IF YOU took a class at ComedySportz Philly in the late 1990s, early '00s, you might have been learning improv skills along with one of comedy's rising stars.
That would be Aubrey Plaza. Best known for her role as April Ludgate on NBC's "Parks and Recreation," Plaza, who was born and bred in Delaware, will star in first film, "The To Do List," in theaters tomorrow.
Plaza plays Type A valedictorian Brandy Clark. After graduating from high school (class of '93), Clark makes it her mission to learn various sexual techniques - ranging from the tame to the X-rated - before heading off to college. The film also stars former "Saturday Night Live" players Bill Hader and Andy Samberg, plus Rachel Bilson and Merion's own Sarah Steele.
Plaza, whose grandparents still live up in the Northeast ("I know the drive up 95 well," she said), remembers that she was one of the younger performers in her improv training ground. "I was in class with a bunch of older people," she said. "Some were performers, some were librarians trying to build confidence."
Plaza needed quite a bit of confidence to play Brandy, who is not shy about her desire for sexual knowledge. "I knew what I was getting myself into but you never fully visually realize what it will be like until you're shooting the scene," Plaza said, adding that during a scene in which she feigned oral sex with Andy Samberg, "I just decided to go with it."
But Plaza didn't want her character to be a one-note sex machine. "I didn't want to just play any of the scenes for laughs or for jokes, but I wanted to remember what it was like when I was that age," Plaza, now 29, said. "Being a teenager is just completely embarrassing."
One of Beyonce's backup dancers might look familiar to 76ers fans. Kimmie Gee, as she prefers to be known, kept the Sixers pepped from 2005 to '07, but she's been making Beyonce look good since 2008.
"I just think it's beautiful coming full circle. I remember going to Wachovia Center, noticing the Sixers logo in the middle of the court and feeling so small," Gee said.
Now she dances all around the world (her fave spot is Brazil) and has worked with the likes of Usher and Ne-Yo, although she prefers to work exclusively with Beyonce.
Gee got a glimpse of the hard work she'd have to put in right after she got the Beyonce gig. "We're going to give you a shot," Bey's manager told Gee. "Rehearsal starts at 8 a.m. tomorrow."
"Beyonce goes very, very hard and what's beautiful is she's right there with you with her blood, sweat and tears. She expects the best and she sets the bar very, very high. You have no choice but to meet her at her level," Gee told me. "There's no competition on stage. Everyone is an important piece of the puzzle. No one is trying to shine brighter because we're all trying to shine bright."
Motherhood hasn't softened Queen Bey either. "Being on tour, we've always had a family vibe and now it's even more," Gee said.
Gee herself is about to start her own family. She got engaged to an Atlanta DJ last month.
Beyonce's Mrs. Carter Show World Tour is sold out at the Wells Fargo Center, but Bey will be back Labor Day weekend to headline Budweiser's Made in America Festival.
The first episode of "The Joey Eye Show" hosted by cutman and boxing promoter Joey "Eye" Intrieri will film at South Philly's Asylum Arena (Swanson and Ritner) from 7 to 9 p.m. The public is welcome to attend. The show will air on PhillyCAM's Channel 66.