphia comedian Aaron Hertzog wanted to mention a few rap albums that will be released soon.





More after the jump.






Read more...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

DO IT ROCKAPELLA!: The Epic Tale of 'Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?' by Gregg Gethard

Things just seem to happen to Gregg Gethard. After telling a few stories at comedy shows in New York City, he created his own monthly show in Philly, BEDTIME STORIES, to tell a few more. Over the past year the show has grown in audience and features some of the best comics in the city.

Here, Gethard recounts his experience on the public television game show
Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?. Stick around at the end of this epic tale as we've managed to upload the footage of his now infamous episode on Youtube. The next installment of Bedtime Stories is next Wednesday night at the Shubin Theatre (407 Bainbridge St.), 8PM, $10.

Ilan Goldberg must be destroyed.

That was the only thought going through my head. I was in eighth grade. Do you remember those kids in youth league soccer whose teams would kill yours by like 17 goals? And there was the one kid who scored nine goals already, and he’d try for one more goal, except the ref would call him offsides and he’d flip out and start cursing out everyone in sight and would start bawling hysterically? Or, at the tender age of 12, were you ever forced to be placed in a situation where you had to deal with someone who told you all the ways they were better than you (“I go to private school because education at public schools it terrible,” “I went on a tour of Europe last summer, where did you go on vacation?”)

Ilan Goldberg was that person. And I wanted to destroy him.

Hi. I’m Gregg Gethard. I’m the host of the wildly popular monthly comedy night entitled Bedtime Stories. I’m also the star and main draw of the wildly popular local sketch comedy group entitled The Sixth Borough. I’m also a known raconteur and political gadfly.

But before all of that, I was a 12-year-old boy. I was small, I was weird and, due to the fact we just got Comedy Central on our local cable system, I was starting to develop my sense of humor, which I would later refine to become one of the greatest comic minds of his generation.

I also had a major, repressed chip on my shoulder. Due to my small size and my weirdness, I was picked on a lot as a kid. It was a rare chance that I had to not just fight back, but to also win.

And against Ilan Goldberg... I had a chance to do it. On national television, nonetheless.

What follows is a tale unlike any which you have head before, unless, of course, I have already told it to you. This is a story of conflict, absurdity, hubris, triumph and love. This is the defining story of my life.

This is the story of my appearance on the early-90’s hit PBS game show entitled “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?”

Read on and watch the footage after the jump...

The Beginning

Ilan, albeit a dick, was right about one thing. His private school was definitely better than the public middle school I went to. Our first history teacher that year, Mrs. Kaplan, quit after Chris Russamano pelted her in the face with an egg. We had a permanent sub the rest of the year who pretty much sat at the front of the room chomping on gum and asking girls who they wanted to date.

One day, we entered the classroom and were told to take a test. No reason was given. We assumed it was some bullshit prep exam for the statewide test we all had to take that year. It was a simple geography test – identifying states, countries, major rivers, oceans and the like. Being one of the handful of Edison Middle School students who could read at grade level, this thing was a piece of cake.

A week later, the people who finished in the Top 30 of this test were told to report to the library. There, we were told about a new television show in the works based off the popular computer game entitled “Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?” They would be casting students from our school to be contestants.

They asked us a series of interview questions about ourselves and about geography. A few days later, I learned that I was selected to be a contestant on the show.

The Time I Met Ilan

About a month later, I went in for the taping of the show, which was in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. I had never taken either the PATH train nor a New York City subway before then. I had envisioned, from local news reports and the comments of my parents, that New York was a cesspool of crime, violence and despair. I didn’t see too much of that, but I did see a Muslim woman nearly dragged to her death as she threw her purse in the doors of the subway hoping to get on board.

We went into the green room, where we met our competitors. One I already new: Prema. (I won’t even bother to try and spell her last name. It’s long and she was born in India.) Prema went to school with me. She was a really shy, sweet braniac who would later go on to be one of my high school’s valedictorians. Then I met Ilan.

Ilan had the smug, awful tone of a pre-teen who feels completely entitled. No doubt, his parents drove a car that cost what my dad made in a year, the tuition of his private school cost more than my college tuition did, he bragged about his SAT-prep scores (“I already cracked 1100!”) and his prowess in both basketball and soccer. And he openly talked about how he was confident he would win the show because he won his school’s geography bee. I immediately wanted to punch him in the dick.

I didn’t study too much for the show. This is because I never studied for anything at that point in my life. (Seriously – I had awful grades in middle school. And in high school. And for the first three years of college.)

They taped two episodes at a time in the studio. However, the first episode went too long. Our episode would have to happen the next week.

And this gave me time to plot my public humiliation of Ilan.

The Episode

I found every atlas I could find and studied my ass off. I learned Canadian provinces, Australian states and Russian cities. Anytime I put the book down to watch TV or goof off with my brother, I immediately thought about Ilan. And I studied some more. I was on a quest.

We went into the studio the next week. And then the episode began.

We were introduced on the show (where I did the “Arsenio Dog Woop” gesture which, in 1990, had swept through the country like it was the HIV Virus), and then we had to answer our first question. I had a ton of nervous energy, and I got a pretty simple question completely wrong.

Then came a part of the show that will live on in personal infamy. Remember how earlier I said I had started to develop my “edgy” sense of humor? (This is what we expert comedians refer to as a “callback.”) During this part of the show, we were introduced to the audience. And we had to tell them our interests and what we wanted to be when we grew up. My answers: a baseball manager or a stand-up comedian.

We had to go over this earlier with a PA who was preparing us in the green room. I told him this and he flipped out. He asked me to tell him a joke. Being that I was 12, I did not exactly have any material actually planned and, plus, I’m more of an “observational” comedian anyways. He then wrote a joke for me.

And this is what I said on national television:

ME: Knock Knock

AUDIENCE: Who’s There?

ME: Humpty.

AUDIENCE: Humpty Who?

I then started wildly flailing my arms in a seizure-like gesture that I thought was dancing.

“My name is Humpty. Say it with an Umpty.”

The audience reaction was a mixture of shock, polite applause and a smattering of boos.

I had bombed. On national television. At the age of 12.

I was also repeatedly scolded both on and off the air for leaning into the microphone. Despite my C- average, I was the captain of the Edison Middle School academic quiz bowl team. (Where we finished second two years in a row, losing to our cross-town rivals Roosevelt both years. I still hate their captain, Jared Strauss, to this day.) In quiz bowl, we had to lean in the microphone to say our answers. If not, we would be penalized points. We drilled at length proper microphone technique. It was hard to break that.

But I soon settled in. And, as you can see in the video, I kicked ass. And then… then I got a little cocky.

Hubris

The final part of the first round on Carmen Sandiego was set up a little like Final Jeopardy. Host Greg Lee would run down a list of “clues” about what city he was talking about. And then, from three choices, we would have to pick that city. We would also have to select a number of points to wager. The top two after the first round then got to move to the second round of competition.

I was ahead. I could have played it “safe.” But I really wanted to rub it in Ilan’s face. I wanted him to walk away knowing I and my failing public school education had trumped his pansy rich kid ass. So I wagered more points than I needed to.

Ilan went first. His answer from the clues was Boston.

Fuck.

The answer I had selected was Newark. I now was going to lose to this shithead, all because I got too cocky.

There was only one thing I could do.

And that was to cheat.

I held up my placard that said Newark. And I loudly screamed BOSTON as loud as I could.

Production came to a screeching halt.

I asked what was wrong. They told me my card said Newark. I then started to freak out and made myself cry. “I’m so nervous. I’m so nervous being on TV,” I kept on blubbering.

My parents and Ilan’s parents were waiting together (and, no doubt, my parents were mortified of my earlier crash-and-burn attempt at humor) in the green room watching our episode unfold. Ilan’s mom flipped out and started calling me a little cheater. Naturally, my parents came to my defense. It was not until years later that I confessed to my parents that I actually did try to cheat.

They then asked Prema what her answer was. She, too, picked Newark. And she wagered a lot of points as well. She had finished in last place. I was in second.

