Don't Quit Your Night Job: They're Baaack!
Don't Quit Your Night Job, the critically acclaimed comedy variety show featuring a revolving cast of Broadway's brightest performing without a net, welcomes the Fall at their monthly home The Zipper Factory Theater (336 West 37th St, btwn 8th & 9th Ave) on Thursday, October 30 at 11:30PM. Tickets are $20 and proceeds go to benefit Wendy Wasserstein's TDF/Open Doors program.
The late night happening of improv, music, sketches and stories was created by its stars: industry mainstays Steve Rosen (The Farnsworth Invention, Monty Python's Spamalot), David Rossmer (Fiddler on the Roof, Titanic), Sarah Saltzberg (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) and music director Dan Lipton (The Coast of Utopia).
Fresh on the heels of Columbus Day... and a breath before Thanksgiving... the stars of Don't Quit Your Night Job return to New York City for another year of mayhem. BroadwayWorld had the entertaining opportunity to chat with the fantastic foursome at The Zipper Factory in anticipation of their 3rd rompous season!
For more information on Don't Quit Your Night Job - including Photos, Videos and Tickets - visit www.DontQuitNYC.com
Eugene Lovendusky: How was your summer?
Sarah Saltzberg: It was a well-deserved and needed break. There’s something neat about Don’t Quit – it’s around when school’s open, then for summer, we play!
Steve Rosen: Everybody took a little time off because we each had something to do. Some work. Some play. Some fun in the sun. David and Dan did a show in Vassar, where I was at New York Stage and Film. Then we went to go see Sarah’s show in Cape Cod…
Sarah: …the show where I got married.
Steve: Wonderful show. Closed after only one night. I would recommend it! The only Jewish wedding I’ve been to that served lobster…
Sarah: …and ribs!
David Rossmer: The yarmulkes were wrapped in bacon. Delicious!
Eugene: And now you’re back! Don't Quit Your Night Job has become "the best-kept not-so-secret secret night-time favorite" among the Broadway community. What is it about this show that makes droves of people schlep to the late-night craziness each month?
Dan Lipton: Part of it is, you get to see stars and Broadway celebrities do things that they wouldn’t do anywhere else. These people feel like they can let their hair down to come play with us. Like when we had George Wendt do the Sunday in the Park with George Wendt sketch. That was a great sketch… and where else would you see that? Also, the variety of each show is different. We have some favorites among our cast, but every single show, there’s at least one actor who has never been there before. Knowing that there’s going to be a lot of surprise and variety keeps people coming.
Steve: A lot of people like going to the theatre because there’s a chance that you could be there the night that something goes really special or something wrong. Our show is sort of both… When things go super-right, you could only get the joke if you were there at that time, I think it’s kind of cool to be “in on that.”
Dan: It’s almost like a service that we fill for the community, now… There aren’t that many people who can get away with making-fun of the industry, like we somehow do. There’s a charm to that that has developed over-time.
David: The theatre community is so varied… there are people who dream of making it big on Broadway, and then there are those who have won major awards. But at Don’t Quit Your Night Job, everyone gets to be on the same playground together.
Steve: It also speaks to the generosity of the theatre community. The audience is donating to the Open Doors Foundation while these stars are willing to donate their time and their talent to our show (and to the possibility that they could look like idiots). That’s the biggest fear. A lot of performers of our show have said they do it because they’re really afraid of it! They were afraid of doing improv. They were afraid of looking stupid. And we go through great lengths to make sure these guys don’t look stupid.
David: That’s something I’m really proud of – that’s the place we have 100% success rate. We make the stage a safe-place so they don’t feel stupid.
Eugene: How did you guys meet?
David: Book club.
Sarah: Gay club.
Dan: David and I grew-up together in New Jersey. We lived in a few blocks away from each other… we went to the same high-school. I went to a theatre summer camp and met Steve when I was about 10. Then David ended-up going to the camp when we were about 15.
