The passion of following a comedy career is usually a solitary endeavor. When like-minded comedians organically form a diverse group, they find that navigating the waters is a little easier when someone has their back.
“Center City Comedy” is a group of comics that started in the Philadelphia comedy scene – and has since grown into a creative outlet that produces live content, a podcast, and short films. Since 2012, the extended group has been hitting stages in New York City and across the country. The core comedians of the group are made up of Chris Cotton, Derek Gaines, H. Foley, Kevin Ryan, Dave Temple and Andrew Schiavone.
“Center City Comedy” is used as an umbrella term to describe their comedy collective. The groups’ intention is to help each other out while working in NYC and to serve as a touchstone for upcoming comedians. The group is not exclusive to just Philadelphia based performers and has gathered diverse members- some as an active part of the group, and some as affiliated friends in the community.
At least once a year, the group visits Philadelphia for a night of stand up and a live podcast taping for its fans; this year’s sold out show was at Philadelphia’s Urban Saloon. I visited with H. Foley, Kevin Ryan, Dave Temple & Andrew Schiavone before the crowd was seated in the full capacity event room.
Over shared appetizers, the group immediately fell into their respective roles. A favorite subject for them is to tease the husky H. Foley, who recently appeared on Fox’s “Gotham”, Netflix’s “Iron Fist” and “The Jim Gaffigan Show”. The group loves to reference that he has been cast as a hot dog vendor more than once. Foley tried to decide how to begin our conversation, jokingly opening with “I started out as a small child…” Before he can even finish, Andrew quipped- “that’s a lie”-setting off the rest of the crew.
We started with the genesis of “Center City Comedy”. Originating out of the Raven Lounge in Philadelphia, Foley recalls meeting Derek Gaines & Chris Cotton the first night he did comedy there. “A lot of people produced open mics at the Raven, but when those guys came in, it was more focused. Within six months it was a hot show. I was shooting (a short film) and I saw Derek and wanted to use him, and that’s how the three of us became friends… I just started showing up there”. Immediately Andrew and Kevin had a compulsion to set Foley straight- Andrew added- “This isn’t the story I heard… you were hanging out there and setting up”, Kevin backed up the joke- “You were setting up chairs, sweeping and trying to get their attention”.
Once the shows became more successful, more members like Kevin Ryan joined the group. They began writing sketches and producing more content. Some of the more senior members began traveling to NYC to perform. Kevin recalled “I started taking your spots as you guys started going to NYC. They were all going to NYC, Tommy Cassidy and Chris Cotton had also left… then ultimately I was the last one running the show, when I went we passed the torch to the current guys”.
Once in NYC, the “Center City Comedy” name was dormant, but everyone was still coming together for occasional shows. Foley and Kevin explained the name resurrection- “When we moved to NYC, it was dead; everybody was doing their own thing. We weren’t really using the name, then we ran a bar show where we were dependent on established headliners. We had bigger names scheduled on our show, and they all bailed. It just so happened, we had our whole crew there…Ian Fidance, Reggie Conquest, and Monroe Martin. We realized… why are we relying on these other people? Our team is super strong”. They ran the show with their own group and rocked the place. Dave Temple excitedly recalled that night, “I remember that show- It was all (of) us and we destroyed- killed front to back. I remember one of the headliners we invited, showed up later and we were like…we don’t need you buddy, we already had a show and everyone had a great time. We’re going to do another one next month”.
“Center City Comedy” decided to pool their resources and work as an extended group of friends. In an effort to showcase their diverse energies, the “Center City Comedy” podcast was started and it became a beacon to like-minded comedians. The original podcast line up also featured Tom Cassidy and Reggie Conquest; Kevin and Foley shared how the Podcast began- “We were taught early to do our own thing. We had the excitement to get it started, but realized we didn’t have a computer between the four of us… so we invited Andrew… he had a credit card! We thought our dynamic would be fun; we figured with all of us that if someone can’t make it, there would be another person to substitute… but soon realized that when all five of us were there and participating… it was fire. Everybody played their own role, Schiavone sniping jokes, Foley being fat or whatever he does, Reggie being dumb… we realized it was crucial to have all energies present to get the finished product we’re used to.”
After three years, Tom and Reggie were no longer available on a regular basis and Derek Gaines stepped in to fill the vacuum. Derek has been a rising star in the comedy community and is set to appear in a new TBS comedy written by Jordan Peele later this year. Derek will co-star alongside comedy legends Tracy Morgan and Cedric the Entertainer. Kevin described the opportunity to have Derek join in – “We bumped into Derek and he said- I wanna do the podcast- and we were like, you’re welcome to sit in anytime, and he said –No… I’m replacing Reggie”.
The future for the Center City Comedy podcast is to keep growing and to continue to attract new listeners and members to their group. With a new studio and live stream, and the added bonus of Derek Gaines on the roster, they hope to join forces with one of the podcast networks. “We would love to hook up with one of the comedy podcast networks. We have fans that join our premium service and tell us it’s the only podcast they listen to. We have a lot to offer, we have great fans and we think it’s one of the funniest podcasts one out there”.
Amongst its members, the name “Center City Comedy” is not just a podcast title. It represents an inclusive group of comedians that provides support to one another in an otherwise solitary profession.
Check out new episodes of the “Center City Comedy” podcast every Thursday on Soundcloud, Stitcher, and iTunes. And at centercitycomedy.com
Follow “Center City Comedy” on twitter: @C_C_Comedy