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Broadway Bullet Interview: Don't Quit Your Night Job

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Don't Quit Your Night Job is a hilarious sketch comedy/improv show about the theatre industry that comes to Broadway (or, near Broadway), after a wild sold-out engagement at Joe's Pub downtown. Conceived by Steve Rosen (Spamalot), David Rossmer (Nerds) Sarah Saltzberg (The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) and Dan Lipton (The Coast of Utopia), this riotous, off-the-wall showcase changes at every performance and is growing from an underground hit into a mainstream phenomenon not to be missed! It features a rotating core cast of Broadway's brightest new stars from every show on the block, complete with surprise celebrity guests nightly.

Special Guests set to appear in the premiere weeks of Don't Quit Your Night Job include Hank Azaria, Kristin Chenoweth, Brian D'Arcy James, Paige Davis, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Dan Fogler, Hunter Foster, Kat Foster, Sutton Foster, Jane Krakowski, Marc Kudisch, Huey Lewis, Andrea McArdle, John McDaniel, Eric Millegan, Bebe Neuwirth, Kelli O'Hara, Lonny Price, anthony rapp, Michael Riedel, Tony Roberts, Seth Rudetsky, Peter Scolari, Christopher Sieber, Mary Testa, Patrick Wilson, B.D. Wong, and Adrian Zmed, among many others.

Don't Quit Your Night Job was conceived as a way to benefit TDF's Open Doors student theater program, and that tradition will continue with a weekly donation on behalf of our special guests. 

For more info and tickets click here.

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You can listen to this interview and many other great features for free on Broadway Bullet vol. 116. Subscribe for free so you don't miss an episode.

 or MP3 Feed with XML

 

Broadway Bullet Interview : Steve Rosen and David Rossmer of "Don't Quit Your Night Job"

BROADWAY BULLET: I think every young actor or person pursuing the performing arts has heard the statement, "don't quit your day job." Well, for people who have already made it in acting, they've got a new show to participate in, called "Don't Quit Your Night Job," and we have two of the creators, Steve Rosen and David Rossmer, here with us to discuss the show. How are you guys doing?

Steve Rosen AND David Rossmer: Good, how are you?/Great! Thank you for inviting us.

BROADWAY BULLET: Most improv shows, I think, are made up of a core troupe. And you're a core troupe with a bunch of new people invited every night.

David Rossmer: Yeah, we've got an amazing group of twenty-nine actors from all over the New York theater scene who rotate in and out of our show; every show we've got a different seven improvisers who are there. so you're guaranteed never to see the same cast twice, which is cool. We've got amazing actors, and we're just having a ball.

BROADWAY BULLET: Now where did this idea come about?

DR: It's like a drug-induced state… mostly LSD, I think it was…

SR: Yeah, I tried it for the first time and the next thing I knew, we were… Actually, David and I, we met actually doing an improvisation at theater summer camp. We were at a camp called French Woods, upstate. We were… we must have been like, twelve or thirteen and we were actually in an improv class and we hadn't really met each other at all, and we did something that cracked each other up.

DR: They were like, telling a story, and we had to act out the story. And they were like, "Bill and Bob go into a bar," and so we walk into a… Bill and Bob do this, and finally, it was, "Bill spills his drink on Bob." And since neither of us knew who Bill or Bob was, both of us at the same time just sort of spilled our drinks on each other, and that was sort of instant friendship. And we made each other laugh from then until twelve years later.

SR: And the show kind of came about… we had been sort of toying with the idea of doing some sort of improv thing for a long time and then Sarah Saltzberg, one of our collaborators -- and Dan Lipton is the other person who runs the show with us – we were given this sort of opportunity down at Joe's Pub, down in the village, in June of last year. Basically we were given an evening. They were starting late-night programming there, and they gave us the opportunity to do a show at like 11:30 at night on a Thursday. And so, we were like, "well, let's try out something new."

DR: Well, we had always wanted to do an improv show for a long time.

SR: I'm not disagreeing with you, David.

DR: I think you were…. Just a little disagreement.

SR: Well, okay, maybe a little. We, okay, for a long time we'd wanted to.