We retaped the segment. This time, I hold my card and, in an incredibly sad tone of voice, I say “Newark.” Then, a little bit of a suppressed smirk appears on my face, as it started to sink in that this entire day had become a complete and total public fiasco.

But, alas, I was onto the second round.

The Next Part

The second round of the show was a simple guessing game. On a board were various attractions in the city of Boston. Behind the name of each attraction was either a blank space or The Loot, The Warrant or The Crook. We had to find The Loot, The Warrant and The Crook in that order.

We did battle and, eventually, The Loot and The Crook were found. But The Warrant still remained out there. Ilan had a guess to find the answer. He was wrong. There were only a few places left we did not guess. And, with a lot of anticipation in my voice, I guessed correctly. I had, finally, defeated Ilan.

Victory confetti fell from the sky. I took it all in. And then, I arrogantly turned around to Ilan and shook his hand and said a very condescending “Good Game.”

The camera closes in on his face as co-host Lynn Thigpen (aka the mysterious DJ lips in cult-classic “The Warriors”) told Ilan his numerous runner-up prizes. He is clearly welling up with tears.

To this day, whenever I watch the tape of the show, I still get a sense of satisfaction as I watch a pre-teen cry at my hands.

I then went on to the next round, where I had 45 seconds to identify seven African nations by placing a lighted pole on them. I missed the first one, but then was given two easy ones: South Africa and Madagascar. Then, I was given Burkina Faso. I had written a paper on the nation formerly known as Upper Volta the year before. I nailed it. Then, somehow, I guessed where Uganda and Central African Republic were. Then time ran out. I came really close to winning the grand prize, which was a trip to anywhere in the lower 48 states.

But I did, at the end of the show, get to point up to the crane camera and say the three words which would define our generation.

“Do It Rockapella!”

Epilogue

We taped the show that spring. That fall, the show debuted on PBS. My episode aired a few weeks into my first year in high school.

I was so incredibly nervous. Your fist weeks of high school are so incredibly awkward and uncomfortable. And here I was, on the air, showing the world what an incredible geek I was. And, not just that, but I also tell a spectacularly bad joke and make a complete ass of myself on national television. I could only hope that no one would actually watch this show.

But how wrong I was.

Being that is was a new show, a lot of kids did watch it. And not just that, but it was also on PBS. There’s a broadcasting rule that dictates all cable systems have to carry every local over-the-air channel within a certain radius. In New Jersey, there are an insane amount of PBS affiliates within broadcast range: Channel 13, a variety of New Jersey Network channels, another New York City based PBS channel, Long Island’s PBS channel and one from Westchester County.

And while the show was on PBS, it did not air every episode in order at a certain time. They could show whatever episode they wanted at whatever time they wanted. And my episode aired, seemingly, for every single day for three consecutive years. I would casually flip through the channels… and there I was, doing The Humpty Dance again. And every single person I went to high school with saw this. I would consistently get stopped at places like the supermarket with people asking me if I was the kid from Carmen Sandiego.

Eventually, I grew to love how ridiculous the whole ting was and came to embrace it. It became a personal “party favorite” to tell people I am meeting for the first time.

And this led to something incredibly important to my life.

One of my best friends from high school, Kirsten, loved the entire story. In fact, I would venture to say the only way we became as close as we did was because she enjoyed my performance so much. She used to make me play her the tape pretty much every time we hung out. Kirsten went away to college in DC. I went to school in Philly.

Years later, we’d start to hang out again. And we were going to a party together with a bunch of her friends from college. One was her old roommate and best friend, Ilana. I heard about Ilana for a while from Kir but I had never met her.

I finally did. And the first thing she asked me was if I was the guy who was on Carmen Sandiego.

I was. And, four years later, we would get married.

The ultimate theme to the story: sometimes cheaters do prosper.




Read more...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

TONIGHT: THE MINISTRY OF SECRET JOKES


Hide the children and say goodbye to your mother because there's another MINISTRY OF SECRET JOKES show tonight at Fergie's Pub (1214 Sansom St.) starting at 9PM. Included in the proceedings will be an epic Omniana battle between Champion Pat "Worm Man" Barker and Steve "It's Ridiculous" Gerben, Hack! The Game Show, a bunch of stand-up comics and more. We recently uncovered the details of last month's show for Phawker.com

And recently Comic Vs. Audience came across the beginning of a Ministry of Secret Jokes initiation ritual that we are bravely posting below. Like usual, don't say you saw it here when you are asked.

Leader: Raise your left hand, and follow along silently, while moving your lips, like hillbillies do when they’re trying to read: I understand the penalty of divulging any of the secret jokes is having my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by its roots, and my body buried in the rough sands of the sea at low water mark, where the tide ebbs and flows twice in twenty-four hours, should I ever knowingly violate this my obligation. If you understand, say "I do."

Crowd: I do.

Leader: I hele.

Crowd: We conceal.

Leader: What do you conceal?

Crowd: All the secret jokes, to which this token alludes.

Leader: You’re a great crowd.

Crowd: We should give ourselves a big hand, just for coming out tonight. Fuck firefighters, we are the real heroes.

(Using your thumb and pinkie, grasp the elbow of the person to your left with your right hand. Then poke them in the ribs with your left elbow. Imagine a world without instant coffee.)
This next two images appear to be from a "Kid's Corner" recruitment section for young children that hides behind the guise of being "educational".



And finally, our survelliance footage from the first show.





Read more...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

RECAP: Raw Onion: America Speaks Out at L'Etage, 5/25

Just off of South Street above a French restaurant last Sunday, an absurdist theater group performed over a dozen short monologues with titles such as "I'm Not A Wino: I'm A 'Why-Yes'", "I Can Beat The Price You're Paying For Sperm" and "I Refuse To Let Some Beached Whale Ruin Our Family Outing". The group was the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium and the show, "Raw Onion: America Speaks Out", consisted of characters acting out columns from The Onion, America’s Finest News Source.

Often The Onion's community voices columns revel in the raw and unadultered language with which the authors speak about what they want or feel. The pieces find humor in taking away the politeness and indirectness with which people act and speak. This is a device that can be seen elsewhere in comedy and is displayed well in pieces such as "Act Now To Take Advantage of My Lowered Standards" and "Hi, I Just Happened To Be In The Neighborhood And Horny". The language is so coarse and direct that it often reaches into absurdism, like in Kurt Beckman's (played by RJ White) "I Fucked My Way Into This Mess, And I'll Fuck My Way Out", which is exactly what the Consortium was hoping for.

Looking back on the original columns now, I can see that these performances definitely brought out an additional level of humor that can't be experienced on the page. Tony Lawton's performance as a pompous and theatrical John Kluivert in "My Lady Has a Beautiful Anus" was dead-on and Liam Castellan's choice to play Bill Brodhagen [right] in "You Will Suffer Humiliation When The Sports Team From My Area Defeats The Sports Team From Your Area" as a early 20th century spectator really brought out the essence of the premise. Jane Moore, an older actress, played a sweet and ultimately innocent Eugenia Korner in "I'm Sorry Jesus" and Billy Rayhill was a frustrated and irate door-to-door salesman in "Why Can't I Sell Any Of These Fucking Bibles?". Another highlight was Sonja Robson's portrayal of Trudy Schiff, a housewife that gradually spirals into madness and obsession in "I've Got A New Soup That Will Knock Campbell's On Its Ass".

The two shows were a fundraiser for the IRC, a two-year old non-profit group that will put on "A Streetcar Named Durang: Two Burlesques and a Nightmare", a parody of the famous playwrights Tennessee Williams and Sam Shepard, during the upcoming Fringe Festival. The Onion was very open to the Consortium's use of their material with the caveat that nothing could be changed. "I was prepared to pay the rights for the material," said artistic director Tina Brock, "but they were so generous, they said 'no, just do it', so we did."

