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« Birthday Boys/Convoy Interview: Part VII | Main | Birthday Boys/Convoy Interview: Part V »

Birthday Boys/Convoy Interview: Part VI

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 six of that series.

MIKE M/BDB: That smart comedy brings up a big question for you guys. You guys have very smart improv. Definitely the smartest I’ve seen at the theatre. Is that something you guys recognize, like something you should play off of?

DAVE/BDB: Do you see it as part of your identity?

ALEX F/CONVOY: It has sort of become that. We never set out to do that. It came from college and just from the shit we find interesting. When you do this stuff, you do what you find interesting and fun and to us, doing these scenes Alex B/Convoy: out philosophers and scientists tend to make us-

TODD/CONVOY: But it’s also not as smart as everyone thinks because it’s like, “I’m Socrates but I’m pooping. “

ALEX B/CONVOY: Also a lot of it is, and I’m sure this is the same for sketch, you tend to write a sketch based on something you read that day. And I can’t speak for the other two racists in the group, but I tend to come to the theatre just Alex F/Convoy: ter reading 14 articles from Scientific American. Having watched 4 hours of David Attenborough’s Life of Birds!

JEFF/BDB: But you guys can rely on each other to have the same pool of knowledge to draw from. You guys have a like Trey Parker grasp on genre conventions.

ALEX F/CONVOY: Part of it is that we know each other so well and we have a lot of shared experiences. And we’ve also been performing together for 8 years, there is the element of when one of us doesn’t pick it up, you tend to trust that it’s going to be ok.

MIKE M/BDB: If you see a big dumb guy walking into the theatre (do you worry he won’t get it?)

ALEX F/CONVOY: I think that any audience in the world, if things are going the way they should, there are way more of them then there are of you. And they will collectively be smarter than you. Altogether they know more than the people on stage, always… they’re always smarter than you, and (so) I throw out that “what if they don’t know” thing. Because, as you guys know, A. once two or three people start laughing, the whole audience goes. And B. that’s what people remember, they don’t want just that broad side shooting for whatever they hit. And then it’s this sort of thing where they go “Oh there was something in the show, I was the ONLY one that liked it!”

ALEX B/CONVOY: My favorite jokes are the ones where we hear ONE GUY laugh. It will be a reference to a specific comic book –

TODD/CONVOY: Even if we like reference some obscure politically treaty that only one guy knows and laughs at … Hopefully it’s in the context of a scene that’s funny if you don’t know it, hopefully we’re not just referencing the XYZ affair and other obscure political facts. Maybe that’s fun for us but the audience isn’t going to laugh at that. So you have to root it in something that’s funny and then filter those things in.

ALEX B/CONVOY: I have very frequently made the mistake thinking that the audience is on board for my arcane knowledge of weird metaphysics. “Let’s go down this road!” and then been greeted with a silent room and tumbleweeds.

ALEX F/CONVOY: The nice thing is that when we improvise, and when that happens, the response to the going too far will always kill. Like if something’s dropped and they don’t know or if I don’t know, the response to it, if it’s honest, that works.

ALEX B/CONVOY: Like the Electrolux thing. The first line of our show I said “I’m worried about the Electrolux” and Todd just goes “what is the Electrolux?”.

DAVE/BDB: You just call it out. And there’s another thing there… so many of us, from our group comes from a writing background. You guys have enough stage presence and training where you can go back to your performance techniques. You can pick some of the details out, creating more and more of a world, give people more cues, and I think that s where that improv world really opens you guys up and you can benefit from that.

(To the birthday boys) Do you want to further answer the “what do you want to be when you grow up” question?

DAVE/BDB: Here’s a very general take…I think all of us want to produce comedy. So writing performing acting AND editing. And that’s where articulation gets complicated, because as long as we feel like we’re creating a joke—whether it’s because you make a cut at the right moment in a video, or you know you pitch a great line in a script or you just found a funny way to interpret something stage…like, we’ll take that. For me, I’m totally just happy following the path that’s laid out, following whatever’s working.

TODD/CONVOY: Would you guys say you function as a collective too? Like where some people are more about finding comedy by writing, some are more finding it by writing…someone writes, someone edits and makes it funnier…

CHRIS/BDB: We’re kind of like a factory. A lot of nights I’ll be down editing the video, two guys will be writing something, two guys will be making props, were just kind of doling out tasks

DAVE/BDB: We should explain…we have a fabric green screen that just stays up in the living room. A lot of the time we don’t take down the lights, a lot of the time the tripod doesn’t even come down, props stay on the couch. We do run our house like a shitty studio.

ALEX B/CONVOY: We ran into a problem with Police Cat because we’d been living at the same apartment, for four years at this point, and we’d always be shooting skits in the apartment and we’d have to be like: alright, what corner of what room have we not seen yet? How can we angle this so it doesn’t look like the same shitty apartment everything else was shot in?

DAVE/BDB: Don’t go back and watch our videos after reading this…

MH …It’s all the same corner.

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 and

-Joanna Calo

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