Exclusive: Conrad Roth Interview (2/27/2012)

[Photo by Ameen Belbahri]

Many could see Conrad Roth cresting to the upper echelon of San Francisco’s comedy totem. Some would say he was already there. He had a potent and powerful view, voice and expression that spoke true to his East Coast roots in an intelligent/cool way. And then he was gone, back across the country, leaving many to wonder where his career would subsequently go. Who knows? For the meantime he lives in Philadelphia, performing stand-up and filming sketch with his group “Center City Comedy”. One of their regular series the produce is “We Rent”, a micro sketch show of cramped quarters and shared inappropriateness. Here’s an interview with Conrad on his recent activities with the San Francisco sheen fading from his shoulders.

Courting Comedy: You’re desperately missed. Why did you leave San Francisco?

Conrad Roth: First off OJ, thanks so much for taking the time to put together thoughtful questions and for posting this on your blog.  Love the blog!  Very sharp, intriguing, and professional.

It warms my heart that I am missed.  I miss everyone* in SF as well, but know we will see each other soon.  I left SF to be closer to New York City.  I live in South Philly now, but head up to NYC twice a week for acting classes, stage time, and networking.

*Excludes: Brendan Lynch and Joe Gorman

CC: What did you learn from your time in California?

CR: In comedy, I learned story telling.  Also, how to sit on a stool and tell people, “How it is.”

In life, I learned to take more risks, explore, slow down, relax, and to never eat marijuana.

CC: What’s the atmosphere of comedy in Philadelphia? Is it dramatically different from any other big city comedy areas?

CR: The atmosphere in Philadelphia is great and seems to be always progressing.  A lot of that has to do with the crowds at open mics are becoming very enthusiastic, welcoming, and less fucking pricks like they were in the past.  So a lot of open mics feel like real shows.  Philly is different from big comedy areas in the sense that it’s knit tighter amongst comics, simply because it’s a smaller community.  We are also lucky because Philly is so close to New York, it’s like the 6th Borough.

CC: There’s a lot of pressure to do Los Angeles if you live in the Bay Area. Is there a similar pressure for you to go to New York?

CR: It’s the exact same pressure if you want to take the next step in your career because you have outgrown the city, only Philly is much easier to outgrow than the Bay Area.

[Photo by Shawn Robbins]

CC: Do you feel that acting is your forte?

CR: I’m only guessing, and I would hope, that acting is my forte.  Interestingly enough, I don’t see myself as a comedic actor, but more of a focused, dramatic actor like Leonardo DiCaprio or Ethan Hawke.  Stand-up is my primary passion and I hope acting can help me build my name to perform internationally.

CC: What’s your history with your business party at Center City Comedy?

CR: Center City Comedy started as a weekly comedy show that is still running over 3 years and is Philly’s most successful independent show.  We decided to register Center City Comedy as an LLC to book college shows and produce promotional videos for various companies.

CC: What’s your group’s goal as a sketch outfit?

CR: Center City Comedy also shoots sketches and we hope to ultimately get noticed to produce TV shows while continuing to gain exposure as stand-ups.

CC: How collaborative is the creative process for “We Rent”? How much gets assigned to each member? Are there people with multiple roles (i.e. producers, director, sound engineer, etc.)?

CR: It is completely collaborative.  First, we all sit down together, spit ball ideas for episodes, then I write up the scripts.  Next, Foley and Cotton organize the shoot, day, time, cast, etc.  Foley draws up the shot list, while the rest of us secure props.  We bring in an outside sound engineer and director of photography.  Foley directs, Cotton and myself produce, everyone acts and everyone has a hand in the editing process.

CC: Was “We Rent” the first, most efficient, or best idea CCC had for a web series?

CR: All of the above.  We have created commercials, sketches, and trailers, but this is our first web series.  The idea was to make it as concise as possible.  Most people don’t have the attention span or commitment to watch videos much longer than a minute long on YouTube.  It’s our best idea because it’s the most efficient.

CC: Do you personally feel you’re producing as much content for “We Rent” as you’d like”?

CR: No matter what we do, we always want to produce more content.  This is our first season and we are already beginning conceptualization for next season.  We aim for deeper character development, even more jokes, and to get out of the house and into the city.

CC: What are your most common production woes?

CR: Common production woes include too many cooks in the kitchen and the fact that we are all such close friends that professional boundaries do not exist.

CC: Are there any major sources of conflict between the members of CCC?

CR: Nothing is major because luckily nobody holds grudges.  That’s our key.  We will yell at each other and laugh about it the next day.

CC: H. Foley is often found shirtless in the “We Rent” series, is he super confident or is it comedic ambition?

CR: Foley’s character in We Rent is based off of a real roommate he once had.  Foley describes him as a Russian kid with no body shame whatsoever.  The guy would be in tighty-whiteys and shirtless constantly even if Foley had friends, family, or girls over.

CC: Are the tales of “We Rent” based on real-life events?

CR: Not really. They are based off of hypothetical twists on real-life events.

CC: “We Rent” essentially exists as a life-action cartoon. Is there any plans to increase the scope to include arcs, and continuity?

CR: Haha.  “Life-action cartoon” is the best description I’ve heard.  I’m going to remember that.  Yes, Season 1 was more experimental and as for Season 2, our goal is to include heavy character development and arc.  Continuity is optional for now.