Plan B Comedy is the resident comedy group at Zeiders American Dream Theater in Virginia Beach -- their work encompasses a wide range of comedic offerings including improv, stand-up, sketch and video. We pulled up with founding member Jason Kypros to ask a few questions in advance of their opening yesterday for rising comic star, Johnny Pemberton, at the ODU University Theater.
What is Plan B? And how did that get connected with Zeiders?
Plan B Comedy started about 9 years ago. Myself and Brendan Hoyle wanted to form a comedy group that would do improv, sketch, video, stand up and anything else we thought was fun. We met while he was directing me in The Importance of Being Earnest at the Little Theater of Norfolk. I had just returned back to the area after graduating from the Groundlings School of Improv in Los Angeles. We developed our style and approach over the years and when Zeiders Theater was opening their temporary space they asked us to be the first group to perform there.
We must have done a good job cause they asked us back, booked us for several dates, and then made us their resident comedy group.
Was it a situation where someone at Zeiders had seen you perform prior? Or just word of mouth that got them reaching out to you?
It was both actually. Bart Keubler (artistic Director at the Z) had seen Brendan and I perform some stuff for a VSC Fundraiser and then after hearing about the group put the two together and called a meeting
How many active members are in the troupe? And how does someone go about becoming part of the troupe? Is it a thing where you decide membership from year to year? Are there auditions? Are you scouting local comedy clubs looking for folks?
Currently we have 14 active members. We've had auditions in the past -- we actually had one last night -- but we will also add folks as we get to know them and work with them in other areas. It's not a yearly thing per se, but our membership does seem to be increasing.
Is there an ethos to the group as far as.. Like a particular flavor of comedy? What makes a thing funny to you?
We like to avoid "low hanging fruit" as far as content and jokes. We do our best to stay quick and smart with our approach. We are certainly a team and part of that team mentality is to work to make each other look as good as we can on stage. Improv should be a selfless endeavor and since improv is such an important skill set to have? That mentality carries over into our sketches, videos, etc.. We have 3 rules: Be kind. Be Respectful. Be Helpful.
What are the qualities that make an improv sketch successful in your view?
They are slightly different. With improv the audience knows you're making it up so they will give you some leeway. (laughs) A successful improv for me is when the performers are really listening to each other and reacting honestly to the scenario they are creating. Trying to make jokes at the scene or scene partners expense is a recipe for an unsuccessful scene. There are a lot of facets that all come together for a successful improv but working together and really listening and reacting is a very big part of a scenes success.
As for sketch, the audience knows you have had time to work on it so they want to see something that's polished. For me this is where the script has to have been vetted and rewritten and the actors have all had time to create "characters". The next step is adding the costumes and props, adding the production value. In both in stances though it's important to remember that comedy is brevity. Can't let anything go on too long! So an improv and a sketch are different things, really. Improv is a great way to discover sketches that you may want to write, though!
Is there any structure to an improv presentation? I'm thinking of things like Whose Line is it Anyway?
Yes there is. I mean, there are certainly different approaches, but speaking for us we like to keep our shows very fast paced and fun. We all loved Who's Line and so the improv shows we do incorporate a lot of the "short form" games you may have seen on there. We also play others as well as some "long form" games. Everyone in our crew is encouraged to host intermittently throughout and a typical Plan B Comedy show at the Z is about an hour and a half long.
How did you get hooked up with Pemberton? And will you be performing separate from his standup, or will there be interaction?
6 degrees of separation man. Our friend George Booker knows Johnny. He reached out to George as he's putting together a stand up comedy tour. George and I personally go way back to when the comedy scene was starting to gain steam and I was producing a few open mics around town. He asked if I could help with putting together a show so I out the wheels in motion. We are excited to perform some improv after Johnny finishes his set and we would love it if he wanted to come and play a game or two with us. Plan B is super pumped for this show and a few of us are geeking out on it pretty hard!
When / where can folks come to see you after this if they like the experience?
We'll have our last comedy/variety show at Zeiders on June 16th. That starts at 9:30 with tickets available through the box office. We'll be doing sketch comedy, improv, stand up and more. After that we'll be lining up some shows for the summer while the theater transitions into its new, permanent space and then we'll be back performing there in September. Folks can check out our website to stay up to date PlanBComedy.com. Or they can just follow us on social media (FB, Insta, Twitter) under "planbcomedy."