John Chenoweth fiddled with the label of his Yuengling while talking about the reason he works so hard on his comedy. He began writing and acting with Mon Frere, a sketch comedy troupe, shortly before being fired from his bookstore job in July 2012. On Friday, March 7 at the Idiot Box in downtown Greensboro, he will make his directorial debut.
He already seemed nervous.
As one of six members—though only four will act in their newest show—he shares a large workload.
“Everyone throws themselves into the shows 150 percent, and all of the writing and rewriting is collaborative.”
When asked about his end goal for Mon Frere, he got serious.
“Well, the business answer is to make enough money to do this full time, but the sentimental answer is different.” Chenoweth smiled shyly and swigged his beer.
“The end goal for all of this is being funny. My dad, before he died [in 2013] texted from the hospital to tell me he was sick — and not a normal kind of sick — and I told him to call me if he needed anything once I got out of work. He texted simply, ‘Be Funny.’ So that’s the goal.”
At the center of Chenoweth’s directorial debut sits the theme of change. Specifically, he says, “Change and how much we don’t like it.”
Since he joined in 2012 to do the female parts of a two-week run of Harry Potter-themed sketches, Chenoweth has donned many hats. The director’s chair, however, did not open immediately. Mon Frere’s brain trust, brothers Al and AJ Schraeder, produced and directed a show with entirely new sketches per month before AJ left to pursue a touring sketch group. With a leadership vacancy afoot, Chenoweth seized the opportunity the only way he knew how.
“I had the most to drink, so I volunteered,” Chenoweth said. “Now we don’t do a show a month, but we do a tighter show with sharper writing. This particular show feels special, and very special to the group.”
Fellow Mon Frere member Bob Beshere agreed, adding, “The show will focus on the trials and tribulations of young adult men. Makes sure you quote trials and tribulations, that sounds smart.”
“Call it a series of consecutive failures,” Chenoweth said. By then, he’d finished his label-less beer and begun to shake his interview jitters.
“It’s all self-deprecating, dark and obviously silly. That’s what makes it a Mon Frere show despite all the recent changes,” he said.
He rose to go get a final round of beers for the table and asked if anyone needed anything. I expected someone to say “Be funny,” but Chenoweth had that covered.
And the round of drinks.
Entitled “This Should Go Well: An Evening of Safety-First Sketch Comedy,” Mon Frere’s show runs for one night only at the Idiot Box in downtown Greensboro this Friday, March 7th at 9 p.m.