“I truly believe with every fiber of my being that we need release and silliness.”
I meet up with Abby Fudor, Liz Labacz, and Robin Hitchcock—the women who make up the sketch and improv comedy trio Frankly Scarlett—at The Commoner’s Biergarten on the roof of Hotel Monaco. We’re there in the name of Oktoberfest, which if you’re like me, you might be surprised to learn takes place mostly in September.
As soon as I step out onto the rooftop bar, the pungent stench of hot vinegar hits me in the face. Biergarten’s aesthetic is modern patio. There’s a wall of faux greenery, bistro lights, and giant Jenga. The open air is nice on a sunny day, but the city views are restricted by the tall apartment and office buildings surrounding the hotel.
The menu is a long list of beers, ciders, wines and cocktails, and a short list of German-inspired eats. (Hence, the vinegar.) It’s not a dinner destination, it’s the kind of place you meet up with friends for a few drinks and a bite. And the women of Frankly Scarlett are great friends. They met at the University of Pittsburgh in the early 2000s and bonded over comedy.
“The linking thing between all of us was really the Fright Night Improvs, which was the show at Pitt that led to us having comedy in common and liking improv,” Abby says.
The beer and cider lists are expansive, offering up selections from several European countries and across the United States. For the first round, Abby orders a Kölsch from Germany, Liz gets a Grapefruit Radler from Austria, Robin has a Beglo IPA from Sweden, and I take a Good People Cider from Dallastown, PA.
Each of our beers comes out in a differently shaped glass. We debate how much of it is tied to branding versus how much it actually has to do with the way the beer tastes or the level of alcohol or carbonation. We’re definitely not experts.
But, Liz does share one horrifying piece of trivia with us: apparently deep fried beer is a thing.
“It’s a carnival staple, I think it’s mostly in the south,” she says. “Basically they take dough and then they fill it with beer and then they deep fry it. It comes out as hot beer. I don’t understand the appeal of it, but it exists.”
We all agree that we prefer our beers cold, thank you. And to go with them we order the bavarian pretzel with beer cheese and the pickle and cheese plate. The pretzel is good and big, perfect for sharing. The three cheeses on the cheese and pickle plate—a smoked cheddar, a blue cheese and a welsh cheddar—are tasty, but the pickles are a little too sour. There are pickled carrots, string beans, and cauliflower that pretty much only taste of vinegar.
As we nibble on our snacks, the conversation turns serious. Frankly Scarlett, like so many other women, are finding the state of things in our government hard to ignore.
“Most of my sketches have a social justice tint to them, but the way I’ve always approached it is that the comedy is the peanut butter that you’re putting around the pill,” Liz says. “Lately, it’s been really hard for me to bother with the peanut butter. I just want to write sketches that are like ‘and then we burn it all down!’”
We all nod in understanding. Abby then adds that she thinks comedy can also be cathartic.
“As somebody that runs a comedy theater, I also sort of have to deeply commit and grasp on to the idea that no matter how angry, sad, frustrating the world or lives get, I truly believe with every fiber of my being that we need release and silliness,” she says.
And silliness ensues. We make fart jokes and talk about juggalos (fans of Insane Clown Posse) and bronies (adult, usually male, fans of My Little Pony). Abby notices a “Brosé” wine on the menu and we ask the server to confirm our suspicion that it is indeed a rosé being selectively marketed towards men. It is, and she even brings out the bottle to show us.
When it’s time for a second round of food and drinks, Robin gets another IPA, Liz gets a brown ale, and Abby opts for a frozen rosé that comes beautifully adorned with a mini bouquet. She says it tastes great, too.
We order two more plates of food to share. The first is a cod sandwich, and the second is pierogies and kielbasa. Vinegar reappears in the braised red cabbage atop the kielbasa, and it’s much better here than it was in the pickled vegetables. We all agree that the pierogies are the best thing we try at the Biergarten. They’re wonderfully buttery with a crunchy outside and a squishy inside—just the way you want them.
After the meal’s done, we play Jenga, and Abby can’t keep it together when Liz knocks over the tower on her first turn. If Frankly Scarlett is this fun at lunch, I can only imagine how fun their improv shows must be. The next one, “Frankly Scarlett: All Made Up,” is on Saturday, October 13 at the Arcade Comedy Theater, where they’ll be joined on stage by a handful of other female improvisers.
I ask them if it’s hard collaborating creatively as such close friends.
“It probably should be a lot harder than it is,” Robin says. “When we do sketch shows our collaborative process is really frank. We seriously do fight about the tiniest little line edits, but the love is so pure and true.”
“We all want to put on the same kind of show.”
Haley Frederick is a Pittsburgh Current Staff Writer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.