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BCAF Spotlight: North Coast

This year's Boston Comedy Arts Festival is fast approaching, and we can't contain our excitement anymore. From September 10-14, the BCAF brings some of the brightest stars in the improv, sketch and standup galaxies to stages all over Cambridge, MA, and we're going to feature some of our favorites every day leading up to the festival.

When it comes to high energy, improvised brilliance, there's no better first stop than North Coast. They're New York's premier hip hop improv troupe and have been performing, teaching, and blending music and comedy all over the country since 2009. From one audience suggestion, the company weaves an entire hip h'opera before your very eyes, making every North Coast show a unique, hilarious musical experience.

We got to catch up with troupe member Evan Kaufman recently and talk all things comedy, hip-hop and The Killers lyrics.

How did you originally get into comedy?
Everyone on North Coast started off as a child with something to hide. Comedy started as defense mechanism against the world. Now, it's what defines us. Also, probably like... SNL.

What is your favorite or strangest moment on stage?
Our best moment onstage in recent memory would be at The Magnet theater in New York City. We were in an improv competition INSPIRADO in which we had to pull someone off the street to perform with us. What we got was MARTY, a mid-70s man who was drinking a Diet Dr. Pepper. Marty did 30 minutes of hip hop improv with us in which he played Karl Marx and dispensed a lot of wisdom about women. Marty is the funniest person we've ever had in the group.

If you could collaborate with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
Living people: Three best rappers alive: Del the Funky Homosapian, Kendrick Lamar, Wayne Brady.
Dead People: Three best dead rappers: Biggie, Tupac, Homer* (*The poet. Epic rhymes.)

Who are your top three picks of acts to see at the festival?
All of our members are in other shows as well, so we'll be biased: Gypsy Danger, Pop Roulette and the stand up stylings of Boris Khaykin.

Are we human? Are we dancer?
We are dancer. We are all dancer.

You can catch North Coast at BCAF on Friday, September 12 at 10PM in the Brattle Theater! Read more about them and buy tickets here.
Wanna make your own hip h'opera? Take the North Coast workshop on Saturday, September 13 from 2-4PM. Register here.

Stay tuned for more exclusive interviews with performers in this year's Boston Comedy Arts Festival!


Schedule & Tickets Up and Running!

We are thrilled to unveil our complete schedule for the 2014 Boston Comedy Arts Festival! Check it out under the "Shows" tab and behold our more than 90 incredible acts from all over the nation and world.

We are also offering an array of killer workshops from some of the best improvisers, standups and sketchies around. Take a look under the 'Workshops" tab and join the likes of Laura Hall (Whose Line Is It Anyway), improvisers from UCB and even reps from Bri-Ko for an incredible Saturday of boundary-pushing workshops.

Can't wait for September. Spread the good cheer.

-The Festival Staff


Submissions Now Closed for BCAF 2014

This past Sunday we closed submissions for the 2014 Boston Comedy Arts Festival and walked away with a record-breaking 149 submissions! We received submissions from all over - New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Toronto, Philadelphia, Denver, Seattle, Canada, Brazil and more!

Our talented, discerning judges represent some of our best improvisers, sketch-writers, standups and musical improvisers at ImprovBoston and are now carefully reviewing all acts. Acceptances will be sent out the second week of July.

We are thrilled to showcase such a spread of stellar comedy featuring national and international improv, sketch, standup and musical variety acts.


Submissions Now Open for BCAF 2014

We are thrilled to announce that submissions for BCAF 2014 are now live!

Submit Shows Here

Submit Workshops Here

We encourage all to submit - improv troupes, standup comics, sketch teams, show concepts, even an idea you want to experiment with! Thanks for sharing your talent and ideas with us and helping to make this the best Comedy Arts Festival yet! Now have at it!


2014 Submissions Open Soon

Hey friends!

Great news! Submissions for the 2014 BCAF open on May 15. Get your teams ready. We're also offering an early submission discount, so submit early and often!

Here's a timeline to help you plan for your BCAF trip:

May 15 - submissions open
May 31 - early submission discount ends
June 15 - submissions close

Acceptances will go out the second week of July and we expect to have the schedule published before the end of July, allowing all our acts ample time to prepare for the festival.

See you back here on May 15 for the submission link!


Gearing Up for the 2014 Boston Comedy Arts Festival

ImprovBoston is excited to announce that the 2014 Boston Comedy Arts Festival will take place from September 10-14! Our team is headed to the Chicago Improv Festival this weekend to spread the news about our great festival and connect with internationally renown troupes. Please take a sec to fill out this FORM and you'll be the first to know when festival submissions go live.