The show was a change of pace for the Consortium, which usually produces absurdist plays by the likes of Samuel Beckett, Christopher Durang, Edward Albee, and Eugene Ionesco that are usually "pretty funny on some level but also very tragic, so it's dual sides of the same coin." Brock was concerned that the f-bombs and vulgarity of the monologues may turn off the group's followers. "Sex doesn't even come up in those [other] plays, it's all metaphysical and existential quandaries," but judging from the laughter in the crowd, it seemed like everyone got it.


Read more...

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Red Wings Guys


Featuring Jon Glaser...
Read more...

Friday, May 23, 2008

"My Apartment Is Small" by Todd Mackenberg

Comic Vs. Audience is very proud to present a piece by the very funny New York City comedian Todd Mackenberg. Although this is in no way related to Philadelphia, it gives us a unique take on life as a comedian in the Big Apple. Enjoy!

I moved to New York a few years ago to do comedy and so far it's been great. There's a great scene with a lot of funny and encouraging people and there's never a shortage of shows. And who knows, there's a chance that industry will be at any show! Yep, I've got to say, living here is pretty good. Except for one problem...

Ladies and Gentleman, my apartment is very small.

My apartment is so small that I can't order an extra large pizza because it's just too big. Hey, at least it keeps me in shape, right?

My apartment is so small that I've got a pet...termite. His name is "Biggie Smalls" because he represents Brooklyn well.

My apartment is so small that it sometimes affects my personal life. First off, let's talk about the ladies. I bring a lot of ladies back to my place (they love my sense of humor), but we always have to do it doggie-style, which I honestly hate. But unfortunately, because my apartment is so small, it's the only position that is remotely possible. And even then my ass gets cut up from rubbing against the wall.

And forget about having people over for a party. Rule #1: if you're over 200 pounds, you won't be able to fit in my apartment. Sorry, there just isn't enough room for that sort of girth. Sadly, D&D marathons never seem to happen at my place.

I didn't always live this way. I'm originally from Omaha, Nebraska and the backyard where I grew up seemed to go on for miles and miles. You could lay amongst the corn fields all night, admiring the stars. During the summer, a few friends and I would grab our marshmallows, chocolate and other s'mores ingredients and laugh the night away. I sometimes think that I developed my unique sense of humor on those nights with Stan, Jimmy Jr. and Pappy. We would just laugh our asses off in that tent.

Man, I wish I lived in a tent now.

My apartment is so small that I can't watch The Godfather on TV. The breadth of that trilogy is just too large for my apartment.

It can be depressing sometimes to tell you the truth. It can lead me to drink, but I can never get drunk off of the tiny schnapps bottles I keep in my tiny cooler.

Seriously folks...

Let me break it down for you so that you can really understand how small my apartment is. If I were to draw the layout of my apartment on a napkin, it would be at 1:1 scale. That's how small my apartment is.

The tile in my bathroom is made up of pennies. Total coat: $.50.

Did I mention that my apartment is really small? No seriously, anyone got a sublet?

Todd will be performing at the Cafe Au Go Go (152 Bleecker St.) this evening at 9PM.
Read more...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Local Comedy News

Live shows dominate this week's roundup of Philadelphia comedy news as new shows are growing out like weeds.

The Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium presents "Raw Onion: America Speaks Out" on May 25th at L'Étage Cabaret (624 S 6th St, above Beau Monde), 6 & 9PM showings, $20. The show brings the community voices the Opinion column of The Onion, America’s Finest News Source, to life with 16 Philadelphia actors. [Thanks Brian]

There's a new open mic on Mondays at the Urban Saloon (2120 Fairmount Ave.). Sign-up is from 6:30 - 7:30 and the show starts at 8:30. Early reports are that it is a good time.

On June 16th, Die, Actor, Die will present the 2nd Annual Dirtiest Sketch in Philadelphia at The Khyber (56 S. 2nd St.). Reigning champs Secret Pants are set to perform along with Meg and Rob, The Sixth Borough, John Kensil, Doogie Horner and probably more.

South Philly's Ray's Happy Birthday Bar (an establishment we have frequented and can vouch for) is getting into the comedy game with a show by Jimmy Viola and friends with Doogie Horner and Nolan Gilbride on May 24th at 9:30. 1200 E. Passyunk Ave.

Stand-up Katie Kohler was recently featured in the Times Herald and she's got a show with Eric Todd, Chris Sybil, John Kensil, and Steve Gerben on Friday, June 13th at the Sly Fox Brewery in Royersford.

Old City clothing store Deep Sleep (54 N. 3rd St.) are putting on a comedy show with Jared Moskowitz, Danny Ozark, Jonathan Graham, Brendan Kennedy and more on June 5th, 7PM. Three dollars gets you in for the laughs and supposedly free Red Bull and vodka.

And in a rare moment, Philadelphia heroes Paul F. Tompkins and Philly Boy Roy were in the WFMU studios during The Best Show on WFMU a few weeks ago. The encounter almost cost PFT his Hollywood career as Philly Boy Roy's Roxborough accent brought out the Philly in Paul. The comic was able to ultimately avoid sounding like a local again though, and the world was returned to normal.

By the way, we re-upped our shows, comedians and other links to the right, so get on that. In an effort to be your definitive source for comedy in the 215, send us an email at comicvsaudience AT gmail DOT com if there's anything we've missed.
Read more...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

HONEST SUMMER JOB FLIERS by Aaron Hertzog

Summer time is coming up and that means, for some, awesome summer jobs. This year Philadelphia comedian Aaron Hertzog has made it easy for you and clipped out some ads.

More after the jump...








Read more...

Monday, May 19, 2008

VIDEO: Omniana Battle: Pat Barker vs. Kent Haines

At last month's Ministry of Secret Jokes show at Fergie's, Pat "Worm Man" Barker and Kent "Alabama Slamma" Haines were pitted in a vicious Omniana battle. Omniana is thrilling game of wits and imagination and when it was played live at MoSJ, the winner was decided by the audience. From the official Omniana website:

On each Character Card there is a brief description of an original character detailing his special abilities, weaknesses and history. Players take turns sending one of their characters into an opponent's pre-selected character. One or more of the remaining players will judge each battle. Using only the information on their cards, both of the battling players must argue how and why his character would win a duel. The judge(s) decides the victor and awards him either a treasure or an advantage card. The player with the most treasure at the end of the game wins.
Barker was the defending champion and his title was on the line. Also of note was Barker publicly calling out stand-up comic Steve Gerben, who was originally scheduled to battle Barker but did not show. We'll keep you up-to-date on as this new feud rages on.


Read more...

TONIGHT: Die, Actor, Die at The Khyber

Tonight you've got plans: DIE ACTOR DIE ("It's a comedy show!") is at The Khyber (56 S. 2nd Street) with an interesting lineup. Kent Haines and Doogie Horner will be there with D.A.D. first-timers Anton Shuford, Jared Moskowitz, and musician Janice Rowland. It's all hosted by Don Montrey and starts at 8PM, 5

RELATED:
Doogie takes Literary Adventures and hosts The Ministry of Secret Jokes.
Kent's been filmed by us a few times.
Anton was the subject of our very first video in the very first post of this site (ugh, we cringe at the writing now).
Read more...

Friday, May 16, 2008

VIDEO: THE MINISTRY OF SECRET JOKES, 4/30

Ignoring the pleas of Doogie Horner of no recordings, we managed to covertly film the first Ministry of Secret Jokes show April 30th at Fergie's Pub in Center City. The night was full of funny stand-up comics, an Omniana battle between Pat Barker and Kent Haines, and more.


Next week we'll have some video of the battle and some more jokes, none of which are secret.
Read more...

FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS: "Ladies of the World"

"The rhythm of the movement of the feel of the wheel of the rhythm of the feeling."

Hey, everyone else is posting it, so why not us? Sometimes the hivemind gets it right.

Not only is this a funny song, but the ladies' man at the beginning repeating the same thing over and over again is inspired. And whoever directs and edits the band's videos really knows what they are doing. We're jealous.


Read more...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

WE WANT TO THE AIRWAVES by Gregg Gethard


I grew up in the suburbs of North Jersey. Like most suburbs, growing up in my hometown was a cross between a Modern Lovers song and a JD Salinger novel. But there was one factor which made my teenage years slightly more cooler than, say, yours: the fact that WFMU was located less than one mile from my house.

