Leslie Meisel & Megan Neuringer of Love Can Suck A Dick on TheApiary.comFeb 20, 2015
Inside With: Leslie Meisel and Megan Neuringer
Leslie Meisel and Megan Neuringer are no strangers to the New York comedy scene, Leslie performs with UCB Maude Team Thunder Gulch, and Megan performs with the Harold team DeCoster. They have combined forces for the first time for their character spectacular, Love Can Suck a Dick... and So Can I, which is currently playing at the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre NY. I had the chance to sit down with both of them before they take their show to LA at the end of the month.
So how long have you been developing Love Can Suck a Dick... and So Can I?
Leslie: We started working on the show together in January.
What was the development process like? I know that both of you have improv backgrounds, so did you discover the characters through improv, or did Megan just bring in a bunch of written pieces?
Megan: There would be characters that Leslie had that she'd been working on, and I would have her improvise with them. So let's say Leslie improvised something hilarious in the scope of the character, I would direct her in a way that would push her to follow a certain game, or tell her to do it faster, or make it shorter. We ended up transcribing a lot of it, finding out where the funny was, and then got the character on its feet. Then the process would start all over again. It was a lot of writing on your feet, rewriting, adding jokes, getting rid of things, and chipping away at it.
Leslie--how many characters did you bring to Megan for this show?
Leslie: I don't remember how many I brought in, I think at one point I just performed a showcase for her.
Megan: During the rehearsal process, we found sort of a happy medium of which characters worked and which characters didn't. And then we found a compromise of what was funny to both of us.
Did you test characters out in front of an audience?
Leslie: We did two characters at UCB's School Night. I did 'Wendy' because it pushed me out of my comfort zone. Right before I went onstage with it, I was nervous and scared and I thought, people could yell at me--someone could beat me up. I think what I learned from performing as Wendy is that, if you're really nervous and fearful about a character, then just go for it. We also had a character that was a heightened, very confident version of me and Megan wrote a great piece around her. The character was this 'I know everything about theater' kind of woman. The first time I performed it, I didn't think it went that well.
Megan: I told her it went fine.
Leslie: Then we added her to the show, and we both realized she didn't work in the context of the show, so we ended up cutting her. There is a version of her you'll see in the video piece of the show, it's basically all of Lennon Parham's lines.
Megan: It's kind of amazing how the lines all work for Lennon in the video, but it just couldn't sustain itself for an entire character monologue.
The show has a lot of audience interaction, have you noticed the different way that audiences respond to what's happening onstage?
Leslie: There's definitely a difference. If you have a show that's full of out of towners or theater people, I think they're just watching and getting into it, then there's a moment where they start to get into it, and pretty soon they're laughing. Then I think, 'Oh they were just listening and watching until they were ready to come on the ride with you.' If you have a younger audience, they're more willing to go with whatever's happening on stage at any given moment.
Megan: I think it helps to not be totally reactive to the audience during each show, but I can't help thinking about what the audience is thinking during each show.
How has this show been different from other shows you've worked on in the past?
Megan: I spent a lot of years believing that performing in shows was an experience that I did for myself and for my ego. I thought that going onstage and getting laughs was an experience 'for me' and that has kind of shifted in the past couple of years. So, Leslie and I then had this epiphany and it all has to do with the artist known as Pink.
Leslie: So I got tickets to go see Pink, and Megan and I were talking after an audition, and I said 'So I have these tickets to Pink, do you want to go?' and then Megan was like...
Megan: 'I love PINK!' which was kind of a lie, I just wanted to go see a concert at Madison Square Garden with Leslie, I didn't even own any of her albums.
Leslie: Well, it's a good thing Megan lied. So we make our way over to Madison Square Garden and the moment we get in, Pink takes the stage--it was this perfect moment. There's this woman who's giving everything she has in this selfless, genuine, and strong performance.
Megan: It was like she was saying 'I'm so psyched to be at Madison Square Garden, I'm so psyched I sold it out, this is a dream of mine, and thank you, thank you for being here with me.' It made our vision of what we want to create, to like,'give the audience Pink,' and thank them for coming to see you. I want to always give the audience Pink.
Leslie: Giving the audience Pink is about not settling. I think a lot of people think that once they have something good, they're like, 'Well, that's done.' But we're still creating this show... and we know the potential of what's possible.
