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Amy Poehler in New York Magazine

Mar 18, 2015

Amy Poehler's 8 Simple Rules For being a Civilized New Yorker

Amy Poehler has two main qualifications for judging the city's manners. One, she's starred on Saturday Night Live since 2001-which means she works at Rockefeller Center, a maddening, tourist-choked hellhole for most of the TV season. ("You get used to people asking you, 'How do I get to the ground-zero gift shop?' " she says.) More important, she logged many, many hours waiting tables-the etiquette equivalent of years spent in the foxhole on the front lines of boorishness. "My absolute pet peeve is people who are rude to waiters," she says. "Any guy who's in any way difficult, your lady-boner immediately goes to zero."

And yet, on balance, she thinks New Yorkers are exceptionally polite-at least by the local definition. "Etiquette in New York is all about time management," she says. "In other places, you seem rude if you see someone and don't talk to them long enough. But here, it's all about speed. And people are fine with that. It's like, 'Hello. It's nice to see you. Thank you for giving me your kidney. I gotta go.' "

Of course, New York also offers its own unique etiquette conundrums: catcallers, meeting Oprah, the correct response to someone crapping in public. Thankfully, Ms. Poehler was kind enough to offer eight handy rules for civilized interaction in the city.

1. Be nice to everyone, especially people wearing hospital bracelets.
2. Don't ask white girls if they "left their ass at home."
3. If you have to bring your baby to a movie, make sure he laughs at appropriate times.
4. Don't eat Cheetos and then sit down at a fancy hotel piano.
5. If you are in Central Park and think you are getting mugged, first check to see if maybe you're just part of a student film.
6. If you see Oprah at a fancy function, don't grab her wrist and ask for money. Quietly sneak up behind her and whisper, "You give me that money, Oprah. You hear me?"
7. When walking on a New York street, try not to spit, litter, bleed, or take a crap.
8. If you need to do any of these things, try to do it between two parked cars.
NY General

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HOT CLASSES: Los Angeles Confidential takes you "inside LA's most prestigious improv studios"

Mar 18, 2015

Acting Out 
In LA, everyone's pretty and everyone has a smidgeon of talent to capitalize on. We sat in on the town's top improv classes to see how some rising stars get a leg up.


UPRIGHT CITIZENS BRIGADE

Tagline
The Comedians of Chaos.

Established
Chicago, 1990 (company); New York City, 1997 (Training Program); New York City, 1999 (Theatre); Los Angeles, 2005 (Theatre and Training Program).

Esteemed Alumni
Amy Poehler, Horatio Sanz, Andy Milonakis, Neil Flynn, Ian Roberts, Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, Adam McKay, Rob Corddry, Ed Helms, Rob Riggle, Danielle Schneider, Scot Armstrong, Andrew Daly, and dozens of other soon-to-be-household names.

History
In 1990, five young, brash, and disgruntled Chicago comics (Horatio Sanz, Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, Ian Roberts, and Adam McKay) formed the Upright Citizens Brigade out of disgust with what was pitifully passing as comedy at the time. Brandishing a mission statement espousing the virtues and promotion of "chaos," the troupe fervently challenged complacency -- among audiences and the general public.

Techniques learned from ImprovOlympic's Del Close and the Harold method brought cohesion to UCB's often chaotic improvisations.  During this time, UCB members came and left to take jobs with shows such as SNL and Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

In 1996, the four remaining members (Besser, Walsh, Roberts, and newcomer Amy Poehler) moved their special brand of improv to New York City.  Surprised by the lack of any training program for long-form improv in Manhattan, UCB quickly filled the gap, and began the UCB training program.  In 2005, UCB spread its wings westward and set up both a theater and a training program in Hollywood. The results have been extraordinary, proving to be popular beyond expectations.

Why It's Cool
Never knowing what A-list comedian might be in the audience at a UCB performance. However, what really sets the UCB training apart is its "Game," where performers find the first unusual element in an improvised scene and then make a pattern out of it.