91.1 WFMU is a North Jersey institution. It started in the 70's on the campus of the now-defunct Upsala College in East Orange. It broke free from campus control and became a completely free-form radio station. DJ's and hosts are allowed to play whatever they want, however they want to play it. WFMU's strident independence has always given it a cult audience. That cult has grown larger and larger through the years to the point where now one of its flagship shows -- The Best Show, hosted by Tom Scharpling -- is a staple of the alt.comedy nerd diet.

My Sunday's were spent listening to Bill Kelly. I listened to close to 50% of Glen Jones successful attempt to shatter the Guinness record for most consecutive hours DJing one Labor Day weekend a few years back. I listened to Ken Freedman. I got grounded for staying up to 2:30 a.m. so I could listen to "Happy Talk" when I was a freshman in high school. I've been to the record fairs. I lamented the move from their decrepid studio in East Orange to their new digs in Jersey City. I even volunteered there a few days one summer when in college, stuffing T-shirts into boxes in a disgusting, musty basement.

But I didn't come to appreciate and love WFMU until a little bit later on in life. I discovered WFMU for one primary reason -- it was an outlet for me and my metalhead friend Justin to perfect the art of the on-air prank phone call.

Getting on the air at WFMU was incredibly easy. Unlike other radio stations, there was no delay or screener. You called up, the DJ answered and if it was a talk show, you were immediately on the air. All of their talk shows were fair game for our sub-Jerky Boys tomfoolery -- I even once got on the air saying something dumb on the notoriously boring Jewish-American affairs program "JM in the AM."

The show most in our crosshairs, however, was Chris T's "An Aerial View." The show aired on Friday a few hours after school let out. And for months, we would spend hours taking turns calling and saying the stupidest, most inane 13-year-old prank phone calls possible.

This all culminated one night my freshman year of high school. The show was around Valentine's Day. And Chris' topic that day was love. People were supposed to call up and talk about love. Justin and I would call up and say something like the following in a sing-songy voice, which Chris would immediately hang up on:

"I'm in love with a dog named Puddles!" (Click.)
"I'm in love with a three-legged cow!" (Click.)

I had to abruptly end this phone call barage as my uncle picked me and my younger brother up to go see Wayne's World, which was opening up that evening in theaters. On the way there, I continued to listen to the show.

CHRIS: "Hello, caller."
JUSTIN: "Hey, Chris, I think my girlfriend... I
think... I hope she loves me."
CHRIS: "Why do you think that?"
JUSTIN: "She gives me meathook sodomy."

My uncle nearly drove off the road after hearing that, which he found funny probably because I think he had a Cannibal Corpse album.

Our calls would continue over the next few weeks. Until, one evening, my phone rang. I answered. The person on the phone asked for my mother.

Immediately afterwards, my mother called for me to come into the kitchen. I was immediately grounded. She had just gotten off the phone with someone from WFMU, who called to tell her they had our number from the station's Caller ID and that I had been making repeated prank phone calls to their station.

Years later, my younger brother would end up as an editor for the popular WEIRD NJ family. His bosses hosted shows and were frequent guests on WFMU, and my brother scored an invite to an event with a lot of WFMU staff. One of the people in attendance was Chris T. from "An Aerial View," whose show became incredibly
popular and awesome through the years.

My brother then told him the story about my prank phone call barage until someone from the station called my mom and I was grounded. Chris T. started laughing. He remembered that incident fondly.

He called my mom. And not just that, but he also recorded the call. And then he played it on his show.

Read more...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Comedy Podcast Review

When's the last time you listened to talk radio? Is there a reason to even bother anymore? As broadcast media forces converge, luckily there are independent sources for audio entertainment and information and they're not coming just form the satellite. Podcasts are reinventing the form of someone talking into a microphone with clever integrations of sounds, music and user questions and feedback.

Because it is easy to put together a podcast, it's a more visceral and raw medium without the filters of advertising, enforced mentions and studio breaks. And it's the perfect form for comedians, who are personalities with a distinct voice that make a living talking into a microphone already. So, below we present a review of some of our favorite comedy podcasts. This is no means a complete list of everything out there and please feel free to comment or email us at with your own.

Comedy and Everything Else [RSS] (may not work, demand has exceeded network space!)
The latest exc
iting podcast comes L.A. comics Jimmy Dore, ex-pat Todd Glass and more as they talk about comedy and...everything else. The group has interests and opinions beyond making you (and each other laugh) and have found a way to talk about the serious and silly at the same time. Basically, just like you would with your friends. The only difference is they are a lot funnier.

Things We Did Before Reality [RSS]
We don't know much about NYC, formerly San Francisco "absurdist comedic performance artist" Will Franken, but this podcast gives a pretty good idea of what's deep inside his brain. Every episode of 'Things We Did Before Reality' is made up of dozens of short sketches (if you can call them that) that are all voiced by Will Franken. Yep, he does the voice of all the characters, no matter young or female, white or not, old or young. The sketches can be hit-or-miss, but if you hang around for a while something will come along that will knock you out. He just released the twelfth and final installment entitled 'Side Two of Abbey Road':
“I am very proud of this one. Extremely proud...Some may call the piece racist, or sexist, or not ‘culturally sensitive’. Actually, the piece is none of these things. It is rock-n-roll. Rock-n-roll is what existed before globalization castrated it.”

Never Not Funny [RSS]
L.A. (by way of Chicago) comic Jimmy Pardo hosts weekly discussions about anything that comes to his mind. It could be Iron Maiden, food, or whatever is actually happening in their lives. With over one hundred shows in the can, the podcast has developed a large archive of running jokes and guests that only get funnier the more you hear it. The show went to a pay format this season (26 90-minute shows for $20, you cheapos) and the quality has gone up even more with recent appearances by Andy Daly, Todd Glass and Doug Benson. Plus, there's video now, here's our favorite moment from this season so far, although it may not make much sense to the uninitiated. And of course there's the always funny "Third Chair" Pat Francis.

Hey, We're Back [RSS]
Jonathan Katz (star and creator of Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist) is back with tiny sketches that similar to the TV show often feature H. Jon Benjamin and Tom Snyder. Overall the material here is dry and deadpan and the bits usually hit their mark and end before getting old. Of special interest are his calls to directory assistance (you know, 411, yeah, they still exist)...oh poor ladies that work for directory assistance.

The 40 Year Old Boy [RSS]
He'll never be the most famous Mike Schmidt in Philly, but he's definitely got the best podcast of all the Schmidts out there. Once a week Mike gets in front of a microphone and tells stories from his life, often prefacing them with "so this happened". With no one to play off of and what appears to be very little preparation, Schmidt's stories of the fights that his mom has been in (that was the Mother's Day episode), unsuccessful attempts at three-ways and weirdos at the gym are consistently hilarious. And he mentioned us in one of the episodes, so he's got us hooked for life.

Comical Radio [RSS]
Although not tecnically a podcast, it essentially is for anyone that doesn't have a radio tuned to New York City stations. Every week Danny Lobell and the crew (they're all comics) talk to established stand-up comedians. The overall tone is give-me-the-dirt Howard Stern style, but almost every episode contains some unique insight from the comedian being interviewed. Demetri Martin talked about his struggles with NYC's mainstream comedy clubs as he was coming up, Pablo Francisco told stories about living with Doug Stanhope in Arizona (crazy stories attributed to Stanhope seems to be a theme of the show overall) and Greg Behrendt discussed struggling in San Francisco in the 90's with David Cross and Janeane Garofalo.

Radio Labs - "Laughter" [RSS]
Radio Labs, from public radio's WNYC, routinely take on Big Questions with a fresh take using scientific study and neat editing effects. Recently they analyzed the concept of laughter, a reaction that we learn is almost unique to human beings. Aristotle believed that the first laugh of a baby was what "ensouls the creature" and moves it from human to human being. The later discoveries- like the idea that we need something funny to laugh, the producers point to the laugh track of 'The Nanny' sitcom as their basis- are suspicious, but there's probably some truth to the statement that human laughter signals that "it's ok, we're just playing".