The Story Behind the "Dick"UCBcomedy.comWatch more comedy videos from the twisted minds of the UCB Theatre at UCBcomedy.com
You can catch Love Can Suck a Dick... and So Can I at The UCB Theatre NY on Wednesday, October 6th at 8PM or if you live in the Los Angeles area, simply stay put and watch it there during its 2-show run at the UCB LA October 27th and November 4th.
Q&A with UCB's Matt Besser, Ian Roberts & Matt WalshFeb 20, 2015
Since opening in 2005, the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre has been the epicenter of comedic influence in Los Angeles. Some of the funniest comedians ranging from Sarah Silverman to Patton Oswalt are all regular perfomers there. UCB founders Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh started their careers at the Improv Olympic Theatre in Chicago training under the late improv guru Del Close. Together with Amy Poehler, they created the cult hit TV series Upright Citizens Brigade that aired on Comedy Central for three seasons. Along the way, they formed a comedy theater and a long-form improv school in New York, later opening up a West Coast branch in L.A. Before their fifth anniversary show, LA Weekly caught up with the guys responsible for bringing so much laughter and joy to comedy geeks everywhere.
Where did the name Upright Citizens Brigade come from?
Matt Walsh: In Chicago there were concept shows where there would be a virtual reality road trip and one of the sponsors was an evil organization called the Upright Citizens Brigade. It eventually became the name for the sketch group.
Ian Roberts: Upright Citizens Brigade is the subsidiary of the fictional Russell Corporation. They were this uber-evil corporation and the Upright Citizens Brigade was an arm of it.
Did all the shows have a theme of virtual reality?
MW: Virtual reality was one. What were the other ones?
IR: Conference On The Future Of Happiness, UCBTV and Thunderball, which was a sport to replace baseball. We did an entire show about that.
What made all of you decide to move to New York instead of Los Angeles to start your TV show?
IR: The first experience we had going out to New York was trying to get someone who represented Matt Besser to represent the whole group. He had a bunch of people come to see us there. A week later they called asking to see us again. So we wanted to be in a place where we could be seen and have the shows running continuously. We set it up so that if industry wanted to see us, they could. It's easier to run a show and get an audience to attend in New York rather than out here.
Wouldn't L.A. be an easier city to mount a show for people in the industry to see?
MW: Not really, our impression back then was there were a lot of showcases that would happen in L.A. where we would perform for a night or a weekend then come back home. In New York it felt like we connected with theaters where we could do an entire run. New York was more of a theater town than L.A.
IR: We also hit the ground running in New York. We had a TV show within a year of moving out there. People would often ask us how we did that so fast. The thing was we've already been performing for six years in Chicago. We came out to New York with two shows, opened them up in two separate theaters, ran them, started a free improv show and did the open mike at the Luna Lounge. So it was four nights a week that you could see us somewhere in the city.
MW: We started performing at a place called Soho Arts where we first started doing ASSSSCAT.
IR: Our first theater was at a former strip club called the Harmony Club. We benefited from Mayor Giuliani who was cracking down on the strip clubs back then. He'd just nickel and dime them with violations till it wasn't worth staying open.
Is it fair to say that you guys introduced long-form improv to New York?
MW: I think we were the first group to really do long-form well that came to New York.
Describe the process of opening the West Coast branch. What were your main goals?
Matt Besser: The Tamarind Theatre here on Franklin happen to open up and it was during the same time that many of the performers from UCB New York were moving out here, so it was good timing that way. We started with more of a focus on improv in New York. In L.A. there was already improv, so we wanted it to start off with more of a balance between sketch and stand-up for the L.A. branch. That's one of the main differences between the two theaters. Immediately, we had Comedy Death Ray, which in my opinion, is the best stand-up show in town. We also have many shows that combine performers whether it be a game show or a story-type of show. That was always the aim of this theater.
IR: Another goal is to have a place that we wish existed when we first started. A place that is friendly to performers and doesn't charge people to do their shows.
MW: Even Luna in New York was a great comedy show but it was only on Monday nights, so if you went there on Wednesdays there would be a jam band playing. This is a theater that's known for doing one thing, which is good comedy.
What was the very first show in LA?
IR: It was the show where we had Andy Dick as the monologist for ASSSSCAT.
Was he drunk?
IR: He starts out reasonably enough, but the monologist position doesn't get as much attention as someone like Andy wants to have. So he came back stage and got high in between the two acts and said 'I want to improvise.' Andy was so loose with the show and the audience was so confused as to what was going on that one guy in the audience took it upon himself to come onstage and participate without being asked.
