BCAF Spotlight: Magnet Touring Company

One of the best parts of going to the Boston Comedy Arts Festival is seeing some of the world's best performers strutting their stuff in our own backyard. This year, there are more amazing groups to celebrate than ever - two of New York's biggest improv groups, the Magnet Touring Company and Upright Citizen's Brigade Touring Company will be performing and running workshops during this year's BCAF.

We were fortunate enough to catch up with Magnet Theater's Artistic Director and improv extraordinaire Megan Gray to talk all things comedy and the Magnet Touring Company before the festival kicks off next week - see what she has to say!

How did you originally get into comedy?
Megan: My family was always into comedy (Marx Brothers, Kids in the Hall, The Simpsons), so I was exposed to it at all times. The act of creating comedy didn't kick off until my parents bought a video camera that weighed about 50lbs, and my brother and I were able to record our sketches onto VHS.

What is your favorite or strangest moment on stage?
Megan: My favorite moments on stage always involve my team Junior Varsity, who you can see on Friday night at 10pm. My strangest moments on stage always involve Magnet TourCo, who you can see on Friday night at 8pm. #shamelessplug

If you could collaborate with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
Megan: Phil Hartman.

What is the perfect sandwich?
Megan: Bacon and avocado on sourdough bread.

Who are your top three picks of acts to see at the festival?
Megan: I'm so glad you asked. It would have to be: Magnet TourCo on Friday, Junior Varsity on Friday and Geeking Out With: The Talk Show on Saturday. #shamelessplug

Are we human? Are we dancer?
Megan: Neither. We're robots sent to kill John Connor. At least that's what I'm here for.

Can't get enough Megan? We don't blame you! Catch her performing with the Magnet Touring Company on Friday, September 12 at 8PM @ the Brattle Theater.
You can also take Megan's workshop, Jump on the Bomb, from 10AM-12PM on Saturday, September 13.

Need more NYC? See the Upright Citizen's Brigade Touring Company perform on Saturday, September 13 at 8PM @ the Brattle Theater!
Take a workshop with the UCB! They'll be leading two workshops on Saturday, September 13: Game of the Scene is from 10AM-12PM, and Advanced Harold is from 2PM-4PM.

Stay tuned for more artist spotlights as the Boston Comedy Arts Festival draws ever nearer!

BCAF Spotlight: Standup Edition, Part 1!

For some, standing alone onstage and sharing their thoughts and neurotics with an audience is the scariest thing in the world - for others, it's hard to imagine doing anything else. At this year's Boston Comedy Arts Festival, some of the edgiest, funniest standups in the country are coming through ImprovBoston's doors to lay it all on the line and make you laugh, and we're celebrating them in the days leading up to the big event.

We were lucky enough to catch up with standups Kwasi Mensah, Kevin Hall, Christine An and MILF before they tear the house down at BCAF to discuss their thoughts on comedy today.

How did you originally get into comedy?
Kwasi Mensah: From a young age I've learned to lose all sense of shame when there's a spotlight on me. Between musicals and choirs, I've made my mom have to sit through way too many performances to count growing up. About two years ago, I would pass the time at a job I really hated by listening to storytelling podcasts and I loved hearing when comics would go on them. It made me figure I could try to do this myself and that's where I'm at now.
MILF: I always loved comedy, as a child, I loved making my family laugh and played pranks on them, especially my sister. But I really got into comedy after taking an acting class where we had to create a monologue based on a true story from our lives. And every time I told a story in class people started dying laughing, so I was like "Are they laughing at my life? Awesome! Let's do this!".
Kevin Hall: I was always the idiot goofball with an overactive imagination. Comedy was an outlet to share my demented beliefs with other people.
Christine An: In elementary school, I borrowed joke books from the school library. The jokes were mostly corny kid jokes—I remember wondering why other people found them to be so funny. That didn’t stop me from retelling them. I really enjoyed the joke-telling structure and had fun sharing corny jokes with friends during recess. The first time I took joke writing seriously was freshman year. I spent a lot of time thinking about jokes—both conceptually and technically—and wrote tons of humor pieces while trying out to be a staff writer for the Harvard Lampoon. Ultimately, I didn’t make it onto the staff and was pretty devastated because the Lampoon was one of the main reasons (i.e. beyond plain masochism and an irrational, deep-seated fear of having fun) I chose to attend Harvard in the first place. At that point, I had three years’ worth of jokes just sitting inside my proverbial desk drawer, moldering in shame and a profound sense of failure. Thankfully, I was taking a course on marginal global literatures at the time. One of my classmates—she would eventually become one of my closest friends from college—was the co-president of the Harvard College Stand-up Comics Society (HCSUCS). She encouraged me to attend one of their joke workshop sessions and give stand-up a try. We basically sat around a table and worked on improving our jokes—premises, writing, and delivery. I wasn’t a natural performer, but had lots of solid jokes to try out in front of an audience. In fact, I was an extremely self-conscious post-teen and hated doing anything in front of other people. Now, I’m much more comfortable with being on stage.

What is your favorite or strangest moment on stage?
Kwasi Mensah: This is kind of cheating since this happened offstage but I'm using it anyway. I have a joke that tries to be empowering to people with Autism, talking about the positives, how its close to having superpowers and how we could start using it as a compliment. I end the joke and with someone forgetting their keys at home and going "Ugh, that's so f***ing neurotypical". When I got off stage an audience member pulled me aside and asked me for my info because she was going to start using that line with her friends and wanted to make sure to pass on who started it. It made me feel like I really was coming at comedy from a place that helped talk about things I think are important.
MILF: The first time I performed my one woman show, which I developed at that class I was talking about earlier. I had a bit where I was playing my dad during a strike he did by himself in front of my school. I actually didn't think people were going to find it that funny, and when I heard them laughing I almost broke character, but my acting skills saved my butt ;)
Kevin Hall: I recently did a show in Asheville, NC where a pyramid of kegs and a new car was onstage with me. I ended my set by asking "do you guys even give a shit about DUIs" and the crowd went insane.
Christine An: I love the moments when I can do something super weird and have the audience really dig the weirdness. Once, I opened up a set by going on stage and applying lip balm nonchalantly for way too long and way outside of my lip area. I also love it when I can get someone to die from laughter, figuratively.

