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« Birthday Boys/Convoy Interview: Part III | Main | Birthday Boys/Convoy Interview: Part I »
Wednesday
May062009

Birthday Boys/Convoy Interview: Part II

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 two of that series.


Dave/BDB: Now when you rehearse improv, do you use a coach?

Alex F/Convoy: With Convoy we’ve never had a coach, we’ve been doing it really since 2004. We started it over at Improv Olympic just as something to do and we were broke and never brought anyone else in and since then as we discovered what our show is and what our form is (something) we know so clearly what the show is to bring someone in there’s such a learning curve to show them what we do.

Alex B/Convoy: It’s very clear to us like when we fuck up like how we fucked up. (pause). It sounds so arrogant like “we don’t need a coach”, I’m sure we would benefit from a coach.

LAUGHTER

Alex F/Convoy: We’ve been together for 8 years…I think with most improv groups it’s like you’re on a Harold team, they throw you together, and you can’t be like, hey guy I’ve know for a month, “what was that? Don’t do that”, but with us, we have no shame or problem being critical.

Todd/Convoy: With us we can be critical and we can take it and we can listen to each other and it’s not an ego thing to say: you should be doing this (instead).

Alex B/Convoy: For instance, when we hosted Harold night I inadvertently made a Fatty Arbuckle reference-

Alex F/Convoy: You can’t inadvertently make a Fatty Arbuckle reference! You reference Fatty Arbuckle. At some point your brain said “let’s bring up Fatty Arbuckle”.

Alex B/Convoy: Now hold on. I brought up Fatty Arbuckle because he’s a comedian, but I forgot that he was also a coke bottle rapist. And so there was a discussion afterwards of that. But at this point the legend is so much bigger than the man. I mean, his nickname is Fatty Arbuckle.

Todd/Convoy: How about you guys. Do you like, like I know you guys have brought in Drew (DIFONZO MARKS) and Neil (CAMPBELL) & Paul (RUST) directing your shows, but what about the writing, do you show it to a director to get their opinion, or Is it just you?

Mike H/BDB: It’s just us. It’s usually too late in the game, like we’ll have a show coming up so quickly we don’t really have time to show it to a director in script form until right before the show.

Jeff/BDB: They’ll read it and block for us.

Mike/BDB: Yeah they’ll block for us or maybe show us some different angles on a joke.

Mike M/BDB: Which can totally turn around the sketch!

Tim/BDB: We should say that our first show, Hotdoggin’ (WHICH FIRST PREVIEWED IN 2007), was completely directed by Neil and Paul.

Jeff/BDB: And they made cuts…

Tim/BDB: They had already seen 15 sketches of ours at Shabby, and we had to pick 6.

Dave/BDB: And Amanda Sitko’s been helping us out, recently, in the same capacity as Neil and Paul. You’ll get, in a half hour session, 10-15 ideas that can turn a sketch around. So it’s much better to bring someone into the process at that point instead of earlier when we’re not even committed to an idea. So, we have 7 voices as it is, you can imagine that would be tough, but then once you have that editorial voice, it can be great.

Alex B/Convoy: So do you guys workshop stuff? You’ve mentioned Shabby (Not To Shabby is a space in the UCB calendar where anyone can go and perform) and I’ve seen you at Shabby… Do you go there with stuff you already like? Or do you go there with stuff like “Matt came up with this idea and we think it might be half retarded but let’s see what an audience thinks”?

Tim/BDB: We’ve only recently started doing that now that we have to churn a lot of stuff out. I think that for our first 6 months in existence we were the lame guys at Shabby that brought SO MANY props, and it was over-rehearsed and had tech cues. Not Too Shabby WAS our performance. And then just recently now that we needed a new half hour every month we were like uhhh that’s a little too much.

Mike M/BDB: Also about 20 hours of our week is dedicated to prop collection.

Matt/BDB: Yeah nothing’s worse than doing a show with a bunch of shit, like at Shabby, and then it goes horribly and then having to carry it all sadly out of the theatre.

LAUGHTER

Tim/BDB: We’ve done that so many times. Very sadly carrying a huge prop.

Todd/Convoy: I thought this giant head would kill!

Alex F/Convoy: We did a show a little while ago, last year, the sci-fi mashup. Our sketch idea was Krypton meets the deathstar. And we were like ok that sounds great but now we need a Krypton and a deathstar! So we made these giant things and I remember trying to walk from the theatre to my car past the bars. And I was like ok, I’m just going to stand here, and you can all shoot your comments to me about the death star at once.

Dave/BDB: And it’s one thing if it was some shitty hole in the wall, but it’s La Poubelle.

Alex F/Convoy: The comments were only like “Hey, nice deathstar”. So I was like “Yes, thank you”.

Alex B/Convoy: I’ve seen that “deathstar”, and kudos to the La Poubelle crowd for instantly recognizing it as the deathstar.

Alex F/Convoy: It’s just a line and a circle, that’s all it is.

Dave/BDB: So when you guys meet, you said weekly, is it at a practice space?


Alex F/Convoy: Our apartment (His and Alex Berg’s).

Dave/BDB: So you live separately?

Todd/Convoy: I live separately and Fernie and Berg live together.

Chris/BDB: It’s convenient for us because 5 of us live together in the same house.

Alex F/Convoy: Raise your hand if you live there!

Chris, Dave, Jeff, Tim, and Mike H. raise their hands.

Alex F/Convoy: I want to say a thanks to you guys – before you came along no one, with the two Alex’s in the group, could figure out our names. But now that you’re here, it’s all about how no one knows your names.

(TIM/BDB) That was the whole concept behind our group. We were like Convoy has had too much complication with their names!

ALEX F/CONVOY: Whenever anyone meets the group they’re just trying to figure out which one’s Fernie, which one’s Berg, which one’s not an Alex, and if it’s a middle aged dude they WILL make a joke. TWO ALEX’S! Like every fucking time.

ALEX B/CONVOY: The best was that we introduced ourselves to this woman, once, and I think it was the lady that wanted us to do the zombie thing downtown? So she was like “what are your names?” and we said “Alex” and “Alex” and she goes: “Oh, are you guys brothers?”

LAUGHTER

ALEX F/CONVOY: And there was like a beat of silence where we were like, “oh, she’s funny?” but NOPE.

ALEX B/CONVOY: No, she just doesn’t understand how families work.

(TIM/BDB) So you guys aren't brothers.


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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