DR: And we actually met Sarah doing… you know Upright Citizens Brigade? That's sort of the improv troupe… they're the a big improv staple in the city, and so the two of us wanted to sort of brush up on our own skills, so we took a class that anyone could take; you know, you could be an office person, you could be anybody. People were given this as a gift. And so that's where we met Sarah. And then it was like a year later or something, we found out she was in Spelling Bee, and…

SR: Yeah, it was so surreal. I went and I saw Spelling Bee at Second Stage, and as I'm watching, I'm like, "that girl is so familiar to me!" But she, her hair was all done up in the braids and she was talking in a lisp. And then after the show, I kind of waited until she came out and I was just like, "I don't know if you remember me, but you, me, Dave Rossmer and a bunch of accountants took an improv class together," and that was sort of the beginning of a beautiful friendship and collaboration.

BROADWAY BULLET: So, how did it evolve from going from once a month down at Joe's Pub to you're now going every night at 11 a.m. at the Ha! Comedy Club?

SR: I hope it's not 11 a.m.

BROADWAY BULLET: I mean, I'm sorry, 11 p.m.

SR: Oh my God, we're missing it right now! It's like TheatreWorks; going back to TheatreWorks USA, getting up for the 10 a.m. show.

DR: We should do a ten o'clock matinee of "Don't Quit Your Night Job."

SR: The school show?

DR: Yeah, the school show.
 
SR: Yeah, all Spelling Bee cast and Grinch Stole Christmas. That is really random. We sort of hooked up with a producer named Jed Bernstein, who came and saw the show downtown and really liked it.

DR: It was kind of his idea, I think. He was the one who said this could be a show.

SR: Yeah, we didn't approach him, he came to us, because every month we would have basically… we would invite a bunch of our friends and actors who we really liked who we had specific ideas for, because the show isn't exclusively improv. Like, we'll have musical guests, and we have segments that we've written into the show. There's one, "Stars of Tomorrow," where we use a little kid to play a really old character in something with a bunch of other adults. And I think the idea – it was a bunch of other actors coming to see us, because that's who sort of knew about it and that's who was up at 11:30 on a Thursday night, was all the other actors from Broadway shows – and so I think he sort of saw that environment and saw the playfulness of it and thought that there was potential to do it a lot more often. And we sort of full-heartedly said, "yeah, that should be easy." Little did we know it's really hard, but we're having the time of our life. It's amazing to get to play every night, and I get to hang out with David and Sarah and Dan and my friends and play. It's great.

DR: Yes.

BROADWAY BULLET: Now besides the revolving cast, you said of like twenty-nine people who filter in and out, you advertise you have a special celebrity guest each night. I'm curious what's some of the most interesting stories so far nvolving some of your celebrity guests. Mess-ups, screw-ups, crazy stories…

DR: Well, the show is sort of based on screwing up. It is a hearty blend of off-the-cuff humor and planned stuff, so we mix – we're doing improvs at one point which are totally… people will jump in at all times, I mean, that's completely made up on the spot. And like, the other night, we had Tovah Feldshuh come out. I think she came out 'cause she thought it was a different game.

SR: Yeah, she thought it was "Overactors' Symphony."

DR: She thought it was this "Overactor's Symphony" thing. I have sympathy for the Overactors' Symphony.

SR: It's a hearty blend.

DR: Yeah, and she came out and suddenly she somehow went from thinking she was doing this "Overactors' Symphony" to becoming like, this crawfish. She became a crawfish, and it was actually one of the coolest moments we've had at the show, watching Tovah Feldshuh on the ground, sort of curled up like a fetal crawfish.

SR: It was in a musical, and all of a sudden, they put the mic in her face and they said, "Crawfish, what is your name?" and she says, "my name is Golda Meir."

[Both laugh]

DR: Yeah, we've had some amazing guests. Some are… I'm trying to think of anything that…

SR: Oh, Marc Summers!

DR: Marc Summers! We had Marc Summers of Double Dare fame do a skit, "Double Dare The Musical," and "Unwrap The Musical." We really took him to task.