Steve: David and I actually met when we were auditioning for the improv troupe at the summer camp. Our subconscious met before we actually shook-hands! Years later, David and I took a class at Upright Citizens Brigade – where we met Sarah!
Sarah: We all did a scene where we were dogs, peeing on a fire-hydrant…
David: …that wasn’t a class!
Sarah: We’d gotten the idea to do a show… and went to Joe’s Pub with an outline of what we were going to do. We’d never really done a pitch before…
Steve: And they said: “Super! Terrific! Your first show is in 3 weeks…” Aah! They booked us for 3 months and we had 3 weeks to do it. We left the meeting and immediately started calling people – and it all came together. By necessity (like most great art).
Dan: We threw a bunch of ideas on the table – we did the first show, and it had a structure to it. Some things stuck, so the month later, we said: “Let’s do that again. How about an anecdote? And special skills?” And before we knew it, there were certain “departments” for each show.
David: A lot of the most-fun games we do in the shows today came because of our need to figure out fast ways to create something interesting. It’s a theatrical “Price is Right” – there’s a structure but the games are always changing.
Eugene: Dan, these are all funny people, but you contribute with your special skill of “improv music.” You slip-in incidental music and sound effects hilariously… Where did it all come from?
Dan: A large part of it was the camp we went to… I went initially as a musician, but got sucked into the theatre stuff. By the time I was 15, I was music directing shows. I was always in shows, too, as a kid. I think it’s the combination of being comfortable on-stage. It’s something that’s in me; I’ve always played it by-ear and improvised. I couldn’t tell you how the nuts and bolts work – you don’t think – whatever comes out, comes out. I never really pay attention to the plots… I just try to give them good underscoring and stuff to work with. But also something not to complex, something they can sing-along with. It’s all about keeping the ball up in the air.
Eugene: We know a lot of prep goes into your shows. What are rehearsals like?
Sarah: Every show, we have two rehearsals for the improvisers. Really, the first 45-minutes are spent playing Getting To Know You games. We want to make sure everyone in the cast knows who everyone is… Not just names and faces but also their personalities and what’s going to come-out if you’re in a scene with this person. It’s important that the cast sort of gels. We have a meeting before the show to outline what games we’re going to play, but we try to have at least one new game for every show. It’s really fun. It’s very laid-back… the spirit is so warm.
Eugene: Explain the art of Improv…
David: You have to have a degree from Improv University… with a minor in Fun.
Steve: …and Gun Repair! Improv works best when things are kept positive. None of us are geniuses at it, but it’s really about using your everyday experiences and interactions with people, and that becomes entertainment.
Sarah: There’s a new Jim Carrey movie, Yes Man. That’s improv! He stops saying “No” to things… he just says “Yes” and all of a sudden, his world opens up to infinite possibilities. And really, that’s the spirit of improv. Saying “yes” and listening and keeping an open-mind and responding. It does sort of bleed into the rest of your life if you practice those tenants. It puts you in a good mood.
David: It breeds fearlessness. There are 3 simple rules: You always say “Yes”… You never ask a question… And you never negate (if you have a good idea and somebody does something else, throw your idea out the window immediately). They’re simple rules, but following them and making it feel organic in your body is something you have to put into practice.
Sarah: The energy of our show has a lot to do with the audience. It’s hard – when everyone is cheering and wanting you to succeed – to not succeed! They want it so badly! And we want it! That really helps our shows… that everyone is so positive at 11:30 on a Thursday night.
Eugene: How do you rope-in your performers?
Steve: For the very first show, it was simply: “Who do we know that’s funny?” Now people want to come and do it. Some of the people we get because we have a specific idea and we need, for example, The Phantom of the Opera to do it. Through the 4 of us, we know someone who knows someone who knows someone… It shows the generosity of the theatre community!
