Rare Bird Show

Periphadelphia Philly Improv Festival Review
periphadelphia.com, November 8th, 2007
By: Katie Kuhl

Starting tonight, the Philly Improv Fest is upon us. Philly's got a great improv scene, which always seems to be growing. To get some insider perspective on this, as well as to learn a bit more about one of Philly's most prominent groups, I recently had the chance to interview Matt Holmes of Rare Bird Show. Read on to find out what he had to say, and make sure to check Rare Bird Show out during the festival!

For any readers who aren't up on their improv knowledge, can you briefly describe exactly what they could expect to see at one of Rare Bird Show's shows?
It's improv comedy, which means that everything is made up on the spot on stage. We haven't planned out any of the jokes or characters; you're watching the creative process happen. You might think of Whose Line Is It, Anyway? games when you hear improv; our show is kind of different. We're still taking something that the audience yells out as the inspiration for what we do, but instead of having a bunch of games that already have a structure to them, we take just one suggestion for the whole show and do about a half-hour of scenes from it. It's called longform improv (instead of short-form improv). It ends up looking like a bunch of sketches that play off of each other or sometimes like an improvised play. We can get deep and smart and serious, but it's definitely a comedy show, and you'll be laughing.

And is there anything in particular you think they should know about the Philly Improv Festival?
This is the third year for Philly's improv festival; it's the biggest yet. It's all improv comedy, and it's this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with blocks of shows starting at 7, 8:30, and 10. Each block is $10 and the shows are at Mum Puppettheatre in Old City. There are amazing, hilarious groups from Philly, Chicago, LA, NYC, and much more. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time at www.phif.org or at the door.

Having been around for over four years, has there been much change in the make up of Rare Bird Show?
We started as four, and one of our co-founders made a few moves and is now in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (another growing improv community). For most of our existence, it's been the three of us and we've really gotten to know each other really well. You have to have a lot of trust when you're on stage without a script.

Your shows are dependent on audience suggestions to get things going - have you ever encountered audiences that were reluctant to get involved?
We engage the audience and get them into it. It's a very interactive experience. Every show is different, because of the suggestion and because it's improv, but also based on the feel of the audience.

Having PHIF around for multiple years seems like a pretty big deal, and it seems like the entire Philly Improv scene is pretty thriving right now. What are your thoughts on the scene at the moment?
It's really growing and getting very impressive. Chicago, New York, and a few other cities are the top-tier improv locales, but Philadelphia is moving up there. Philly has several weekly shows, there are classes and workshops you can take through www.phillyimprovtheater.com, there's a lot of great improv comedy happening from Philly's groups (www.phillyimprov.com), and we get some of the best out-of-town groups in to perform and teach. Rare Bird Show has a few shows coming up next month with Bassprov, who were voted Chicago's best improv group and whose members are both teachers at Second City.

Was Rare Bird Show involved in PHIF last year?
Rare Bird Show has been honored to perform in every Philadelphia Improv Festival so far.