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« Birthday Boys/Convoy Interview: Part VI | Main | Birthday Boys/Convoy Interview: Part IV »
Wednesday
May272009

Birthday Boys/Convoy Interview: Part V

We sat down with the improv group Convoy and sketch group The Birthday Boys and had them talk about influences, origins, and sketch vs. improv. We broke that massive interview down into weekly chunks. The following is chunk five of that series.


ALEX F/CONVOY: We’re huge prudes. If we go dirty or blue one of us will bitch at the other one.

I like that so much though. I think that’s why I like both of you guys, actually. There was a little dick, recently (in one of your sketches)…

MIKE M/BDB: I need a little dick sketch every now and then. Like every 7 sketches.

ALEX F/CONVOY: I think part of it comes from when you see shows like Asssscat, these shows that they’ve been doing for a long time that are very very funny and absolutely earn their Nazi joke and their dick joke or their rape joke. But then students will see that and then they do their shows and right out the gate they go: Hey! That Nazi just raped me!”

ALEX B/CONVOY: Oh my god, what was his name?

TODD/CONVOY: It’s also such an easy way to get a laugh. I mean you’ll get a laugh, but it’s not interesting. Especially for us, we do shows so often that it’s more interesting to try to not be blue and do things that are funny and interesting

ALEX B/CONVOY: But because of that we’ve had to have conversations like: ok, guys, we’ve brought up Bladerunner in 5 of the last shows. We can’t do Bladerunner jokes for the next 6 months.

TODD/CONVOY: We put moratoriums on things. We put them on homeless people,

ALEX B/CONVOY: Homeless people had a moratorium…

TODD/CONVOY: Robots…

ALEX B/CONVOY: Robots had a moratorium…

TODD/CONVOY: I think Jewish things had a moratorium...

ALEX F/CONVOY: God had a moratorium…

CHRIS/BDB: I’m the only Birthday Boy that loves the movie Bladerunner, so I’m joining your group.

ALEX B/CONVOY: (To the group) how can you guys not like Bladerunner!

Mike H/BDB: We’ve never discussed Bladerunner! I don’t know what he’s talking about. Turn that camera off!

TODD/CONVOY: I actually don’t really like Bladerunner that much. I don’t know if you guys know this.

You guys were talking about having a really captive audience at Vassar, but I feel like you have that now, too. You always have a really supportive audience. I saw (Alex Berg’s) “Me Myself and I 95” character, and it seemed like Alex and Todd were basically daring him to come up with songs and scenes from that (made-up one-man) show. I’m wondering if that’s how you’ve always been, out there to take risks, or if knowing you have a supportive audience helps you?

ALEX F/CONVOY: I think it might seem like we have this built in audience, but you don’t. The second you start doing shitty shows, it goes away.

ALEX B/CONVOY: Which we’ve noticed first hand. We’ve gone through streaks of not being able to get more than 80 reservations.

ALEX F/CONVOY: You have to keep them there, and you have to do stuff that will make people want to come. At UCB because the way the classes are with the students, and maybe this is true with your guys’ sketch show, there are some people that go all the time, but there’s also a high turnover. When people stop taking classes they’ll drift away. So you have to do stuff to make them stay – and one way you can do that, I think, is to make it fun on stage. Like pimping him out on stage with the “I -95” stuff, or like you guys, I think fun is a great way to describe your shows. Like that keeps people coming.

ALEX B/CONVOY: Can I pay a very sincere compliment to the Birthday Boys? I think there’s a lot of sketch in LA and at the theatre in general that has the same sense of fun but forgets about the audience. It’s like “I’m silly! I’m doing something on stage that’s silly!” but it’s more of like an inside joke for the group. But what you guys do that’s great and it’s why I enjoy your shows, is that you have that same sense of fun and play but you never forget you’re doing it not just for you but for an audience. I’ll site your 3-D skit as something that just like makes me jealous that I’m not on stage doing it with you guys, but it’s also still VERY fun to watch. It’s so clearly fun to do!

(ALEX B starts to imitate the way they move on stage, happily)

ALEX F/CONVOY: And also like your guys’ show is the only sketch show I regularly hear about after the fact. And yes, I’m saying, I haven’t been to your last two shows.