If you could collaborate with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
Kwasi Mensah: Tim Schaefer is a video game developer behind The Secret of Monkey Island and one of my favorite games of all time Psychonauts. He blends great storytelling with compelling experiences that don't take themselves too seriously. And it combines my former life as a game developer with my current one as a joke teller.
MILF: Carol Burnett!!!
Kevin Hall: Geoffrey Chaucer.
Christine An: Franz Kafka. Hands down. We would collaborate on a tragicomic graphic novel or collection of comic strips. I would also love to spend a day at the beach with Kafka. If, for some reason, we are unable to work on a graphic novel together, I would be happy with performing in an experimental theater piece with Kafka.

What is the perfect sandwich?
Kwasi Mensah: I've always been a sucker for a bacon, egg and cheese on a croissant. It's basically a heart attack for for breakfast, which is the price to pay for perfection.
MILF: Eggplant Parmesan (don't judge me).
Kevin Hall: A perfect sandwich is any sandwich eaten on the beach. Sandwiches taste better on the beach. It's science!
Christine An: Roast beef sandwich au jus on toasted baguette with horseradish and chips.

Who are your top three picks of acts to see at the festival?
Kwasi Mensah: The Allen McRae Show, Tomily and Mrs. Peanut. Although I'm a little biased because I was in Comedy America with people from all of these sketch groups.
MILF: North Coast, Junior Varsity and UCB Tour Co.
Kevin Hall: Justin Williams, Dan Perlman, Kevin Seefried.
Christine An: OK Cupid: The Musical, Casual Sex Offenders, and Hey We're Back with Jonathan Katz.

Are we human? Are we dancer?
Kwasi Mensah: Human. Because I'm sure as hell not a dancer no matter how hard I've tried.
MILF: We are not human. Definitely dancer!!!
Kevin Hall: BOTH!
Christine An: Dancer. Very dancer.

Wanna hear more? Catch these artists at the Boston Comedy Arts Festival, only one short week away!

Kwasi Mensah: Thursday, September 11 at 10PM @ ImprovBoston Studio Theater ; Sunday, September 14 at 9PM @ ImprovBoston Main Theater
MILF: Friday, September 12 at 9PM @ ImprovBoston Main Theater ; Saturday, September 13 at 11:30PM @ ImprovBoston Main Theater
Kevin Hall: Friday, September 12 at 8:30 @ ImprovBoston Studio Theater ; Saturday, September 13 at 11:30PM @ ImprovBoston Main Theater
Christine An: Saturday, September 13 at 11:30PM @ ImprovBoston Main Theater

BCAF Spotlight: Collegiate Edition

Ah, college. It's a time to make bad decisions, learn a lot of stuff in exchange for a lot of money and for a select few, begin developing comedy chops that will follow them through their careers. The Boston Comedy Arts Festival is committed to fostering some of this incredible talent as they rise through the ranks, and are thrilled to be hosting collegiate groups including Liquid Fun from Boston University and Swolen Monkey Showcase from Emerson College at this year's fest.

We caught up with the groups this week to pick their brains about all things comedy - get to know them before you see them tear the house down on the very first night of BCAF!

How did you originally get into comedy?
Liquid Fun: Liquid Fun started 17 years ago. It was the late 80s. We were all confused. Iran Contra happened. Comedy was the only thing that made sense.
Swomo: I originally got into comedy mostly as a cover-up, so when people laughed at the dumb things I did or said I could pretend it was on purpose.

What makes you different from your average college comedy troupe?
Liquid Fun: We're all 35.

What is your favorite or strangest moment on stage?
Liquid Fun: There was this moment in the last show of the semester where an audience member walked in late close to the stage. A Funner in the scene blended the person perfectly into the action, and it was hilarious.
Swomo: Autumn was a frog once and it was good.

If you could collaborate with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
Liquid Fun: We got to watch the UCB Tour Co. once, and we'd love to hangout with Joel again (if you're reading this). We promise there's another party this time.
Swomo: I'd "collaborate" with Ben Schwartz forever.

What is the perfect sandwich?
Liquid Fun: 1.) Order a Ham and Cheese Sandwich
2.) Anticipate
3.) Get confused when server asks if you want cheese on your Ham and Cheese Sandwich
4.) Realize you accidentally ordered a Ham and Egg Sandwich... With Cheese
5.) Worry
6.) Eat Sandwich Anyway
7.) See the face of god
Swomo: Ice cream? Cheese?

Who are your top three picks of acts to see at the festival?
Liquid Fun: As fans of Whose Line, it's pretty cool that Laura Hall will be there. Additionally, we've had Kevin Seefried and Divorced Siblings at BU, and they both rock. And UCB Tour Co. (Joel?)
Swomo: Can't wait to seem 'em all!

Are we human? Are we dancer?
Liquid Fun: I'm going to answer this with the line I was going to use in my Salutatorian Speech (before I found out I wasn't Salutatorian): "Don't forget to be human, but never be afraid to go dancing through life."
Swomo: We ain't Beyonce.

You can check out Liquid Fun and Swolen Monkey Showcase on Wednesday, September 10 at 9:30PM with ComedySportz on the ImprovBoston Studio stage!
Read more about them and buy tickets here.

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.


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.

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.


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