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We all have our weird hobbies, and, for some, those include standing on a Boston street corner pretending to be a coin-operated dancer for tourists and passersby. Once upon a time, a kid stayed inside his room in Boston all the time, not doing this, and he created Facebook and now he wipes his ass with hundreds.
Alex Gross (a separate entity from the Alex Gross of SuperDPS.com) is a comedian who performs Improv, Sketch and Stand-up in the Philadelphia area. He has been doing comedy since high school where he formed a sketch group called CWA (Crackers with Attitude). After an unsuccessful run at college, Alex decided to major in “comedy” at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York City. He has studied under Bobby Moynihan (Saturday Night Live), Kevin Allison (MTV’s The State, Risk!), Matt Besser (Upright Citizens Brigade, Crossballs), Scott Adsit (30 Rock, Moral Orel) among others.
We were fortunate enough to catch Alex during some downtime in his busy schedule of chuckles and goof-abouts.
SuperDPS: In your performance career, is improvised sketch comedy a permanent place for you, or do you think you’ll drift over to one-person stand up comedy?
ALEX: I find it funny that I’m even doing improvised sketch comedy again. Back in 2007 after studying Improv 101 at the Upright Citizens Brigade NYC, I started college at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The only Improv going on there was an improvised sketch group called F.L.U.S.H. which was awful. We sang a Rent musical song at the beginning of every show and the message was supposed to be anti-drug and abstinence which I hate. I quit about four shows in and swore to myself that I would never do improvised sketch again.
The difference between F.L.U.S.H. and The Gross Show is that everyone in my show is very talented and the show is promoting alcohol and sex. I’m trying to do what punk did to music, to comedy. I find if the performers are being outrageous and extreme while the audience watches and drinks, we all have a fun time. I want The Gross Show to be a comedy show but feel like a party as well. It really is a one-of-a-kind show.
As for stand up comedy, I’m not into the idea of making a set. I did it for a little at 18 but I get annoyed telling the same jokes. I’ve done storytelling but I’ve lost interest in that as well. I love doing characters though. This month I’ve performed a 9 year old boy of a single mom and a Demon who hosts a dating show called “The Lust Circle of Hell” but as for being a traditional stand up comedian, I don’t think it’s for me, yet.
Does your atheism play a large or significant role in your comedy style or writing?
I think it does a little bit because I’m not afraid to be sacrilegious. The problem with comedy and religion is I feel like it’s all been said so what’s the point of rehashing jokes. Whenever I want to write something making fun of religion I just listen to some Bill Hicks, David Cross, George Carlin, Doug Stanhope, etc. I love to study religions still; it’s one of my favorite hobbies. When I hung out with the Mormons it was the most fun I’ve ever had being an atheist.
What is your process for putting together one of your shows? Is there a formula or is it drastically different every time?
It’s a mix of people pitching me ideas and me creating my own segments. I wish I could say there is a formula but it’s more of a schedule. By this date, this needs to be done. I try and have meetings with people in advance and there’s a lot of Texting and Facebook messaging going on. The half hour before the show I do a lot of running around to each segment talking to them about their piece for the show. It’s organized chaos but it always turns out amazing.
What brought you from New York to Philly? Do you have any plans on going back to NYC to continue your career?
In Spring 2009, when I was taking level 401 and about to graduate from the Upright Citizens Brigade’s Improv program I felt like I had nowhere to go. There was no opportunity for me in New York City. I’ll never forget when an improviser told me, “You’re in a great position! You’ll probably get on a UCB house team when you’re 23, 24.” I’m so impatient and I was 20. Three to four years of waiting for something that isn’t even set in stone would have killed me.
The day I got my license back from getting arrested for underage drinking on my birthday there was an Improv festival at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. I jumped into my car without a physical copy of my ID and drove. I met a lot of cool people including Greg Maughan, the Executive Director of the Philly Improv Theater. We talked about me taking classes at PHIT and since then I’ve been having the time of my life in Philly. Our scene is great and hip, I would never have been this happy in NYC. I don’t plan on going back but I do occasionally perform there. I was just a guest performer for the show Self Image at the Magnet Theater.
What do you think is the basis or “framework” for ‘Alternative Comedy’?
Be yourself and do what you think is funny. Once you start worrying about making everybody else laugh you’re selling yourself out. Fuck everybody, if you enjoy this kind of humor, just do it. There are others out there like you and they will find you. Be unique.
Who do you look up to in the industry for what they’ve accomplished?
I love Bill Hicks. That man spoke directly from the heart and he didn’t care about anything else. He is a great example of a stand up comic using truth in comedy. It’s still a shame that we lost him. I respect him so much.
