Tonight at 8:30pm, Philly Sketchfest Presents will host sketch from two up-and-coming Philadelphia duos, Jon & Ian Have Something To Tell You and Wretched Hive with stand-up from special guest, Michael S. Watkins. Philly Sketchfest sat down with Jon Plester & Ian Fletcher of Jon & Ian Have Something To Tell You, to talk about their recent performance at the 2016 Toronto Sketchfest, the duo’s origins as part of Temple Smash and a few details on the BRAND NEW set of material they’re performing tonight…
Philly Sketchfest : You just got back from the 2016 Toronto Sketchfest. Tell us all about it. Everything. How was the ride up, did you travel with anyone, what groups did you see that should immediately come to Philly, Poutine(?), Lower Drinking Ages, come on… out with it already.
Jon Plester : We traveled up with my roommate Pat, his girlfriend Maddy, and Molly Scullion (The Future, Stipend for Life) who all came up just for fun. We failed to cross the border properly, twice. We had a lot of uniformed men scoff at us for our naivety. We began referring to passports as “ports” which we thought was hysterical. The sketch people up in Canada were very kind, very funny people. In particular, I’d like to give a shout out to Cameron Wyllie and Carson Pinch from O Dat Dum who we talked to a bunch over the couple days we were there. A group that needs to come to Philly is Flo and Joan, who put up the tightest, smartest musical comedy show I’ve ever seen. Junkyard Dukes put up a really wonderful, solid sketch show that had a lot of weird idiosyncrasies that I adored. As well as Marty Topps and O Dat Dum, who won the producer’s pick award and deserved every bit of it.
Ian Fletcher : I’d like to second Flo and Joan. They were absolutely captivating as performers and made us think hard about stage presence. We didn’t score any poutine and we were already 21 when we got up there, but we enjoyed the particular Canadian charm of 50 degrees being an unseasonably warm temperature for them at this time of year. Toronto itself was a beautiful city and I can’t wait for an opportunity to go back.
Philly Sketchfest : This was your first festival performance outside of Philadelphia. Many sketch groups have noted that they feel they find out just how effective/solid their material really is when they travel outside of their hometown/home field advantage. How was your material received? Any specific sketches get reactions you weren’t expecting? Like uproarious enjoyment or non-reactions?
Jon Plester : We threw our “Twins” sketch at the top of our set. This was my call because I feel like it’s one of our tightest and strongest sketches and I wanted to win the audience over early. It did not fly with them. They absolutely did not respond to the darkness of that sketch. There were several women volunteering at that festival who made sure we knew how much they found the sketch unsettling, but regardless enjoyed our show.
Ian Fletcher : Our “Kids Fighting at the Bike Rack” sketch ended up being a surprise favorite among the Toronto audiences. We were told later by Molly that a few members of the audience were rooting for us to kiss. Not because the romance was endearing, but because they thought it would be hot. Jon thought it was a little weird but it was a pretty big ego boost for me. “Donut Time”, was again a favorite, which came as no surprise to me. The sketch itself was Jon’s idea and he worries about it landing every time, despite my assurances.
Jon Plester : We’re not kissing in our next show. Stop rooting for us to kiss, guys.
Philly Sketchfest : Can you blame them? You’re the Sam & Diane of our generation. How did you both meet?
Jon Plester : I met Ian my first year writing for Temple Smash. We didn’t really become friends until he started writing my second year, which coincided with him getting a job in the television studio where I worked. Once I got my eyes on his work I realized how incredibly smart and poignant his writing was and continues to be. I needed to get my hands on his brain. I think our first endeavor in writing together was a disaster, actually.
Ian Fletcher : I was acting for Temple Smash during Jon’s first year as a writer, but we didn’t interact much because I was keeping my head down and biding my time until a spot opened up on the Temple Smash writing team. We became writing partners the following summer because we were having so much fun riffing together while we were at work. Then when we sat down and talked about structure we found out that we had extremely similar styles in that regard as well. It seemed like a happy marriage. And so far it has continued to be.
Philly Sketchfest : Where you both already big sketch comedy fans or was this something you just found yourself involved in and then kept doing?
Jon Plester : I wanted to do comedy in some capacity since I was a kid. I always loved all things comedy and watched endless amounts of sketch growing up. I never thought I was funny, or that people liked me, so I never really tried to do anything until college. Sketch brought me to improv, which brought me to PHIT. Comedy has become so much more to me since then, it’s a way to make sense of the human condition. Which I think (and hope) we reflect in our writing. It was Arthur Russell who said “Comedy is the highest form of art.” And that really resonated with me.
