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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


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…


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.


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?


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.


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 and

-Joanna Calo


Birthday Boys/Convoy Interview: Part IV

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 four of that series.

TODD/CONVOY: You guys all went to college together?

Matt They all went to Ithaca (college) I went to UT.

TODD/CONVOY: So then did all you guys, except you, do sketch together there? Or just start doing it here?

MH No, we all knew each other in one capacity or another. Like Tim and Dave were working on a college show together, and I just knew Mitch, I knew those other guys through film class. And then we all decided to move out here together.

So whose idea was it to actually start a group?

MIKE M/BDB: It was me.


DAVE/BDB: No I mean 4 of the guys were already living together and messing around with short videos and stuff,

MIKE M/BDB: And we took Improv 101 together.

DAVE/BDB: The UCB class, that’s where we met Matt.

MIKE M/BDB: And that’s kind of where it started. I think all of us were interested in comedy, and through the class we started going to shows, I started going to Comedy Death Ray. It’s funny that you brought that up, that was the first show I started going to a lot, and then we took improv together, and that’s how it happened.

Matt/BDB: That’s how I met all of them. I didn’t know them before that.

Todd/CONVOY: Lucky you!

Matt It was like all of them and me and only a few other people in that improv class, and we just really clicked.

TIM/BDB Those other people didn’t cut it.

DAVE/BDB: You guys all met at Vassar, right? Where you in the same living situation?

ALEX B/CONVOY: We were all in the same improv group.

TODD/CONVOY: Me and Berg got into the group my sophomore year, his freshman year. Fernie got in the year after.

TIM/BDB: Is that an ongoing college group?

ALEX F/CONVOY: Yeah. It’s been going, like, for a WHILE. It was called “Improv” and no one ever bothered to name it.

TODD/CONVOY: I think the rumor was that Noah Baumbach started it, wasn’t that it?

ALEX B/CONVOY: I heard Lisa Kudrow started it, so…

TODD/CONVOY: Some celebrity alum at Vassar started our improv group.

CHRIS/BDB: That’s two more celebrities than ever went to Ithaca.

MH Ricky Lake went to Ithaca!

CHRIS/BDB: Oh yeah yeah.

JEFF/BDB: How was your improv at school different from UCB here or iO (West), process-wise?

ALEX F/CONVOY: It was a short form group and there were 8 of us and I think a lot of what we do now in long form came from there because we tried to take away what made short form intolerable. We’d make it so that even if you took away the fact that we were doing it FILM NOIR!! It would still be interesting or funny, that was the goal. And I think that informed what we do now a lot. And doing it there, in Poughkeepsie, New York – once you leave the campus there’s nothing for miles- so people would come to the shows, and it was easy, and they’d be drunk. It was awesome.

ALEX B/CONVOY: Yeah we’d have a captive audience of like 200 for each show.

DAVE/BDB: Wow, really?

ALEX F/CONVOY: Yeah, there’s nothing to do in Poughkeepsie New York. Maybe in 1908 it was awesome, but now it’s a fucking shit hole.

ALEX B/CONVOY: My freshman year when I joined the group, the year before that all the comedy groups had gotten together to perform and had horrendously offended the campus to such a point that they’d all lost their funding. Every single comedy group.

TODD/CONVOY: One of the groups was actually derecognized by the Vassar student groups association, and the other two groups, including Vassar Improv - cause all three comedy groups do a show together called “Menage a Ha”…

ALEX B/CONVOY: I don’t know if you guys have heard of “puns” before, that’s a good one.

TODD/CONVOY: So Vassar Improv had their funding frozen, which, as an improv group you know we REALLY needed that funding.

ALEX B/CONVOY: But the weird thing was that there was this climate of: if we say something too offensive, we will get shut down by one of the 10 thousand special interest groups on campus. Like the Phillipino students’ association will take offense to our Imelda Marcos joke, and we’ll lose all our funding. But that sort of forced us to, and this has sort of lasted through the Convoy days. There’s a lot of tendency in the theatre to go blue, but we tend not to-

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

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


Birthday Boys/Convoy Interview: Part III

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 three of that series.

TODD/CONVOY: So when you guys write, how does it work? Do you all write together? Are the sketches fully formed or Do you all pitch ideas and then say: “I like Dave’s idea, I’ll go write that”.

TIM/BDB Sometimes that happens but usually you know we all have jobs where we sit in front of computers all the time so we have a huge amount of emails everyday, where someone writes a sketch idea and then-

Mitch sighs unhappily

JEFF/BDB: What’s the matter, Mitch?

MIKE M/BDB: It’s a lot of emails everyday.

ALEX B/CONVOY: Can I ask you a nerdy 21st century networking question?

JEFF/BDB: Yes, please.

ALEX F/CONVOY: Do you use shared Google documents?


ALEX F/CONVOY: You should!

ALEX B/CONVOY: You should use shared Google docs, it makes it so much easier.

TODD/CONVOY: It doesn’t do Final Draft formatting or anything, but…

JEFF/BDB: We DO use shared Google calendars, do you do that?

ALEX F/CONVOY: I refuse to do that, that’s too much.

TODD/CONVOY: We can take care of our own dates, thank you very much.

MIKE M/BDB: I refuse to switch from AOL mail

DF: True story. And for the listeners, (to Mitch) can we give your cell phone out to the world wide web? Because I guarantee no matter what day throughout history you’re reading this interview, you call Mitch and he A. won’t answer and B. his voice mail box will be full.

CHRIS/BDB: Can’t leave a message.

MIKE M/BDB: 617 695 ----

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


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.


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.


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?”


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 and

-Joanna Calo