Bill Murray is my favorite actor hands down. He’s extremely funny in everything he’s ever done and reading about his off screen escapades is hilarious. Well everything he’s ever done aside from Garfield.
Also, it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention Mr. Show with Bob and David. That show raised my humor growing up.
We’ve been discussing the idea of having a duel for awhile now. What conditions must be met for this epic duel?
We drink the same beer and whoever drinks the most wins. Vomiting is an automatic loss. No guns unless they shoot tequila and/or swords unless inflatable.
Does one of the two (improv or stand up) come easier to you as a performer?
I’ve been doing Improv for over five years now. It’s almost second nature but that doesn’t mean everything I do is good. Improv is a drug. You never know if it’s going to be a good trip or a bad trip until you jump in head first. You just have to have faith in yourself, everybody around you and then you almost always have an awesome time. If you don’t have confidence in yourself or in your fellow performers you can expect to have a shitty time. Improv is comedy on a high wire.
Do you have any horror stories of performances that went awry due to heckling or any other factors?
At Connie’s Ric Rac I did a show called “Beef”, it was half rap battle, half improv show. I was doing an Improv scene and a cell phone went off mid way through. I stood up, walked to the front of stage and screamed, “Are you fucking kidding me?!” and sat back down, continuing the scene. Of course the scene was ruined but it was a bad scene before the phone went off. I just used the phone as an excuse to let out my frustration.
At the first The Gross Show had a heckler who kept saying, “That’s so racist” and it drove me up a wall. Either she didn’t get the point of the segment or she wanted to be a part of the show, but it was stupid. I just ignored it but now my security guard, Husky Hesky, deals with hecklers by shooting them with silly string and that shit smells.
What advice would you give to someone trying to get into improv in a time that is very competitive and, at-times, unforgiving?
Take classes and practice. Improv is a comedy form that goes against every human reaction we have. No one is born a great improviser and if someone is, they are locked up in a mental hospital or in jail. The Philly Improv Theater has classes every month and it is hands down the best Improv school Philadelphia has. All the teachers are awesome. For practicing, at the CEC (3500 Lancaster Ave) on Sundays 7 to 11 there is the Improv Incubator. Everyone is very nice, supportive and it’s donation only. Also, watch a lot of Improv, lots of different groups and especially people you enjoy. I’ve easily watched over 200 hours of Improv in my life and loved it.
For more info on Alex Gross’ regular Improv shows, check out his Facebook Page here.
For more on the Philly Improv Theater and future events, see their site here.
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Remember that show, Kids Say the Darndest Things, briefly hosted by Bill Cosby? Essentially, Mr. Cosby would interview barely coherent children about real world shit and then make a goofy face or sarcastic comment when they replied with a nonsensical answer. I can’t imagine why it was ever cancelled. By now those kids are all grown up and asking retarded questions of their own.
Yahoo! Answers, a web-service whereby anonymous individuals can post a question which others will attempt to answer in a timely fashion, is full of these inane and unpredictably stupid questions and concerns that real people felt strongly enough about to ask millions of people. Here are some of the best of the best…
“i accidentally got herpes from my ex gf and then i started dating this other girl who i really like. the only problem is she doesnt know i have herpes and she wants to take things to the next level. i really dont want her getting the herpes so is it wrong if i have sex with someone else before her to pass the herpes onto them instead so she doesnt get it? i dont want to cheat on her but its the only way to make sure she doesnt get my herpes and then once ive passed it on well both be clean!”
Answer: You, my friend, are a borderline hero. Barack Obama needs to give back his Nobel Peace Prize and it should be awarded to you. You’ve made science fiction into science fact!
Answer: If your eyes are bleeding, your internet is on.
“After I masturbate, I wash my hands in the bathroom sink. My mother also uses this sink. How probable is it that she will become pregnant?”
Answer: This may come as a surprise to you, but this is actually how you were conceived.
“Can you dye the hair at 2 months?”
Answer: It’s too late, I’m afraid. You’ve already made the biggest mistake possible–you gave birth to a ginger.
Answer: Yes. You have to use it at least 10 times per day.
“My 17 year old son has been very secretive with me lately, recently he has started to refuse to go to church with the family and tonight when I was going through his room I found a magazine with naked men in it. He obviously has a girlfriend that he is hiding from me that brought that magazine into my home and I am afraid they are having intercourse and I am greatly concerned that he is going to get her pregnant.
What should I do about this?”