MB: As is the UCB code, we took him to the ground and held him down.
IR: He didn't get hurt but it's like how a guy grabs you by the the neck and goes 'No really, don't fuck with us.' It was like that.
MB: At the Lion King, I tried to do that and they took me in the alley and cut off one of my thumbs, so what we did was pretty mild.
IR: The name of the show ASSSSCAT comes out of the fact that it's a pick-up improv show and we don't have to rehearse it. The whole nature of the show is very loose and so it was a perfect way to open the theater.
Why do you think such well-known comedians like Aziz Ansari, Maria Bamford and Patton Oswalt keep on coming back here to perform?
MB: When they come here, they feel more at home. You can do whatever you want and we're not going to judge the show.
IR: They know what is expected here. It's really a nice place to perform where they know that the audience is smart.
Can you guys recall any outrageous or amazing moments from the theater's five year history?
MB: Cale and James from our theater did a bit.
MW: It was the dirtiest sketch show, right?
MB: Yeah. In the sketch, the two had a bone marrow deficiency. They explained to each other that milk gives you calcium and both started chugging gallons of milk. There is this point where you can only have so much milk in your stomach before you have to throw up. They chugged until they started puking onstage. They were also holding martini glasses, puking into them and drinking each others vomit milk. They could feel their bones getting harder. So to test that out, they started punching each other in the face for real and slipping in their vomit milk.
IR: I want to bring up that we had to make sanctions against certain things after that show because it became so insane. I think people were later pissing; someone took a dump onstage; a carrot was put in someone's ass. I also hear people tend to wrestle at our New Year's Eve parties.
MW: Another cool moment was having Robin Williams pop in and do improv with new performers. The Night of 140 Tweets was also a good one when all these A-list celebrities would perform these 140 character bits. That was pretty amazing.
MB: The 12 hour Comedy Death Ray was another one.
What are your plans for the near future?
MW: We're trying to figure out a big L.A. event. New York has the Del Close Marathon, which is a crazy 72 hour marathon of comedy. We're trying to figure out a big festival day in L.A.
IR: We'll also protect the continued growth of ucbcomedy.com. We want to have what we teach here be a pipeline into that. We're teaching classes and forming teams that is just geared toward the website.
MW: Hopefully we'll finish our improv book soon. We've been working on it for at least four years now.
If Del Close were alive, what would he think of your success?
IR: He would love that there is a 72-hour improv marathon called the Del Close Marathon in New York. I think anyplace that had improv as part of what it did would make him very happy. At one time there was a debate about whether improv could be a performance form or a writing tool, so I'd think he'd be glad to see two theaters that has that as its base.
MW: Didn't he give us marching orders at his living funeral? I think you talked to him on the phone Matt.
MB: Basically he said spreading improv is a way of spreading love.
MW: Matt's smiling and he's affectionately hugging Ian as he's saying that.
Scott Aukerman interviewed by LAistFeb 20, 2015
Scott Aukerman is one of the main brains behind Los Angeles' healthy world of alternative comedy.
Comedy Death-Ray, the weekly stand-up show he started with BJ Porter in 2002, sells out the Upright Citizens Brigade Theare every Tuesday. Last year, he started launched Comedy Death-Ray Radio on the post-terrestrial radio Indie 103.1. This podcast features regulars from the live show being hilarious.
Looking to put product on their Internet-only radio station, Aukerman was a perfect fit for Indie 103.1. "The price was right for them, because I said I'd do it for free," he told LAist.
In addition to the live stream, Indie 103.1 availed the show via podcast and it took off. "I quickly found out way more people listen to podcasts than listen to radio." Now, Comedy Death-Ray Radio is one of the most downloaded comedy podcasts in the world.
"Originally, I just thought the radio show was going to be something to advertise for the live show, and it quickly became it's own thing."
Aside from their Death-Ray brand, Aukerman and Porter have had great success as a writing team, both getting their starts writing on HBO's Mr. Show (for which they were nominated for an Emmy.) One of their recent works has been at the helm of the lauded web series Between Two Ferns With Zach Galifianakis.
LAist had a chance to talk to Aukerman about new media, local comedy, and, of course, horsey sauce.
LAist: Comedy Death Ray has been a weekly stand-up show in Hollywood since 2002 (first housed at the M-Bar). Do you find you've held a regular audience?
