‘Let’s Start a Cult’ turns audiences into followers

Comedy shows have the power to do all kinds of things. They can—hopefully—make you laugh. They can make you think. They can even make you an integral part in starting a cult.

At least one comedy show can, that is.

Let’s Start a Cult” is one of the most popular monthly shows at Good Good Comedy Theater in Chinatown. On Friday, Dec. 29, the show will have its final offering of 2017. Local comedian Ari Fishbein conceptualized the show as part of Five Dollar Comedy Week in July 2015 and has been hosting the monthly show since March 2016. The concept is simple.

“Let’s Start a Cult is a show with a mission: to start a cult with me as the leader,” Fishbein says.

The show opens with a brief stand-up performance by God, who is, fittingly, Fishbein himself behind a curtain, invisible to the audience. Following this, Fishbein (in the flesh) will deliver a sermon, the topics of which include new tenets of the show’s religion, stealing ideas from other cults, and even changing his own identity. “More often than not, though, the sermon serves as a framing device that allows me to basically show the audience something insane that I found on the internet and am able to tie back to the concept of starting a cult,” he explains.

Once the narrative has been established, nearly anything goes for Fishbein and his audience-members-turned-followers. Unlike most other comedy shows, the show can even extend to the world off the stage. “I have made a habit of getting into arguments with neo-Nazis on Twitter on this show since way before it was fashionable,” Fishbein says. “In one particular instance, I had three comedians come up on stage and we all tweeted at one of these people until he blocked all of our accounts.”

And at one point, the show helped right a very serious wrong, far beyond the confines of the stage. “Last year a friend of mine was contacted on the website Couchsurfers by a man in Germany who was trying to start a ‘micro-country’ in America,” he says. “Through a little internet research, I found out he was a convicted stalker who was trying to start a colony where the age of consent was 13. I subsequently reported him to the German police.”

With its “anything-can-happen” format, “Let’s Start a Cult” is certainly destined to close out a truly tumultuous year in a unique way that will leave the audience—er, followers—with stories to carry into 2018. As for the cult of Fishbein himself, immediately following the show, he will join a roster of fellow Philadelphia comedians for “Darlings,” a weekly sketch comedy show held at midnight each Friday. He can also be found on the first Saturday of each month as the co-host of “Big League,” a stand-up comedy showcase at the Barbary in Fishtown.

If you go:
“Let’s Start a Cult”
Friday, Dec. 29
10:00 p.m., $7
Good Good Comedy Theater
215 N. 11th St.,

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