The Cold Bath [RSS]
Although this isn't actually a comedy podcast, it's produced by Michael Blieden (Melvin Goes To Dinner, Super High Me, The Comedians of Comedy, Zach Galifianakis: Live at the Purple Onion) and is all-around exceptional, so we'll include it. This show is made up of conversations between Blieden and Mr. Anonymous, who was a political consultant in New York for over 40 years. Now, with Mr. A.'s health failing, he feels compelled to spill the beans on a few things. While he doesn't come straight out with revelations on political and cultural processes in the world past and present, there are running themes that may make you question what you believe. With hours and hours of ancedotes and theories (some of them conspiracies), the show morphs as the listener hears more and more. At first something may not make sense, but it will hit you later. There's a large jump between the abruptness of first episode and the latest (the 24th from February of this year) and hopefully the future holds more as this political season goes on. Not that you should believe anything that Mr. A. says, as he warns: "Remember, I have no name and there is no me as a real person."

Read more...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

LITERARY ADVENTURE: The Time Machine, Part III


IN LAST WEEK’S LITERARY ADVENTURE: Doogie built a time machine with the intention of traveling back to 1894 London and watching H.G. Wells write the first page of his science fiction classic, The Time Machine. (Cool, huh? Bet you wish you had read that one.) However, our well-read adventurer made a crucial miscalculation: although his machine traveled through time, it didn’t travel through space. So although Doogie was transported to 1894, he was still in Philadelphia, instead of London, where H.G. Wells lived. On a farm on the outskirts of Philadelphia Doogie met a short, rude farmer who almost stoned him to death. Doogie made a few short trips back in time to confront the farmer again, and during their last fight the farmer’s battle ogre broke Doogie’s pelvis with a bathtub. Despite his wounds, Doogie was able to escape and crawl to safety.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The summary above is just that: a summary. Lots of other wild shit went down, much of it too complicated to explain. It’s very possible that during this week’s adventure Doogie might mention things that happened last week which—if you didn’t read part 1 or 2—might not make sense to you. In the event of that happening, I will step in and try to explain as best I can. Enjoy the story! –ed.


- - -

Maude placed another pile of piping hot, wet towels on me, and I screamed in pain. (Maude is Doogie’s third ex-wife. Maude is making him sweat to draw out the poison in his system. –ed.)

“C’est si bon.” (Maude is French. She speaks very little English. –ed.)

“You know I don’t speak French,” I said. (Which is why they divorced. –ed.) I knew at that very moment the poison was racing through my veins, drawing nearer and nearer to my heart. (Doogie had been poisoned by members of the shadowy Thugee clan. –ed.) Fucking Thugees. (See? I told you. –ed.)

“Yar, ‘tis a shame, ta be sure. I loves ya, I do. Don go dien on me now! Hold steady lad!” Maude said. (What little English Maude did know, she learned from watching pirate movies. –ed.)

Just then the submarine Captain rushed in, holding his finger in front of his lips and shushing violently. (After the Thugees poisoned Doogie, [using blowfish toxin –assistant ed.] Doogie and Maude . . . wait a minute, did someone say something? –ed.) [Yes, I did. The assistant editor. I just mentioned that Doogie was poisoned using blowfish toxin –asst. ed.] (Uh, that’s irrelevant. You’re hurting the story’s momentum. –ed.) [Sorry. –asst. ed.] (That’s alright. –ed.)

“Don’t scream so loud!” the Captain whispered. “We’re running on silent mode right now, but if (Oh fuck, sorry, the assistant editor interrupted me before. They’re on a submarine because after being poisoned, Doogie and Maude leapt into the bay, and there was a submarine in there, and they climbed aboard. –ed.) [That’s not quite how it happened, but it’s close enough. –asst. ed.] you keep making noise, the giant squid will pick us up on his sonar, [Squid don’t use sonar. Doogie’s an idiot. –asst. ed.] and—”

BOOM! Before the captain could finish his sentence, a massive impact rocked the sub. We were thrown to the floor as the sub pitched and twisted. The lights went out. In the pitch black darkness the sub’s steel hull groaned. Rivets popped loose like gun fire. A moment later red lights and a wailing siren pierced the dark. Surprisingly, I really wanted to fuck something (Blowfish toxin is a powerful aphrodisiac. –ed.) [See, aren’t you glad I mentioned he was poisoned using blowfish toxin? –asst. ed.] (. . . Yeah. –ed.) [Yeah what? –asst. ed] (Fine. Yeah, I’m glad you mentioned it. –ed.)

The captain leapt up, blood pouring from a gash in his forehead. “It’s the squid! Surface! Surface! We’ll fight him topside!” Crew men ran past us in the dim red haze, their boots clattering on the steel floor, each of them holding a long steel harpoon. The Captain ran after them, but I grabbed his arm and stopped him.

“If you’re going to fight that thing, you’re going to need a good harpoon man,” I said.

The captain stared at me. “Surface breached!” a voice yelled from above. The captain’s eyes flicked away and then back to my face. He shoved a harpoon into my hands and clapped me on the shoulder. “Aye, we will. Let’s go!” he said. He grabbed his own harpoon and climbed up the ladder—towards the sound of rolling waves, pounding spray, and dieing men.

I lingered a moment below deck, barely able to life the heavy spear. (When Doogie told the captain “. . . you’re going to need a good harpoon man,” he was merely trying to ease an awkward situation by making small talk, not volunteer himself for the job. He had never thrown a harpoon, and couldn’t even throw a football straight. –ed.) When I told the captain “. . . you’re going to need a good harpoon man,” I was merely trying to ease an awkward situation by making small talk, (Oh, fuck. Okay. He’s explaining it. Just forget I said anything. –ed.) not volunteer myself for the job. I had never thrown a harpoon, although right now I was so horny I could fuck a mound of dirt (The powerful amorous qualities of blowfish toxin can last up to five hours. –ed.)

I grabbed Maude and pulled her hot body against mine. I kissed her long and hard. Her full breasts squished up ‘till they were under my chin, and a little breast milk squirted out (Maude has chronic lactation syndrome, CLS. –ed.) “Would ya care to plunder my booty?” she whispered.

Suddenly a giant tentacle slid down the submarine turret, grabbed me, and whisked me outside. I was whirled around. I saw the sky. The sea. Men throwing harpoons. Red water. The squid’s gaping maw. The squid pulled me down to its body, and I found myself inches away from one of its giant eyes, larger than my entire body.

I poked the squid right in the middle of its eyeball with my harpoon.

The beast howled in pain! It flung me into the sea like a stone from a sling. I hit the water and immediately sank. I looked up and watched as the light above receded further and further away. I tried to swim up, I clawed at the water, but I was pulled irresistibly down. Down. Down. The light above was a pinpoint, then nothing. (Doogie’s not a very good writer. –ed.)

Nothing.

Then, a light in the darkness. Two lights. Dim. Floating towards me.

“Hey.” A raspy voice. “Hey.”

My vision cleared. The floating eyes blinked. They were pale orange.

“Are you alright?”

I wasn’t in the ocean. I was on land, but I was soaking wet. My head hurt. I tried to stand, and banged my head on steel. My hip flared with pain. It was broken.

“Where’s the squid?” I said.

The glowing eyes blinked. “You ate all yours. And it wasn’t squid, it was boiled corn husks. You kept yellin’ out and stabbin’ it with your fork.”

There was a creak and a sudden flare of bright light. Light flooded my vision, blinding me. I heard thick-soled shoes descend a long wooden staircase, then cross a stone floor towards me, and stop only a foot away.

Cold water was thrown in my face. The shock brought me to my senses and I gasped for air.

Ting! Ting! Ting! Metal tapped metal mere inches over my head. I squinted hard and looked up. I was in a cage. The small farmer stood over me, tapping something on the bars. He smiled. “What’s this then?” I saw what was in his hand. It was the brass key to the time machine.