Ian Fletcher : I guess I knew I wanted to do comedy since my junior year in high school. I think anyone in comedy got involved because they wanted to prove that insecure person inside them wrong, so I wouldn’t say I’m unique in that regard. But I also think I always had a particular taste when it came to writing in general and it always circled back to a comedic voice. I see comedy as high art. I know that sounds silly, but I really do. It can say so much more to so much more people because it offers the accessibility of the absurd. It has the potential to challenge you or relieve pain or bring joy or even bring healthy sadness. It can influence the national dialogue and it is patently liberal. I wanted to be a part of that. So I joined up with Temple Smash, met Jon, and got started writing. And I only want to do more.
Jon Plester : Don’t reveal too much. They will know our secrets. We want to be special.
Ian Fletcher : Right, sorry. I meant to say that we were inspired by Grown Ups 2.
Jon Plester : There we go.
Philly Sketchfest : Temple Smash has a huge cast and amount of people involved. How does that beast work? Is it difficult to find your voice? Who from Temple Smash should we be on the look-out for?
Jon Plester : It’s a fucking nightmare. It’s a beautiful fucking stressful nightmare. But I love it. I’ve met some of the greatest people doing that show, it would be negligent of me if I didn’t mention here: all of the cast and crew, every single member of the writers team in every iteration, the production team, everyone. We all grow and discover who we are in a big way within this institution we’ve carved out for ourselves – the misfits, the weirdos, the comedy nerds.There’s a bunch of people from Temple Smash who are starting to get involved in and around PHIT. I’d definitely be on the look for them because there’s a lot of talent there. It’s only a matter of time before the levee breaks.
Ian Fletcher : I’ve always described Temple Smash as the intramural soccer of comedy and I mean that in the most affectionate way possible. We make a lot of mistakes, but we learn from them and we never shame each other for making them. We learn to be funny together and then we learn to work as a team together. It’s like a big family, which is what anyone says about a group of people they work with for a long time, but I’m still going to say it. I’ve loved writing for Smash and I’m thankful every day for our production team and cast who commits so much time and effort into bringing our silly ideas to life. Keep an eye out for any and all of our writers because I love them all equally and am afraid they may be reading this.
Philly Sketchfest : As far as inspiration, what sketch groups (local or national) or comedy of any form has made an impression on your work?
Jon Plester : Within Philly, we’re big fans of House of Solitude and The Incredible Shrinking Matt and Jacquie. Ian and I watched a lot of ‘Legs for Days‘ sketch online together while we were writing this show. I’ve also been big into Boat Comedy sketches as of late. I think Clickhole is a big influence on our sensibility, we’re constantly swapping articles or reading headlines to each other. I watched a lot of Kids in the Hall, Mr. Show, and The State in high school. Absurdity, really. I live, breath, and bleed absurdity.
Ian Fletcher : I second House of Solitude and The Incredible Shrinking Matt and Jacquie. They’re some of the funniest people I’ve seen perform on a stage. I’ve also recently watched a bunch of recordings of the UCB sketch team Legs For Days and I am big into their stuff. Prior to that, I watched a lot of the same stuff as Jon growing up, with the addition of A Bit of Fry and Laurie.
Jon Plester : This is, by and far, our most dense show. Our style tends to be fast-paced, very wordy dialogue. And this show is back to front filled with that style. We’re doing the most well-rounded show we’ve ever put up.
Ian Fletcher : It’s been overwhelming to put together and rehearse but it’s also the most excited we’ve been for a show. I absolutely love our writing in it. Can I say that? Can I say I love my own writing? I’m saying it. I’m allowed to love myself.
Jon Plester : Can I kick it?
Ian Fletcher : Yes, you can. But that’s beside the point.
Philly Sketchfest : You’ve burst onto the scene last year opening up for The Flat Earth and continue to work extremely hard by constantly performing and honing your existing material. Any advice for people similar to your situation a year ago where you were just starting to put up full shows?
Jon Plester : Find someone who understands what your comedic sensibility is, and will navigate you to what you think is funny. We’re not afraid to say no to one another when we know the other person is not putting forward their best work. As well, don’t be afraid to put up a show. We were bumming around at work one day and I pitched the idea of us putting up a show ourselves. I’m not entirely sure how on board Ian was, initially. I think I forced him into it in a big way.
Ian Fletcher : Oh yeah, I’m a big old coward. So there’s no guarantee I would be where I am now if Jon hadn’t pushed me. Which I think is a lesson in itself. To do this, it’s important to be brave. And if you aren’t, it’s important to find someone braver than you to take your hand and pull you through the fire until you can learn to be brave yourself. Ask for work. Ask for shows. Put yourself out there as much as possible. If you’re too scared to do it at first, find a friend to do it with you.
Jon Plester : I’m your friend.
You can see Jon & Ian of Jon & Ian Have Something To Tell You and Wretched Hive perform tonight at 8:30pm at The Adrienne Theater Playground with stand-up from Michael S. Watkins. Tickets are $10 and available online via TicketFly NOW.