by Len Lear
One of these days, you just may tune in to the Comedy Central network or maybe a late night TV talk show and see a handsome, funny young guy from Chestnut Hill performing a stand-up comedy set that has the audience chuckling with laughter. You may even say, “Hey, isn’t that the guy who used to live right next to the Chestnut Hill West Train Station? He always was pretty funny.”
Phil Forrence, who turned 22 on Oct. 24, was in fact born in Chestnut Hill Hospital, graduated from Norwood-Fontbonne in 2010 and Roman Catholic High School in 2014 and lived next to the Chestnut Hill West Train Station for 18 years (where his parents still live) until he left to go to the University of Pittsburgh, where he will graduate next April with a degree in computer engineering.
Phil is one of those guys who always heard, “Hey, you’re funny. You should be a stand-up comic.” So instead of being a sit-down comic in a college dorm, Phil walked out on the high wire in March of 2016 and exposed himself (comically speaking) to an audience that also found him funny. And even though he also had studying to do and exams to take, Phil has miraculously managed to find the time and energy to perform a few hundred times in cities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.
“Some have been in theaters and clubs but most in bars where you have to fight with hockey or American Ninja Warrior for the audience’s attention,” said Phil, who can be seen with several New York comics with TV credits at a “Homecoming Comedy Showcase” on Friday, Nov. 3, 8 p.m., at The Performance Garage, 1515 Brandywine St. in Fairmount.
“The first time I performed for an actual audience,” recalled Phil, “I was very nervous but excitedly nervous, like right before you lose your virginity. It went great, unlike when I actually did lose my virginity. I performed for a group of students in a classroom for a stand-up club at Pitt. I started my set with one minute of silence.
“I repeatedly took in-breaths like I was about to speak, but I never spoke. Finally, after a minute of tension where no one knew what was going to happen, I said calmly, ‘I watch porn,’ and the room exploded into laughter. It was a weird bit that I never performed again, but that night I couldn’t sleep as I continually re-lived the feeling of success.”
Buoyed by the reaction to his material, Forrence created, produced and hosted a monthly showcase at Pitt called Collegiates & Comedians on Campus. Phil admits he decided to try stand-up comedy because “you get to look cool. Sometimes you bomb, but sometimes you are the man of the hour, the center of wit for the room. People repeat your punchlines back to you and smile genuinely as they’ve had a long day, and they’re happy you made them happy.”
Where does Phil get his material from? “From things that happen to you every day. Life is funny. So when you laugh in life, you write it down. Most of the time it’s useless, but one out of 50 times it’s something you can try to repackage for an audience that night. Heighten it from there. Like my mom uses the phrase ‘hook-up’ to mean ‘meet with’ or ‘talk to,’ but the phrase ‘hook-up’ today means ‘to have casual sex.’ Every time I heard her say it, I’d laugh, so one day I told an audience and made up some scenarios where that could make her seem really cool/sexually progressive. It’s not Carlin-esque, but it made me laugh.”
What other comics have influenced Phil’s work? “Mike Birbiglia, Louis CK, Bill Cosby (I know), Anthony Jeselnik, Norm MacDonald and countless others. I’m not near their levels, but their worldviews are echoed in my sets.”
How does Phil juggle the comedy and the classes, homework, exams, etc? “I do a lot worse in the classes.”
What does Phil do when a line he thinks is really funny bombs? “I panic! I do crowd work, quickly move on and explain to the audience why they should have laughed. This usually gets the worst reaction.”
What was the best advice Phil ever received? “You freeze two bananas, then put em in a blender with cocoa powder, dates, almonds and almond milk, and two minutes later, voila, you have all-natural, delicious vegan ice cream.”
After Phil graduates next spring, he plans to move to New York, get a remote/work-from-home software job (if possible) and pursue comedy part-time until it can pay his bills.
Which person in the world would Phil most like to meet and spend an hour with? “Mark Cuban from ABC’s Shark Tank.”
What did Phil like and dislike (if anything) about growing up in Chestnut Hill? “I liked how nice everyone was. I disliked how if you go sledding at the Water Tower, it hurts a lot.”
More information about the Nov. 3 show at 215-906-0919 or firstname.lastname@example.org Tickets at www.comedyhomecoming.brownpapertickets.com/