Scott Aukerman: When I first started there was a regular audience that would come every week. There was more of a social aspect to it, because it was at a bar. You would see a lot of the same people, then after it got to UCB I started noticing that I didn't know any of the people anymore. Now, it's a different audience every week. Maybe there's a few regulars -- or maybe I just don't recognize faces anymore.
Comedy Death-Ray sells out every week. Have you thought of moving it to a larger venue?
We actually moved from a larger bar to this small theater because I didn't want to be in a larger venue. We've done shows at theatres up to 1,400 seats before but I just prefer the small ones. The great thing is, lately, it's just been selling out no matter who's on it. Sometimes I'll only release the names of three people that'll be there and plug the rest in with things that I know people'll enjoy. I can put up whatever I think is funny. There's a lot of freedom there.
Shows at UCB are known for being done for no money. What's an advantage to do a show that's not about money?
It would be nice to have it be about money -- but it was always just a hobby that we enjoyed doing. The nice thing about it is that I get to see my friends a lot more than any normal 40-year old person. Normally you get to a certain age and you lose touch with people, but every Tuesday I see at least ten friends -- some of them people that I've been hanging out with for 15 years. That doesn't happen a lot when you get older.
It seems like you do a lot of things for free.
In showbusiness you have to do a million things for free in order to get the paid things. If I wasn't doing the Comedy Death-Ray stuff, I'd be less interesting, or I would be around comedy less which would make me less funny.
You've got to kind of not look at it like -- "if I'm not going to get paid to do something, then I'm not going to do it." I always said that I wasn't going to do the MTV Movie Awards because they don't pay you anything to do them -- I don't mean zero, I just mean really shitty. So for ten years I didn't do it, then last year Andy Samberg was hosting it, and I was like "I've always wanted to meet that guy, I really like his album, and his work," so I agreed to do it and it was a great thing.
How was your first Comedy Death-Ray Radio recording?
When I first started I had no idea what I was doing. I loved radio, but I got the show on a Wednesday and did the first one Friday morning. I was terrified that I would run out of stuff to say so for the first show I stacked the deck with Rob Huebel and Tom Lennon. Rob and I had just gone to a Michael Jackson Auction and a Back to the Future convention, so I thought "at least we could talk about that." With Tom Lennon, I thought "at least he's really funny" -- "it'll kind of come out okay." The first show ended up being us constantly talking over each other.
You've recently launched Earwolf. What's that?
Earwolf is a podcast network that myself and Jeff Ullrich started. We have a studio over by the UCB Theatre. We have a really expensive, brand new website, and an iPhone app -- we're doing it right. Hopefully some day down the line someone'll figure out how to make money off podcasts. But for now it's all free.
We want to put out a bunch of shows that we produce and have there be a hub where people can find them. We figure that banding together can get us notice a little more than everyone being separate. The shows will have sort of the same aesthetic -- funny LA comedians doing stuff -- but each show will be different. We have some shows in the pipeline that are a little more genre-specific, so we're not just doing a bunch of comedians sitting around talking to each other -- there seems to be a lot of that out there.
We're trying to be the place where good comedy programs can be found.
Why do you think the podcasting boom centers in Los Angeles?
A lot of that is because they only sell microphones in Los Angeles -- a lot of people don't know that. For a while they only sold headphones in New York, so people could listen to podcasts in New York, but they couldn't record them. It's a problem. I don't have the solutions.
Also, I don't want anyone else to start podcasts. There's too many out there. So don't start podcasts, Kids. Let me start them all.
What are some of your favorite podcasts?
Never Not Funny and Pod F. Tompkast are two great ones.
What's your favorite restaurant in LA if you're paying?
There's this really cool place on Sunset and Bronson called Arby's. You can get a lot of sandwiches for a low price. You don't even need coupons.
And they have Horsey Sauce.
Yes, because "horseradish" is such a tough word to say that you must infantilize it a little bit. Actually, that is making me very hungry talking about it. You know, if I'm paying, or if someone else is paying, what's the difference really? I'm a rich man. I'm very well off. I don't even look at price-tags anymore.
What's your favorite restaurant in LA if your agent is paying?
My agent has never paid for a meal since I've known him. My agent's never paid for one goddamn meal. Nothing. Anywhere. Please. Take me out one day. Let me know that you appreciate me. I'm trying to think if my manager's ever paid for me a meal...