SR: And he also… all these people have got these skills that we don't know about. Marc Summers also started his career as a magician, and so he had like, a staged magic act that he's done there. We've had some…

DR: We had Nicole Parker, from MAD TV; she's phenomenal.

SR: Yeah, Mo Rocca. Mo Rocca just came to the show the other afternoon, just sort of last minute.

DR: He just shows up at the show, and we threw him in…

SR: And that's sort of the environment. It's whoever shows up and wants to play basically gets thrown into the game.

DR: I thought Patrick Wilson was one of the funniest guys.

SR: He really is hilarious. You don't think about… you think of him as being a good-looking leading man and then all of a sudden, there he is. We played this "Celebrity Press Conference" game – I don't know if you remember this from when you saw it – but what happens is we get an actor on stage and it's a press conference and it's a celebrity in town to promote a famous Broadway show, except the person who's having the press conference doesn't know who they are or what show they're in.

BROADWAY BULLET: Yes, the night I saw it Bruce Vilanch was Carol Channing in The Color Purple.

SR: Oh, right!

DR: Which should happen, I think.

SR: It should… she's going in in a couple of weeks. Fantasia can't keep this up for long. But, it was… I think he was David Hasselhoff, I think, in Fiddler on the Roof.

BROADWAY BULLLET: That sounds too plausible!

DR: No, but we set it in Germany to make it really plausible…

SR: Yes, it was a German production. And Sutton Foster has been such a great friend to the show, and, we're just, you know, it's our friends, you know, people that we've worked with and love working with.

DR: And new people too, who we get to meet, as well. It's a lot of fun to meet some new people in that environment because it's not like they're coming to a talk show. It's not like they're coming out to sort of talk about what they're doing, or plug, they get to actually do things that they wouldn't get to do anywhere else. And the audience gets to watch them do things that they wouldn't see them do anywhere else. You know, last night, we had John Bolton, who's one of the funniest comedians working on Broadway today -- he's in Curtains – come and sing. We have a "special skills" segment of our show, which we sort of parody the bottom of every actor's resume where they have special skills, and we have them do these ridiculous things we've found on the bottom of their resume. So John Bolton sings "Oklahoma!" in three different languages and he's singing it in Japanese and Italian and…

SR: German, and in German…

DR: It's so ridiculous, like, it really stems from myself and Steve and Dan and Sarah's just bizarre sense of humor, and also a real fun and affectionate view of the theater world today. It's fun and people enjoy poking fun at themselves and being able to laugh at themselves and play with each other. There's a real sense of community. And the audience feels a part of that, a way they never could going to see a Broadway show where they're not yelling out suggestions for what to do. So, at its best, it's everyone working together, the audience, us on stage, and it's just like a party. It's like an after theater party.

BROADWAY BULLET: As I mentioned at the beginning of the interview, most improv shows are formed of a core group…

SR: Are you getting mad that we didn't answer your question?

BROADWAY BULLET: No, no, no. It wasn't a question then; now it is. Now it's a question, and that is, how do you rehearse such a thing, and keep the games tight and everybody kind of knowing the rules of the improv when you've got twenty-nine people coming in at any given time?

SR: That's a good question. We have a weekly rehearsal, where basically everybody who's going to be appearing in the next week's shows comes in and learns the game that we're going to be playing the following week. It has been described by some of the actors as as close to college as they have been in a long time, where they come in and basically we just throw up groups of people, we tell them how the game works. Sometimes we have a basic idea of what the game is and we sort of learn it in a very collaborative environment. So the people jump up on stage and we sort of tweak the games as people are playing them. You know, "maybe this works a little bit better, maybe we should instead of just getting a location, maybe we should also get the name of a specific language or a culture to filter that through.

