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Entries in The PIT (35)


Things I Was Offered to Cover Someone's Shift at The PIT

If you have the pleasure of interning at The PIT, not only will you SAVE BIG $$$ on your improv classes and learn some of the ins and outs of running a comedy theater, but you'll also get placed on a somewhat humorous email list introducing you to the lurid, backdoor black market of shift swapping.  Each intern is assigned a weekly time slot for 8 weeks and if something comes up one of those weeks, then you need to find someone to swap with you. These requests are generally accompanied by dramatic, unhinged emails with all caps subject lines like 'OH GOD SOMEBODY HELP ME' and 'I'M NEEDED AT MY 2ND COUSIN'S CHRISTENING AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, WON'T ANYONE HAVE MERCY??' Here are all the offers I got over the past couple of months:
  • "I've got a friend who works at Baked by Melissa. I could hook you up with cupcakes. Or something other than pastries. It's really up to you."
  • "I can also bake some delightful treats for you."
  • "I'll give you donuts."
  • "I will buy you two beers after your shift. Or if you prefer, bring you cookies."
  • "I will totally swap a shift with you on a day I'm free, and buy you a beer or two. Best part, I'll be at the bar after the show when you get off of your shift. This means I can buy you the drink right then and there. Immediate gratification." 
  • "If anyone would be willing to cover for me, I would buy you so many coffees or anything cheap and legal you desire."
  • "I'll buy you a drink or a cookie or gum."
  • "I am willing to knit you either a hat or a scarf (well, as long as you're willing to wait for a few months.). Or if you hate knitted goods, I can buy you a drink."

Which would you take?



The Morning Break With Patty & Scott | Magnet Theater

Philo's Folly |The PIT TV

A Few Minutes with Al Jaffee | UCB Comedy



New Excitement | Photo: Eric Michael PearsonBy: Lucas Hazlett

Two men sit alone onstage, both humbly genuflecting before their God, praying as one of the men announces he is leaving the priesthood.

Before the other can respond, we hear a rumble just beyond the theater's locked doors. Is this the moment in a dramatic piece when a higher power calls to intercede? Not quite. It's the beginning of an onslaught of self-abusing mania about to unfold over the course of the hour.

With Flights, New Exc!tement (Mary Grill, Matt Hobby, Chris Manley, Randy Pearlstein and Chris Roberti) delivers sketch that hits all the right buttons and never veers off-course. They manage to be inoffensive without ever being bland, shocking without ever being purely disgusting, and when their sketches get high-brow (for instance, Roberti reciting lines of Robert Frost to frustrate his teammate Pearlstein during a game of Password) they never pander to any particular intellectual sensibility.

They have a voice that is original but still tips its hat to its historical influences. Much of New Exc!tement's style feels like a classic vaudeville group or cartoon -- think the Marx Brothers or Animaniacs -- whose only purpose seems to be to infuriate the straights of the world. The only difference here is that New Exc!tement revels in infuriating themselves.

In one sketch, the team rallies around ruining Matt Hobby as an actor trying to impress his father during a show; in another, Randy Pearlstein plays a sentient celestial being interrupting a pair of teenagers (played by real life couple Mary Grill and Matt Hobby) having an awkward first kiss.

And in perhaps the night's most absurd sketch, Hobby, Manley and Pearlstein play horses who lure a sickly Roberti outside his home to his death. All of this done with an absolute deference to the physicality and logistics that make slapstick comedy and cartoons so popular. The lines defining what are real versus impossible are redrawn at the discretion of any character but are never done arbitrarily. The logic is always sound. Even when objects that shouldn't exist in the reality they establish are suddenly -- and sometimes literally -- pulled out from someone's ass (okay, back pocket) to satisfy a joke it never feels like they're cheating!

According to their promotional materials, Flights is "a sketch show that plays in the places where we all get lost -- in grief, in love and occasionally in the deepest corners of outer space." This place is also the same comedic Twilight Zone where watching people being vomited on manages to be simultaneously shocking and low-brow yet perfect logical and the only intelligent resolution to a sketch. This is a place of comedic genius and New Exc!tement is its Vespucci. We can only hope they draw a map for the rest of us comedy nerds to take similar flights.

--Lucas Hazlett is a comedy geek who improvises with anyone he can.  He can be seen performing at the Peoples Improv Theater (123 East 24th Street) every Wednesday night at 8:00PM with PIT House Team Stranger.



Rose Surnow | Photo: Samuel M. Jayne

By: Meghan O'Keefe

Jessi Klein, Joe Mande, Andrea Rosen, Jared Logan and Sara Schaefer are five of our favorite funny people in New York.

We might love them even more now that we know that this Sunday they'll be coming together for a great cause -- "We Love You: A Benefit For Planned Parenthood." We spoke with the show's producer and host, Rose Surnow, about the serious politics of bringing so many hilarious people together.

Why do a comedy show to benefit Planned Parenthood?
Well, as you probably know, the Republicans in Congress submit a budget proposal that bans all federal funding to Planned Parenthood. This means that at a time when 46.6 million Americans have no health insurance, they want to cut an organization that provides free check-ups, STD and AIDS tests, medication, health care and family planning. It doesn't make any sense. Now, more than ever, we need to protect Planned Parenthood so that the millions of women without health care can continue to take care of their bodies.