(Oh, for the love of Pete. It was all a dream! How incredibly stupid! So apparently as Doogie was crawling away from his battle with the midget farmer and giantess Fran, he must have passed out and been captured? And the whole squid rigmarole was a hallucination or dream or whatever. Wow. Great twist, M. Night Shyamalan! I hope this is a dream, and that I’ll wake up in a second to discover I have a job that doesn’t suck this much. –ed.)

[I liked the twist. –asst. ed.]

{I didn’t. –editorial intern}

TO BE CONTINUED.

Doogie will be hosting his new comedy show THE MINISTRY OF SECRET JOKES at Fergie's Pub (1214 Sansom St.) on May 28th, 9PM, $0

Read more...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Local Comedy News

The Ninjas Comedy Showcase will be moving to the Raven Lounge (1718 Sansom Street) and spots are still open for other groups. Email Tony at imfix@comcast for details.

Philadelphia's stand-up comic Chris Coccia won the Purina Pet Comedy Challenge in St. Louis and pocketed the $10,000 grand prize.

Tongue and Groove improviser Adam Gertler is a finalist on the upcoming fourth season of The Food Network Star that premieres June 1st. There's more info on the Food Network's video page. [thanks Don]

The first round of TROIKA 2008, held at the Shubin Theatre last Thursday, was won by the group "Auditorium" made up of Kristen Schier (The N Crowd), Matt Holmes (Rare Bird Show) and Mark Bringhurst (Delaware Comedy Theatre). Round Two teams will be announced soon.

And while it doesn't have to do with local comics it bears mentioning: last Friday Patton Oswalt was supposedly in town wearing white mime face paint and an Eagles jersey in South Philly. We're guessing it's for this movie, although, intriguingly, we can't find anything about it on IMDB. Or maybe not, who knows.
Read more...

Zach Galifianakis in...VISIONEERS


When people begin exploding from stress, George Washington Winsterhammerman tries to ignore the epidemic and live his usual life, but then he suffers his first symptom.
Read more...

Friday, May 9, 2008

Don't Forget It...

Some seats still available...


Read more...

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

5 QUESTIONS WITH: Dave Hill

Tonight, Bedtime Stories has a special guest in New York's Dave Hill, an accomplished writer, performer and musician. He's had his own TV show, 'King of Miami' on MOJO, hosts the live show the Dave Hill Explosion and has played in the rock bands Cobra Verde, Sons of Elvis, Uptown Sinclair, Valley Lodge and Children of the Unicorn. He's also written the Black Metal Dialogues and done about a million other things, including taking some time to answer our five questions by email.


1. Which do you enjoy more, comedy or music?

I like them both a lot. They’re probably my two favorite things to do, you know, other than banging and stuff. Comedy keeps me busier and pays my rent more than music at this point, but I’ll always love playing loud rock music and dragging big amps around town late at night too. I try to make sure to do a little shredding on the guitar at least a few times a day no matter what else I might be up to. It’s important to bring the rock heat whenever possible, even when you’re home alone and maybe haven’t even put on pants yet.

Anyway, without music I’m not sure I ever would have gotten into comedy. When I started singing in bands I realized that I liked talking in between songs almost as much as actually playing the songs. The other guys in the band would sometimes get impatient with me and would want to start the next song if I rambled for too long, but talking on stage at rock shows and was one of the things that led me to be comfortable with the idea of doing comedy. Now that I do comedy shows a lot though, I tend to just stare at my feet a lot more when I play rock shows. Sometimes it’s nice to just shut up for a change. Comedy is much scarier too. With music you can always just bury your head and start the next song no matter what’s going on with the crowd or even if there’s no crowd at all.

2. Do your comedy and music worlds ever meet?

They seem to more and more lately. People who know about my comedy stuff will end up checking out my music stuff and vice versa. Most of the music I’ve been involved with hasn’t been “comedy rock,” but just straight up rock and pop music. I’d like to keep doing more music at my comedy shows though. For a while I tended to keep the two separate, but eventually I’d like to mix it all into one big Dave Hill juggernaut complete with official Dave Hill lunchboxes and home taxidermy kits and everything.

3. You grew up in Cleveland. What was the extent of your comedy experience there?


I never did comedy in Cleveland. I mostly played in bands and did some writing and graphic design and painting stuff. I never really thought I’d end up performing comedy. I came to New York for a long weekend five years ago and never left. I got hired as a writer on a show for Spike TV. The producer of the show, my friend Katherine Dore, encouraged me to try performing comedy since I tended to act like an idiot around the office most of the time. Without her I’m not sure I would be doing the stuff I’m doing now.

4. How did you end up working with Little Michael Jackson on the 'Little Michael Jackson And Me' videos?

I was getting off the subway in Union Square in Manhattan and I heard the tail end of “Beat It” coming out of a CD player upstairs from the train. I assumed there must be a Michael Jackson impersonator up there or something, but I had no idea exactly how awesome of a Michael Jackson impersonator I was about to encounter. When I got to the top of the steps, I saw Little Michael Jackson (aka Alex Sotomayor) standing there. The rest is history. At the time he didn’t speak much English, so I actually hired a translator when we did the first video. Since then he’s gotten really good at English. I, however, remain unable to say much in Spanish other than telling people not to lean against the door, which I admittedly don’t have reason to do as often as I’d like.



5. Have you performed in Philadelphia before?

I’ve never done comedy in Philadelphia before, but I’ve played rock shows at the Khyber a couple times when I was in Cobra Verde and Uptown Sinclair. When Cobra Verde was on tour with Mike Watt a while back we also played at the Pontiac Grille once. I remember on the way to Philly we stopped at a truck stop and I bought some Whoppers, the popular chocolate-covered malted milk ball snack, not the popular Burger King hamburger of the same name. On the way back to the van I decided to throw one at the singer John’s head just to break up the trip a little bit. I thought it would amuse him but he ended up getting really mad at me and understandably so- it turns out those things are really hard when you get hit with them. I think it’s the chocolate coating that does it. And the ones I bought were probably in the machine for a while so they were especially deadly. Looking back on it, I probably should have thrown the Whopper at Frank the guitar player. I am bigger than him. For the record though, I am generally against the idea of trying to injure someone with candy. If there is one message I can get out to the young people through this interview, it would be that. Also, I smell nice and I am an excellent kisser. Ask anyone.
Read more...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

THE WORLD'S WIDEST BRIDGE by Gregg Gethard

Things just seem to happen to Gregg Gethard. And after telling a few stories at comedy shows in New York City, he created his own monthly show in Philly, BEDTIME STORIES, to tell a few more. Over the past year the show has grown in audience and features some of the best comics in the city.

Here, Gethard recounts entertaining tourists with his own Philadelphia history. The next installment of Bedtime Stories is this Wednesday night at the Shubin Theatre (407 Bainbridge St.), 8PM, $10.


The best kinds of jobs are the ones that hire you without checking your references or making you pee in a cup. I speak from experience.

Last summer, I worked as a tour guide for The Big Bus Company, a group which specializes in taking tourists around Philadelphia's Center City on a double decker bus. This is not to be confused with Philadelphia Trolley Works, a company which specializes in taking tourists around Philadelphia's Center City on a red trolley.

"You're in a great spot," said Tony, the crooked-toothed Brit manager of The Big Bus upon my hiring. "You're working for a great company. Not like those assholes at the Trolley Works. They want to take away our livelihood. Our goal is to take away theirs!"

The other new employees were similar to me -- college/grad students looking for a summer job. Training was simple. We were handed a thich, black finder filled with pages upon pages of minutiae about Philadelphia -- information about how many steps there are in front of the Art Museum (where Rocky Balboa ran up in the first Rocky movie), about the exact date William Penn landed in Philadelphia, and how many rowhomes are located at Elphrath's Alley. We were told to memorize as many facts as possible while we sat on the bus, listening to the tour of veteran Big Bus employees, constantly looping around Center City, listening to the same tidbits of information over and over again.

