Last night, people packed into the Prince Music Theater for the third night of the Philadelphia Improv Festival where a total of ten acts took the stage, delivering a pretty stellar night of live comedy. With the line-up having been dominated by out-of-towners, here were the four most memorable performances of the night.
Hands down one of the funniest improv sets I’ve ever seen. Comprised of veterans from ImprovBoston’s Harold Night as well as a few newbies, the troupe was on fire from beginning to end. Did they potentially destroy the final seasons of The Wire for everyone? Yes. Did they make up for it with a few very clever and hysterical references to The Wire? Yes. It’s rare that something can make you laugh to the point of tears; so uncontrollably that you have to cover your mouth to help yourself breathe. So for that, I would like to thank them.
The NYC-based collective was definitely one of the more boundary-pushing troupes of the night, having poked fun at animal cruelty more than once and, more importantly, with success. Much of this was thanks to Elizabeth Findlay who I could have watched embody a Shih Tzu all night.
I knew I was in for a treat he moment Connie and Connie (Alli Soowal and Liz Scott) stepped on stage. Much to my surprise, inside their house dresses, they were actually packing real treats—little snack cakes that they proceeded to throw at audience members who dished one of their current problems. While the gals did little to actually solve any of these problems, they did exchange some hilarious impromptu banter while simultaneously engaging in nail art and crafting. Their set was sorta like SNL’s Coffee Talk with Linda Richman and Bronx Beat, except without the talk show format. Quite frankly, they didn’t need a format.
Now displaced between Philly and LA, these four local ladies and improv vets—Alexis Simpson, Alli Soowal, Kristin Finger, Maggy Keegan—were clearly excited to be reunited, with their enthusiasm having fueled every second of their time on that stage. It didn’t even matter if certain scenes got awkward—they we’re having a blast and so you did too. As two of the five original Real Housewives of Philadelphia, I’ve really only heard references of Alexis Simpson and Alli Soowal as local legends. And now I know for sure that they exist.
If you’ve yet to check out any of the Philly Improv Festival shows, I would highly recommend doing so tonight when the level of improvisational talent is sure to reach its peak with Austin’s Live Nude Improv at 10 p.m. (featuring Philly’s own comedic maven Kristen Schier—who may or may not be baring it all), followed by the reunion of local troupe Rare Bird Show at 11 p.m. Rounding out the 9 p.m. block are the boys of LA’s BillyHawk, who several local comics deemed the must-see act of the fest.
Tonight, the Philadelphia Improv Festival kicks off its eighth year, with more than 40 different acts performing over the next five days.
This includes a mix of the finest improvisational talents in town in addition to several noteworthy troupes from some of the nation’s top comedy meccas such as the Upright Citizens Brigade and New York’s Magnet Theater. (Note: the same goes for many of our local improvisers.)
Unable to cherry pick my own personal faves from the line-up (really, there’s too many to count), I decided to poll some local comics to find out which shows/troupes they’re most excited to see.
Greg Maughan (Philly Improv Theater Founder and Executive Director): “On Friday, Mayor Karen and The Imposters and on Saturday, Hey Rube and Junior Varsity are must sees.”
Jason Grimley (member of improv duo Grimacchio and PHIT house team King Friday): “I am very excited to see BILLY HAWK from Los Angeles. I know those guys from IO West and they never disappoint.”
Chip Chantry (stand-up comedian): “I’m looking forward to RARE BIRD SHOW. The three of them are masters at what they do, and I’m so glad they’re getting the band back together.”
Paul Triggiani (member Secret Pants; host of PHIT’s TV Party): “Thursday’s show represents three cities, both non-native acts sound novel and intriguing, and King Friday and Iron Lung are great local groups. Iron Lung is also collectively very attractive. So I’d recommend this block.”
Brendan Kennedy (stand-up comedian; member of Camp Woods): ”Hot Dish at 7:30pm Wednesday night. I saw every night of their Fringe show “BackStory” and they were brilliant!”
Corin Wells (member of PHIT house team Hot Dish): “Amie and Kristen/Kristen and Amie Show because every time they get on stage together, not only do they perform amazing improv but they have so much fun together. The audience feels like they’re are having fun right along with them.”
Alison Zeidman (Editor in Chief at Witout.net): “ZaoGao. They perform the best organic improv in the city.”
Aaron Hertzog (stand-up comedian; member of Hey Rube and Hate Speech Committee; host of PHIT’s Hey Everybody!): “Davenger. Because they are dope.”
Kristen Schier (PHIT instructor; member of Amie and Kristen/Kristen and Amie Show): “I am totally biased but I want everyone to check out ZaoGao. I love me some BILLYHAWK boys too! This year’s fest will be a blast.”
FESTIVAL INFO: Each of the nightly performances (which are are split into either two or three hour-long blocks) will be held in the Prince Music Theater’s Independence Foundation Blackbox (1412 Chestnut St.). Tickets for an individual show block are $10 while a nightly pass costs $15-$20. As an additional bonus, a portion of tickets sales from this year’s festival as well as all proceeds from the annual Comedy Month raffle will benefit Career Wardrobe.
**PHOTOS: Tom Lovelund, Musher-Lovelund Photography for Philly Improv Theater