(All the Birthday Boys slump sadly)

ALEX F/CONVOY: Like the skit with the duck?

ALEX B/CONVOY: I heard the duck was a big to-do.

(THE BIRTHDAY BOYS DID A SKETCH CALLED “PECKING ORDER” IN WHICH THEY PLAY AN ARMY PLATOON TALKING ALEX B/CONVOY: OUT THEIR TOUGH SCARY SEARGANT. FINALLY THE SEARGANT COMES ONTO THE STAGE, AND IT’S A REAL, LIVE DUCK WHO WANDERS AROUND STAGE AND PECKS AT THINGS.)

Whose idea was the duck?

JEFF/BDB: That was one of those things, like “wouldn’t that be so retarded if we…” and then it actually became a real thing.

Mike H/BDB: We were thinking because, like Hotdoggin was running it’s course and we were thinking it would be funny to go up to the artistic director and say “so our next show is about us in the military, and our sergeant’s a duck.” And that’s all we would tell them, like a half an hour of that! And then it got whittled down to a sketch.

TIM/BDB I think we even just had the title first. Pecking Order! What we need is a good sketch to go along with that title.

ALEX B/CONVOY: But isn’t pecking order something that specifically has to do with chickens?

JEFF/BDB: Yes.

ALEX F/CONVOY: That’s why you don’t put your titles on your sketches, it’s just an internal thing.

TIM/BDB Except for that one, we did.

LAUGHTER.

Matt/BDB: We have a big fancy old school title card on stage for that one.

JEFF/BDB: That was such a stunt, though, because we were doing these monthly shows and it was like “what can we do to get people to talk about us”.

TIM/BDB: For our last joint sketch with Kiss From Daddy, when we were writing it we all got pretty far down the road with a sketch that involved a small pig. Until Nick Wiger was like “that’s not a good precedence to set, having two farm animals in two shows.”

MIKE M/BDB: But a small pig would be so funny though. Like a tiny one?

TODD/CONVOY: I’d like to announce that the newest member of Convoy will be a parakeet.

MIKE M/BDB: I think that we keep the audience in mind because we were so terrified of the audience to begin with. When we first started out we wanted to please the audience and I think that’s something that’s stuck in our heads. I’m still nervous the audience will be like “get off the stage! Now we hate you guys forever!”

ALEX F/CONVOY: It’s tough line to walk, too. (That line of) I want to make the audience happy but you don’t want to go so far as to do that: “Britney spears is crazy!” thing. You guys walk the line so perfectly…

ALEX B/CONVOY: Like your guys’ skit about how your acting coach is in the crowd and you’re all just playing more and more to him until the whole scene is out in the audience… you crawl over people in the audience to get to him. Like that’s- I’ve seen so much fucking sketch in my life, on TV, and in college, and since moving out here, and trying to do it, sketch I’ve been in, but I’d never seen THAT. That was something that was really fun and silly but also really for the audience, something new. So pat yourselves on the back.

Matt/BDB: We’ve weirded people out with that sketch. We’ve had a whole audience scared of us out there.

MIKE M/BDB: We’ve been scared about, once we go out there, freaking the audience out climbing over them. Also I smell terrible in that dress.

TODD/CONVOY: The other thing I admire about you guys too is, there are lots of shows you’ll see around here where they’ll be kind of lazy about it. Like maybe there will be lots of good ideas but their under-rehearsed or they just don’t take the care to do it.

ALEX B/CONVOY: Or like the endings are non-sequiturs.

TODD/CONVOY: You can tell you guys have worked hard on the writing but also the rehearsing and the acting and getting the beats and figuring out what’s funny and what’s going to work. You don’t go to your shows and think “those guys put that together last night”, it’s like no they’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about that! And that’s such an admirable thing that makes the show great.

ALEX B/CONVOY: like you guys clearly came up with that pecking order pun weeks before you got that duck!


Convoy has a weekly show Thursdays at 11p, The Birthday Boys do a show the first Wednesday of every month at 8p. For more info on these groups check out http://www.myspace.com/birthdayboyscomedy and http://www.myspace.com/convoyimprov.

-Joanna Calo

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