Our group started out by touring with Brian, a 50-years-old PhD candidate in Early American History from Temple, complete with a greying pony tail and the wide eyes of a 'Nam vet who participated in My Lai. Which he did. Brian's tours were gritty, urban experience, as if Martin Scorcese was directing a film about Philadelphia tour guides. Brian recited the facts of various spots on the tour, but augmented this by revealing his paranoid distrust of all levels of government.

Brian loved debunking myths about American history, largely to a group of tourists who didn't even know what it was that was actually being debunked. "Everyone knows that John Hancock signed the Constitution the way he did so King George would get the message. Right? RIGHT? Well... THAT'S A MYTH," Brian said, with an angry sneer as he proceded to make eye contact with each and every single passenger on board. "Handwriting analysis reveals that John Hancock always signed his signature this way. Don't believe what they want you to."

Brian became most enthusiastic whenever the tour approach Penn's Landing, with its clear view of the USS Constitution docked across the Delaware in Camden. Again, he started to make eye contact to each and every single member of the tour, all of whom were doing their best to avoid looking at Brian in the eye: "That boat over there makes me tear up every time I see it. You see, I didn't run like some people did, like some presidents did. I served in 'Nam. And do you know where that got me? I ened up face down in a rice paddy taking fire from the Cong. They had us pinned down. Death surrounded me. My best friends were being killed. But that boat was in the distance, and it started to fire its guns, and I cried, because that meant I would live for one more day."

Ernie was another veteran tour guide. Ernie was an exceptionally off-the-cuff black guy, the Rudy Ray Moore of Philadelphia tour guides. He was completely unflappable -- one second giving us tips on how to handle conversation while stuck in city gridlock, the next being able to turn around and to get the phone number of a woman coming out of the Gallery Mall. Ernie relied less on history on his tour and more on pop culture, pointing out to bus passengers where different Philadelphia-area musicians lived and the sites of various TV and movie shoots. "You see that shop over there? Lord and Taylor? That used to be called Wannamaker's and that's where they filmed Mannequin! You see that bar? They filmed a scene in Philadelphia with Tom Hanks there. You know the scene I'm talking about! It's the scene where people make fun of AIDS. You know, the deadly HIV virus."

The passengers on the tours remind you of how big and diverse America is. This creates an interesting dichotomy. On one tour with Ernie, the tour consisted of two groups of people. Sitting in the front was a family of three from suburban Newton, Mass. -- the daughter was wearing a jacket with the insignia of her private school, Mom had a shopping bag in her hand, and Dad was wearing a cap for a country club. In the back of the bus, with their teacher, was a group of students from an "alternative education" school from the South Bronx -- inner city teenagers wearing the latest in urban fashion.

Ernie led the tour, trying to placate both audiences -- talking to the kids in the back one second about Beanie Siegel's favorite clothing store and then to the preppie Americans the next about the Federal Reserve building. The divergence between these two worlds came between our stop after the Philadelphia Zoo and our stop in West Philadelphia -- the part of the tour that took us through Mantua, one of the worst neighborhoods in Philadelphia. This part of the tour was always interesting: sneakers dangling from telephone wires, abandoned buildings, grafiti, homeless people smashing beer bottles, etc.

"Yo, it's like our neighborhood," one of the kids in the back said to laughter from his schoolmates, while the white family all had their hands cupped, staring down at the floor of the bus, the unmistakable look of white guilt. One of the kids in the bus then started yelling at a group of teenagers off the bus, until his teacher told him to sit down. "They was flashing gang signs at us," he explained. A really tough looking crew of teenagers was at a street corner, yelling threats and making gestures at us. Even Ernie, always cool under pressure, was nervous and told the driver to hightail it.

At the end of that tour, Ernie stood at the front of the bus. "Thank you all for coming out. This... this tour meant a lot to me. I hope you all learned something from me. Maybe, maybe all of you could go back to your own neighborhood and start doing tours there." Ernie then looked at the teenage daughter of the wealthy white famiy. "Even you, darling. You could even be a tour guide if you want." I had a feeling that Mom and Dad had different career plans for their daughter.

My least favorite trainer was Albert. Albert never stopped talking. It was like he had ADD, ate 55 pixie sticks and also did an 8-ball of cocaine. Albert's Asian, which he pointed out on his tour roughly 75 times, all in ways geared to make tourists as squeamish as possible. "Here is Roman Catholic High School. I didn't go there. You all must think I'm good at math. People think all Asians are good at math. This is SEPTA Headquarters. They run buses here in Philadelphia. And trains. No one likes them. You probably think I suck at driving."

After two weeks of riding around, non-stop, on the 4-mile loop, us newcomers were finally allowed to give tours. Donna went first. She was this heavyset woman with big bangs. The first day of work, before they handed us our uniform (purple sweater and yellow T-Shirt, all with The Big Bus logo), she came wearing a pair of skin-tight black Spandex leggings, paired with black socks and sandals. I'm not a fashion expert, but I recognized this as a bad choice.

There was a family of five on the tour. They sat quietly in the back, not paying any attention to the tour guides, looking out the side of the bus at the scenery of The City of Brotherly Love. We were stuck in Chinatown, parked in front of the Wawa at 10th and Arch. "That's Wawa. That's a conveeeeenience store," she said, her Philly-accent (with a "y" sound which shows up inexplicably with "oh" sounds -- so "home" is somehow "hyome") really noticeable and grating. "Wawa's pretty allright. I get cigarettes from the one up by my block. They also don't charge in the Mac machines, if you ever need to tap Mac." She then started looking around the bus and looked at Ernie. "I... I can't do this. I'm not any good at this," and she walked off the bus.

I finally got to do my first tour. I was by myself, with one woman, in her mid-50's, alone. She looked like the type of woman who would openly sob while watching Designing Women reruns she Tivo'd off of Oxygen. She sat right next to me while I spoke into a microphone, looking up at me as I told her about when the Liberty Bell was actually cracked and how the Girard Avenue Bridge was at one time the world's widest bridge. She then politely asked me stop. She had just moved to Philadelphia from Seattle, after a very painful divorce, and didn't know where anything was in the city. She asked if we would be driving past any supermarkets. Then she tenderly grabbed me on the wrist.

"Have you ever made a big change in your life?"

After spending two weeks on a bus, I came to a stunning conclusion: tour guides are complete and total whores. The veteran guys were completely shameless in their quest to receive tips. It's one thing to say "tipping is appreciated." It's another to stand in front of the exit and say things like, "I appreciate your tips, I'm going through a really tough time right now, my daughters are going through a lot and we need to think about their future." In addition, as part of our "training fee," we had to give the veteran tour guides half of our tip money, even though they largely just slept on the back of the bus.

On my second solo tour, our bus driver rear ended a Volkswagon right outside of the Greyhound Station in Chinatown. The bus drivers were a notoriously shady group of people. The bus driver today was Charles, this toothless guy who was built like a second string high school basketball center -- 6'7" and maybe weighing 115 pounds. Charles bragged about his body frame. He stopped eating so 40's of malt liquor would "work better." After we struck the car, Charles put the bus in park and got out.

"Hey, motherfucker, hey! Watch what the fuck you're doing, motherfucker," he yelled, even though we had rear ended a car stopped for a red light, the driver of the car spoke no English and this was in full view of 15 paying customers. This exchange lasted for about 15 minutes, with a group of people watching a grown man threaten an Asian woman until the police came.

It got pretty boring reciting facts about Philadelphia. People just seemed bored when I told them about the history of art deco condominium complexes. I decided to veer course from my training. My presentations became less factually based and more about my ability to entertain myself.

I began every tour by starting out strong. Our tours had to begin with a recitation of safety procedures, warning passengers to remain seated until we came to a complete stop. I told the audience this was done to preserve their good looks. "Ladies and gentlemen, you are by far the best looking group of people I have ever encountered on a bus. Especially you, ma'am. Your eyes sparkle with the intensity of 1,001 fireflies." I sometimes changed it from fireflies to candlelabras or tire fires.

The veteran tour guides all told the same lame joke on Ben Franklin Parkway. There, next to the future home of the Barnes Foundation art museum, stand to statues, one called The Good Teacher and the other The Good Mother. "People ask me where The Good Father is. I'll tell you. He's around the corner at The Good Tavern having The Good Drink watching The Good Game."

