While the name might keep them from reaching crowds of coeds, it does serve one important purpose: It weeds out the most uptight audience members. "I think a good litmus test is the way people react when they hear the name," Hartman says. "If you can get behind that and laugh at the absurdity of it, the chances are better that you'll dig what we do on stage. Or you'll send us death threats. Or sue us. And that's fine too."
Hartman and fellow Skinny Bitch Leah Rudick met at an acting class at Sarah Lawrence College, where "every theater piece ... has to be about secret lesbian Nazis or secret lesbian librarian surfers or something, so now a lot of our comedy makes fun of that shit," Hartman says. "It is very gratifying."
After working in a comedy collective at college, they joined a bigger sketch group post-graduation, then started writing and performing as Skinny Bitch about three years later. Their sketch shows vary considerably depending on where they're performing, how much time they have, and "how many props we feel like carrying," Hartman says. "We have a catalog of sketches we pull from, so the process of choosing a lineup is always interesting. Sometimes we'll put six sketches together for a show and then be like, 'Oh wait, every single one of these sketches ends with a different word for vagina or the phrase 'shitty underwear' or involves pulling pizza out of weird places in our clothes.' And so we'll trade some things around. Try to make it more even so people can't tell how much we're obsessed with hiding pizza on our bodies."
After meeting at DSI, the pair started the team in an effort to do something different. "The DSI style is very fast-paced, and often very large-group oriented, and there are not as many smaller teams," Brookie says. "It's often very light comedy, where it's focused mostly on finding the fun. Although I love that style, I was looking for someone who might be interested in doing a more challenging two-person show, maybe more focused on characters, focused more on the idea of finding something the audience likes."
Pound for Pound starts out their shows by asking audience members to share something they love in the hopes that the audience will actually care about the show on some level. Brookie says they rarely get jokey answers to the query. "We've actually gotten a lot of genuine responses," he says. "I think if you asked them, 'What's something that you want,' or 'What's something that you like,' or 'What's something you desire,' maybe you'd get some jokey answers, but we've gotten some pretty real answers."
These days, Pazderka works as the artistic director and school manager at DSI, while Brookie recently moved back to his hometown of Greenville, S.C. Finding the city lacking a regular improv comedy show, he founded Alchemy Comedy, which hosts weekly shows and classes downtown. While Brookie and Pazderka now live several hours apart, it's only added to the pair's comedic chemistry. "We both know we don't get to perform together much anymore, so we go full force on stage," Brookie says.
"In what I believe was our second appearance, we did a sketch called Drill Sergeant Poonmaster," says Ed Carden. "For this show we decided to alter the sketch to incorporate the Citadel, and on one of the nights we performed we had a bunch of Citadel guys in uniform sitting in the front row. Now, a big part of the sketch involves the Drill Sergeant, played by Brad McMurran, hitting the cadets — played by Sean [Devereux] and myself — in the nuts when he is displeased with them. ... At one point near the end of the sketch, the Citadel guys were losing it laughing and Brad, deep into character, leapt off the stage and started hitting them in the nuts. It was one of the most insane moments onstage I've ever been a part of."
That kind of brash behavior typifies the envelope-pushing (hence the name) group. Although they've since lost two members and they've all gotten a little older, we've been assured that we can expect the same crazy antics. "We don't purposely set out to be offensive. Our only goal is to be as funny as we can possibly be," Devereux says. "Unfortunately, we are a group of dipshits, so anyone coming to our show looking for Aristophanes is going to be very disappointed. Though I think we should get points for knowing who Aristophanes is."
An example of typical dipshit behavior: "I was in a scene that required me to snort cocaine. Since we have matured some, we used sugar instead of real cocaine," Devereux says. "I plugged my nostril when I went to snort, only somehow I plugged the wrong nostril and ended sucking an entire line of sugar up my nose. The pain was excruciating ... but somehow I was able to finish the scene. That was my worst moment, and the rest of the group's best."
Although it might seem that the group has no boundaries, they do in fact have a line that they try not to cross. "Over the years we've tried just about every controversial subject matter in the book, and we've had to learn where the line is the hard way on a couple of occasions," Carden says. "Still, if a sketch deals with a potentially sore subject in a smart and well-thought-out way, we'll still put it up. For us, we've learned that as long as you can present this type of material in a way that is clever and clearly shows the audience that you are not coming from a hateful or mean-spirited place, then crowds will be able to accept and enjoy it for what it is."