We are eager to meet you and share what we have in store for this year.

Cheers!

The 2014 BCAF Team


Keeping it Fresh: the ROBO story

Few people command the stage like James Robilotta, founder of North Coast, New York's only freestyle rapping, beatboxing, long-form improv team. He graces festivals with his comedy, confidence & charm.

James started North Coast four and a half years ago. As he puts it, “hip hop and improv go together like sour cream and onion on potato chips - it’s a flavor punch for your face!”

In their almost five years, North Coast has grown from a “discombobulated dream to a team that headlines festivals, performs at colleges & teaches workshops on how we do what we do.” The “always fresh” cast has brought their upbeat, infectious energy to nearly every improv comedy theater in NYC, traveled across the country to festivals such as the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival and the Women in Comedy Festival. The group has prided themselves on not letting rapping be a gimmick; they are both incredible improvisers and great freestylers. http://www.northcoastnyc.com/wp/about-us/

If that’s not impressive enough, James makes his living as a motivational speaker visiting colleges all across the states. Since beginning public speaking in 2002, his message has evolved to that of empowerment and authentic leadership. He uses his comedy background to get this message of positivity and being in the moment across.

What does James Robilotta love MOST about hip hop improv? “Just how stupidly fun it is.” For James, “there is no greater rush in improv than freestyling as your character and hitting the game/pattern (of the scene) simultaneously.” It’s more about “getting out of your own way and practicing than anything else.”

You can be captivated by James Robilotta on stage with North Coast on Saturday September 7; 8PM at the Brattle.


HEIGHTENING RELATIONSHIPS by Matt Nelson

My experiences with ImprovBoston probably sound pretty familiar to many – Memories of playing with Paul, Don, Deana, Bobby and Dave in Mainstage; playing with countless others on the Mainstage, on the Studio Stage and at the Brattle… Subsisting off pre-show dinners and post-show drinks at The Field; late night tacos followed by more drinks and laughter until the wee hours of the morning at Club Kenna; hauling my clothes down to the coin-op laundry on Broadway in Somerville on Sundays after having stuffed our faces at Kelly’s Diner…

Since it’s so familiar, you might find yourself asking why it bears mentioning. Well, for those of you that don’t know me, you might be surprised to learn I’ve never lived in Cambridge, Somerville or Boston; not even New England. I live in Philadelphia.

I run the Philadelphia Improv Festival, and although I’ve been inviting members of the IB community down to play in my festival for the past nine years (shout out to the Perry brothers!), as a producer I don’t get nearly as much time as I’d like to socialize and really get to know performers. In what now seems like serendipity, my introduction to ImprovBoston really came about six years ago via Zach Ward. In 2008 while attending the Dirty South Improv Festival (now NCCAF), I was randomly assigned Will Luera as a workshop instructor. Always the heartfelt ambassador, Will told us about the culture of IB, and it sounded both impressive and inviting. The following year, I got to spend a great deal of time with the cast of Marjean, and that impression was cemented.

The next couple years could play out like a montage of great moments. More IB groups coming to Philadelphia for the festival; tapping incredible IB instructors to teach workshops; the start of the Boston Improv Festival (now BCAF); being invited to come play with the Mainstage and All-Star shows; bringing my roadshow Adrift up for non-festival shows; inviting IB groups down for more non-festival shows. But the thing I learned so quickly was that those moments never ended with the blackout. I remember countless people crashing on countless couches; renting karaoke rooms in Philadelphia’s Chinatown; throwing back pints in Davis Square. I wasn’t just investing in the characters on stage – I was investing in the people in the community.

Since then I’ve collaborated with Elyse on concept shows for my theater. Just the other night I spent nearly an hour on the phone with Michelle chatting blood effects for the stage. IB has been a huge influence on me creatively. But even more so, it’s how they’ve all become a part of daily life on a real, personal level. I’ve been invited to join email listservs and Facebook community groups. For the last few years, every day has been filled with both the minutiae and milestones of life. Restaurant tips, bad work days and T closures interlaced with new loves, old fights and the loss of dear friends. As I’ve watched the theater turn 30, I’ve also watched kids grow up and new friendships form. The depth of how largely IB has integrated into my life has never been more apparent than this past April. That horrible afternoon of the Marathon bombings, I wasn’t fixed to the television – what I needed to know, that everyone was safe, was coming in through email, social media and text messages. Hour after hour, more faces and names would appear like a light bulb, and each had to be checked in on. Those 300 miles might as well have been 3 blocks for all the difference it made. That’s the day I knew that these people meant so much more to me than a night of laughter. Over the better part of a decade, they’d redefined for me what community can mean.