So the comics you asked were into supporting the cause?
It's funny, I've been trying to get Jessi Klein on a show for a while, and I think this issue must be dear to her because she immediately responded that she would be involved. I'm lucky enough that I've been able to get all the other incredible comics on my shows before, so we already had a relationship. But generally, I think people are more willing to do shows if they are into the cause. It definitely makes it easier.

You've organized shows to support other political causes in the past. What do you think the relationship between comedy and politics is?
Well, I'm very political and I'd like to use whatever skills and resources I have to support causes I'm passionate about. Also, I'd like to make politics fun and engaging. Let's go out and see New York's best comics, have a blast and support something awesome -- a win-win!

Stand-up comedy is often an entertaining medium to speak up about things that can be subversive and highly political. Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor, Mort Sahl, George Carlin, Janeane Garofalo, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert are all hilarious comics who use their political beliefs to get laughs, but also to make people think more critically. That's the goal, you know?



Rob King | Photo: KL Thomas

  • THE PLUG: Don't miss Rob King's one-man show, "Halfrican-American," happening TONIGHT @ 8PM at The PIT (123 E. 24th) | $5

Wanna plug? E-mail me photo & credit. And join our flickr group. Send 10 days in advance.



Welcome back, Diddy! After executing a perfect dive into the collective consciousness of New York comedy nerds (see "The #DiddyGethard Thing Is Alive"), Mr. Combs uploaded this gem of a video in which he lays claim to Broadway, treats himself to a double soft-serve cone and slaps a bunch of Jacksons in a guy named Lulu's palm.

At about two minutes in, Diddy pulls a Mr. Chi-City, bum rushing an unsuspecting Chris Aurilio (managing assistant of The Peoples Improv Theater and member of sketch comedy team Foolhardy Manor), who clearly wants nothing more than to be left alone. Did Chris really not recognize Diddy at first? "Had no clue," he said.

But after several viewings, I don't know what I love more: Chris's classic New Yorker one-hand-up-to-block-the-crazy-man-on-the-street manuever or his genuine contrition immediately thereafter. Nah, I think I like his: "December 14th, you better buy it" the best. Definitely.



Photo: Keith Huang

DOUBLE WIN! Improv duo Swords (Bradford Jordan and Lucas Kavner) held tightly to their SketchProv crowns, topping Inside Joke Films (Jon Braylock and Ramy Youssef) to win SketchProv 2010. But pay attention to the boys of Inside Joke Films. They made an earnest attempt, but given how young these performers are, the horizon could not be more wide open. Nevertheless, after watching three 12-minute sets of improv and sketch comedy, the judges (casting agent Jodi Collins, comedian Tom Shillue and Maureen Taran, vicepresident of original programing for Epix) went with last year's favorites. Read The PIT's write-up of the event.



The PIT's 4th annual SketchProv tournament kicks off this Sunday at 5PM. Sketch and improv teams will vie not only for a $2,500 prize purse, but also a considerable boost to their comedy careers.

Lucas Kavner, one half of last year's winner Swords, said: "We got a few meetings with casting people after the tournament, but more importantly, Swords was just starting out as a group at the time and it really inspired us to keep going." He added: "The final round proved to be really amazing for us -- having 10 minutes to come up with a basic structure based on one idea and then improvising around it. That was some of the most fun I had on stage last year."

What is SketchProv?
Improv teams and sketch teams will compete in rounds of competition that will challenge them at the craft they know best. For groups that make it past round one, improv teams will do improv AND sketch, sketch teams will do sketch AND improv. Teams that advance to the finals will try their hand at SketchProv, using the Second City routine called "The Pad."

Here's a quick guide to some of the hot tournament match-ups next week (full disclosure: I will be competing in this tournament with improv team Borealis):

SUN, SEPT 19 @ 5PM (prelim sketch round)
Audience of Two vs. Peoples Sketch Association: The 2008 SketchProv winners Ao2 take on Peoples Sketch Association. Two years later, and Ao2 are still reaping tournament success, having recently performed at the Out of Bounds Festival in Austin, Texas, and soon heading westwardly for Seattle SketchFest. But expect PSA to trot out some smart, edgy comedy; last year they did this restaurant scene that had a fishbowl drink and Mexican sombreros. Then a remote-control car did a walk-on. It was tits.

SUN, SEPT 19 @ 8PM (prelim improv round)
Jen+Steve vs. We're Matt Weir: These two improv duos from The PIT and Magnet theaters, respectively, are sure to bring their A-games. Jen+Steve have home-court advantage, but We're Matt Weir have identical-name advantage. Which is pretty g.d. incredible.

MON, SEPT 20 @ 10PM (prelim improv round)
Doppelganger vs. Dave & Ethan: Improv talk-of-the-town Doppelganger have this magical thing they do in scenes where one player will hang a sharp turn and the other two will just lean into that shit so hard they Tokyo Drift -- it's sick. Meanwhile, Dave & Ethan share their own special dynamic that sometimes results in Dave making out with Kiwi fruit. But expect these guys to dig deep for the truth in their scenes; I fear someday they'll get trapped like those Pennsylvania coal miners. Only it'll be an awesome tragedy.

--SketchProv runs all week at The Peoples Improv Theater from SUN, SEPT 19, to SAT, SEPT 25. Buy advance tickets for the final round here or a festival pass here.