This local Quizzo host and improv trouper will literally do anything for a laugh. Including our interview!
We checked out Sean Maguire’s improv show, Playtime, at Old Academy last March and had to talk more with the man behind this spontaneous live show that comes to the neighborhood roughly every other month. Technically, “Xylobone” is a team production but Sean insists he’s the boss and they all totally do what he says. “Without me they would literally be nothing,” he told us. “I’m like their god.”
Hold up! Sean never said that – at least not with words. But his eyes told the real story, a tale of how one lowly undergraduate spun a brief stint as Phil the Ram into his own East Falls comedy empire. “I honestly don’t think I’m funny,” he lied. And making people laugh? Now that’s fun! Especially when what they were drinking spits out their nose.
But Sean didn’t start off in the spotlight. Like most of us a few years after college, Sean was underwhelmed by life as a grown-up. Unlike us, though, he took a wild shot at finding happiness thru doing what he loved most: comedy. He soared thru classes at NYC’s Upright Citizen’s Brigade training center, then at Philadelphia Improv Theater, and even won an international competition.
He writes sketches, he does stand-up, but his love is live improv: off-the-cuff riffing with his Xylobone friends. They’ve been performing together since their days together at PHIT, and now with several Old Academy gigs under their belt, they’re running like a well-oiled comedy machine. My favorite bit in their last show, btw, begins late at night in a bar.
GUY: I know it came off as sarcastic but I want you know it came from my heart.
GIRL: But I don’t look like a pug.
GUY: It’s not about looks, but more that you give off a pug vibe. And maybe the nose. But that’s not a bad thing—
GIRL: That IS a bad thing, Dad!
Har har har… I loved how this skit went real weird (and real funny), real fast. That’s the fun of improv, the unexpected zigs and zags of logic, the laughs that shoot out of nowhere. A talented team like Xylobone seems light as a feather on stage, spinning jokes as much for each other as for the audience. When improv’s good, the whole room feels a rush.
Old Academy’s a great venue for it, too: the upstairs space is cozy but not claustrophobic. And it has a gritty feel to it, kinda punk rock. And if that ain’t enough: it’s BYOB. (!!)
When Sean’s not performing on stage, he’s hosting Quizzo Nights at Murphy’s and Wissahickon Brewing Company (alternating Tuesdays and regular Thursday, respectively). His absolute favorite thing about emceeing in bars? “The heckling,” Sean told us, “I love it when people talk back to me about something dumb I say… And I love giving it back even more.”
Sean tells us that he’s also started hosting regular comedy nights every 2nd Wednesday at WBC. Add it all up — and throw in assorted gigs around the city — and this guy’s working to make us laugh like a dozen times a month. We’re happy to laugh with him and his talented crew, too.
Playtime comes to Old Academy Friday May 18th, details on Xylobone’s Facebook page. And catch Sean at Tio Flores’ on South Street every 1st Wednesday for Game Show Night (apparently people find him funny all over the city).
FUN FACT: The name “Xylobone” comes from a scene where Sean was playing a team member’s uncle whose dying wish was for his niece to play his ribs like a xylophone when he was gone.
GROUP IMAGE: top row from L to R: Matt Keen, Jess Whiteman, Sean P. Maguire.
Bottom row, L to R: Mat Siebers, Julia Owens, Liz Czerpak, Drew Marshall, and Mauri Rapp.
Who is Xylobone? According to Sean…
Mat and Mauri are great at playing funny characters and injecting energy into a scene. Matt (the other one) is incredibly quick-witted and great at support. Julia (a fellow Fallser!) has the funniest one-liners from seemingly out of nowhere. Jess is great at heightening a scene. Liz is definitely the silliest, and Drew is great at distilling a scene down to one final funny line that brings everything together. My strengths? I’m always quick with a funny voice, and to lend support to my team members.
More info: seanpmaguire.com