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Comedy band Lewberger to bring musical laughs to Fort Wayne

Lewberger 1
Ella Abbott
Comedy band Lewberger, made up of (L to R) Alex Lewis, Keith Habersberger and Hughie Stone Fish, perform at the Funnybone in Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday, September 7, 2022. Lewberger has found popularity on Youtube and TikTok for their songs like 'White People Taco Night' and parodies of Broadway musical songs.

CONTENT WARNING: This story contains language that may not be appropriate for all listeners.

Comedy band Lewberger is making its way to Fort Wayne for a performance at Summit City Comedy Club. The trio has seen popularity on Youtube and TikTok for their humorous theatrical styling. They also appeared on competition shows America’s Got Talent and NBC’s Bring The Funny.

Made up of members Alex Lewis, Hughie Stone Fish and Keith Habersberger, the members have found success in and out of the band. Habersberger is best known for being part of the YouTube comedy group the Try Guys. Stone Fish co-founded The Arts Project Syracuse, which provides arts funding to under resourced youth in Syracuse, New York. Lewis has acted in several TV shows, including one episode of Netflix's The Lincoln Lawyer.

During all of this, the band has been touring consistently throughout this year and on Oct. 6, they'll bring their act to Summit City Comedy Club.

So let's get the standard question out of the way; In one of your songs, I think it's 'Keith and the Band,' you mentioned Alex and Keith writing a song about vaginas and that leading to Lewberger, tell me about how the band got founded and when Hughie got involved.

Alex Lewis: Well, Keith and I actually met in 2014 at a networking barbecue. It's not a very common thing for people to actually stay together from a networking event, but it net-worked for us. We started playing actually with like a full band setup for a long time. It was a little too loud, though, for comedy music. You couldn't hear the lyrics so well. So, after a couple of years, we started looking around for a piano player. And that guy was alright, but he wasn't as good as his substitute, Hughie Stone Fish, who we started playing with and we liked him so much that we said, well, we got to stick with Hughie Stone Fish. And the rest was history.

Hughie Stone Fish: I had been music directing at The Second City for a number of years before that time. And there were about 11 of us in Los Angeles who did piano for comedy shows. So when one of us couldn't do a gig, we'd always just offer it to the other one and I happen to get to be the other one in this scenario, and it worked out great.

At your shows you utilize a pretty wide variety of instruments throughout different songs. What are your guys' musical backgrounds? Where did you start?

Keith Habersberger: Well, we all have different musical backgrounds. But I think the one through line for us is that we all have always enjoyed comedy music, whether it be sort of a comedy music that appears on Broadway or comedy music like Weird Al Yankovic or comedy music like Lonely Island or even Monty Python, we've always enjoyed that as a sort of like thing that we all listen to independently before we knew each other. But Hughie has a degree in songwriting from Berklee School of Music, and also has an Emmy for comedy music songwriting. So, that's pretty dope. I initially went to college as a French horn major. I switched it down to a French horn minor because I was trying to do improv and theatre and I just literally couldn't do two different matinees at once. With the pandemic, I was really bummed about high school band. I felt like it probably took a really bad hit. So I've been trying to put, you know, classic band instruments into our shows, so that people see that playing trumpet, French horn, trombone, or accordion is cool and having music as a hobby is dope. And then Alex has had other music projects even before us as well, but has probably the most vocal training experience out of all of us and also plays guitar and as a tribute to you know, always be learning is taking guitar lessons right now.

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Ella Abbott
Lewberger band members Alex Lewis and Hughie Stone Fish set up the crowd for their next song at the Funnybone in Columbus, Ohio, on September 7, 2022.

HSF: The shred from Alex Lewis is non-stop now.

KH: We realize our show is super theatrical. We are theatrical performers. And this, as we have been realizing that, we've certainly leaned more into it. What a comedy band can be, I think has been pictured already like we have Flight of the Conchords, we have Lonely Island. And there's a very typical expectation for it just to be pretty standard rock music or hip hop music and vocalists. And we think that comedy isn't just necessarily the lyrics, but it's how impressive and fun the show is around the lyrics. And for us, the music has always been like the music has to be as good if not better than the comedy of the songs because hearing a funny lyric sung beautifully in three part harmony with like full orchestration is so much funnier. And it's exciting to see a sousaphone walk out on stage. It's just like why is he playing a tuba now? It's just fun. It's just really about having as much fun as possible.

So when someone writes like a love song, for example, they're usually pulling from like lived experiences or strong emotions that they have or have had. What's the writing process like for writing comedy songs?

HSF: It's also usually pulled from lived experiences for the most part. I mean, sure you have an occasional song about, you know, walking into a haunted house that's a monster orgy, you know, but we also have songs about forgetting to lock your car. And, I know for myself personally, literally every single time I lock my car, and then I lock it again, I sing our song 'Lock My Car.' You know, 'White People Taco Night,' which is one of our biggest hits, I know Keith came up with that because you were singing about tacos and your experience of just like eating these tacos. Sure, it's not you know, the experience of falling in love or what other people write about when they're doing non comedic music, but it's certainly most of our material pulls from lived real experience. And we try to write about things that we think a lot of people can identify with.

