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Neil & Paul: Growing Up Is Tough named LA Weekly "Pick of the Week"

Mar 17, 2015

Neil & Paul: Growing Up Is Tough GO

Neil Campbell and Paul Rust are like those college geeks who would taunt the frat boys -- yucksters who'd stick a sleeping jock's hand in a bowl of warm water. Their latest sketch show, 'Growing Up Is Tough,' takes a jab at bratty teenagers, the types who get turned loose too early in life, only to buckle from their newfound independence. However, it's not the bills that spoil the good times of watchin' R-rated movies (like Nell) and growin' mustaches, but the evil Grither monster. Yes, a tiger-faced beast.

The duo are Pee-wee Herman fans, and it shows as Tough highlights plenty of potty humor, puckish antics and a minute's worth of masturbation. Their pratfalls are silly, but the pair shine in their singsong cadence, eloquently demonstrated in the satirical poem "The Symphony of the City" -- an array of Manhattan stereotypes from union workers to the suspender-wearing dude who plays the sax on a fire escape.

Campbell and Rust also have a flair for sophomoric shorts, but unfortunately the audience isn't treated to them here. In Rust's college documentary, Do You Know Lucinda?, the comedian stalks a girl he had a date with, a year later. It's a poignant, verite take on love lost. "Lucinda and I went on one great date, and then she wasn't interested in seeing me again for no reason," says Rust. "I received an e-mail from her parents demanding that I take the video off my Web site or they'd take legal action." And that's one to grow on. With Nick Wiger. Directed by Owen Burke.
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MEET THE TEACHERS: Peter Gwinn

Mar 17, 2015

The UCB Theater is a breeding ground for the country's best comedic talent. It should be no surprise then, that the theater's teaching staff consists of dozens of hard working, accomplished, kick-ass people. From time to time, we'll touch base with different members of our teaching staff to see what they've been up to in the world outside of the theater.

Peter Gwinn has taught both improv and sketch at the UCB Theater. You may have seen him performing on the UCBT stage with such groups as Chicago Style, The Stepfathers, Arsenal, and Asssscat. He also performed and taught at Chicago's ImprovOlympic, where he was a founding member of cult hit musical improv group Baby Wants Candy. These days, Peter is a writer on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report.

UCBT: What are your feelings on working at one of the country's hottest comedy shows right now?

PETER: The show is going great and we're really excited about getting to go to the Emmy's. Although lately, it seems like our fans are getting super-rabid, which is a bit scary. Like, our 'Better Know a District' district last week had Skywalker Studios in it, so we had a bit with Stephen swinging a lightsaber in front of a greenscreen, like the Star Wars kid in that internet video. THE NEXT MORNING there was a youtube video where someone had added a background and lightsaber sound effects. This is, like, less than 12 hours after it aired. I don't know how comfortable I am with that level of attention.

UCBT: How do you feel your improv background has helped you with your professional pursuits? What about the comedy communities in Chicago and NYC has helped you along the way?

PETER: There's the obvious training in finding/heightening a game that helps, as well as the ability to make quick decisions, which helps when you're writing stuff for the show that night. Beyond that, you learn really well how to work as part of a group. It's a lot more fun to write with someone who listens to your ideas and builds on them than with someone who doesn't listen at all and just pushes their own ideas.

UCBT: You're teaching writing classes at UCBT now. You've taught improv in the past. UCBT is known for producing great improv content and performers, but the nature of sketch means the public is less aware of the hard work people put into their sketch writing and the products coming out of the theater's sketch training program. What are your impressions on the state of the sketch program and sketch students at UCBT?

PETER: I think there could be more improv-sketch crossover. Not as many people seem to do sketch. Which is no surprise - sketch is a lot more work than improv. But writer-performers are so much more marketable than improvisers. I'd like to see people broaden their horizons.

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Q&A With UCBT Sketch Student Bill Grandberg

Mar 17, 2015

Bill Grandberg has taken classes at the UCB Theater in both improv and sketch. He's also been seen around town performing in a number of groups. This month, Bill let us know he was leaving the training center because he's moving.

UCBT: We hear you're leaving the UCBT scene for greener pastures. And we hear rumors that a sketch class you took with us helped out. Where are you headed and how did UCB help?

BILL: I'm off to Austin, TX, where I will be in a MFA Screenwriting program at the University of Texas. I'm one of seven people in the program, and plan on using my studies to segue into a job writing for television. One of the supplemental writing samples I sent in with my application was a Curb Your Enthusiasm spec script that I wrote for Curtis Gwinn's sketch 301 class. I am completely confident in the fact that this class, and the script it produced were instrumental towards my acceptance into my program.

Curtis' distinct knowledge of the both the formatting and process of outlining a spec script, and his insights into the industry were invaluable. His clearly explained process of taking ideas, organizing them into clear plot lines, and writing a scene by scene outline gave me the chance to put my creativity into something presentable as a piece of a portfolio. Because of his experience, Curtis taught us a lot about the television writing industry, including submitting to agents, shopping around, and producing exactly what is being looked for. Over all, Curtis was a solid teacher who knew a lot, and obviously cared a lot about what he was doing.

The other great thing about this class was the fact that it forced me to produce something. By having deadlines I had no choice but to get down to it and get shit done. That's one of the things I like the best about UCB in general, in the fact that it forces students to get out there and either perform shows or write sketches.

UCBT: You've taken a number of sketch and improv classes at UCBT (and are a member of indie team darling Chantico Warfare). How do you feel your training in this style of comedy has helped your pursuits in television writing?

BILL: This comes back to the whole "shit or get off the pot" thing I was talking about earlier. UCBT is great because it not only teaches concepts and principals of improv, it has the students go up and do a show in front of an audience. I can't tell you how much my performances, especially the bad ones, really taught me about my own personal style of comedy, and also a more universal one that will appeal to an audience. So, to answer your question, UCBT classes have really shown me that a) I have to trust my own sense of humor above all; b) concepts such as game are time tested methods for present that sense of humor; and c) the only way to get better at anything is to get out there and do it (and fail).

UCBT: Austin's a notoriously cool city. Are you planning on sticking around there for the long haul, or re-joining up with your comedy compatriots in NYC after school ends? Or are you heading straight to LA?

BILL: I'm really excited to be here out in Austin, and I definitely plan on taking advantage of its culture, especially its great improv scene. As far as my future plans go, I don't really know yet. Many factors including career, love life, Grateful Dead reunion possibilities, etc. will make up my decision.

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