Eugene: Last summer, you scandalized a young actress who read from August: Osage County. And not to be out-done, the next month you have “Rose’s Turn” belted by a pre-teen boy! Are there any lines you won’t cross?
David: The kids’ parents love it! Let them curse more, is their motto.
Steve: And these are theatre kids… They grow-up as adults, back-stage with groups of grown-up people all the time. And they always have a good time.
Sarah: We are actually very very conscious of the writing of the sketches, what we do and don’t do, and really keeping it positive and not mean-spirited. Being cynical is an easy road to fall into, and we’re always very very aware of that.
David: We’re not making fun of anything. All that we’re doing is not avoiding the elephant in the room. For example, we’re not pretending that Glory Days didn’t close – instead we have the cast come in and win an award! We tear down a lot of the walls that people keep up in a business where appearance is so important.
Dan: We let the actors in on their own joke.
Steve: You have to have a sense of humor about yourself and what you do for a living. A great example is during Musical Madlibs: These are songs people love, being sung by the great people we identify them with! We had Bebe Neuwirth sing her signature song about underpants, chicken pox, donkey punching…
Eugene: Favorite moments… Are there any nights you go home and think to yourself “What can beat that?”
David: The Opening Night at The HA! was pretty good. I remember laughing my butt off. There was a musical called Snap My Dance Belt at Joe’s Pub with Marc Kudisch and Rick Holmes – that was hilarious.
Steve: One of the most unbelievable moments I remember at Joe’s Pub… David was doing Nerds in Philly… Sarah was doing Spelling Bee in-town… I was doing Farnsworth in La Jolla. We did not see each other to do the show until David got there at 11:32 that night. We had rehearsed a sketch over the phone, once! The Abraham Lincoln sketch, where he got shot for being on the cell phone during a show.
Dan: For me, it was when Huey Lewis visited the show. I got to be The News and perform “Power of Love” with him! At the Zipper, one of the best sketches we did was Norm Lewis as Obama. It was a song about change and it makes me laugh every time I see it on YouTube.
Steve: The Zipper has been such an ideal space for the show. They have been so awesome with us… they totally get the show and what we’re all about. I loved the very first show we did at The Zipper was during the Writer’s Strike and the Stagehand’s Strike. We were basically the only entertainment in town, so the place was packed and we did a sketch about the Audience Union going on-strike. It was a resounding support from the community. They missed it and we missed doing it. Sometimes I look around on-stage, or I watch the YouTube clips, and I cannot believe what is happening and what I’m watching! Andrea Martin and Sutton Foster in goofy hats doing a relay race?
David: I love when you see something come to fruition. Our first preview is also our closing night, every month.
Steve: Essentially one sketch has four rewrites because we all give our ideas and work like a family. With the improvisers that we use, it’s almost like we have our own theatre company. The biggest challenge is then, after a great show, we then have to top it! What do we do next month?
Eugene: Great question… What do we have coming up?
Sarah: We have a waterfall number with Bette Davis. She was tough to get.
David: All dead celebrities – that’s our theme for Halloween.
Dan: We’re always trying to make new segments and always trying to get great new people.
Steve: Our summer homework assignment was we each had to bring in 3 new ideas... and our Opening Night show at The Zipper is October 30 at 11:30PM!
Eugene: Thank you so much. It’s so much fun talking to you. Congratulations on such strong shows and all the best for the up-coming season.
Steve: Thank you! And thank you to all the BroadwayWorld fans! You guys have done a great job of letting people know about the show and bring amazing amounts of energy each night.
David: …and I’d like to thank your mom.
For more information on Don't Quit Your Night Job, including Photos, Videos and Tickets, visit www.DontQuitNYC.com
Tickets for Don't Quit Your Night Job are $20 and can be ordered online at TheZipperFactory.com or over the phone at 212-352-3101.
View The Zipper Factory Tavern menu online at TheZipperFactory.com and call 212-695-4600 for pre-show dinner reservations.
(Photos by Peter James Zielinski, 2008)