The Philly comedy scene may be small compared with New York’s or Chicago’s, but you wouldn’t know it browsing the impressive database of local comedy shows and performers on Witout.net.
Launched a year ago by local stand-up comic Luke Giordano, the comedian-run blog is essentially a one-stop shop for news and information on Philly’s sketch, stand-up and improv communities. “There’s a lot of people who want to see good comedy, but they just don’t know where to go,” says local freelance writer and comedian Aaron Hertzog. “We want it to be a resource.”
In addition to its events calendar and comedy guide, WitOut features a mix of in-depth articles, interviews, reviews, videos, humor columns and random musings. With Giordano having moved to L.A. this past spring after landing a temporary writing gig on Two and a Half Men, Hertzog has taken over as the site’s editor-in-chief.
The 28 year old has been doing stand-up in the city for about five years now and, on any given night of the week, can be found either performing or hosting a show, of which there are many: Laughs on Fairmount, Center City Comedy, Helium’s weekly open mic, or his monthly stand-up showcase at the Philly Improv Theater (PHIT), “Hey Everybody!”
In the past year, Hertzog says, there have been so many new alternative comedy ventures popping up around in the city that is has become almost impossible to keep track of them all. “There’s a lot of comics taking initiative to build up the scene. No matter what your taste is, you can find a show that suits your pallet, whether that’s alternative, bizarre stuff or more mainstream stuff.”
When friend and fellow comic Rob Baniewicz approached him a few months ago with the idea of holding an award ceremony to honor the troupes, individuals and shows that best represented Philly comedy this year, Hertzog jumped on the idea. “We thought it would be a good thing for troupes to have on their resume when they apply to out-of-town shows,” he says.
To keep it from becoming nothing more than “a popularity contest,” WitOut left the nomination and voting process up to the people who really know the local comedy scene best—the comedians themselves. “I guess we just kinda decided to take a more ‘for us, by us approach,’” says Hertzog. Surprisingly, only a few acts actually nominated themselves or their own troupes.
Hertzog and Baniewicz, along with PHIT founder Greg Maughan, are still ironing out the final details of the ceremony—like what they should put on the plaques—but ultimately want the 2011 WitOut Awards to feel like a fun comedy show. “It’s going to be a parody of award shows,” says Hertzog. “Like a celebration and a mockery at the same time.”
They’ll be playing short clips of the nominees in most of the 14 categories—“Best Podcast,” “Best Regular Show,” “Best Stand-up Comedian”—with local comics presenting the awards in pairs. Herzog enlisted Joe Moore, a “neutral” yet “hilarious” fan of the local comedy scene, to host.
“My hope is that it will be like any big award show,” says Maughan. “I want there to be some controversy and at least one person who cries like Sally Field.”
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