Both women have a long list of credentials. They studied at New York’s top improv schools: the Upright Citizens Brigade and the Magnet Theater, where Roe goes twice a week to rehearse and perform with one of their house teams. Schier has also taken intensives at the famous Second City in Chicago. In addition to now teaching classes and workshops at the theater, Schier is apart of the house team Fletcher while Roe directs the house team King Friday.
It seeems Schier, a “4’11 dynamo” with red hair and freckles, was genetically designed for comedy. Though she considers herself more a performer than a comedian, she says she discovered her knack for making people laugh as a young girl on long family road trips.
“I would play characters in the back seat and my mom had to pull over because she was laughing so hard. So that was my goal every road trip ... get my mom to pee her pants.”
Schier actually gave up a comfy full-time position teaching English at a local private school to fully immerse herself in improv. “I took a drastic pay cut,” she jokes.
Every Saturday, she teaches a morning improv workshop for children ages 7-18 at the Actor’s Center, followed by her Level 4 class at PHIT in the afternoon and possibly one or two shows at night.
On Friday nights, Schier can be found performing with the N Crowd, one of the city’s longest running short-form improv troupes. Luckily, having recently been voted in as artistic director, she now gets paid. The rest of the week she keeps herself busy doing small jobs within the theater community, including the Philly Shakespeare Theater. “I’m sorta sinking my teeth into the Philly scene,” she says.
The journey was different for Roe, who says she was always more an athlete than a performer. While getting her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Haverford College, she just happened to have befriended a few improvisors on campus. “After college I decided that I wanted to do something fun and social, so I signed up for classes through PHIT.”
She works full-time at the Children’s Crisis Treatment Center, where she specializes in play therapy. “Through their play, I watch [kids] figure stuff out and relive experiences and then resolve them,” she says.
But she's not quitting her day job.
“When find you somebody who is really as serious about it as I am, it’s really refreshing,” Schier says. “But it’s rare still in Philly.”
By day, Mary Radzinski, 32, is a pharmaceuticals sales rep and Carolyn Busa, 25, does marketing and design for a small book publisher. By night, they’re two gals in a very small pool of local female stand-ups. Having both started making their rounds in the comedy club circuit roughly three years ago, the two naturally became acquainted. “If we’re on a show that’s a showcase, we’re probably the only girl,” Radzinski says.
At the first “Laughs on Fairmount,” the free open mic the women recently began co-hosting together every Monday night at the Urban Saloon, they were actually three women out of a total of about 20 comics in attendance. To add insult to injury, a man introduced Radzinski and Busa instructing the crowd to put their hands together for “the guys who put this show together.” Quickly realizing his slip-up, he chuckled and corrected himself. “I mean, ladies.”
From there, a rotation of men took the mic cracking jokes about everything from porn and paintball to threesomes and how “bitches like to shop.” Add in one very misfortunate joke about date rape and well, that was just the icing on the testosterone-filled cake.
But in the sea of middle-aged white men, Radzinski and Busa commanded attention and upstaged the majority of the night’s acts. Resembling a modest girl-scout in a blue button-up and a brown skirt, Busa delivered her routine in a low, calming voice, only ever slightly elevating to punctuate a joke with an F-bomb. Starting her set with random musings and humorous observations, she finishes with a bit about vibrators.
Despite not following one comic’s advice a few years back to start wearing a push-up bra at shows, Radzinski did get a few hoots and hollers. They admit to sometimes using their femininity and often find it can work to their advantage.
“I feel like being attractive has definitely gotten me on a show where they didn’t even know my material,” says Busa. “But when it’s such a struggle, you kinda have to take those moments and just be thankful for the stage time.”
Yet, regardless of whether a venue wants to “salt-n-pepper” a line-up, as Radzinski adds, “they’re not going to ask us back if we’re not funny.”
Wearing T-shirts with airbrushed images of one another’s faces and sequined shorts, sketch partners Meg Favreau and Rob Baniewicz come out dancing and immediately established their love/hate dynamic. “I’m a feminist and he’s a misogynist,” says Favreau of Baniewicz to a crowd of mostly friends and family packed into the Shubin Theater, for what was likely to be Meg & Rob’s last show for a while—Favreau is heading west as the senior editor of the frugal living website WiseBread, ultimately hoping to pursue a career in TV writing. “You might not think we get along, but we do,” Baniewicz answers, slowly reading the words off a cue card. “Meg makes sure to tell me when I’m being offensive towards women.”
“And Rob makes sure to hit me whenever I’m wearing too much makeup,” Favreau responds.
Later he refers to her as “Professor Cunt-Rag” while she threatens to “skull fuck” the cue card holder for revealing her last name.
PW's Taste of Philly 2014
Election Day 2014: Tues., Nov. 4