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Time Out New York Lists Shannon O'Neill As One to Watch in Comedy

Feb 27, 2015

Shannon O'Neill

After ten years performing sketch and improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, Shannon O'Neill still doesn't play quite like anyone else. She's dark, aggressive and fearless; she'll never let the crowd feel bored-or entirely comfortable. "Even performing with her as long as I have, I'm never sure what she'll do," says Chris Gethard, a longtime collaborator who currently works with O'Neill, 33, in UCBT improv supergroup the Stepfathers. "She can say something so twisted the audience collectively decides it is not in the mood to handle it; she is completely unapologetic." 

Her new solo show, Prison Freaks, is the most exciting crystallization of her unique, occasionally difficult, point of view to date. The show is a cabaret of masked and mustachioed maximum-security prisoners in an institution-sanctioned talent show, performing stand-up or drawing caricatures, as a computerized warden tries to keep them from murdering the audience members. "I like going to a dark place but then being like, 'Hey, these guys aren't so bad,' " O'Neill explains.

Amid the blood and anal-rape jokes, her inmates are strangely approachable; one of them, a cyclops in an orange jumpsuit, busts out an endearing, high-energy dance number to Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga. "On the surface, is menacing and weird, but really the characters are very happy and optimistic," says director Will Hines. "That's what comedians are: We try to laugh things off, look for the silver lining," adds O'Neill. "So I put myself into these prisoners, but then I'm just doing what I always do as a comedian." O'Neill performs with the Stepfathers Fri 12 at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre; Prison Freaks takes place Mar 29. 

NY Shows

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pre-order "A Night of 140 Tweets" to benefit the Haitian School Initiative

Feb 27, 2015

Rich Sommer
Are you a fan of Ashton Kutcher, Will Ferrell, or Ben Stiller? Do you want to help Haiti? A Night of 140 Tweets: A Celebrity Tweetathon for Haiti is the world's first live tweet stream, featuring 140 celebrities reading their favorite tweets. Sponsored by Funny or Die,, and The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, 100% of the proceeds go to Artists For Peace and Justice to benefit the Haitian School Initiative. Pre-order the DVD or the digital video exclusively from Finally, you can watch something funny and do something good, all at the same time. 

Ben Stiller, Ashton Kutcher, Will Ferrell have tweet reading for Haiti

Some of Hollywood's most enthusiastic social media fans -- including Ben Stiller, Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore, Will Ferrell, Rainn Wilson, Mindy Kaling, Samantha Ronson and Diablo Cody -- got together to get their Tweet on Friday night in Hollywood.

At the Upright Citizens Brigade, the organization Artists for Peace and Justice hosted more than 160 people sharing their favorite tweets, twitpics and twitvids, with ticket sales benefiting earthquake victims in Haiti.

Demi showed her famous dentist visit photo captioned 'Keeping it real.' Kutcher offered a YouTube clip about the rise of Twitter and other networks called 'The New Dork (Entrepreneur State of Mind),' which name-drops him.

Stiller read his all-time favorite tweet, 'On a remote island vacationing, really enjoying dropping off the grid, totally disconnecting from the world.'

The comic-heavy crowd wasn't shy with their 140 characters, taking on popular targets like Precious actress Gabourey Sidibe and Justin Bieber.

Writer Cody sported a fake baby bump and, with a grimace, admitted '@justinbieber, you're the father.'

'Christian Bale lost 80 pounds to play The Machinist,' noted Justin Long. 'Big deal. Gabourey Sidibe lost 300 to play Precious.'

Rich Sommer, from AMC's Mad Men, stood and delivered his tweet completely in the nude -- the tweet not so coincidentally pertaining to a bad dream about speaking before a crowd in his birthday suit.

The reading was taped for future sale on iTunes and also featured live readings from The Hangover star Ed Helms; comedians Michael Ian Black, Jenny McCarthy and Dane Cook; Lost creator Damon Lindelof; Mary Lynn Rajskub, John Cho, Nia Vardalos, Dave Foley, Lake Bell, Busy Phillips, Al Yankovic, Wilmer Valderrama and MTV VJ Dave Holmes.

Rob Corddry, Questlove of the Roots and nerd pin-up Olivia Munn all sent twitvids in their absence.
LA Shows

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UCBT's Donald Glover in NY Times

Feb 27, 2015

His Day Job Subsidizes All That Other Stuff

ON a recent Monday night at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater in Manhattan, the comedian Leo Allen came out to kick off his stand-up showcase, "Whiplash," and was startled at the packed 150-seat theater. "People are sitting on the floor," he said, gazing at the cross-legged spectators. "They think Chris Rock's going to be here or something." But the audience members knew who they were there to see: Donald Glover, the 26-year-old actor, writer and comedian who stars on Community on NBC and whose videos are an Internet sensation. And even with the lights so bright, when Mr. Glover took the stage, he knew what type of crowd had come to see him. He's gotten pretty good at sorting out his fans.

