In 2009, Joe Moses joined forces with his college friends and peers in Team StarKid to effectively blow up the internet with their YouTube parody musical titled A Very Potter Musical. Playing a hilariously drawling, gliding, and deliciously wicked version of Severus Snape, Moses showed off his comedic chops and gained a new fandom in the process.
Having moved to Los Angeles after being based in New York for a few years, he’s continued making a name for himself with his sketch comedy show titled the ‘Joe Moses Showses’ that would regularly perform in NYC but went national with a tour over the summer, with a DVD highlighting a couple of those performances now available to purchase. Putting on his show for the first time since the tour ended in August, Moses is preparing his third annual ‘Holiday Showses,’ which this year features special guests Clark Baxtresser (TalkFine), Tessa Netting (Billy Elliott, Glee) and Broadway icon Anthony Rapp (RENT). “There’s something great about having a really vague theme like the holidays,” says Moses. “It’s so exciting to write for that. Ideas come up that I wouldn’t think of during the course of the year.”
We spoke with the performer about what to expect for his holiday shows this weekend, his love of pandas, and getting confused with a rapper who shares his name.
How did the ‘Joe Moses Showses’ begin? How has it morphed since then?
Oh, wow. It’s changed so much! It started when I was part of StarKid Productions in college. Immediately after [A Very Potter Musical], I moved to New York to pursue in comedy and acting and writing. I got involved with a theater called the People’s Improve Theater. Speaking with the artistic director there he was like “you should just go for it! You should do your own show!” So I gave it a try and because [StarKid] had already developed a following through A Very Potter Musical that had sort of already gotten me the attention of the internet, we got a really great turnout at my first Showses. It was really just a way for me to do more sketch comedy and different characters. I also really enjoy writing. It’s just sort of an opportunity for me to develop those skills and showcase them. I’m lucky enough to have people who actually wanted to come and see what I had to say!
When did it go from the ‘One-Man Showses’ to just ‘Showses’?
Well, to be honest, it was never really a “one-man show.” The initial concept was a one many show, and definitely the earlier shows have more monologuing and sort of a one-man show vibe, but I’ve always had special guests and we’ve always done sketches. At a certain point, probably about a year ago when I had so many fun guest stars on the show, I was like “this no longer can be called a ‘one-man show.'” My joke was that we were going to win an award for “Best Ensemble Performance in a One-Man Show.”
What are some elements of the show you can’t leave out? Or does it change every single time
You know, it really does change every single time. There’s a couple of key points that we always hit on. I always begin with sort of a straight-up stand-up comedy monologue. It’s important for me because it’s a way for me to connect directly with my audience and just let them know what I’ve been doing and what I’m feeling. A lot of times [it’s] just to say ‘thank you’ for having such supportive fans. Then we always do a game called ‘Joe Moses Supposes.’ It’s an improv game where we take questions directly from the audience, and I attempt to answer them. Every time a guest star rings a bell, I have to come up with a completely new answer. So that’s been a really fun, interactive thing we do during every show.
Then the other thing we do almost every single show is something involving the Potion Master, which is a spoof of Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series. The character first appeared in A Very Potter Musical, but since then I’ve taken the character out of context, and I did a whole [YouTube] series called “The Potion Master’s Corner,” which are basically the world’s worst interviews with Snape leading it. Every time we have a guest star on stage that hasn’t been interviewed before, we do a live world’s worst interview with the Potion Master. We’ve been lucky enough to get Anthony Rapp to submit himself to the Potion Master’s Corner [laughs].
Let’s talk about your love of pandas. When did that start?
[Laughs] For me, I’ve always loved panda bears. When I was a kid, I actually sent my allowance to the WWF. Not the World Wrestling Federation or anything. Between my Junior and Senior years of college, I went to China on a study abroad trip and toured all over that country and saw SO many panda bears. There’s like a panda bear at every zoo. I loved it so much. Then while I was there at the Beijing Zoo, I bought this really unique panda bear hat, that I’ve only been able to find at the Beijing Zoo in China. Then when I came back to the U.S. and college for my Senior year, it became my thinking cap. Basically every time I would write something, I would put on this goofy panda bear hat. For some reason, it would help me think so I’ve just developed this intense love for panda bears.
Do you still wear that cap while you’re preparing your sketches?