DR: Yeah, I mean most improv troupes are comprised of that core, so we wanted to do something different. We wanted to give people the experience sort of like an addendum to going to see a Broadway show, where they can now see these people playing around. And most of them are some of the funniest improvisers I've ever seen. Steve and I have gone and seen other – these improv shows you're talking about – and we are doubly impressed with our cast after we see them because they, to me, they're the funniest improvisers I've seen. And the fact that they can always mix and match and play with new people -- there's an energy that you don't find when you're working with one troupe of people. And it's helpful, they sort of can feel each other out better, they work with each other on a more consistent basis, but there's a freshness to it at "Don't Quit" that you don't necessarily find there. And so we actually love the fact that we have such a large group of people who are always changing. And in those rehearsals, we find that the games grow and what Steve is saying is that we learn new things about them and we experiment with them in different ways because everyone adds their own color to the games. So, one week we might play it one way, and the second week we might play it a different way depending on who we have, and it's like an embarrassment of riches when it comes to that.

SR: It is. And one of the games that we play – I don't know if you remember this…

DR: I'm embarrassed.

SR: Are you embarrassed?

DR: Yeah…

SR: You're blushing!

DR: Thank you.

SR: That's okay; do you wanna… you need a moment?

DR: No, no no. I'm okay.

SR: Okay, if you need anything, just let me know. I'm here for you.

DR: Thank you, I appreciate that.

SR: One of the games we play is called "New York 2." I don't know if you remember this, but it's sort based on that show on – that theater criticism show they have every week on New York 1, and it's, we review three shows (two musicals and a play) – talking about the embarrassment of riches is, usually if you go to an improv show and people have to start singing, but it's people making up funny songs who have got these incredibly legit voices. All of a sudden, Will Chase, or Charlie Pollock, or Jenn Collela, who have got these amazing voices… I don't mean to single out any of our cast, 'cause they're all amazing singers, but, all of a sudden, are making up songs and belting high A's and B's, you know?

BROADWAY BULLET: The night I was there, it was the guy from The Practice…

DR and SR: Oh, Jason Kravits!

BROADWAY BULLET: He doesn't have the greatest voice, but it was like he was actually writing an honest-to-God musical on the spot. I'm like, "my God, lyrically, this guy is improving like, well-crafted…"

DR: When it's right, when it works, step one, you're giggling, step two, you're laughing, step three, you're sort of in awe, and step four, you're going, "I sort of wanna see this full musical. I sort of wanna see the whole thing 'cause it's better than a lot of the stuff I've seen."

SR: And step five, it's, "I ordered a Vodka tonic and this is definitely gin."

BROADWAY BULLET: So with rounding up all these guests, whose job is that and have you come up short one night, have you had too many people one night?

DR: Well, I think the fun of the is you never know who's gonna show up. You know, we've had casting people working on it, we've called our friends in, our producer calls in his friends. I think the general idea is…

SR: There was that embarrassing day where Bill Clinton showed up, we had to turn him away…

DR: We did, he really wanted…

SR: He was begging!

DR: … to do a Mad-Lib

SR: Yeah, he was upset, but, you know what? We had some other people there already, Hunter Foster

DR: We already had Newt Gingrich on that day.

SR: … It was rough. But he'll come back!

DR: Some nights we are packed to the gills with people, and other nights, you know, we have less of the special guest element, but the cast is strong enough as it is that no matter who's there, you're gonna be entertained.

BROADWAY BULLET: Alright, so this is at the Ha! Comedy Club.

DR: Right, on 46th Street. It's the former Laser Tag park, I don't know if you remember next door to the Equity building, there used to be a Laser Tag parlor…

SR: A Laser Tag parlor…

BROADWAY BULLET: So that's why it's so big! The lobby is huge. You can't find your room 'cause you're wandering around lost in this dungeon, with a sign constantly going to the bathroom, that way…

SR: It's a big, cruel joke, it's like Dante's Ninth Circle of Hell.

DR: Godot was in the bathroom.

SR: Yeah, you will never find it. We just pee on the floor.

BROADWAY BULLET: Well, I thank you guys for coming down, It's definitely bright and early for you after how late the show goes.

SR: It's all good, thank you!

BROADWAY BULLET: And best of luck with the run.

SR and DR: Thanks/Thank you!

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You can listen to this interview and many other great features for free on Broadway Bullet vol. 116. Subscribe for free so you don't miss an episode.

 or MP3 Feed with XML

 


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