"When I get stopped on the street, I have to listen to know how the person knows me," Mr. Glover said over arepas at an East Village restaurant. "If it's an older woman, it's 'Community.' If it's a New Yorker, it's 30 Rock," for which he was a writer. He added, "If it's a dude who has on an A.S.U. hat backwards, it's probably 'Bro Rape.' And the last thing you want to hear when you're walking down the street with your mom is 'Yo, Bro Rape!' The last credit refers to a video he produced with his sketch group, Derrick Comedy, when he was a student at New York University. It skewered frat-boy types and became the sort of Internet phenomenon comedians hope will propel them into careers so huge that they stop having time for the Internet. But even after being welcomed by traditional television -30 RockCommunity and his first Comedy Central special, which has its debut Friday - Mr. Glover said he has no intention of leaving the Web and other grass-roots outlets behind.

"In Hollywood people are risking a lot of money on your weird ideas," Mr. Glover said. "They're trying to make money, and so they should. It's an expensive business. The vision will always be a bit corrupted, and I'm really fine with that. But online, hopefully, will always be like the Wild West, where anything goes." Even with a steady day job on Community, which NBC recently picked up for a second season, Mr. Glover made time over the past year to spoof boy bands and Tiger Woods, to help distribute Derrick Comedy's first feature film, Mystery Team, and to hone his stand-up at casual shows in New York and Los Angeles.

But nothing underscores Mr. Glover's commitment to self-produced content as much as his decision to depart the writing staff of 30 Rock because the job was keeping him from his other endeavors.

That was nearly a year ago. Yet much of the buzz surrounding Mr. Glover still concerns how he came to 30 Rock. David Miner, an executive producer on the show, was searching for writers when he found Mr. Glover on the Web site of the comedy troupe Wicked Wicked Hammerkatz ( In a rare instance of reverse cold calling - from producer to unknown writer - Mr. Miner reached out to Mr. Glover and sent him to meet Tina Fey, the star and creator of 30 Rock. "All he had was a packet of sketch comedy pieces," Ms. Fey said in an e-mail message. "One was about going on a date with a girl and slowly realizing that she was a Fraggle. She ate furiously, like Cookie Monster, and food fell out the sides of her mouth. That sketch made me laugh." After two seasons, which included numerous late-night sessions with the writing staff on Ms. Fey's living room floor, Mr. Glover left 30 Rock - and not because he had another network offer. "People think I left to do Community," he said. "I left because 30 Rock is a full-time job, and I was doing so much other stuff." The other stuff included breaking into stand-up. "It helps me work out stuff I didn't know was inside of me, like being the only black kid in my school, or the foster kids we had in my family," Mr. Glover said. (Over the course of his childhood Mr. Glover's parents hosted about 100 foster children in their Atlanta home.)

He was also trying to distribute Mystery Team, which follows the exploits of a hapless group of teenage detectives, alongside his Derrick colleagues Dan Eckman, Dominic Dierkes, D C Pierson and Meggie McFadden. The group orchestrated a limited theatrical release based on fans voting online to bring the film to their area. (It's currently playing in Los Angeles.) Moviegoers who see the film twice get a plastic sword and their names printed on the insert of the DVD, which comes out in May.

With Derrick "we do whatever we want without worrying about standards and practices or money," Mr. Glover said. "Mixtapes are what make rap stars now, and the online bits we put out there for free are like the mixtapes of the comedy world." Mr. Glover should know. He makes music under the name Childish Gambino and distributes it online, also free.

Of course neither rap nor comedy mixtapes pay the bills. Luckily, just as Mr. Glover was starting to panic about having quit 30 Rock, he got a call to audition for Community, a sitcom about a group of misfits at a community college.

The show's creator, Dan Harmon, cast Mr. Glover as Troy, whom Mr. Harmon calls "a dumb jock." "Donald has to work hard, because there's a great distance between him and this character," Mr. Harmon said. "You can feel his potential. Someday I'll be cashing in on the fact that I worked with him." Mr. Glover hopes that the Comedy Central special will help bridge the gap between Community and the other parts of his fan base, and the special seems constructed to do just that. It's a mix of straightforward gags, scenes from his childhood and the President Obama impression that sparked last year's rumors that Mr. Glover would join Saturday Night Live. And it's a performance that demonstrates he is as comfortable onstage as he is on screen, online and in the writers room - which is why Ms. Fey said she was comfortable with letting him go. "Usually, when writers tell you they want to pursue performing, you want to tell them to keep their day jobs," she said. "But with Donald, I had to agree that his talent, youth and handsomeness were not to be wasted sitting on my living room floor."
NY General

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