Individually, they’re Dan Maher, Jon Lunger, Matt Candio, and Evan Stutts, but every Friday night at 10:30, the quartet moonlights as ManDudeBro, the longest running improv comedy group in the Lehigh Valley without any cast changes.
For $6—if you get there early enough—you can have a front row seat to what they promise is the “cheapest and best date night in town.” Here’s how it works: they pick a volunteer from the audience to come on stage and answer a few questions. Then, they improvise an entire show around the answers. The joke, the troupe assures hesitant participants, isn’t on the audience member—rather, the jokes are inspired by what they share. “It’s therapeutic for people to have their world turned into a comedy piece,” Jon says.
Who are you guys?
Jon: I have two lovely cats, I read too many comic books, and my doctor says I need to lose some weight. I love my parents—they’re still married! I went to school for music and I don’t use that degree at all.
Dan: I live with my cat, an orange tabby. He likes to wake me up at 2 a.m., 3:15 a.m., and one last time at 4:30 a.m. I also live with my wife, whom I love very much.
Evan: I don’t have a cat and I’m going gray.
Matt: I’ve been involved in theatre since middle school, but I started a career in comedy in 2009 after I graduated from DeSales University. I have many cats, but none of them are mine.
What’s your day job?
Jon: I’m the Director of Marketing for ArtsQuest.
Dan: I’m an independent video producer, so I edit and shoot commercials, web videos, instructional videos, and whatever people ask me to shoot.
Evan: I’m a bartender at Fegley’s Brew Works in Allentown.
Matt: I’m a sales associate at a privately owned GNC.
What were you guys like in high school?
Jon: I was a band geek.
Dan: I was a chess nerd. I was on the chess team four years in a row, and was finally made co-captain my senior year. I never made it to captain though.
Evan: I was the class clown.
Matt: I wasn’t the class clown—but I was funny.
You say you do “long form improv comedy.” What does that mean?
Jon: Think of it like a one-act play that’s being made up on the spot.
Dan: A lot of people think of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”, which is known as short form improv. One thing that people might not realize about that show is that it’s partially scripted and they shoot several takes. Short form improv is, at the root, meant to make you better at performing. Long form is a little bit deeper, richer, and more sustainable.
Evan: There are no mistakes, and if there are, they have to be used.
Matt: It’s about creating an entire piece from a suggestion, or sometimes nothing at all.
What can someone expect when they come to your show?
Jon: There’s a fair amount of grounded absurdity. It can be wacky and goofy, but our idea is to be as true to whatever world we’re creating as possible. It’s not wacky just for the sake of being wacky.
Dan: Expect to laugh as we look to make sense of the chaos.
Evan: Expect the unexpected. Our show is convincingly absurd.
Matt: We are four people who have been doing this together for a long time. We love each other and we love what we’re creating together, and I think that makes the audience feel connected to and “in on” the show.
What’s the difference between standup comedy and long form improv comedy?
Evan: The best way I can describe it is that it’s kind of like “Saturday Night Live.” If it’s done well, it should seem like it was scripted.
Dan: Standup comedy is one person telling their story. ManDudeBro is four people telling an audience member’s story.
Jon: Dan, that was beautiful.
Matt: With standup, you show the audience this house you’ve built. With long form improv, you are building the house in front of them.
How do you react when a joke doesn’t land at all?
Jon: Our jokes always land. No, you know, we commit so hard to the reality that we build that we just keep going. We trust in each other that we’re going to find and build something that’s going to get a laugh. I also don’t have time to dwell on it until afterwards.
Dan: Double down on it. When it doesn’t land, do it more and do it bigger. It’s like if you’re at the casino and you bet on black and it comes up red, but you stick with black. Eventually, black’s going to come up and you’re going to win some money.
Evan: Trying to push jokes on stage never works. The best thing you can do is live in the moment and try to work towards something more honestly.
Matt: When you’re invested in the scene and reacting honestly, the comedy will happen, so don’t go for the joke.
What is always funny to you?
Jon: Not farts, but people’s reactions to farts. It isn’t the fart itself, but it’s people’s disdain or disgust or when they laugh. The moment of discovery always makes me laugh.
Dan: One of them is people’s reactions to silly or frustrating moments, or when my wife does impressions of our cat.
Evan: People’s habits. I’m kind of a creep, so I watch people when they’re in their cars. I’m always studying everyone, because humans are creatures of habit and they are the most interesting thing about living.
Matt: Those lizards that run on two legs across water.
What’s your favorite comedy movie?
Jon: “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.” It was the first R-rated movie I saw in a theater and it introduced me to Mel Brooks.
Dan: “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” Is that a comedy? I’m a big animation nerd, so I liked seeing that chance to mash up cartoons.
Evan: “Blues Brothers.” The original. It’s a really nice mixture of soul and blues music and they crash, like, 200 Chicago cop cars, which is amazing.
Matt: This is tough. I really like “Ghostbusters” (1984).
What’s something that the audience would never guess about you?
Jon: I had a stroke. That counts, right?
Dan: I once voiced a dog for a cartoon on Sesame Street. I had a more substantial role, but Kevin Clash, the guy who does Elmo’s voice, stole my job. Seriously.
Evan: I was on a national fishing show in 2011. It was a mockumentary about a reality show that was trying to find a host for the reality show. We went to cities pretending it was a real show to get strangers to try out for it.
Matt: I’m an introvert playing an extrovert.
SteelStacks on Fridays at 10:30 p.m.
101 Founders Way, Bethlehem