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Matt Walsh interview with Time Out Chicago

Feb 28, 2015

Walsh What Happens

Upright Citizens Brigade's Matt Walsh fronts a sports bar-set comedy.

After playing a part in vaunted ensemble projects like the Upright Citizens Brigade, Dog Bites Man and The Daily Show, Chicago native Matt Walsh is on his own with Spike TV's new Players. Well, not totally alone: The sports bar-set comedy about two brother-owners, premiering Tuesday 2, costars fellow UCB alum Ian Roberts, and episodes are created using the game-focused improvisation that's been Walsh's calling card since early UCB shows in Chicago.

The show is based on your experience working at a sports bar. When was this?

In college during the summers. Our suburb had never had a sports bar so it was like when a Starbucks opens up and everyone is talking about it. Nobody'd seen Pop-A-Shot inside a restaurant before. We'd get done with work at 2am and have a bar breakfast: hard-boiled eggs and Slim Jims, with beer. The waitresses would do aerobics in the restaurant. It was like a little YMCA camp.

Though you created the show, your character is almost secondary to Ian's character in the first episode. How did that decision come about?

I had the idea that the two brothers would be polar opposites. Maybe I'm lazy: I'm all for having other people be funny. Ian's a strong improviser, and because he's the straight man, all plots have to go through him.

You've mentioned that you and Ian have a dynamic when playing together. What is that, exactly?

We have a shorthand-chemistry or whatever-where we know where the other is going. And we can sustain bits for a really long time. There were times we would goof around so much on stage that we'd ruin the show. We'd take fake guns and fire them. It kinda distracted the actors.

Are there particular roles you fall into when improvising with him?

Ian's very logical and I'm more, oh, random-I can't think of an adjective to describe myself.

Well, you already said "lazy."

I know. That's a great way to characterize yourself. I guess I'm the crazy person.... I don't know. Maybe I need some therapy.

The Upright Citizens Brigade was known for its antics in Chicago. You once staged a suicide and threw a dummy off the roof of a building. Ever cross the line?

There was one UCB show where I came out and said a green Ford Focus was blocking an ambulance. I'd come back later and say, "The license plate is this; please move your car." Then at the end, I'd announce the guy died and say, "Thanks a lot." We've accidentally given hits of nitrous to people on stage.

Accidentally?

Uh, we'd have a balloon and try to not let the person huff it. But they'd accidentally do it. Or, not accidentally-we'd let somebody do it. But we only did that once, and it was stupid.

Aside from the show, you currently have a Chicago Bears podcast called Bear Down. Have sports always been a big part of your life?

Definitely. I'm from a big family, and one of the rites of passage for the boys was that we'd go see the Bears or the Bulls. We didn't necessarily get to bond with our father unless there's a big event to go to. I had three older brothers and three younger sisters, and I got beat up by my older brothers. And you can't beat up the girls, so I had nowhere to take out my anger.

Did you play sports, then?

I played football in high school, and I actually did gymnastics for a year or two. I wanted to try something different, and I wasn't coordinated enough for hoops.

Do you still have those skills?

I'm doing this interview in a headstand right now. I'm holding an iron cross on the rings.

Players premieres Tuesday March 2 at 9:30pm on Spike TV.
LA General

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Natasha Leggero cast in NBC pilot from Reno 911! creators

Feb 28, 2015

The NBC Pilot by the Reno 911! Creators Keeps Getting Cooler

Last month, NBC made the wise choice to order a comedy pilot from Reno 911! creators Tom Lennon and R. Ben Garant called The Strip, about a former child star (Lennon) who owns a Hooters-esque eatery in a strip mall outside Las Vegas. Today comes further exciting casting news: Cedric Yarbrough (from Reno 911!) will play a bar regular, and comedians Natasha Leggero and Dave Holmes will play a waitress and a gay Christian bookstore owner, respectively.
LA General

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Natalie Portman to star in & produce movie based on Jamie Denbo's script

Feb 28, 2015

Gone To Pot: Screenwriter On Natalie Portman's New Stoner-Road Trip Comedy

Natalie Portman's cannabis connections: Next fall's Your Highness, admissions of college weed-smoking, now Best Buds. "Everyone has a cause. Some people have cancer, some have literacy. Mine is proving that women smoke weed too," its screenwriter Jamie Denbo tells us.

Denbo is an actress and writer who co-created Ronna And Beverly and is a regular at the Upright Citizens Brigade. She just closed a deal with Portman's production company on the movie, which is now looking for a director and the rest of the cast. Portman herself will star.

The galvanizing moment for Denbo was the scene in Knocked Up when Katherine Heigl's character makes Seth Rogen's give up his bong. "It just seemed like a metaphor of, 'Put down the bong and we can get married.' That's not how it goes in my house. It's more like, 'Hey, you're pregnant, maybe stop smoking weed for fucking five minutes," jokes Denbo, who is the mother of two. "That was never the women that I knew."

Denbo is a big fan of classic stoner hits like Half Baked and the Harold And Kumar movies. "This is a comedy. It's going to be touted as a chick stoner movie, but hopefully it's a stoner movie for all stoners," she says.

More broadly, she said, "I just wished there was a movie where woman got to be funny. Not just a crew of ragtag funny guys and the hot girl."

Take The Hangover, which she calls "one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. I love crazy guy comedy stuff. But it would be nice to see some of the other characters that are funny be women. People forget that the biggest scene stealer in Knocked Up was Kristen Wiig. Not every woman is a bitch or a whore. Not every movie. Not in every scenario."

Like The Hangover, Best Buds has a road trip and a wedding at its center, with female friends hitting the road to cure a bride friend's woes with weed. "It's essentially about best friends and girlfriends," Denbo says. "It's more about real girl friendship, and not, one girl is the ingenue and one girl is her whippersnapper best friend. It's more equal."

Who would be her ideal director? "Somebody with a great comedic sensibility, who doesn't distinguish between male and female comedy. So basically, somebody British. It seems to be a very American thing, distinguishing between male and female comedy. Overseas it feels like, If it's funny, it's funny."

In any case, it's not like there are that many working female directors to choose from. "It would be great if Kathryn Bigelow had any interest in this," says Denbo. "I'm going to guess with her heavy workload and depressing subject matter that she smokes a lot of weed at night. At least I hope she does. And if she does -- Kathryn, we're open to it."

Denbo knows she's up against cliches that women simply aren't funny or can't carry an irreverent comedy. "I think there's enough comedy to be mined from women," she says, "It may be different. As a general rule, dicks are funnier than vaginas. Vaginas are kind of gross. They're interior, and people don't know what going on in there. Dicks are all out there. They look like bananas and walnuts. They look stupid."

That said, dick jokes may have reached their peak. "They've gotten to a point with dick jokes that now they have to show a dick for it to be funny," says Denbo, pointing to Jason Segal in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. "If you showed a woman with her legs spread that wouldn't be funny. People would be disturbed by that. I would be disturbed by that. But boobs? Always funny. No problem with boobs."
LA General

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