Performance Opportunities

All improv classes end in a public performance, with the advanced-level shows having longer and more in-depth runs.

Advice To New Students
From Seth Morris, artistic director: "See the Harold Night Mondays, and ASSSSCAT on Saturdays and Sundays.  Be ready to have fun, and don't try to be funny. Be good observers of the odd moments of real life. If that doesn't work, stick out your butt and puff your chest."

Class Offerings
Currently six levels of improv classes are available. The lower division classes are largely dedicated to mastering the Harold and the Game, while the upper division teachers forms like "Movie" and "Deconstruction."  Also offered are three levels of sketch writing classes for both the stage and television.
LA Classes

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Congratulations UCBT Performers Named Variety's 10 Comics to Watch

Mar 18, 2015

10 Comics To Watch

The demo reels have been watched, the casting agents, comedy pros and funny biz followers consulted, and the results are in: Here's Variety's picks for the most exciting new laughmakers on the scene.

ELIZA COUPE

Who: Three years ago, Eliza Coupe, a recent graduate from the theater program at CalArts, was touring the country playing a soldier in an all-female version of King Lear. Shakespeare had worn her down: "I thought, 'If I hear one more depressing Elizabethan, I'm going to lose it -- I need to do something funny!'" says Coupe, 25.

The result of this epiphany was her one-woman sketch show, "The Patriots," which premiered at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York last November and won her the break-out performer award at Aspen's U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in March.

Developed while Coupe was training at the Groundlings and UCB, "The Patriots" is a collection of characters -- a drunken bimbette, a 9-year-old Irish girl, a foulmouthed Bostonian -- who embody the best and worst of American culture. "They're the committee that lives in my head," says the mile-a-minute Coupe.

Aspen producer Kirsten Ames first saw Coupe in a workshop in 2004 and became her manager.

"I've been scouting for six years, and when you see it, you know it," she says. "She's like a character actress in a leading-lady body."

Coupe seems to be enjoying her newfound industry interaction. "Agents really feed you well," she observes.

What's Going On
: She'll appear later this year in a new Sierra Mist ad campaign, and she has a small part in the upcoming Chris Rock movie, I Think I Love My Wife. An MTV pilot for a sketch show with Nick Cannon is also in the pipeline.

"There are a lot of things -- I'm going to use an industry phrase -- 'in the mix' for me," Coupe says. "I've gone out on six auditions in the last two days, and I've gotten callbacks on almost all of them."

Take: "I think the terminology used in this industry is hilarious. I had a meeting the other day, and someone actually said in conversation, 'Cut to next week.' I looked around and was, like, what? Are we in a movie script right now?"
-Janelle Brown

REBECCA DRYSDALE


Who
: While some young comedians were honing their act at the 2005 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Rebecca Drysdale was blowing auds away with her fierce vulnerability and bravado.

In 20 minutes, Drysdale arrested such sacred cows as her Jewish upbringing, her lesbianism and the industry itself.

"Comedians don't always have something to say, and I so respect the fact that Rebecca does in an inventive way," says U.S. Comedy Arts artistic director Pat Tourk Lee.

One of the highlights from Drysdale's one-woman show was her pungent rhyme about the social clash between butch and lipstick lesbians told to the rhythm scheme of Dr. Seuss' The Sneetches

In another bit, she impersonates a rapper who bases his own pungent rhyme around the most inflamatory of racial slurs.Above all, Drysdale's shows are void of an overriding theme or character arc -- and that's intentional.

The comedienne prefers that the crowd becomes familiar with her facets through various vignettes, some slightly personal -- i.e. a candid re-enactment of her bat mitzvah speech.

Others routines are even more personal, such as a four-minute nude shower scene where she croons "Candle on the Water" from the Disney pic Pete's Dragon.

"It's interesting listening to people's strong reactions about the scene," Drysdale says.