KH: We've definitely had a song or two that honestly the entire song is really about getting to one specific joke that we think is hilarious. That like there's one really good wordplay joke somewhere two thirds of the way through the song and the entire song has been constructed around that joke.

You brought up 'White People Taco Night.' It went pretty viral. And I know it was covered by like Lizzo and it's sort of taken on this life of its own outside of you guys. What is that like?

KH: Going viral is a thing that a lot of people think is just getting like a million or 10 million views on a video. But truly going viral is when something doesn't belong to you anymore. And like it honestly barely belong to us to begin with. It went viral before we had written the full song around it. And then once we wrote the full song around it, it went viral again. And then people- because of how TikTok is, the whole premise is that people are joining in on trends. So people then do their own versions. And yes, you have people like Lizzo, and other comedians, either using our source song or making their own version of our source song. And then other just comedians or regular people making their own version of the song. And now it is just, it's almost as if we actually named that meal. Like, that's actually what it's called now. It was not called that before, it was just taco night. But now, regardless of your ethnicity, it's called white people taco night. And it's sort of like, I think that's the best example. And we finally did it. I think every comedian looks for their, wow, you want everyone else to be like, 'Oh, why didn't I think of that?' And we stumbled into the most relatable, universal experience that is bizarre that all of us do the exact same way. And honestly, we do it because we all saw commercials in the 90s that showed you how to do it. We never have performed that song without the audience singing it with us. Even the first time we performed it, the whole audience already knew it. So that was a very surreal experience.

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Ella Abbott
While performing their most popular song 'White People Taco Night', Keith Habersberger throws corn tortillas into the audience of the Funnybone in Columbus, Ohio on September 7, 2022.

You guys have found some success on TikTok with your duets, where Alex knows the words to a song, Keith doesn't, and Hughie typically plays the piano, particularly one of them a song from the Book of Mormon became a pretty popular sound on the app. What do you think it is about, like those duets that works so well in that format?

AL: We're three musical nerds. And we're also three improv nerds. So combining this, these two things that have sort of always been together is exciting for people and, and it's, you know, fun to watch what nonsense Keith is going to come up with. I think it's super fun to watch Hughie learn the song two minutes before we do it and then like come up with a really close approximation to what the actual backtrack is. And, you know, I, I get to live out my musical theater fantasies of performing all my favorite songs.

KH: And it's an area of music that hasn't really been parodied before. Pop songs are parodied and stuff like that, but no one's actually parodied musicals, specifically. They've made parody musicals of other media, but you haven't actually played with the music of musicals before. And we're doing that. And I think there's a huge audience of people who love musicals, and it's kind of like getting to, for some people it might be like, kind of reminding them of the moment they first saw that musical. It allows that musical to feel fresh again for them, and they get to experience something new with it.

You guys seem to have been on and off touring pretty much since COVID restrictions allowed it. When you get to a venue and start performing what makes a good crowd for you? How do you feel out the energy in the room?

HSF: We can tell straight away how the crowd's gonna be. And I will say, shout out to everyone who comes to a Lewberger show, our crowds are usually amazing. And you can feel the energy, especially when you're on the stage, I think you can feel the energy too when you're in the audience. But we can tell right away. When we get on stage, we see people they're cheering, they're laughing along, they're right there with us. You know, very rare for people to be doing stuff that happens at other concerts where they're heckling, or having side conversations. That stuff often, thank goodness, doesn't really happen at Lewberger shows, it's usually people are just stoked to be there. They're excited to, you know, be a part of the jokes with us. They're excited to participate with us. And they're, you know, we're giving them so much energy from the stage. And they're giving so much energy back to us from the crowd.

KH: And I also just want to say, if anyone is out there being like, 'Oh, I wish I could go but I don't have anyone to go with.' The great thing about I think going to our shows is you're going to go into an audience full of people that are very similar to you. Everyone who's there is somebody who really likes having fun, is okay to be like silly, likes music. And, you know, just wants to go and have a really fun time. But the show itself, I mean, there's a lot of instruments, basically as many as we can get a hold of. So we'll often like shout out on Twitter, if people can bring us extra instruments to use in the show. It's more high energy than not. We have a lot of songs that are to a track where we're doing choreography like a boy band and we have songs where we're obviously generating all the music live right there. We definitely have a lot of an audience interaction and perform within the audience all the time. So I don't know it's about as up close and personal of a comedy show as you can have and also it's a concert.

Ella Abbott is a multimedia reporter for 89.1 WBOI. She is a strong believer in the ways audio storytelling can engage an audience and create a sensory experience.