I made my own joke. "People ask me where The Good Father is. I'll tell you. He's unsupportive of my dreams."

I also loved driving down Spruce Street, a residential block downtown. We'd drive by one rowhome, where I announced to the patrons: "At this address and 955 Spruce Street lives my ex-girlfriend, Cindy. She is one of dozens of Philadelphia-area women who have filed restraining orders against me. Don't worry, Cindy. I'm 50 feet away! And I'll be back in exactly one hour!"

Asking for tips makes me feel really squeamish. The customers pay about $30 for a ticket. I made a decent hourly wage. I just felt like a total asshole asking for tip money, especially since my job pretty much became me just fucking around with strangers for a few hours a day. I was headed to the train station after the tour one day. One of our passengers, a well-to-do guy in his 60's, he wanted directions to his hotel. I told him I would walk with him, since I was headed that way anyways. We walked to where he was staying. He reached for his wallet. "Here's something for helping me out." I told him no thanks. "No, really, you didn't have to do that." I told him that I was doing it to be nice, that it wasn't any extra effort, and I would have done it even if I wasn't a tour guide. "No, I insist. Take this. The money isn't a problem for me." He then reached into my pocket and placed in a $5 bill, like I was a stripper.

I was getting really sick of The Big Bus. The tours were entertaining, but the company sucked. Our schedules would get changed without any notification. Imagine routinely showing up to work to find out that you didn't have to work. Or not showing up to work when you were supposed to. This happened to me every day for six straight days.

Modern American cities were not designed with shoddily built double decker busses in mind. Frequently, I had to get off the bus and help the driver navigate a tight turn. Or, I had to tell passengers to duck as tree branches came flying at their head. I turned this into a game. "1-2-3 DUCK," I'd say. "Did anyone get their scalps lopped off by that rail trestle?" Sometimes, when the tree branches were too low, I'd ask the bus driver to stop, so our passengers could get onto the lower deck and not risk decapitation. They would always grumble about this. "We got a schedule to keep, I can't be stopping the bus so you can get passengers downstairs. We gotta be on time, man. Fuck them bushes," Charles told me.

One group of passengers on my bus were a group of three lunkhead 30-somethings. They liked my offbeat tour a lot. So much so that, afterwards, they wanted to go get a drink with me. We headed to The Locust Bar, where they immediately bought me a shot of Bush Mills. They were medical sales associates in from San Diego for a convention.

"You're a great tour guide," their ringleader said. "You'd be great at medical sales. You could clear $75K a year, no problem. I'll tell you what. If you're ever out my way, you look me up. I can get you a job, no problem. $75K a year." He handed me his business card. "So, you know a place where we can score some blow?"

My favorite tourists were foreigners. All the foreigners, no matter what repressive regime they are from, always celebrate when they drive under the flag of their country on the Parkway. My favorite group was a family of seven from South Korea. They were the warmest, friendliest people, asking me about how to say things like "sandwich" or "truck." They taught me the South Korean national anthem. First, you clap your hands rhythmically. Then you chant "TAAAAY MAHHH HIIINNN GUA." Then you clap some more. Then you chant "TAAAAAY MAHHHHH HIIINNN GOOOOO."

In exchange, I taught them the closest thing we have to a national anthem in Philadelphia. "E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES." We drove by a statue of Frank Rizzo. They asked me who he was. "He is Philadelphia's version of Kim Jong Il." After the tour, they thanked me, gave me hugs and kisses and took my photograph.

They were my last tour for the day. My friend Pat from college was having a party that night to celebrate his completion from medical school. I forgot to bring a change of clothes, so I was stuck in my Big Bus uniform. Most of the people at the party were all med school students, a lot from UPenn or other Ivy League schools. They all just nodded at me, no one wanting to introduce themselves to me.

I congratulated Pat for his getting through med school. "Thanks, man. It's great that we're all doing so well with everything." I then waited for a beat. "Pat, I'm a fucking tour guide."

I knew I had to quit. I just needed the right demeaning situation to justify walking out of another crummy job.

My salvation came at the corner of Broad and Walnut. Here, a middle-aged woman pointed something out on the sidewalk to me. It was a homeless man, laid out on the sidewalk, dead. A businessman in a suit stood over him, trying to flag down a car.

I walked downstairs. I asked Charles if he could call 9-1-1 on his cell phone or if he could contact base and tell them to do so.

"I can't do that, man. We on a schedule. He's just a homeless dude. Don't worry, someone will find him. If he's already dead, who cares?"

He then stopped at our next stop, where our ticket sales woman, the mother of his child, asleep on the lower tier of the bus, got on, and sold him a dimebag of pot. I got off the bus when we returned and left. Never again would I tell people that City Hall was 565 feet high or how many murals have been painted in Philadelphia.

Read more...

THIS WEEK: PHIT at the Shubin Theatre

It's time again for the Philly Improv Theater's week at the Shubin Theatre, 407 Bainbridge St., Philadelphia, PA 19147. For tickets, visit the Philly Improv Theater's website.




Wednesday, May 7
8 p.m. – Bedtime Stories: Crash Into You, True Stories Of An American College, $10. All material will deal with life at St. Beyonce State University. Sez the host Gregg Gethard:

Formed in 2003, St. Beyonce State University is an all-encompassing liberal arts/online university located in the deepest recesses of the human spirit. Contrary to the rumors, Rusted Root will NOT be performing at Spring Fling.
Set to perform are:

Secret Pants
The Sixth Borough
Doogie Horner
Brendan Kennedy
Anton Shuford
Kent Haines
Aaron Hertzog
Roger Weaver

with a commencement address by world famous comedian Dave Hill!

Thursday, May 8
8 p.m. - TROIKA 2008 ROUND ONE Presented by PhillyImprov.com, in cooperation with the Philly Improv Theater, TROIKA pits three groups of three improvisers against each other. The groups choose their own format and the audience determines the winner. The winner of each of the three preliminary rounds goes on to battle in the Grand Championship in August. $10.
10 p.m. - CAGEMATCH: Angry People Building Things vs. Industrial hosted by Brandon Libby. CAGEMATCH brings more competitive improv by pitting two groups against each other for 25-minute sets that can only use one audience suggestion. The audience decides the winner by secret ballot. $5.

Friday, May 9
8 p.m. – Animosity Pierre with Men About Town, $10
10 p.m. – Boston's Code Duello with locals Rare Bird Show. Code Duello (right) perform improv as Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr who, in 1804, fought in the most infamous duel in American history. The reason for the duel is still hazy to this day, but Code Duello dares to solve the mystery that biographers cannot! Each night, Boston comedians Neil Reynolds & Matt Tucker don the wigs and waistcoats of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, improvising the lives of our two angriest founding fathers. $10.

Saturday, May 10
8 p.m. – Code Duello with Men About Town, $10.
10 p.m. – Animosity Pierre with Rare Bird Show, $10. The local duo of David Terruso and Matt Lally that make up Animosity Pierre (left) have been performing comedy in the area for a few years now and are regulars at Die, Actor, Die (where they were runners-up in the 2007 Dirtiest Sketch in Philadelphia Contest) and Bedtime Stories.

Sunday, May 11
7 p.m. - As we mentioned earlier, come back to finish out the week with a FREE screening of Doug Benson's new film 'Super High Me'. In the film, Benson explores the current situation with medical marijuana in California and the United States, specifically focusing on the conflict between federal and state law and the explosive growth in medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles over the past two years. He goes thirty consecutive days without smoking pot and then thirty eating and vaporizing medical marijuana taking the same tests each time in an effort to find out what marijuana does and how it really affects people. You have to make a reservation at boxoffice@phillyimprovtheater.com to get in and seating is limited so get on that already.

RELATED:
Our past Bedtime Stories coverage
Two videos of Animosity Pierre
COMIC VS. AUDIENCE & THE PHILLY IMPROV THEATER PRESENT: A Screening of 'Super High Me'
Read more...