Review forums like Yelp and TripAdvisor can be a blessing and a curse for businesses. These sites allow customers to boast about their favorite restaurants, stores and entertainment experiences, which can raise profiles and attract new clients. But review forums can also be a breeding ground for bad-faith tirades and career-ending meltdowns. Conventional wisdom suggests you have to take the good with the bad — sometimes, the very bad.
Out local comedian Dan Vetrano was fascinated enough by Yelping culture to create “Worst of Philly,” a monthly show at Good Good Comedy Theatre that explores the worst reviews and lowest-rated businesses in the city. Vetrano and his comic colleagues comb the websites to find execrable experiences, then research it on their own. It’s the latest outrageous enterprise for Vetrano, who has made a career in the Philly comedy scene through offbeat interactive performance.
PGN spoke with Vetrano about drawing inspiration from the dregs of customer service, and how he finds the funny in general. Some responses have been condensed and edited for clarity.
How did the idea for “Worst of Philly” come to you?
For the longest time, I was doing my show “Get Work,” where I would write fake résumés and have people go on job interviews live on stage. It was really fun, but it got to the point where I couldn’t think of any new scenarios to write. I work in a hotel as a concierge, and I would tell myself that I would go into my job and write a fake résumé during my shift. But instead, because I was dreading it, I was just going through Yelp reviews of places that suck — just reading all these catty Yelp reviews, Google reviews and Facebook reviews like: “There’s a new cocktail lounge that just opened, and somebody’s already burned their hair on a candle!” Just stuff that entertained me during work. It led me to an “aha” moment: I should do a show about this — this is actually what I really want to do now because we have a lot of stupid places here that we don’t need.
So far, what has been the worst place that you’ve found?
Well, we’re only one show in, but I’ve found a lot of crap already. In terms of reviews and trying to find places with the worst rating, Comcast is even lower than you might think. I think they’re at one star on Yelp. And it’s all about proportion, and Comcast has over 120 reviews. Then, there are all these places that shouldn’t be on Yelp, like UPenn. They’re sitting at four stars. It’s kind of odd: Who goes to an Ivy League school for four years and says, “Huh, that was kind of nice. I should write a Yelp review! The service was really good when I was doing my Master’s.” Surprisingly, the UPenn School of Dental Medicine is sitting at like two stars. Once you go down to the different departments, that’s when things start to fall apart.
What is your opinion of Yelp as a service, in general?
It’s terrible! That’s why it’s so funny. Only about half of the show is about how bad the business is; the other half is about how bad the Yelper is. People that write Yelp reviews are oftentimes making themselves look like an idiot, and I want all of that in my show. “Worst of Philly” isn’t just about the worst businesses; it’s about the worst people writing about the worst businesses. That’s an important distinction. For example, in my first show, I covered the Buffalo Wild Wings on Roosevelt Boulevard, and somebody wrote a Yelp review that started with, “I hit the lottery and decided to celebrate.” I just think that if you’re writing a Yelp review about how you won the lottery and went to BWW to celebrate, maybe it’s on you.
What attracted you to performing comedy to begin with?
I’m too loud, and I constantly need attention all the time. What do you call it when you need attention all the time, and you constantly want to get up in front of your friends and perform? Gay! I’m gay, so I feel like that’s a big part of it. I always have been the type of person who really loves attention and public speaking. It just kind of made sense to me. About 10 years ago, I was working in a cafe and just insulting every customer who came in as soon as they walked out the door. I thought, maybe I should try comedy. I went to an open mic at Tabu — I was not out at the time, but I was doing open mics at a gay bar — and I was terrible at it because when you start doing comedy, you’re terrible. But in your mind, you’re great at it. It just kind of stuck.
“Worst of Philly” is performed monthly at Good Good Comedy Theatre, 11th and Race Streets. The next performance is March 21 at 8:30 p.m. For tickets and information, visit https://goodgoodcomedy.com/worstofphilly/.