This week, LEGENDARY Philly comic Doogie Horner drops by Free For All before leaving us forever for New York City. He took a break from packing to answer some questions for us:
Doogie Horner (Steve Belkowitz)
Free For All: Why are you abandoning us?
Doogie Horner: I’m going to NYC mostly for the comedy, but also for the high rent.
FFA: Late at night when we are sad and lonely and the only thing in the world that can make us smile is a little Doogie, what should we do?
DH: This is a joke question and will receive a joke answer: You should fart.
FFA: What won’t you miss at all about living in Philadelphia?
DH: I like pretty much everything about Philadelphia. I mean, the things I don’t like—traffic, weirdos, lack of green space—are drawbacks endemic to most cities and are going to be even worse in NY. Although actually our new neighborhood in Queens has more trees than Fishtown, which is nice.
FFA: What are your personal Top 5 moments in Philly comedy?
1. The WID performing at the Fringe Cabaret (circa 2004?): It was the first time I saw stand-up comedy live. I had seen stand-up before on TV, but it didn’t interest me too much. It was too slick and rehearsed. But the way the WID was performing was unlike anything I had seen on TV. People were yelling at him. He was sweating. He was in the trenches, working, saying whatever he wanted.
At one point the energy in the room dipped, so the WID told the crowd, “Start heckling me.” A lady screamed, “You’re a dick!” and he said, “Sure, just say the first word that comes to your mouth.”
2. Pat Barker vs. Steve Gerben in Omniana at the Ministry of Secret Jokes. For that matter, anytime Steve was on stage at the Ministry. One time we had him compete in a game where you had to think of jokes on the spot based on specific subjects. Unbeknownst to him, all the other competitors had been given the subjects ahead of time, so they were able to think of really good jokes really quickly. Steve couldn’t figure out how they were doing it, and got more and more agitated as we shortened the rounds.
Pat Barker is a great improviser and was really good at all the games we played, especially the Ruby Hats of Death. I remember one time he did a Dane Cook-ish act while his mouth was full of crackers and someone was banging a gong and tooting an air horn behind him.
3. Kent Haines performing as that really nice redneck/Midwestern character he does. Sorry I can’t remember the character’s name, but I can remember one of his jokes: “I have this dog named Rambo, and when he hears me open the dog food he comes tearing into the kitchen. His feet slip on the linoleum and he goes sliding across the room, slams into the refrigerator and knocks all the magnets off it. And I yell to my wife ‘Honey, watch out, it’s shrapnel!’ cuz like the Rambo movie, you know?” And he chuckles nervously because the crowd doesn’t laugh but you like him so much you want to laugh but you can’t. It’s great.
4. My first open mic: It was at Helium, and a bunch of my friends came. I told them, “Don’t come. I don’t want you there. It’s going to be awful,” and they said, “That’s why we’re coming.” Friends!
I remember the first two people I met at Helium: Joey Dougherty and Bob McCormick. They both walked up to me at the same time and said, “Do you know anyone here?” I said no, and they said, “Well neither do we. Hello.” Bob used to tell a lot of pun jokes, like, “I asked a girl to have sex in a distillery, but she said ‘No, it’s too whisky.'”
I remember my opening line, ad-libbed, which was, “Hello Helium Comedy Club, are you ready to chuckle?” This became my de facto opener for the next two years despite not being particularly funny.
I had a nice set, it wasn’t too bad. After my set Andy Nolan introduced himself and said, “That was funny! How long have you been doing comedy?” And I said, “like an hour.” Then I went into the bathroom and locked myself in a stall and had whatever you call the opposite of a panic attack. A relief attack? “Thank goodness that’s over,” I thought. But then fresh panic crept up when I realized, “Oh shit, I have to do that again.”
5. I don’t know if I can think of just one last thing. There have been so many awesome moments.
• At the Walking Fish, when we were in the room under the stage. Joey was standing in the trap door and he said, “What’s this broom handle for?” and he pulled it free and the trap door fell on his head and he almost died.
• Aaron Hertzog standing in a giant cloak at the Ministry
• Fergie telling jokes at the Ministry and me threatening to eject him
• Martha Graham Cracker, the goddess who walks among us
• Mayo’s set at Philly’s Funniest, 2009. Packed house at Helium, terrified, his hostages, helpless to look away.
• Every time John Kensil says, “You guys are a great crowd.”
• John Kensil walking on stage during Pat House’s set dressed as a devil, Abe Lincoln, construction worker
• Brendan Kennedy playing Omniana
• Don Montrey as FDR. He walks on stage with the wheelchair then sits down and drapes a blanket over his lap.
• Johnny Goodtimes as the 1920s comic. “Say, why do they call it World War One?”
• Johnny Goodtimes and Chip Chantry doing play-by-play of one of Johnny’s Little League games from when he was a kid
• Comic vs. Audience
• Bedtime Stories
• Dave Walk’s joke: “I made some guacamole. It was easy. Easy as pie. And then I made a pie. From the avocado shells.” I don’t know why I like that joke, but I do.
• The first time I saw Roger Snair rap, at the Walking Fish 24-hour comedy marathon. (Chip hosted 11 hours, I hosted the other 13; it was tough.)
• Rob Baniewicz’s smooth lady’s man character
• Performing comedy for a bunch of dentists eating dinner in a bank vault at DelFrisco’s Double Eagle steakhouse with Chip Chantry. They asked for 45 minutes, but the show was going awful so I did 60.
• Walking out of a holiday party I was supposed to perform at with Fastball Pitcher Bob Ican’tspellhisname. (He stayed and did a half hour which included taking photos with everyone, by the way.)
• The look everyone in the green room (I remember David James was there) gave me as I opened my book bag and slowly unpacked a carton of orange juice, bottle of vodka, and a glass and made myself a screwdriver.
• Performing on the main stage at the TROC for the first time. (That stage is awesome.)
• Bachelor party at the Ministry
• Debating Anton at the Raven Lounge. (The topic was: Who’s more likely to get arrested for sexual harassment, Miss Piggy or Pepe Le Pew?)
• Every sentence that followed Anton Shuford saying, “Look, lemme tell you something.”
• The short-lived and aptly named open mic Sour Grapes
I know some of those memories won’t make sense out of context, but I wanted to share them anyhow. Remember that scene near the end of Saving Private Ryan, where Tom Hanks says his favorite memory is his wife pruning roses? And Matt Damon is like, “Go on . . .” and Tom Hanks says, “No. That one’s just for me.” And then Matt Damon gets a look on his face like, “Well then why’d you bring it up? Ugh, war is the worst.”
FFA: Can you please create a “Philadelphia comedian” ghost of in the style of the upcoming book 100 Ghosts by “author Doogie Horner”?
Get to know Doogie even better by coming to see him perform on Free For All tomorrow night at Rembrandt’s Restaurant & Bar (741 N. 23rd St. Philadelphia) at 8:00pm. You can also follow him on Twitter @DoogieHorner.