Answer: It is clear from your predicament that you’re obviously quite a rational and observant human being; therefore, the only advice that I can possibly give–the advice that would undoubtedly assist you the most–would be to recommend that you become a fish.
“Hi. Does anyone know if it’s possible to use a background that would essentially turn my computer monitor into a mirror? Scanning a mirror doesn’t work.”
Answer: Turn your computer off. Can you see yourself in the black screen? Good. Now never turn it on again.
Answer: Actually, interestingly enough, 3 out of 10 times, the cat’s fur is put on backwards causing it to shit out its mouth and talk out of its ass–just like you.
Answer: It is unlikely that someone who phrases a question like this will ever know a woman’s touch. It is entirely likely, however, that the individual who phrases his question like this is not entirely human, himself.
Answer: Allow me to answer your question with a question of my own…Were you jackin’ it at a picnic?
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You probably wake up around the time she does. Not really by choice, that’s just when the alarm goes off. You’re practically conditioned at this point, you couldn’t stay asleep past 6:30 if you tried, and believe me, you could really try most days…
As she gets ready for work, you lay in bed, thinking to yourself that you really should get up, stay in that work-mode habit that the rest of the world seems to be in. Yeah, right. Fuck that. If you aren’t going to work, you might as well enjoy staying in bed and going back to sleep for a few more hours. But you know you won’t. Your brain is already awake, going back to sleep is pretty pointless. Too much to think about. What sites to check out today, how to cope with the boredom after you’ve combed over the half dozen new job postings that you’re either over or under qualified for. You think about these things instead of doing them, for some reason. The most unproductive of all activities, you lay in bed and ponder what you’re going to do, or perhaps going to avoid doing. Other options creep into your head. Stay in bed all day, too boring. Drink all day, too expensive. Video games all day, been there. It’s getting as expired as watching yet another daily dose of Judge Judy would get. You look over at the clock. It’s finally 9, or maybe 10. You realize most productive people in the world are already working hard at their jobs. Not just that 8:15-get-to-work-and-kill-30-minutes-on-the -coffee-and-bullshit-mode, but actually doing productive things that contribute to society. You’re loafing in bed. You grab your laptop. Thank god someone took the time to invent that thing. You check your favorite news aggregators, google news, digg, and so on, hoping against hope that today would bring good news of economic recovery, a public works project, the expansion of Unemployment Coverage to recent college grads, but nothing. Kim Jong Il this, Michael Vick that. You open a half dozen articles, thinking you’ll be entertained by them, only to grow tired of them a few sentences in. You check the social networking sites, hoping a long-lost friend messaged you, maybe having that perverse notion that some long lost love interest is romanticizing over you, even though you’re more than happy with where you are in life. Well, at least in relationship terms. Myspace, facebook, livejournal, deadjournal, blurty, some days you check the sites you joined 5, 8, 10 years ago and have abandoned shortly thereafter. Hoping something has changed…maybe some new excitement pops up. It doesn’t. You dwell on facebook, the only one of those god awful sites that is actually somewhat useful. A comment here, a poke there. Nothing useful after all. Nothing entertaining. Are any friends online to chat with? No, they’re at work, of course. The days of constant friends online to chat with at all hours of the day are long gone. You’ve known this for some time, of course, but it still stings. You grow restless, checking sports sites, gaming websites, anything you can think of that you might be interested in. But you’ve seen it all before. Wikipedia is stale with articles you’ve already glanced through, grabbing whatever tidbits of information your wandering mind picks up. You wander to your favorite pornographic and otherwise explicit non-pornographic sites, which you immediately realize will do little more than bore you as much as the rest of the internet does. Your laptop battery dies, far sooner than it should. You realize your laptop is ancient by modern standards, of course it is. You got it your freshman year of college. It was a beast. Unstoppable, invincible. Then again, so were you. You realize the irony of then, plug in your computer, and consider sitting near naked at your desk to continue your miserable morning, but you eventually head to the shower.
The shower isn’t as refreshing when you’re already awake. When you’re still half asleep, the shower is your wakeup. It’s like being baptized every day, a new life given to you with water. Not today, not lately. The showers you usually enjoy are little more than another stale routine in your day. You smell nice, and you have to dry off. Lather, rinse, repeat. Brush the teeth dry off, back to the bedroom. You consider crawling back into bed, but you’d just be as bored as you were before. Without the computer.