"I think there's a little bit of goofiness when you sing alone in the car or in the shower. But taking a private moment and making it public is quite interesting."

While some emerging artists are careful about expressing their sexual orientation early in their careers, Drysdale is indifferent. "The quickest way for me to get to what I actually do is to simply say 'I'm gay,' " she explains. "I don't want to deal with coming out later on."

Drysdale left Sarah Lawrence College to cut her teeth in sketch and improv at Chicago's Second City and Improv Olympic. Her success at Aspen prompted a move to New York City and set her apart from her brother, Eric Drysdale, a scribe on The Colbert Report.

What's Going On: After winning Aspen's breakout comedy award in 2005, Drysdale landed a pilot-talent holding deal with HBO. She'll re-open "Rebecca Drysdale Is One Woman in Several Pieces," a revised version of the show she staged in Aspen, at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York.

Take: "Growing up, my friends and I were just nerds about sketch comedy. I would contemplate the similarities between a blossoming Whoopi Goldberg and a young Steve Martin. I was a Trekkie of sketch comedy. I knew more then I do now."-Anthony D'Alessandro

Check back in August for the UCBTLA stage debut of Rebecca Drysdale's one-woman show.

HUMAN GIANT


Who
: The Gotham-based sketch comedy quartet includes Aziz Ansari, Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer and Jason Woliner.

A veteran improv performer, Scheer teamed with fellow thesp Huebel and Aspen award-winning standup Ansari at New York's Upright Citizens Brigade.

Through stints at Ansari's weekly UCB show, "Crash Test," the threesome honed their satirical act and created recurring characters that Ansari succinctly describes as "idiots with high status.""Scheer and Huebel have worked together for a long time, and they're just so good together," says UCB artistic director Anthony King. "Aziz brings in his own thing but he fits right in perfectly."

Soon, helmer Jason Woliner came on board, and the newly monikered Human Giant began to expand their sketches into short films. One of these was Shutterbugs, a Channel 102 pilot featuring Ansari and Huebel as the proprietors of a talent agency for preschoolers. Sharp and, at times, gloriously offensive, the pilot and its two sequels found a considerable viral audience on MySpace and YouTube. (Ansari's advice to a young Korean tyke: "Why don't you call us back when you're not Asian?")

As for the group's moniker and silhouette logo, both were inspired by big bald actor Michael Clarke Duncan." We were so enamored with Michael Clarke Duncan, but we didn't know if he'd find it funny or be freaked out," says Scheer, with a tremor of fear in his voice. "If he's not satisfied, he could just break us."

What's Going On: The group is developing a sketch comedy show for MTV and plans to release another short -- a spoof of overblown David Blaine-style magic specials called "The Illusionators" -- online soon. Individually, Ansari is starring in the Weinstein Co.'s upcoming feature School for Scoundrels, Huebel has an NBC sitcom in development and Scheer has a pilot brewing at TBS called 10 Items or Less. Huebel, Scheer and Woliner are also involved with VH1's Best Week Ever in various capacities.

Takes: Scheer: "The most success we've had has just been from us doing our own thing, doing whatever makes us laugh."Huebel: "Like Shutterbugs, it's really just us being assholes to little kids, and we think that's hilarious."-Andrew Barker

Catch Rob Huebel and Paul Scheer weekly in the hit UCBTLA improv show MySpace Wednesdays at 9:30pm.

MORGAN MURPHY

Who
: Morgan Murphy, 24, started doing standup during her freshman year at Loyola Marymount -- and things started moving quickly for her. She braved open mics. She got laughs easily. She ventured to New York to intern for Conan O'Brien. ICM signed her.

As for her style, picture comedian Steven Wright, the master of ironic, low-key delivery, only with hair -- gobs of curly red hair. Onstage, Murphy keeps her demeanor beyond blase, often telling audiences that her mom beat her with her trophies when she was a child -- that's how she learned irony. She looks down, looks up -- her big red curls clash with her aloofness -- and launches into the next joke.

