Marked by razor-sharp writing and an almost insane attention to details, ManiPedi’s particular brand of humor often teeters freely between dark and silly.
They write their own sketches. They make many of their own costumes and props. They shoot their own videos. They book their own gigs. And, of course, they have day jobs.
Aubrie Williams, Shannon Brown, Kaitlin Thompson, Briana Kelly and Madonna Marie Refugia: A year into their existence as a troupe, the five comedians who call themselves ManiPedi have already played three big national comedy festivals—the Ladies Are Funny Festival in Austin, Texas; the NYC Sketch Festival and, most recently, the 2012 Chicago Comedy Arts Festival. Closer to home, they’ve built a local fan base playing venues like Connie’s Ric Rac in South Philly, and their humorist peers nominated them for “Best Sketch Troupe in Philadelphia” in the 2011 WitOut Awards.
Marked by razor-sharp writing and an almost insane attention to details, ManiPedi’s particular brand of humor often teeters freely between dark and silly. Their newest video sketch, “The Taco Bell Jar,” stars Briana as a suicidal, Mexican-food-loving Sylvia Plath. There’s not really any big red button they won’t push—preferably, while breaking into a jolly song-and-dance number. Take their over-the-top theatrics in the sketch “Everything’s Coming Up Kidnapped,” where Madonna sings about her dreams of becoming famous after having been abducted, while her daughter, Briana, dances in the background, bound and gagged.
So without further ado, here are seven things you absolutely do not need to know about ManiPedi:
1. If Kait sees a hair on your shirt, she will pick it off.
2. Every year, sometimes twice, Briana makes it a point to watch the six-hour BBC version of Pride & Prejudice.
3. Besides being the most glamorous member of the troupe, Madonna is the only one who would actually use the word “fabulous” in everyday conversation.
4. The ladies admit to having comedy crushes on local funny men Alex Newman from the Philly Improv Theater house team Davenger and stand-up comic Aaron Hertzog. (When Shannon, who digs “chubbos,” was little, she had a crush on Chris Farley. Madonna, on the other hand, was all about Norm McDonald.)
5. They all give mad props to fellow local sketch troupes Secret Pants, The Feeko Brothers and Camp Woods. Some of their other favorite funny locals include stand-up comics Darrell Charles, Joe Mayo and Mary Radzinski.
6. During this interview, Kait tried to have roughly eight comments stricken from the record, mostly those of Shannon and Briana.
7. The group agrees that Aubrie is the only member who isn’t an asshole.
Age: 24 Hometown: Warminster, Pa.
Current hood: Warminster, Pa.
Profession: Human resources researcher
Also performs with: Kait & Andrew (improv)
Last thing that made her laugh: “My friend Joe tried to get a word out, stuttered over it, and gave up and said something different, Porky Pig-style.”
Hometown: Glenolden, Pa.
Current hood: Rittenhouse Square
Profession: Nanny “for two really awesome kids.”
Also performs with: Local Holiday Miracle (sketch) and King Friday (improv)
First knew she wanted to be a comedian: “During my acting thesis at Temple, when I got to play a crazy, drunk Texan mom of three, chase people around with bottles of bourbon and uproot potted trees. I felt so comfortable doing that—I realized that I loved that sort of thing and needed to keep at it.”
Hometown: Chester Springs, Pa.
Current hood: “Still leeching off my parents’ hospitality.
Profession: Retail clerk/tour guide at the Valley Forge Encampment Store
First knew she wanted to be a comedian: “I was kind of a lonely kid and had a hard time expressing myself. When I found out I could make people laugh, it felt like opening up a window.”
Last thing that made her laugh: “A customer at my work just played ‘keep-away’ with me so I couldn’t scan their merchandise. America is weird—and I Iove it.”
Hometown: Levittown, Pa.
Current hood: Levittown, Pa.
Profession: Preschool assistant
First knew she wanted to be a comedian: “There is a VHS of my sister and I performing in front of our Christmas tree. We each got a microphone and stand, and the stand had applause and laughter buttons. We sang Spice Girl songs, then I told jokes.”
So sad: Come January, ManiPedi will be losing Shannon to the bright lights of L.A. “It seems like the right choice to make at this point.”
Madonna Marie Refugia
Hometown: Baltimore, Md.
Current Neighborhood: South Philadelphia
Profession: Executive assistant, The Voice Foundation
Also performs with: Camp Woods (sketch)
First knew she wanted to be a comedian: “I’ve studied singing and acting my whole life, but it wasn’t until college that I started writing my own material and trying to make people laugh during every moment I was on stage.”
On getting the troupe together:
Kaitlin: You know how the Spice Girls just responded to an ad in the newspaper?
Briana: That’s exactly how it happened.
20 nights of summer laughter