You get dressed, eventually, putting on the same pair of shorts you always wear when you want to be comfortable. You pick out a nice looking shirt, even though you have little doubt that you’ll be staying inside today. You head down to your kitchen. By now, it’s anywhere from 10:00 to 12:30. Half of your day is already wasted before most of the world even eats lunch. Which brings your next problem to rise. What to eat? Slimfast shake? Lunch meat sandwich? Soup? Leftovers? These are the things you would be eating if you were at work, but god damn it, you want the variety and luxury of choosing what you want. You want Bruger King, Wawa, a hoagie, anything but what you have in your pantry. You struggle to reason with this, but come up with no conclusion. You close the pantry or fridge door unsatisfied. You decide to make coffee while you think over your options Pull the zip lock baggie of ground beans out of the fridge, it reminds you of a bag of cannabis. Alluring, potent and pungent. Your drug of choice, the coffee.
Your coffee routine is equally as repetitive as your others, however this one is different. No one can destroy your coffee routine. Not now, not ever. You dutifully scoop the grounds into the bottom section of the fake espresso steamer you have, fill the water to just the right level, screw the Ikea contraption back together ad wait. Flame on. The pressure builds in the coffee maker until you hear the steam and boiling water shoot through the crushed grounds. It hisses, gurgles, and steams until the warm, thick fluid erupts into the top chamber, like a coffee-pot orgasm. This is why you got out of bed today, you realize. You dutifully pout half the carafe’s contents into your mug, topped of with milk for a makeshift latte. It’s not Starbucks, it’s not Dunkin Donuts or even god damned McDonalds, but it’s the way YOU like it. And you make the best coffee in the world.
You still haven’t figured out what to eat for breakfast. Or is it lunch, by this point? It’s probably both. You decide either meal’s food s would be acceptable. Eggs? bacon? Hamburger? teak? You still want that hoagie or cheese steak sandwich from your favorite shop dwon the street, but you resist. Spending money now means that much less for beer later (or rent…or bills, god forbid you lose your HBO). You settle for tuna fish. Again. The tuna fish that was on sale last week at Shoprite, not the fancy, tasty, non-mercury filled kind. It will have to do today. Open the can, find your favorite condiments, mayo, dressing, you’re out of onion powder, garlic powder will have to do, even though y ou know you won’t like it as much. Mix with a spoon, slap onto bread. Chew. No, wait…something different. You have wraps today. Hot damn, a break. You pile your tuna onto a spinach garlic wrap, load n some croutons and carrots, and roll it up, realizing that this might actually be the highlight of your day.
You avoid looking at your computer while eating. You’re going to be staring at it all day anyway, why burn out your eyeballs during lunch/breakfast? What now? You’ve finished eating Go out? no money to STay in? don’t feel like it. You want to do something spontaneous. Climb onto a roof, get a tattoo, sneak into a building, climb a water tower, but you know these things would no work out. You swear to do them tomorrow. You check your email for the 100th time, hoping against hope that one of the people you contacted for a job will get back to you, but they won’t. They will tomorrow, you’re sure. You check for jobs. Indeed, monster, careerbuilder, the same jobs you saw yesterday. And the same that were there last week.
new one pops up here ad there. Someone you know heard that such-and such- company was hiring, so you check their website Unqualified, overqualified, or not applicable. Same as usual. You fire one or two resumes off in hopes that someone will realize the hidden talents you have, despite your lack of experience and professional license. Now comes the phase in your day where you’re worse off than before. Worse than boredom, worse than frustration. Bored frustration. This is where you start to worry…where dangerous things pop into your head. Maybe you could drink a few beers and kill the afternoon. Maybe you could find some pot and watch a movie. You don’t have the money for either, and wouldn’t even know where to find pot. You consider video games, but realize that your collection hasn’t expanded since you looked yesterday. The same old games. The ones you’ve been playing for 2 years because you can’t fathom spending 60 bucks on a new one. By now, it’s already 3pm. Only a few more hours until the missus gets home. Then maybe you’ll go do something fun. But she’s been working all day, like most good grown ups. She won’t want to go crazy tonight. You get a phone call…a second interview, scheduled for tomorrow, are you available? You are now. This is the scary one, the technical interview. You can bullshit your way through HR, but this is a different beast. But you know not to get your hopes up. This interview will go like all the others. Thank you for your interest. They’ll let you know real soon.
You slink back into the couch, glad you didn’t have that pot connection, or else you have sounded the damned fool on the phone, and maybe failed your drug test. Email, CNN, syndicated reruns, CNN, email, reruns, CNN, email, reruns. You can’t choose, because none are satisfying. You grab a beer from the fridge, just one, to cool off with, or perhaps to comfort you just a little. 4pm, 4:30, 4:45, you’re almost there. Your day is almost done. You yearn for 5 o’clock to come around, but you don’t know why. The missus won’t get home until almost six. But something in you still strives to make it until then. You start making dinner, eat when she gets home. She’s your breadwinner, it’s the least you can do. You’re exhausted for some reasn, and lay on the cough until she gets home. Then you eat dinner, clean up, and watch TV. At least you aren’t doing it alone, and can share a laugh or two.