There’s a reason that South Station, Back Bay and Logan are the only three points familiar to me south of the Charles. The heart of Boston to me isn’t Beacon Street, Boston Common or Fenway. It’s the Central Square stop on the T­, where just off Mass Ave, through an unassuming storefront, lies a second home to some of the best people in the world – and where for a few fortunate days throughout the year, I also get to hang my hat as I’m welcomed like family.


It's Raero, you guys!

Rachel (Raero) Rosenthal returns to Boston, where her comedy career began. She was a cast member on ImprovBoston’s Mainstage almost four years, along with performing in various showcase shows, like This Improvised Life. Now living in New York, she performs regularly at the People’s Improv Theater (The PIT). In addition to being an improviser (musical, too!) & sketch writer, Rachel is a side-project mastermind. She founded Bridesmaiding, a website dedicated to helping women plan and execute all parts of a wedding.

Rachel will be performing at this year’s BCAF with North Coast, a freestyle rap improv group from NYC. North Coast’s cast is so dynamic that when these individuals come together the energy is electrifying and contagious. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPDupfdorSA&feature=share&list=UU8_aN9Rp1...

We asked Raero a few questions about her humble beginnings, her favorites and...you guys!!! You’re about to fall in love.

HOW DID YOUR COMEDY CAREER BEGIN?
I started taking improv classes at the ripe age of 11 because I was terrible at team sports. I had way less injuries and more friends in improv than I did in soccer. (Good move, Mom!) A few years later, I had the opportunity to join a sketch and improv team with other young kids – it was pretty amazing. We wrote all of our own sketches – and had adult contributing writers as well. We performed a Second City type of show and wrote and rehearsed together every week. It was a great exercise and many of the kids from my “Half Pint Players” team are still in the entertainment business today. I did that through middle school, high school, and even into my first year of college. Then I stopped, and drank beers for a while.
That being said, it wasn’t until I started performed at ImprovBoston that I started to see the word “career” after the word “comedy.” After performing for many years there – and with the help of talented castmates and solid direction, I started to grow a lot and I finally realized – you know what? I’m kinda good this thing. Maybe I should do this.
And I made the move to New York.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MOMENT ON STAGE?
Oh man. Who can remember improv after the show is over? I can definitely tell you about my favorite moments BREAKING on stage? There was one ImprovBoston Gorefest show where Patrick French, Bobby Smithney (both present/former IB Mainstage players) and I were all in a scene working with a special effect for the first time. Basically – I played the nurse, and Patrick was the doctor who needed to saw through Bobby’s arm. He couldn’t cut through the fake arm latex no matter how hard he sawed. And so - a circus of twisting and pulling and turning the fake arm ensued – trying to force it to break. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Even writing about it now makes me laugh. Patrick was struggling so hard with that fake arm – tears were streaming down my face with laughter – and I ultimately peed my pants on stage.
Also, just a few weeks ago – I had a show at the PIT in New York with Family Haircut, and a team member (Phil Wells) had a timely burp that made me laugh so hard, I had to go back stage and ‘get it together’ during the show.
I’m an adult.

LIVING OR DEAD, WHO WOULD YOU LOVE TO SHARE A STAGE WITH?
Gilda Radner, Fred Armisen, Amy Poehler

WHERE DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF COMEDY GOING?
I feel like the future is already here. If you want to be seen, if you want to write and produce your own stuff, if you want to get a job… you can do all of these things from the comfort of your own home(town.) It used to be that you had to move to one of the major hubs to be seen, but clearly that’s not necessarily true anymore. If you can write and create quality comedy and get it seen on the ol’ internets, there is money to be made. With Youtube comedy channels like Above Average (among others), the comedy audiences are clearly out there. If you build it, they will come.

TOP PICKS OF THIS YEAR’S BCAF?
This is so tough! Okay here are a few of my faves.

MURDERFIST (Friday @ 10:30 PM ImprovBoston Main Theater)
You will never forget your “first time” and the first time I’m talking about is the first time you see Murderfist. It is the craziest, most in your face, insane sketch show you will ever see. It is not for the faint of heart. It is freaking hilarious though. Also, they’re going up in the same slot as Coach Crotchky (played by my hilarious friend and castmate, Paul Dome!)

