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What's Going On? with Mike Mitchell profiled in LAist

Feb 25, 2015

What's Going On? With Mike Mitchell

In the entertainment industry, everything is about "being prepared". People have to look the part, know their lines, keep a script in their back pocket, and produce business cards like ninja stars with a flick of the wrist. Indeed, that great scientific milkman Louis Pasteur himself is quoted as saying "chance favors the prepared mind". So then what exactly is going on with Mike Mitchell? "Nothing much", if you ask him. But that doesn't seem quite right.

As a comedian, it's an easy enough answer. Besides penning jokes for this year's MTV Movie Awards, Mike "Mitch" Mitchell is a regular Harold Night improviser at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (UCB) on Franklin Ave.. He's also 1/7th of the best sketch comedy group in Los Angeles, The Birthday Boys. As a new monthly show at UCB, however, the answer to What's Going On? With Mike Mitchell is a bit more elusive.

One Saturday a month, the UCB stage is transformed from a slightly dingy paint-black stage to a slightly dingy late night talk show studio in Mitchell's honor. There's the cityscape background, old school microphone that's attached to nothing, cue cards, coffee mugs emblazoned with the host logo, and even a helpful group of techies supporting the whole operation while wearing TEAM MITCH t-shirts. And when the lights come up and the man of the hour emerges, tucked woefully into a suit and already beaming, it becomes immediately apparent that the only one who doesn't know What's Going On, is Mitchell himself.

"I honestly don't know anything about it", says Mitchell of the monthly comedy show that bears his name. See, the entire thing is crafted without his knowledge, and barely his consent. The comedy bits, the jokes, the guests - it's all completely unknown to the man behind the desk. "I think (everyone who works on the show) is paranoid about me finding out anything", he says. "They think that when I'm honestly surprised and the audience is surprised with me, the show does the best." In recent months, Mitchell has been forced into learning tantric yoga, been covered with snakes, and cluelessly delivered more monologue jokes than Jay Leno. Oh, and lest we forget the celebrity interviews. In the short run since the show's inception, Mitchell has given couch time to James Marsden ("We talked about X-Men. I got to nerd out with him and that was amazing"), Jim Parsons, Gillian Jacobs, Aubrey Plaza and a slew of others. Yet with each new turn, Mitchell shows an uncanny MacGuyver-like ability to giggle out of any hairy situation. "A lot of times I don't know what to ask these people," he says. "Now I just try to treat it like a date. I guess my dating skills are terrible."

And that's the best part of the show. The lightly-bearded, squinty-smiling Mitchell just oozes a semi-nerdy brand of Charm 2.0 that you can't explain, but is completely infectious. True to form, Mitchell chimes in: "I've just been loving it so far; and as long as they want me to keep doing it I'll do it. I'm in no position to say no to a show like that." His honest, in-the-moment rollercoaster reactions to the dramatic irony hanging heavy around him are simultaneously engrossing, endearing, and really effing funny. And so, once a month, at midnight inside the UCB Theatre, it becomes abundantly clear that What's Going On? With Mike Mitchell matters less than the man, the Mitch, the legend himself.
LA Shows

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UCBT's Aziz Ansari and Donald Glover to Receive Awards at This Year's Just For Laughs Montreal Festi

Feb 25, 2015


Just For Laughs Montreal to fete The Second City, Glee writers, Aziz Ansari and Donald Glover in 2010


Just For Laughs has announced it'll honor The Second City with a lifetime achievement award and Glee with its comedy writers of the year award when JFL convenes in Montreal next month. The festival also has created two additional awards to recognize the star power of comedians Aziz Ansari and Donald Glover -- Ansari will receive the 'Breakout Comedy Star of the Year Award' while Glover will get the 'Rising Comedy Star of the Year Award.'

Among those on hand from The Second City will be the organization's president, Andrew Alexander, as well as Colin Mochrie, Fred Willard and other members to be announced later. They'll be taking part in a live panel discussion, 'The Second City -- The First 50 Years,' to take place Thursday, July 15. They'll get their award the following day, July 16, at the annual Comedy Conference luncheon.

Ian Brennan, meanwhile, will accept the 'Comedy Writer of the Year Award' at the same luncheon on behalf of his fellow writers and producers of Glee (Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy).

The festival is saying Ansari's award 'is reserved for the comedian/actor who has made the jump from talented star to super-stardom,' while Glover's award 'is reserved for a talent who is the NEXT BIG THING.'

In addition to these new awards, JFL Montreal also is launching what it's calling its Insider Series this summer. Among the events from July 14-17, 2010: The premiere screening and a Q&A for Exporting Raymond, with Phil Rosenthal trying to adapt Everybody Loves Raymond into a Russian sitcom; discussions with Kevin Smith, the cast of Childrens' Hospital, JB Smoove as Curb Your Enthusiasm's Leon Black, The Trailer Park Boys, Kenny Vs. Spenny, and the Not Inappropriate Show with Bob Odenkirk.

