Delco Comes to Comedy Central
Delco Proper premieres online Monday as a web series with potential to be picked up by Comedy Central on television, and its Philly-based creators say it’s a humorous homage to the local area.
Tim Butterly, John McKeever and Tommy Pope — each successful comedians who are part of Deer Prom comedy troupe — said they’d been pitching executives at the network various concepts for a comedy series but couldn’t settle one until earlier this year.
“We thought, ‘Every time we hear about somebody making it big it’s because they’re writing what they know,'” says McKeever, who grew up in Northeast Philly. “Instead of pitching a show, we pitched a world with characters based where we grew up in our hometown. And Comedy Central said, ‘We love it.'”
Pope, who grew up in Delco and went to Msgr. Bonner High School, said he hopes the series captures the “bold and aggressive personalities” that are unique to Delaware County.
“Everyone I hung out with: my parents, siblings, aunts and uncles were just so outlandish — your neighbor or your best friend,” he says. “I didn’t know how special it was until I left the nest because I just assumed that’s how everybody lived.”
McKeever and Pope each worked at Philly-area lumber yards growing up and said that the genesis for many of the characters on the show is rooted in their experiences. They’re adamant that the series will portray Delco in a positive, albeit humorous, light — and tackle outsiders’ misconceptions about the Greater Philadelphia area.
Pope said that if they’re poking fun of Delco or its surrounding neighborhoods, it’s OK because they’re in on the joke.
“We get a free pass because you can always say something derogatory about your own kind but then you say, ‘He’s one of them so it’s OK,'” Pope said. “We are a bunch of assholes, but we’ve become proud of that. We’re proud of being the underdog and getting our heads kicked-in year after year. It becomes a badge of honor.”
That underdog Delco aggression will become a signature part of the show. Each episode will feature some of the characters getting into a fist fight.
The original title for the series was Knuckleheads, but that was copyrighted, so they just thought it’d be funny to include Delco in the name.
“There’s nothing proper about Delco,” McKeever says. And most outsiders “see Philly as a string of bars where people scream about the Eagles.”
“We’re so much more than that,” he says. “These people to the outside seem rough, but they’re the sweetest, kindest and most fun people to hang around with. And, oh my God, their work ethic is never questioned. They work 70 hours a week at their jobs without complaining. And then they party like animals all weekend.”
The pilot episode is about a 29-year-old former high-school lacrosse star’s funeral — hardly a laughing matter. The entire pilot was filmed at O’Leary’s Funeral Home in Delco’s Springfield Township. And like many Irish wakes in Delco, it features an Irish bagpiper.
“You can say anything as long as it’s really funny,” McKeever says. “I always thought comedy could be a vehicle to talk about subjects that are tough and to tell stories that might not otherwise get told. It’s a way to make people laugh at things that are otherwise super grim.”
In the first episode, two of the three stooges, Tommy and John (they kept their same names for the show), are focused on wooing women, while the third, Izzie (Butterly’s character), wants to beat up a former high-school enemy.
McKeever said that Delco’s heart is what will propel the series and story-lines forward, taking a seemingly tragic situation like a young person dying too soon and twisting it with humor.
“The reason, I think, that so many people never leave Delco is because it has that sense of community,” McKeever says. “When you’re in that group and you’re accepted by those people? There’s nothing stronger. That’s what makes Delco so special.”
Delco Proper is now streaming on Comedy Central. Check it out here. The author of this piece, Delco native Kevin Cirilli, is a D.C.-based reporter covering Congress and financial services for The Hill, a non-partisan political news organization.