On Sunday night, the brightest lights of Philly’s comedy scene congregated at World Cafe Live for the second annual WitOut Awards for Philadelphia Comedy, presented by Philadelphia’s comedy blog, WitOut.net. So you’re probably thinking: Philadelphia has a comedy scene? A comedy blog? Comedy awards?
Much has changed since the days when guys like Dom Irrera and Big Daddy Graham were the schmaltzy faces of Philly comedy, playing to smoky rooms with two-drink minimums. Quite a few years went by when a night out at a comedy club wasn’t high on the things-to-do list, and if you did show up at one, chances are the club was featuring New York talent, because there just wasn’t much going on here. But a new brigade of Philly comics is making comedy cool—and popular—again.
There’s Doogie Horner, the Quirk Books art director who made a name for himself on America’s Got Talent. There’s Chip Chantry, a regular performer at Helium Comedy Club who also teaches comedy through Philly Improv Theater. (YouTube his awesome “Deck the Hall & Oates” parody of Philly’s favorite songwriters.) And Juliet Hope Wayne (above), a 2013 Pew Fellowship nominee and the funniest of a gaggle of female comics coming up through the ranks in what was once a guy’s game.
That’s just to name a few; find them on Facebook or Twitter, where they workshop material. If a joke gets enough “likes” or retweets, it may make it into their set. Ah, 21st-century comedy. Last night’s WitOut Awards even included a category for Special Achievement in the Field of Tweeting. It went to comic Mary Radzinski:
My mom sent me an email about a “Drinking Mirror” app that aims to show how alcohol ages you. So sweet that she knows my love for mirrors.
— Mary Radzinski (@MaryRadzinski) January 11, 2013
Havertown’s Wayne is a unique talent in that all of her comedy is true, the stories drawn directly from her own life, which has included a stint in rehab for heroin addiction. Ask her to tell you about her klepto roommate there. Or the restaurant she worked in that had secret video-cameras in the bathroom stalls. Or so she thought.
“If the story is about you being a good person and stuff working out for you, that’s so boring,” observes Wayne. “People like you to be hard on yourself and expose your own demons and weaknesses. And I have plenty.”
A version of this article appeared in the January 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.
[PHOTO: Dustin Fenstermacher]