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Ben Schwartz joins JJ Abrams pilot for NBC

Mar 2, 2015

J.J. Abrams casts another 'Undercovers' actor 

Upright Citizens Brigade's Ben Schwartz joins NBC pilot

Actor-writer Ben Schwartz is the latest addition to the cast of J.J. Abrams' NBC pilot Undercovers. Undercovers, which Abrams co-wrote with Josh Reims, revolves around Steven (Boris Kodjoe) and Samantha (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a domesticated husband and wife who are re-activated as CIA agents after years of retirement.

Schwartz will play a young CIA agent who is wildly respectful of Steve's career as an agent.

Abrams is directing the Warner Bros. TV-produced pilot, which he co-wrote with Josh Reims.

Schwartz, a sketch performer for the Upright Citizens Brigade, was a member of the team that won an Emmy for writing Hugh Jackman's opening number at the Oscars last year.

As an actor, he recently wrapped the feature comedy The Other Guys.
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article thumbnail's BETA Teams Release Their First Videos

Mar 2, 2015

DIAMONDS, WOW - 'Stops Diarrhea, Stops Time'

'Macbook Pro Unboxing''s first in-house video production teams launched their debut videos this week. DIAMONDS, WOW and THE BRIG, known as BETA teams, will write and produce originally comedy videos every week.

New videos by these teams can be viewed every week exclusively on the BETA team page. Bookmark it!

UCBcomedy is the virtual home of all things comedy from improv, sketch and standup to pranks, jokes, podcasts, f'ed up and illegal videos and much more from the performers, teachers, students and friends who have made the Upright Citizens Brigade the leading brand of comedy in the country. After achieving success with house improvisation teams (Harold teams) and house sketch teams (Maude teams), the UCB branched out to original video production with the creation of BETA teams.
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Shannon O'Neill's PRISON FREAKS: A TALENT SHOW Profiled in

Mar 2, 2015

Prison Freaks: A Talent Show 

In Shannon O'Neill's 'Prison Freaks: A Talent Show,' the veteran UCB improviser and teacher has compiled a cavalcade of prison misfits so freakish in looks and behavior that they come full circle to funny. Set in the fictional (or prophetic) Charlie Sheen Prison, the show starts with a computerized emcee who offers tips on how not to get attacked by the inmates. O'Neill (Stepfathers, Thunder Gulch) then gets introduced as four different characters, each of whom is a powder keg of pain, suffering and fury just waiting to explode. How each character seemingly hides that is what makes O'Neill so masterful at balancing comedy and tension. With direction from Will Hines (The Stepfathers), intricate video and graphic design by Matt Mayer and stage and costume help from Polo Tate and Kat Toledo, 'Prison Freaks' is a perfect representation of O'Neill's sense of humor -- you won't find anything conventional here. But that's just how she likes it. At the risk of getting stabbed in the neck with a dull pencil, The Apiary asked O'Neill a few questions about the show:

What was the inspiration for 'Prison Freaks: A Talent Show'?

Five years ago I did a show called 'Laid Up' with Julie Brister and Erin Rose Foley. When writing the sketches, we kept the idea or theme of prison in mind, and most of our sketches wound up being about the characters that felt like prisoners of their own body or life situations. We had purchased prison jumpsuits to use for promoting the show, and when I put mine on the first time, I knew I was going to have to do a show all about prison. Little did I know it would take me five years to make it happen and figure out exactly what it would be.
You've been in numerous shows on the UCB stages, but this your first one-person show.

Why did you wait so long?

It is funny you ask that, because just the other day I finally realized myself why it has taken this long. Ten years ago I moved to New York and started taking classes at The UCB. It only took me about six weeks to get the first draft of this show written, but I honestly feel that it has taken me 10 years to find myself, believe in myself and trust myself, both as a person and a comedian. A one-person show is terrifying -- I am putting who I am out there. Even though I am not telling a life story, I am telling the audience that I think this is funny. And I finally, 100%, trust my own sense of humor (insert fart noise).

After I saw your show, two of the phrases I heard most from people at the bar were: 'hilarious' and 'fucked up.'

What do you make of that?

That means I am doing the job I set out to do, which is to be myself.  I have a dark, warped sense of humor so I don't  get compliments like: 'That was really cute and adorable.' I usually get: 'What's wrong with you?', 'Jesus Christ' and 'YOU'RE Married?' And those are the ones I enjoy the most.

There's also a lot of improv in 'Prison Freaks: A Talent Show.' Do you prefer the improv over the written material?

I could never choose, which is why I think I had so much fun putting both in my show. I really love those improvised moment, but I'm also thankful to have things planned out that I believe in.

What did Will Hines bring to your show as a director that you didn't already have in place?

Will has a brain that functions on a much more human level than my own. One of the biggest and smartest decisions was the order of the characters, and that was Will. He explained it to me from a human's point of view. Will also gets my sense of humor. We took a sketch class together back in the late 1700's and I remember him laughing at my weirdness back then. So I knew he would support and trust my choices, but he also knows when to say 'Hey, weirdo, I like the idea, but it is too fucking weird, re-word it so it's not so fucking weird, you weirdo.'

How would you describe your writing process for this show?

When I was writing 'Prison Freaks' I gave myself the challenge of doing a new character every week for four weeks. I am lucky enough to have very supportive friends: Justin Purnell gave me three school Night slots and Steven Michael Rondel and Molly Lloyd gave me a slot at Muffins in the Window. I was able to test all these characters individually in front of an audience before writing a show around them. So deadlines are what make me write; unfortunately, self-imposed deadlines are hard to keep. But lately I have finally realized I am not a spry little comedy lad anymore, so the deadline of DEATH has resulted in me being much more productive.

  • THE PLUG: Don't miss 'Prison Freaks: A Talent Show,' happening FRI, JAN. 29 @ 8PM (and Feb. 11 & 25) at The UCBT-NY | $5

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