'Slop'-stick comedy

The Comedy Pigs celebrate 15 years of laughs

The Comedy Pigs celebrate 15 years of laughs

August 07, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

FREDERICK, Md. - Ever wonder how the plans for the Death Star fell into the hands of the Rebel Alliance?

Turns out the plans were supposed to be sent to the Galactic Empire's generals' mailbox. But, instead, a Death Star employee accidentally sent the plans to the general mailbox.

At least, that's The Comedy Pigs' take on "Star Wars."

The Comedy Pigs are an ensemble of sketch comedy and improv actors based at the Maryland Ensemble Theatre in Frederick. Some returning cast members are joining some of the current cast on Saturday for a one-night show featuring some of the troupe's best skits from its first 15 years.

The troupe was what would later become a bigger theater group, the Maryland Ensemble Theatre, said Tad Janes, one of the founders and the current producing artistic director for the theater.


Fifteen years ago, Janes and some friends were helping Shepherdstown, W.Va., theater organizer Ed Herendeen with the Contemporary American Theater Festival. They fell to talking about their future, Janes said, and they decided to start something together that would fulfill their artistic drive as well as support a family life.

The easiest way to get started, he said, was with a sketch comedy/improv troupe because little was needed in the way of props, sets, costumes and other equipment.The group has had several homes; for the past five years, The Comedy Pigs have performed at the former FSK Hotel.

Not everything is improv for the Pigs.

Sometimes ideas for the comedy sketch shows are generated by cast members throwing around ideas, discussing them, and other members adding their ideas, like a domino effect, said rookie cast member Tres Dillon, 23, of Frederick.

Other times, people just bang out scripts, said Denny Grizzle Jr., artistic director for The Comedy Pigs.

For the recent "There's a Run in My Ozone Layer" comedy sketch, Dillon created a character inspired by a guy she'd seen wandering around downtown Frederick. He came into the salon where she works and asked for a job once, saying some strange things.

So Dillon created a socially awkward female character who just showed up at different places throughout the sketch, asking for a job and saying strange things. The character connected with the audience, getting a lot of laughs during a recent performance.

Some cast members, like James McGarvey, often ad-lib and play several roles in one show.

Dillon explains, "It just makes it more fun when you have two seconds to change." Cast members will help each other do a quick costume change. "It keeps the adrenaline pumping."

Each comedy show includes a couple improv segments, such as news anchors who talk about the day's headlines based on words suggested by the audience.

Between the improv segments and the occasional ad-libbing during comedy sketches, each night is a bit different, Grizzle said.

Often local references are mentioned, such as setting one scene at the Hot Topic store at Francis Scott Key Mall. Pop culture also is a target, including "Star Wars," "The Godfather," and stage illusion or magic shows.

The content often includes sexual innuendo, sometimes more overt than suggestive, and political incorrectness.

Some of the skits expected to be performed Saturday night include one about making dill bread, a dating game scenario with Elmer Fudd-like contestants, and one about a self-help group for men named Dick.

In addition to the comedy sketches, for each Main Stage play at the theater, The Comedy Pigs will perform two one-hour improv shows, following the Main Stage show, Grizzle said.


WHAT: The Comedy Pigs 15th anniversary show

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9

WHERE: Maryland Ensemble Theatre, northeast corner of West Patrick Street and North Court Street, Frederick, Md. The theater is downstairs.

COST: Tickets are $15 with a $2.50 handling charge per online order. The show is expected to sell out, so advance reservations are recommended.

CONTACT: For tickets or more information, call 301-694-4744 or go to

MORE: Mature subject matter.

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