JOSH GONDELMAN, NORTH COAST, KEVIN MCDONALD (Saturday @ 8:00 PM Brattle Theatre )
Is it bad if I promote my own show? I mean, let’s be honest. This lineup is sick – I’m just happy to be a part of it. Josh is one of those stand-ups who doesn’t miss a beat ever. Every line of his show is funny. His transitions are funny. His jokes are funny. Everything is so tight and well written. It’s a joy to watch and be a part of. And Kevin McDonald!? Like, Kids in the Hall Kevin McDonald. Yeah – that’s the one.

Then, I mean, my team, North Coast, happens to be New York City’s premiere free style rapping long-form improv team and we’re doing a set too. But that’s just icing on the cake, folks.

Other shout outs go to hilarious standup, BORIS KHAYKIN, the always solid MAGNET THEATER TOURCO, as well as improv super troupe BIG BANG! All of those will certainly be amazing sets.

I can’t wait!

*See Rachel and North Coast perform September 7th at 8PM at the Brattle Theater*


COLLEGE TAKEOVER

This year’s Boston Comedy Arts festival is proud to showcase three all-star college groups: Boston University’s Liquid Fun, Clark University’s Peapod Squad & Gordon College’s Sweaty-Toothed Madmen.

Each year these teams participate and compete at ImprovBoston’s College Comedy Festival & Beanpot Competition. We have watched them grow, graduate & even join the ImprovBoston community. It’s beyond impressive and inspiring to watch these often self-directed improv groups master (and we mean master) long-form improv in a year. ONE YEAR.

THE BEST FRIEND. BU’s Liquid Fun not only rocks the stage with a mix of short-form and long-form improv, they are actively involved in bridging the college improv community. Aside from making friends left & right at the College Comedy Festival, Liquid Fun invites many college groups throughout the year to perform with them. On top of that, they hosted their 8th Annual 24hr Comedy Marathon this year. The delirious night was full of not only college groups, but independent improv groups, ImprovBoston casts & stand-ups from Boston and beyond.

Current Liquid Fun president, Delaney Moghanian, is in charge of facillitating practices and workshops for the group. She aims to keep the “level of improv [the group is] doing on the rise.” Also on the rise? Comedy. Delaney firmly believes that “comedy is making a comeback. And laughing is definitely in!” For all of the couch-potato-YouTube-watchers, there is still “the counter culture [that] is insisting on seeing [comedy] live.”

Being a non-audition group, Liquid Fun reminds us about the community of comedy. “We’re all part of these collective ideas that make really good comedy,” Delaney says. Liquid Fun remind us of the reason we got into improv: the amazing friends, the fun we have on stage and the Redbull we used to drink to stay up for 24hrs.

THE INNOVATORS. Throughout the twenty years since Clark’s Peapod Squad was founded, the group has gone through phases of being mostly Theatre Arts Majors. Currently, they are mostly Theatre Majors. This is not the case with most college improv groups and it shows in Peapod’s commitment and skill. Over the years, Peapod Squad has won ImprovBoston’s Beanpot three times and is a two-time winner of the coveted MVB award.

At this year’s College Comedy Festival, college groups competed in a long-form set. Peapod Squad showed their innovative new musical long-form, The Music Man meets a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Having only recently started working on this form, their brave choice paid off.

THE CHAMPIONS. I’m sure Gordon’s Sweaty-Toothed Madmen were ecstatic about their 2013 ImprovBoston Beanpot victory, but it was nothing compared to the pride of the audience that night. Watching this unbelievably well-oiled machine is what it must’ve been like to watch Steve Martin before he was Steve Martin. You know you’re witness to something big.

At this year’s College Comedy Festival, Sweaty-Tooth (as they call themselves) was mostly Gordon Seniors and Theatre Arts majors. Akin to the Magnet Touring Company, Sweaty-Tooth is void of a single weak link and performs with poise, ridiculous comedic timing & deliciously British sensibility.

Not only does this college improv group impress the [radio edit] out of the audience, but also Gordon College’s Sweaty-Toothed Madmen have infectious amounts of fun on stage.

Come check out America’s future stars on Sunday SEPT 8 at 4PM in ImprovBoston’s Main Theater. Because that way...when you see them on TV, you get to yell “I saw them before they were famous! Now they’re famous!”

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