She was still in college with Mr. Show writers Scott Aukerman and B.J. Porter hired her to draft a pilot, The Offensive Show, based on her act.The pilot didn't get picked up, but Murphy landed a writing job on Comedy Central's Crank Yankers upon graduation.

The show's exec producer, Jimmy Kimmel, soon asked her to write for his ABC latenight show. Murphy became the only female writer on the team. She felt at home there. Kimmel invited her to perform live standup on several episodes."

Morgan's fresh," says Bobcat Goldthwait, who directed her in his new movie, Stay. "She's a female comic, but she's not up there talking about how attractive or unattractive she is, or manbashing. You could change the gender of her material and it would still apply.""Morgan is one of the funniest and most unique comics I know," Kimmel adds. "It's hard to believe she's only 12 years old."

What's Going On: Murphy left Jimmy Kimmel Live in March, after two seasons, to focus on her own projects. She'll pitch a pilot this summer. Meanwhile, she's doing punch-up work for DreamWorks Animation, adding some jokes to upcoming Aardman-produced feature "Flushed Away." And she'll attend the Montreal Comedy Festival as a New Face 2006. Murphy is repped out of CAA and managed by Peter Safran.

Take: "I think it's a time when men and women are on a very similar playing field, as far as if you're funny, you're funny, I think there was a time when it was like, 'Come on, we need more women in here.' Now, it's like, 'We need more funny people in here.'"-Betsy BoydMorgan Murphy is the creator and host of the UCBTLA reading series A Million Gazillion Quadrillion Little Pieces and has been featured in several shows at UCBTLA including Comedy Death-Ray, See You Next Tuesday, ASSSSCAT and Kosher Comedy.

THE WHITEST KIDS U KNOW


Who: The sketch group met in a spillover dormitory in Brooklyn in 2000. Made up of Trevor Moore, Darren Trumeter Jr., Sam Brown, Zach Cregger and Timmy Williams, The Whitest Kids come from all over -- South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Massachusetts.

Their reputation for unpolished hit-or-miss hilarity precedes them around the NYC comedy circuit.In 2005, after David Cross ended his popular sketch-show run of "Tinkle" at a club called Pianos in Manhattan, the guys were invited to fill the coveted slot.They dreamed up a Sunday night show featuring audience interaction and other silly surprises."

We do a sketch about somebody who finds out they have brain cancer," Moore says. "They're crying and horrible for about two minutes, then the waiter comes in and says they have a clam chowder that cures brain cancer."

One of Cregger's sketches has him on a date with a woman who refuses to chip in for dinner -- he turns to the audience for moral support and a vote.The group also makes short films -- some studied at the School of Visual Arts -- which are slightly more polished versions of their sketch work. Notable is a parody of an iconic pregnancy-test commercial -- when the moment of truth arrives for the giddy young couple, it turns out that the woman has somehow mistaken her boyfriend's ultraslim iPod Shuffle for the test stick and has urinated on that instead."

The Whitest Kids are a completely different type of comedy," says Jasper Coolidge, talent buyer at Pianos. "Word got around like wildfire. Time Out New York started writing about them. They became a happening on Sundays. "The Whitest Kids, they're like us. It's like hanging out in a room watching your friends telling jokes."

What's Going On: The Kids won best sketch group at Aspen's U.S. Comedy Arts Festival 2006.Cable TV's Fuse Channel then signed the team to write and perform 10 episodes of a sketch series next season.

Individually, Moore and Cregger are writing a script for Paramount, which they plan to direct. The plot follows a basketball team into Armageddon.

Takes: Cregger: "Right now is a very exciting time for comedy, especially in New York. I'm seeing a lot of young comedians really step up and just do it."Moore: "I think our goal is to do a really great TV show for a couple of years and then do movies. Everyone can go do their own thing. But following the Monty Python plan, we'll keep coming back together every couple of years."-Betsy Boyd
LA General

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