While it often doesn't get talked about, Phoenix does have a pretty busy comedy scene. With local standup comics lining up to perform at bar comedy nights every day of the week, and dozens of improv troupes doing their thing throughout the month, there are ample opportunities for Phoenicians to have a good laugh.
And in that hustlin' and bustlin' scene of standups and improvisers, the men of Bully Mammoth stand out as, to the best of my knowledge, Phoenix's one and only sketch comedy group.
The ensemble of Chris Akins, Ricky Brindley, Ryan Gaumont, Riko Ott, and Adam Rini do regular shows at Space55 where they act out pre-written comedy, integrating theatrical elements and even music into their performances. The last time the Mammoths were on stage, audience members howled as the group performed Dracula being pulled over and forced to perform sobriety tests, and reinacted a cowboy film appreciation group lounging in the desert and arguing over what Bill Murray whispered at the end of "Lost In Translation". We talked to one of the Mammoths, Ryan Gaumont, about the group's upcoming show on Saturday.
What inspired the creation of Bully Mammoth in the first place?
Bully Mammoth was formed originally in 2007, we made numerous mistakes, then reformed two years later. All of us shared an interest in producing original and unique comedy, something that we all felt the valley lacked. To this day we still feel like there are very few opportunities for live comedy like ours, so we keep at it. All of us grew up watching Mr. Show, Kids in the Hall, Monty Python, The State etc. and were inspired to do what we do today.
When you put a show together, do you try to fill it with all new material, or are there bits you've written in the past that you like to bring back? Do you have re-occurring characters and gags that have appeared throughout your shows?
We add as much new material to shows as possible. When we repeat a sketch, which we definitely do, we try to bring some small changes for people who may have seen it before, rewarding them in a way. There's been ones we've repeated, some characters we like to bring back too. We don't aim too much of our material towards specific characters but there are characters we have that we know have become staples of our show. For instance an innovative pastor named Terry Carpenter, Charlie Lipshitz the elderly host of a retirement community talk show, the World Rough Housing Federation champion Chuck "The Chainsaw" Chapman, a spokesman for the United Water Chestnut Growers of a America named Floyd Baldwin. We also seem to reference local real estate tycoon Michael Pollack quite a bit, the Poconos as a vacation spot, and use movies like Rambo and Lost in Translation.
Do you ever improvise in your shows if certain pieces that look great on paper don't work out as well performed? Have you ever had to deal with hecklers?
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We have never had to deal with any traditional kind of hecklers. Some crazy people have come off the street but mostly our audiences just drink and have a good time. As far as improvisation goes we improvise roughly 10 to 15 percent of our show. Most improv is a result of us forgetting our lines though. Some sketches we specifically call for it, like when we have our Pastor Terry Carpenter come out and do his Bible Madlibs for the audience, that is not scripted. If we ever improvise we usually at least set characters and a direction to go. We don't just go out there and ask for ideas, we like to make sure what we are presenting is funny and makes at least a fiber of sense.
Aside from your regular shows at Space55, has Bully Mammoth played any other venues in the past?
Other than when we performed a few years ago at the old Modified Arts and Iguana Mack's in Chandler we have found a nice little home at Space 55. We feel our show has enough theatrical elements to require a mostly traditional stage (with lights and a curtain) so doing alternative performance spaces and bars can be tough for us. Although we want to find other stages in the valley to perform at, Space 55 has been fitting to our shows the past few months. We would love to find more spaces to perform at in the valley though.
Bully Mammoth will be performing at Space55 on Saturday, July 10th. Show starts at 9pm, tickets are $8.