You watch the same shows every night, TMZ, Simpsons, Family Guy, and whatever prime time show of the day that’s on afterwards. Then you go to bed, following the same routines you do every night. Wash your little face, brush your little teeth, take your little pills to keep you alive for another day. Things you used to take simple pleasure in, but not so much anymore. You head to bed, knowing you won’t sleep well, wondering how to pay your part of the bills and rent, hoping that tomorrow will be the day you hear from a job, and get your lucky break. It’ll happen. Maybe tomorrow.
The house party is a fascinating beast. I speak not of a social gathering amongst friends; a situation in which you are familiar with at least 75% of the individuals in attendance. The unholy creature which I am attempting to illustrate reeks more of something out of lore–a somewhat biblical behemoth that devours the self that you had once thought to possess.
I am yet to have the pleasure (or bear the burden) of hosting a proper house party, but I’ve made valiant efforts. Perhaps my most honest effort for an all-out, strangers-invited, sleaze-fest was that which resulted in a solemn farewell to my past-due virginity.
The fucktual conquest is, in part, what makes the house party so epically sexy; however, once your adult life has taken precedence over the need to stick your dick in everything warm, this concept takes a back seat to the far more mature venture of drinking until you’ve found new and interesting ways to prove to friends and strangers alike that you’re an unapologetic cunt.
When forced to account for your evening, to the best of your recollection, you have the unavoidable tendency to break down the party’s turn-out to at least five distinguishable characters…and here they are:
1. The Greeter. No matter how you found out about this party, no matter how close your relationship is with the individual(s) throwing the party, this guy still thinks he’s got some kind of “winning edge.” The Greeter seems to think that this party is some kind of variable reality show of which he has unfailingly found himself in the initial rounds.
He won’t talk your ear off like some others, but he will make goddamn sure that everyone, in every room, knows who he is…whether you give a shit or not.
2. The Vanishing Act. Often this tends to be one of your friends; or the person you happened to actually know at the gathering. You’ll part ways for about five-to-ten minutes, at which time the ‘friend’ will completely disappear without a trace for the remainder of the evening.
As you ask around, you’ll learn that she “got drunk”…”was tired”…or “I don’t know who that bitch is.” In reality, no one knows what happened, and by morning, neither will she.
3. The Beer Pong Douche. First off, I know it’s “officially” called Beirut, but if you go to a party and actually call it that…you’re this guy. A house party is hardly a party (or a house) without the obligatory beer pong table. It’s a Frat Pack game, but everyone gets in on the action because they don’t want to be called a “fag.”
Like doing keg-stands, beer bongs, or shotguns…except, those things are stupid.
The most note-worthy characteristic of the Beer Pong Douche is that no matter who he is, he is somehow under the impression that the game belongs to him. He’ll keep score, explain his rules, tell you what you’re doing wrong, breathe down your neck while you play, and tell you that you suck at a game that’s more retarded than he is.
4. The Black Guy. Maybe I’m just going to the wrong parties, but typically there is a single black man who attracts attention like a pickled baby in a Freak Show jar. This black guy tends to either be someone’s gay friend, someone’s only black friend, or just a guy with dreads that happens to work at the Starbucks next door.
The Black Guy is almost always the best person to hold a conversation with because when he drinks, he gets more awesome, as opposed to everyone else at the party who drinks until they feel the need to relate to you a story about how they shit the bed at their ex-girlfriend’s house.
On the other hand, of course, there have been occasions in which several black guys have been in attendance; however they’re usually twice as old as everyone else and high as shit before anyone even starts drinking.
5. The Mom. Fortunately, not my mom, your mom, or anyone’s mom that you know of. It’s not fair that after several hours of binge-drinking, she still doesn’t quite become the MILF that you hoped she would.
No one at the party seems to know who the fuck she is, and she winds up being the loudest, most obnoxious person in attendance. The party will come to a complete halt when she manages to find herself doing a face-plant on the pavement outside…
…but if you try to help her, she’ll only wind up telling you to “hit her up on Facebook.”
…and if you do that, you’ll find yourself flipping through pictures of her embarrassing her awkward teenage son at a birthday party that he will be trying to forget for the rest of his life.
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