It’s 3 pm and I’m on my way to meet H. Foley, one third of the trend-setting comedy group Center City Comedy. I have seen him perform many times but have never had the pleasure of meeting him. I am wondering if all the erratic behavior and intensity from the stage will follow him off stage. I see him standing in the center of Rittenhouse Square, pacing with a cigarette and talking on his Blackberry. H. Foley is a busy man these days, his hand is in several cookie jars around the city, including the best underground comedy show in Philadelphia, maybe even in the English-speaking world – Center City Comedy’s Thursday’s at the Raven Lounge (1718 Sansom Street).
When Foley and his co-founders Chris Cotton and Conrad Roth started doing the show, an open mic for professional comics to hone material and new comics to perform for the first time, there wasn’t much happening in comedy in Philly. Now it is buzzing with laughter.
“I don’t think I can do Trump’s voice.” are the first words out of his mouth. The Trump voice is for a sketch he is doing with comedian Jack Martin, as a part of CCC’s monthly show at Mad River in Manayunk, The Main Street Comedy Series with fellow comedian Tom Cassidy. It is a brilliant idea for a show, where they change the theme of the show every month. This month it is the Manayunk version of SNL.
The last time I saw the Main Street Comedy Series, the comics had turned the showroom into a college basketball game and had a girl singing the national anthem. She was good. The point is, these guys work hard. Foley and Chris are running two monthly rooms (one out of Club Risque), three open mics, writing scripts, filming sketches, managing an LLC and building stand-up careers. I quickly learn that this is no act and Foley is as real as they get. But don’t let the pacing and the nervous energy fool you, this guy loves what he does and is creating a real comedy scene. Oh yeah and he is one of the funniest comics I have seen. Around Philly sat down with H to get get a few words on what is happening here in the city of brotherly love.
Photos and intro article by Frank Kinyon
Aroundphilly: When did you first start doing comedy in Philly?
H. Foley: Not that long ago. The summer of 08′, I had just moved back from New York, broken. One night I went to helium’s open mic, and I was hooked, in good way.
AP: What are your opinions on the local comedy scene?
HF: Philly is great now. The talent is amazing and the sense of urgency and community are thick in the air. If I had to describe Philadelphia comedy, I would say we are like the French underground during world war II mixed with the punk rock movement of the early eighties.
AP: What other local comedians inspire you/make you laugh?
HF: I get my biggest inspiration from my two partners Chris Cotton and Conrad Roth. Without the two of them, I would not be the comedian I am today. Monroe Martin and Tom Cassidy are also two true originals. Their comedy comes from such a personal place that is hard not to fall in love with them. I consider these guys my family and we are on this great journey together. It’s special.
AP: Can you explain how you and Cotton came up with the Something Grazed My Foot sketch?
HF: One night at the Laff House Chris told a joke about how black people don’t like to get their feet touched. I knew he was on to something, so we wrote a script and pitched it to the film company LATE NIGHT BREWERY. We shot it a week later.
AP: What advice do you have for new comedians?
HF: Be yourself, or at least try to be. It takes a long time to become a comedian. I think you have to literally find yourself on stage some how. I am still looking, but the key is: never tire and never back down.
AP: Where do you hope to see the local scene in 5 years?
HF: Established, with national connections; I want everyone in the business to know we are here, that we are organized, hungry and strong. At Center City Comedy we are fighting every day to make that happen. We believe.