See What Sticks
Orton’s Pool Room
133 N. Front Street
Feb. 1st and 2nd, 8 p.m. • Free!
Creating worlds, characters, situations, scenarios and backing them with a slew of comedy. No, we’re not speaking of the latest industry sitcom. We’re not speaking of the next big comedic blockbuster from the Judd Apatow team (though, we welcome it). We’re not speaking of the next duo of comic brothers taking the standup scene by storm. We’re speaking local. We’re speaking quintets (that means five). We’re speaking humor born and bred on our very theatre scene: “See What Sticks.”
The kids from Pineapple-Shaped Lamps have been busting us out of our seams for the past two or so years with many productions (“Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog”) and original, live sitcoms (“TNL”). It makes sense some of the performers would branch out to continue honing their talents and keeping us entertained in the process. Last week, they brought us “4-Prov” at Browncoat, featuring Ryan P.C. Trimble, Chelsea Deaner, Willis Maxwell Jr. and Aerial Fowle in an audience-mandated, long-form improv show. This week, they’re returning to the stage at Orton’s Pool Room with a few friends, Zack Torres, Ashley Marshall and Jordan Mullaney (who’s been nominated in encore’s 2013 Best-Of as Best Thespian), to showcase even more of their free-flowing comedic sketches. We spoke with Mullaney and Trimble about the event and what audiences can expect.
encore (e): Give me some insight into the sketches: Are you writing them together or separately?
Jordan Mullaney (JM): Basically, we each went off and wrote the sketches we wanted—Wills, Chelsea, Ryan, Zack, and I—and then we all got together, read them aloud, and talked about ways to improve them.
Ryan P.C. Trimble (RPCT): We really edited them on our feet—like we would block them and as we were going, we would add or change dialog, add in bits we ad-libbed.
JM: We also came up with this cool concept where we will lock our writer, Zack, in the back room of the theatre, and we will cull suggestions from the audience, and he would have the course of the show to write a sketch based on an audience suggestion.
RPCT: That’s an hour to write a fully formed sketch.
JM: He’s done a few test runs of it—we’re calling it “improv writing”—and they’ve been so good so far. We’re gonna put one in the show.
e: Will you share your first comedic memory?
RPCT: Watching the PBS show “ZOOM.” It was kind of like an “SNL” for kids. I wanted nothing more than to be on that show.
JM: In 4th grade I used to collect jokes from the humor section of “Reader’s Digest” and then re-enact them to my friends during lunch.
RPCT: My sister and I used to write sketches all the time when we were little. I remember when I was 9 or 10, she, my cousin and I wrote a sketch show for our family called “All This”—a takeoff from the Nickelodeon show “All That.”
JM: My parents are funny people and would perform silly songs for children’s church…
RPCT: …my mom did that, too!
JM: …and they could never resist dragging me onstage alongside them, or encouraging my siblings and I to write plays or film movies or dress ourselves in spandex and neon-colored windbreakers.
RPCT: You just described the exact outfit you’re wearing right now.
JM: I can dress myself!
RPCT: My parents were a huge influence in my comedy, too. Both Mom and Dad had me watching British comedy from an early age: “Fawlty Towers,” “Keeping Up Appearances,” “Monty Python.” That really helped form my comedic influences. Some would say warp them. I remember writing a spec script for “Fawlty Towers” when I was younger. I still have it somewhere…
e: Why this show?
JM: Well, originally, Ryan and I were like, ‘Let’s just do our own show! We’ll make our own rules, it’ll be great!’ We were gonna call it “The Jordan and Ryan Show.” Then Ryan was like, ‘I’m gonna go to France for six months; bye!’
RPCT: So we had to put that idea on hold. That’s where the idea for an improv show came to be, and that was the show that eventually became “4Prov.” We knew we would need more than two people for that, so we started collecting cast members—not unlike one would collect Pokémon. We asked Chelsea Deaner, who originally would be our tech person for the canceled “Jordan and Ryan Show.” The three of us have known each other since high school, so it was logical at some point we’d do a show together.
Chelsea is fantastic. In improv, we can always rely on her to start a scene and to really take charge. She’s an actual ball of fury.
Then we realized three was a weird number of people to have in a sketch. We approached Wills Maxwell, Jr. who I met from “Last Seahawk Standing,” and the others knew him from his host stint in “TNL” last year. When he hosted he expressed interest in performing sketch but couldn’t line up his schedule at the time. Since he has a standup background, he brings a very different, more grounded energy to the stage.
Our final cast member was Aerial Fowle, who is just performing the improv sets with us. We had added her to “4Prov” when Jordan became unavailable that weekend. Aerial is the newest at this but she has that beginner’s confidence in that she is never afraid to just try. If Chelsea doesn’t start the scene, Aerial will.
I’d like to add that all this planning was done over Facebook and e-mail from Paris—where I lived. In France.
JM: We get it! You went to France.
RPCT: I got back home and we thought, well, let’s try again. And we soon realized a two-person show was way too much for us to handle in such a short time frame.
Jordan: But not a five-person show!!!
RPCT: Then the “4-Prov” cast signed on to the new sketch show!
e: Why the name “See What Sticks”?
JM: We wanted to have a name that reflected how hastily we put the show together.
RPCT: We tossed around names like “We’ll Fix It in Post,” “It Sounded Funnier In My Head,” and “Oops, Well, This Happened.”
JM: But those were all pretty…self-deprecating.
RPCT: Yeah, we did it in a hurry, but not crappily. It was meant to be more experimental than anything. It was really Chelsea who cemented the theme of trying out things, even if we weren’t sure they’d work.
JM: Someone typed out the name, we liked it, so it… just…
RPCT: Don’t say it.
e: How would you describe your chemistry and how does that affect the success of any stage show in your opinions?
JM: Well, we’ve known each other since middle school and were always in drama classes and school plays together.
RPCT: In fact, my first memory of improv was seeing Jordan perform in the first drama class I took in 7th grade.
JM: I remember nothing about Ryan because he was a lower classman and beneath me.
RPCT: I’m a year younger than you!
RPCT: Most of the time in high school, we were cast in secondary roles or bit parts, but we were always the two who made the most out of the little we were given.
JM: When the audience walked out, they’d say, “Hey, that random barmaid in the background was really funny,” or “I don’t know who that shrimpy guy was supposed to be, but I liked him!”
RPCT: We both always have been unafraid to create larger-than-life characters, and we work well together onstage because neither of us are afraid to push the limits of the scene. In improv or sketch—or even just talking to each other. We never stop talking. It’s an issue.
JM: And we found other like-minded comedians that we work well with. We are an unstoppable unit of hilarity.
RPCT: And so humble!