Sometimes I do, yeah! Now I actually have various panda bear hats that have my logo on the back of them. We sell t-shirts and panda hats and posters and stuff for the show. I have several different thinking caps now, but I still have the original! That one is still my favorite.
For the ‘Holiday Showses,’ you have Clark Baxtresser and Tessa Netting, who have been in the show before and Anthony Rapp. Is this his first time?
It is! We’re so happy to have him. We met Anthony at a Harry Potter fan convention called LeakyCon, and we were both special guests at this convention. We have a mutual friend who runs it. We talked and it turns out that we both love video games. We’re both big gamers. From that, Anthony and I started playing video games together on PlayStation. I was telling him that I was planning on doing a show in New York and kind of on a whim I was like “hey, are you free?” He just finished the preview run of If/Then in DC, and they’re about to workshop it for Broadway. He was totally cool about it! He was like “yeah, sure! Let’s play; it’ll be fun.”
What can we expect from the trio of guests that will be joining you this weekend?
One thing I’m excited about is that all of my guests are very musically talented. Obviously Anthony is Broadway royalty and just an amazing singer and performer. Tessa has an amazing voice, and she is an amazing dancer as well. She was in the original cast of Billy Elliott, so she’s a Broadway veteran as well. Then Clark is an amazing musician. He was a music major at University of Michigan, and he’s an incredible vocalist and piano player. Because of all that, we’ll get to do a lot of really fun music stuff with this show. Probably more than we have with any other show. On top of that, I love pulling things out of context so you’ll see Anthony doing some really goofy stuff.
Who have been some of your favorite guests and sketches from past shows?
Oh, man. It’s tough to say because everyone comes on in a different way. My favorite bit that I came up with right away was a group called Wrong Direction. It was basically right when One Direction had just come out with “What Makes You Beautiful,” and I had a bunch of guys who were at the time the Warblers on Glee. We were all going to be in the same spot at the same convention so I was like “guys, do you want to do a One Direction parody?!” And they were all like “sure! That sounds like fun!” So I got all them together, and that was Curt Mega, Riker Lynch, Titus Makin, and Dominic Barnes, with Tessa. That was one of my favorite little bits that we came up with.
We’ve had so many [favorites] though. We had Evanna Lynch on our show in Los Angeles last year. And that was really fun. I mean, I’m used to doing Harry Potter parodies, but the actual Luna Lovegood was pretty fun [to have]. Of course my good friend Darren Criss has been on the show before to do some little comedy bits with us. It’s always fun to get my friends from StarKid Productions on because we’ve known each all through college and beyond so it’s such an instant level of comfort and fun that we can just play.
What does 2014 hold for you?
Well I’m excited because in July I’m going to my first ever public event in the UK for a convention called G4. I’ve been to the UK several different times but I’ve never gone as a performer. This past year we went to RingCon, and I did my first ever ‘Joe Moses Showses’ internationally in Germany. So that was cool. So next year is our first one in the UK. I do have a couple other projects that I’m working on right now, but I’m not quite ready to say yet. In terms of touring for the show, I’ve been dying to make it over to Paris. I know we have a strong fanbase in France. Since we’re going to the UK this year, I think that might be a real strong possibility.
Do you often get confused with the rapper who is also named Joe Moses?
You know what? That is SO funny! I feel like we were both starting out around the same time or something? It doesn’t really ever happen, but this is a funny story: one time, Tessa was wearing a hoodie that said the ‘Joe Moses Showses’ on it, and she was checking out of somewhere, like a market or something. There was this girl behind the counter who looked at Tessa and was like “you like Joe Moses?! Do you know what he’s all about?! Have you heard his music?!” She was like “no, no, no. Way, way different Joe Moses.” We’re such polar opposites. It’s so funny to me. Every now and then that comes up. In my first show actually, I had a little bit about that where I had the computer fake search for ‘Joe Moses,’ and I was pretending like I thought I was a big deal. All it came up with was this guy’s lyrics and stuff like that.
Yeah, I guess he’s effectively shot down any chance I have of starting a rap career.
‘The Joe Moses Very Holiday Showses’ will take place Saturday, 12/22, at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday, 12/23, at 3:00 p.m. at The Players Theatre. Tickets range from $20-$55.