Tickets are available for all of these events at
.

Comedy fans can also look into a $99 Comicpro Fan Pass for $99 (CDN) at
/fan


Industry passes and more information about the Comedy Conference can head to
/conference

NY General

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UCBT's Badman, The Stepfathers, and The Midnight Show Compete in The Friars Club Improv + Sketch Com

Feb 25, 2015


The Friar's Club new, relevant comedy contest


Young talent flocks when Friars get FrISCy.

The Midnight Show

Cigar-twirling borscht-belt hacks belching crusty Henny Youngman gags-when it aired in 1999, the "Friar Infestation" episode of Comedy Central's Upright Citizens Brigade nailed how the layperson and comedy professional alike envisioned Friars, if they ever did. As the cartoon Friars terrorize a suburban home like a horde of rodents, they aren't just an outmoded cliche but something that needs extermination. Since loving excoriation has always been the Friars' stock-in-trade, they'd probably agree with this image-possibly the reason they've been working so hard to change it.

Founded in 1904 as a professional organization for Broadway press agents, the Friars Club quickly evolved into a members-only social clique whose comedically eviscerating roasts became its calling card. For the last ten years, however, the club has felt the need to stretch its boundaries in order to stay relevant. "If you're going to stick around not just decades but centuries, you're going to have to learn how to adapt," says Barry Dougherty, the club's director of communications. "It's healthy." Most notably, the Friars Club began to allow Comedy Central to air its hitherto private roasts of celebrities and other club members in 1998. Though the broadcasts lasted only five years, they were the catalyst for the proliferation of roasts on the comedy landscape and helped make the careers of such insult comics as Lisa Lampanelli and Jeffrey Ross.

In the past few years, the club has extended itself even further. Its Associate nights have invited improv, sketch and stand-up into the clubhouse. In 2009, the organization debuted the Friars Club Comedic Film Festival, which included the premiere of the Coen brothers' A Serious Man. This year, the club solicited young comics' participation in the festival by creating FrISC, the Friars Club Improv and Sketch Competition; two winners will each receive $10,000 and three months to make a short film.

Unlike most other moneyed comedy competitions, FrISC has chosen representative ensembles with actual talent. From more than 100 submissions, the organizers chose ten groups, half improv and half sketch, who will perform Friday 25 and Saturday 26, respectively; each team will have 20 minutes to impress a panel of experts. If this promising first attempt can become an influential mainstay, perhaps the Friars will be able to eradicate the pesky stereotype on its own.

SKETCH

Whether performing a revue of lighthearted, thoughtful nonsense or assaulting schlocky blockbuster ConAir for more than 30 minutes, New York vets Elephant Larry have remained busy and visible. Their manically executed premises never overwhelm the careful intent behind their writing.

The impressive Harvard Sailing Team is a breath of fresh air; the troupe's invigorating song-and-dance routines serve as the vehicle for social satire aimed at the quotidian behavior of your friends and neighbors.

Though they've only performed sporadically over the past few years, the members of Free Love Forum are masters of character-driven absurdity on video. Though proceedings may get bizarre, FLF always works to make itself and its material accessible (a la Kids in the Hall).

Based at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in L.A., the Midnight Show is what its name implies: a high-energy, late-night sketch revue. Its large, prolific cast crafts enviably glossy, spot-on parodies including an Entourage spoof about cell phone use, and Avatar retold by babies.

Somebody's in the Doghouse is Leah Gotcsik and Marty Johnson, a Boston duo that create scenes with solid characters and big payoffs. Among their clips is an indicative Funny or Die sketch in which a hypersexual gorilla assaults her Jane Goodall-like protector.

IMPROV

Badman is a UCB Harold team already familiar with the Friars and the Friars Club stage, where it has performed as part of the Tuesday Associates night.

Code Duello
is another pair of Bostonians who perform a loopy, witty and, above all, historically inaccurate retelling of the events leading to the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.

A supergroup that's become a long-running show in its own right, the Stepfathers includes Andy Secunda and Michael Delaney from the Swarm, in addition to a lot of other great players who've committed themselves to smart, playful improv.

Los Angeles's the Jon and Eddie Show is not two guys or even about two guys, yet the female duo behind the act lean on the sort of casual, loving buddy bond usually reserved these days for successful bromances.

Vanity Project is one of the house teams from Boston's Improv Asylum, which plays to great acclaim at its theater each Wednesday night.

FrISC happens Fri 25 and Sat 26 at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.
NY Shows

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