As mentioned in this week’s comedy roundup, the 15th annual Del Close Marathon kicks off this Friday, with 56 straight hours of improvised comedy taking place across 7 stages throughout the city, including East Village’s own UCB East theater and Theater 80 on St. Marks Place.
There’s reason to range beyond the Bedford + Bowery borders, as well: Baby Wants Candy — the long-running, Chicago-based improvised musical — is one of the most beloved institutions within the improv world and a Marathon fixture, having played over 1,700 shows worldwide.
In the week leading up to the Marathon, Baby Wants Candy will be performing one show a night at the Hudson Guild Theater (get tickets here). Every show will feature a different cast, a different audience suggestion, and of course, a completely different musical, made up and performed on the spot with a full band.
B + B sat down with two cast members, Amber Petty and Jeff Hiller, to discuss “The Real Housewives of Nazareth,” “Little Hitler,” Julie Andrews, Amy Poehler, and all that good stuff.
A number of Baby Wants Candy alums have gone on to be pretty successful. Founding member Peter Gwinn was a long-time “Colbert Report” writer, and Jack McBrayer was on “30 Rock.” Has performing with Baby Wants Candy changed now that there’s a bit more of a hype around it?
Amber: What’s been kind of cool is that we’ve been able to do shows at an Off-Broadway theater – we had a run at the Soho Playhouse for a long time – and the New York Times came and reviewed the show like a year and a half ago. So there’s a little more buzz around the group in not just the improv world from those people being so successful.
Jeff: But I also think that most of us are improv nerds, so we’ve been watching Baby Wants Candy since we started taking our level one class. So even before Jack got on “30 Rock” the idea of playing with Baby Wants Candy was like: holy crap, I’m playing with Baby Wants Candy.
Amber: With Jeff it’s like, the show will definitely be funny no matter what happens. And it’s like it doesn’t matter what I do because Jeff will be way funnier. But in a way that’s supportive, and not in a scene-stealing way.
Jeff: But I feel like you’re a bus driver. Every show needs a bus driver cause a bus driver’s like, “Alright, I get it, you play a weirdo character who had a bird fly out of its nose, but let’s come together now cause we need to make this show a real show.”
Jeff: Improvised Shakespeare is pretty great. People always say I could never sing but I’m like, that’s nothing. Speaking in iambic pentameter off the cuff with rhymes throughout – I think that’s pretty impressive. And then just your Stepfathers…
Amber:… Death by Roo Roo, Big Black Cars…
Jeff: I don’t know if they’re playing this weekend but whenever I play the marathon I always look for the WeirDass show, with Bob Dassie and Stephanie Weir. I love Stephanie Weir. Or Foursquare. Anything with John Lutz.
Jeff: I’ve done so many of these at the Fringe Festival, the most successful being “Silence,” the “Silence of The Lambs” musical. Hmm. I think I would like to do something action-y… like, “The French Connection: The Musical.” Maybe “Chinatown: The Musical.” [Singing] “My mother! My sister! My mother! My sister!”
Amber: I don’t like to play animals, I don’t know why. One time, ‘Funny Monkey Eats a Donkey’ was the title. That show actually turned out really great, but at the time I was like, “Oh God, why?”
Jeff: And I hate anything that involves some sort of pop culture figure. Like we had a rash for a while where it was like ‘The Real Housewives of Blank.”
Amber: Yeah, we just got one like a month ago that was “The Real Housewives of Nazareth.”
Amber: I know! Cause at first I was like Julie Andrews. But then I feel like she would be really uncomfortable.
Jeff: Yeah, she probably wouldn’t go with all the dirty scenes.
Amber: And I think she’s really protective of her voice, so it’d probably be the worst choice possible. But if she just like opened for us, just sang some songs.
Jeff: I’d just be cool with Poehler. Come play with us, Amy Poehler!