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Thursday
Apr162009

Inside With: Jerm Pollet of Raspberry BrothersBy: Andrew Singer

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SPREADS EASILY & SUCKS MOISTURE FROM THE GROUND Raspberry Brothers are (l to r) Aaron Glaser, Johnny McNulty, Scott Rogowsky and Jerm Pollet | Photo: Kelcey Edwards

Part of the New York movie-watching experience is suffering the occasional heckler. Comedically speaking, the signal-to-noise ratio of your average heckler is low. But now imagine a show in which he has put considerable time and energy into the material, and the focus of the entertainment suddenly shifts to the heckler's cynical remarks and away from the film itself. That's the idea behind Raspberry Brothers, a comedy-in-a-movie-theater show transplanted all the way from Austin, Texas, by Jerm Pollet. The local comic and musician has conscripted some top-shelf comedy guys to join him in the front-row sniping of some of America's worst (and most loved) movies. The Apiary recently sat down with Pollet to discuss the show's beginnings, how he forged his new superteam and whether he'll pick up his guitar again.

How did Raspberry Brothers begin?
The show was born in Austin, Texas, about nine years ago when I founded the Sinus Show. The first movies I mocked were sexploitation and gore films like Nude on the Moon and The Gruesome Twosome. The Sinus Show grew to be very popular with nerdy guys, and over time I realized that if I did my routine over more mainstream movies and '80s flicks the ladies might come too. Sure enough, Dirty Dancing, Pretty in Pink, and Footloose properly feminized our audience. For seven years, I performed in downtown Austin at the Alamo Drafthouse, doing four shows every weekend. I've since relocated to Brooklyn, and Raspberry Brothers is my name for the New York chapter.

Photo: Kelcey Edwards
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Where does the name come from?
Raspberry Brothers name is joyfully ambiguous in meaning. To me, it conjures up a number of things. For one, a raspberry is that sound made when you push your tongue out of closed lips and blow air. And that's appropriate, as the show is definitely irreverent. Also, raspberry plants are vigorous growers that easily spread and suck moisture out of the ground at great distances. A juicy and sweet infestation -- that's the reputation I want.

How did you choose your New York cast?
I started looking for cast members about six months ago at improv and sketch shows around town. I saw Johnny McNulty perform improv at a cool bar in Long Island City called The Creek (formerly known as The Creek and the Cave). He's a very intelligent, witty, and likeable comedian. I first saw Aaron Glaser perform at the UCB Theater doing a one-man sketch show with multiple characters. His acting skills and writing are really impressive. And Scott Rogowsky found me after seeing a performance of Terminator at Union Hall in Brooklyn.

All of these guys auditioned for the show by learning jokes for the movie Footloose and then running through it with me. I guess what ultimately influenced my casting choices was a kind of chemistry. Each member brings a different voice and point of view to the show, and it's mixing together very nicely. Scott, by the way, is fucking hilarious. He is quick, clever and brilliantly absurd.

Had you done other projects leading up to this, or were you just doing regular stand-up?
Before Raspberry Brothers, most of my creative energies were focused on rock 'n roll. I've played guitar in bands since I was a teenager. But, in my thirties I started performing solo, turning down the volume and highlighting the songwriting and lyrics. This led to more between-song banter and then long periods of story-telling and comedy routines. Eventually, I put down the guitar and started doing one-man monologue shows. My favorite monologue is a full hour-long show about my adventures as a musician called “Beats, Thongs and Sugar Substitutes"

Why did you choose Chelsea Cinemas for your screening location? What about that place in particular works for you?
Chelsea Cinemas is the perfect home for our show. I love the location, and it feels great to be in the warm comedy pocket of the city (UCB, The PIT, and the Magnet theaters are all right in the area). Also, I think Clearview, the company that runs Chelsea Cinemas, has some smart ideas about the growing trend of hip movie theaters. In the age of Netflix and affordable home theaters, Clearview is offering a service you can't buy at the store or rent through the mail -- live entertainment.

Raspberry Brothers' humble origins can be found at The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas | Photo: fuzuoko
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Clearview's done a Sound of Music sing-along, they have live Metropolitan opera and baseball game screenings, and a long-running Rocky Horror show. Raspberry Brothers is a natural extension of this growing movement.

How much rehearsing do you do before each movie? How much is improvised, and how much is planned? How do you keep things fresh if you screen the same movie multiple times?
We rehearse a lot and work pretty hard to fully script the show. The key is to get the lines down so tight that we feel confident freestyling during the live show. If the crowd has a strong reaction to a comment, it's fun to then riff and elaborate on it. I keep the shows fresh by staying alert to new observations -- on the big screen I always notice things that I missed at my house. Also, some jokes that seem funny to me during the writing sessions end up falling flat at the shows. It's mysterious, and I'm always a little surprised by what works and what doesn't. So, rewriting is a constant process.

Have you ever crossed paths with the MST3K team?
I've never met anyone from MST3K, but I have met some of the actors and directors from the movies I've mocked. Meeting Doris Wishman, writer/director of Nude on the Moon and Double Agent 73, was a real treat. I also enjoyed meeting Michael Beck, the lead actor from the classic disco musical on roller skates, Xanadu. He did a Q&A and even skated with me and the gang when we performed our show at a roller rink. I love mocking the Britney Spears movie, Crossroads. Anson Mount, who plays Brit's love interest, was in town working on a film during my Crossroads run. He got on stage with us and made jokes about his own film.

What other projects are the performers involved in?
Johnny McNulty is part of a very funny improv troupe called Fat Penguin. He also currently works as a contributor for The Onion and as a freelance writer for Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update." Aaron Glaser writes and performs at the UCB Theater in a new sketch comedy revue every month for Maude Night. His sketch troupe is called The Skuntz. Scott Rogowsky contributes to The Onion and the Onion News Network; He also runs 12 Angry Mascots, a monthly sports-themed comedy show at Comix. And I'm mostly focused on Raspberry Brothers. But, I'd love to play some loud guitar again. So, I may try and join a glam metal band, if I can find one that'll have me.

THE PLUG
Catch their premiere show FRI, APRIL 17 @ MIDNIGHT | Tickets
Catch Raspberry Brothers EVERY FRI/SAT @ MIDNIGHT at Chelsea Cinemas (260 W23rd St)

RELATED
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--Andrew Singer is a contributing editor for The Apiary. He performs regularly as "Soce the Elemental Wizard" and blogs for OutHipHop.com. He recently wrote about Tom Shillue's Supernormal.

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