It is Podcast Month which means that we will be bringing you all the fun shows you should be carrying around in your back pocket on a phone or a walkman. Today we speak to a podcast that is recorded in Hackensack, New Jersey and is all about improvised comedy fun! I caught up with Michael Sangregorio to find out all about it.
Hello Sketchprov Podcast! Tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Sketchprov is a podcast inspired by improv companies like The Second City and the Upright Citizens Brigade, but the biggest influence is the now retired podcast Superego. When I first heard that podcast, it was unlike anything I’d ever heard done with auditory comedy. To improvise entire premises and then edit them into fully fleshed out sketches with ambiance and sound effects and music as if they were written out that way was truly mind blowing..
How did the podcast come about?
When I decided to create the podcast, the word “sketchprov” just popped into my head as a clever portmanteau of the style I was trying to create in regards to what I described earlier about improvising a premise but presenting it like a sketch. It also had a nice sound to it so I decided that would be the name of the show.
After seeing Superego Live at the Bell House in Brooklyn in 2016, I emailed Matt Gourley, the co-creator of the Superego podcast and asked him for some advice on the process. He didn’t have to, but he emailed me back an entire lengthy explanation of their entire production process including editing tips and creative brainstorming ideas.
It was so amazing for him to do something like that for a guy from New Jersey just trying to make a funny podcast. That’s why we refer to them as “The Forefathers of Sketchprov” which they’ve always liked on our Twitter mentions.
How do you decide what each of the episodes are about? What sort of styles of improv do you explore on your show?
The current version of the show, is actually the second incarnation of the show. I previously had a version that was in seasons. It didn’t quite work out in regards to scheduling and the consistency I wanted, so I kept all the best improvised pieces and have remastered them for release in this second go around. The new sketches that are being released along with them are all recorded in bulk.
What I do is invite a handful of our “Sketchprovisers” as I like to call them, who among them are extremely talented and variously experienced long form improvisers from the greater NY/NJ metro area. We think of characters, a single premise, or just an idea that we can riff on, “roll tape” as it were on the computer, and do our best to make sense out of something. As long as we all have a collective clear idea of the “who, what, and where” before I hit record, we’re ready to go.
The hard part comes down to me when I have to edit down what can be 20 minutes worth of recording in one sketch down to a 4 to 5 minute sketch with a clear narrative filled with special effects, ambiance, and music if necessary.
What have been some of your favourite highlights of past podcasts?
The best moments we have are whenever we make each other break completely by accident with one good line or comeback or voice that just comes out of nowhere. It can happen at any given time and I’ll never stop recording so there’s plenty of great outtakes (which make for great outtake episodes).
What are your aims for your podcast in 2018?
My goal for the podcast is for it to climb the comedy charts of Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and Google Play because we of an appreciative fan base we’ll have built. I want us to be seen in the same light as Superego but still having our own unique sense of humor and original characters. Of course like any podcast I’d love to be able to get sponsors, too. (I’m looking at you, Squarespace).
How do you decide who to have as a guest on each show?
All of the performers on the podcast are either improvisers I’ve worked with in the past or have been working with recently as a building ensemble of rotating performers. It all comes down to who is available on the recording days.
You also host a variety of live shows – tell us about them?
As far as my hosting background, I love to emcee. It’s a natural extension of improv for me because I’m engaging with an audience and I’m getting them involved in the moment into something they’re there to enjoy. Currently I’m the host of a spectacular sketch comedy competition show at The Peoples Improv Theater in NYC called Bragging Rights, created by comedic writer and actor Matt Algozzini. It’s like WWE meets SNL.
It happens monthly on a Friday and its a sure fire hit every time. There’s never been a dry eye in the house after a show. You can find more details about the show at https://www.facebook.com/Bragging-Rights.
On your site you also advertise an open Mic night in Hackensack, NJ, – tell us us all about that? What can people expect to see?
The Open Mic Night at Johnson Public Library in Hackensack, NJ is a great opportunity for all types of comedy acts, be they stand-ups, improvisers, sketch groups, or even musical comedians to come to the auditorium and entertain with new material, old material, or just get fresh exposure in front of new faces. Each show has a featured act at the start of the show to entertain the audience and allow anyone who wants to come and perform to sign up. All the open mic dates can be found here: https://sketchprovcomedy.com/jplopenmics/
What make you different to other podcasts out there?
Going back to Sketchprov, I think what makes our show different than others is that the production value gets us noticed and the length of the show is just enough to make you want another episode immediately. I approach it like a half hour sketch show like in the early days of television where it was to the point and never was around longer than you needed it to be but just long enough that you were disappointed it was over and couldn’t wait for the next one.
Who would be your dream guest to appear and why?
My dream guests are first and foremost the stars of Superego, Matt Gourley, Jeremy Carter, Mark McConville and Paul F. Tompkins. I would also love to have NJ native and fantastic improviser Chris Gethard. There’s an up and coming actress who’s going to be a real superstar one day and she’s one of the best improvisers I’ve ever seen named Katie Hartman. She’d be great to have on. Without a doubt, though, Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, and Amy Poehler.
What other podcasts are you a fan of and why?
If you ask my friends what other podcasts I listen to they’ll say, “All of them.” I’m a podcast addict but my favorites are ID10T (formerly The Nerdist Podcast), Spontaneanation with Paul F. Tompkins, Comedy Bang Bang, and Hello from the Magic Tavern.
What advice would you give for people thinking about starting a podcast?
For anyone starting a podcast, I’d give the same advice I’ve heard Chris Hardwick give time and time again, “If you love to do a thing, DO THE THING!” Put your heart into a something you love to talk about and everything will line up. For me it was improv and world building.
If people want to find out more about you where can they find you on social media?
Twitter – @Sketchprov, @MikeSangregorio, Instagram – @SketchprovPodcast, @MikeSangregorio, Facebook – @SketchprovPodcast
In three words why should people listen to your show?
Why you should listen to Sketchprov, in three words: It’s all improvised. (Does a contraction still count? Haha!)