BWW Interview: Nick Crawford and Jacob Simmons talk about bringing vaudeville back to Birmingham in NICK & JACOB: A TWO-MAN VARIETY SHOW
Birmingham is experiencing an exciting boom in 2018. The city is a buzz with new, fresh business opportunities, shops, lofts and entertainment. This weekend only, one such offering in an upcoming comedy show that harkens back to the long lost art of vaudeville. Birmingham has a rich history in vaudeville going back to the early 1900's. The Lyric Theatre and Alabama Theatre were a frequent stage for vaudeville acts like The Marx Brothers, Milton Berle, Buster Keaton and Mae West. Bob Hope, Carol Burnett, Sonny and Cher and Dean Martin brought vaudeville to television in the variety show format. This Friday and Saturday night, Nick Crawford and Jacob Simmons will be performing their take on vaudeville with "Nick & Jacob: A Two-Man Variety Show". Crawford and Simmons are both members of the popular improv comedy troupe Ugly Baby. They each deliver natural charismatic chemistry, fun character work and smart storytelling instincts. When asked what to expect in this show Crawford shares, "Our tag line is Vaudeville, but in a Loft. We will have music, impressions, improv and sketch comedy! The show veers more to the absurd for sure...and nothing x-rated...just weird. Or so we've been told.
Nick Crawford is a talented and sought after actor with an impressive run of shows to his name. He continues to gain well-derived accolades for his stage roles including "Les Miserables", "The Producers", "Greater Tuna", and "An Act of God". He gave me some insight on how the show came to be. "Originally, we wanted to perform and develop new formats of two-man improv. After a couple of rehearsals we decided to add some planned skits and impressions to the show as a break between improv rounds. Then we decided to add some songs and so on and so on. There is improv in this show but it's a part of the pie now instead of being the whole shebang".
Jacob Simmons is a hilarious improviser with a quick wit and energetic character work. "When Nick asked if I would be interested in doing something like this, I couldn't say yes fast enough. I was excited to explore some other comedic formats. It's been a fun collaboration between Nick and I and what we found funny and entertaining. Simmons finds inspiration from many comedians. "Comedically, my influences are varied. Steve Martin was always one of my favorites. I love how he would do stand up but was also weaving bits and songs and absurdity into all of it. I'd be blind if I didn't recognize that I good bit of that is in this show".
Performing improv together over the past eight years has gifted the two with an impeccable sense of timing and collaboration. Crawford observes, "Jacob is a fantastic and hilarious performer. When you work with a group of improvisors, after a while you begin to read each other's minds. His thoughts are pure. He is a committed and dedicated "yes and" man". Simmons shares the same accolades toward Crawford. "So when I first started performing with Nick years ago I remember being embarrassed about how hard I would laugh at him on stage. "Like, yeah, it was funny, but it wasn't THAT funny, Jacob." It was like being in middle school and not wanting your crush to know that you liked them, but you absolutely couldn't help it".
The duo has taken notice of the increase is audiences for live comedy and theatre in Birmingham. Simmons enjoys the reaction as well as the opportunity improv delivers. "The comedy audience in Birmingham is fantastic. I can't always speak for the stand up or theater audiences, but I know our audiences for Ugly Baby are very supportive and engaged. They've sought it out, so they come ready to play and support. They're not jaded, and they're very on top of it. When people come out to an Ugly Baby show for the first time, I love experiencing with them their introduction to improv. Someone said one time, "I'm glad Birmingham has this." And I remember thinking, "Of course it does!" Birmingham has some of the most talented writers, actors, and performers around. And I think the audiences recognize and appreciate that. Now, if our show is awful and no one laughs, I reserve the right to change my mind." Crawford reflects on how fast the audiences are growing. "Birmingham has several stand-up shows and improv troupes now and they all seem to draw healthy crowds. A city with lots of entertainment options is a good thing...hopefully we can add to the 'scene". With growing Birmingham audiences looking for new and fun ways to laugh and be entertained, it looks like "Nick & Jacob: A Two-Man Variety Show" is the right show at the right time.
"Nick & Jacob: A Two-Man Variety Show"
The Phoenix Lofts #509 (A Bryan Studio), 1710 2nd Ave N, Birmingham, AL 35203
Two nights ONLY.
Friday (1/12) and Saturday (1/13) - 8pm - Door opens at 7:30p
Only $5 for tickets at the door or at nickandjacob.brownpapertickets.com