'smart and satirical' Crystal and Push-Ups featured in IN MagazineMar 17, 2015
Frank Hundley and Bryan Safi are Los Angeles-based actor-comedians who star in "Crystal and Push-Ups," a sketch comedy show, under the direction of the Groundlings' Drew Droege. The 30-minute show will be performed at 8pm on Wednesdays, March 14 and 28, at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, 5919 Franklin Ave., Hollywood.
Guys, describe your show Crystal and Push-Ups for our readers.
Bryan: It explores different themes in modern gay life, from the pressures of going out and trying to look good to really bizarre ways we communicate online and how different aspects of our personalities come out through that. It pushes stereotypes, like Amish lesbians-a very hot topic right now.
Frank: It's a subversive look at contemporary issues facing the gays-an ironic, cheeky, youthful take on things, like gay adoption, hooking up, and there's a dance number.
Where did the idea for the show come from?
Frank: It developed organically from another show we did at Upright Citizens Brigade called 'Three Dollar Bill,' which was a line-up of sketches, stand-up and character monologues from gay and lesbian performers. We decided to develop a whole show.
Bryan: We sat down and did tons of crystal and said, 'Let's write this.' The inspiration came from drugs and the gym. (Laughs) No, we're both from New York and just wanted to write something topical about how different and funny the gay scene is here.
That really comes across. I found the humor to be smart and satirical.
Bryan: In gay comedy it's easy to go for something cheap like a lube joke or a fisting joke, and we were trying to go for more of a heightened reality of what we go through as gay men.
Some of the biggest laughs come from the IM exchanges you read aloud. Are these real?
Frank: They're actual IM exchanges Bryan had with people online. In some cases we used the same screennames they use so it will be funny if one of them happens to be in the audience one night. Yes, it's all actual stuff from the Internet. That was an awkward part of our writing process because he brought in 15 pages and it was really explicit and pornographic, and he's a close friend of mine, so it was uncomfortable to read. I felt like such a prude because I'm usually the one saying, 'Make it filthier!'
Bryan, how much time did you spend in chatrooms 'doing research'?
Bryan: Hours! I'm in three of them right now. I don't stop.
Well, the results were worth all your hard work.
Bryan: I also went out a lot, had a lot of sex and met a lot of people whose names I don't remember. (Laughs)
What do you think makes you guys such a great comedy team?
Frank: We're two people with the same sense of humor, and we enjoy each other's company, so part of it is just letting the audience in on our vibe. The audience has fun hanging out with us. It's great to be working with someone you think is the funniest person in the world.
What will our readers get out of seeing the show?
Bryan: I think they'll be able to look at themselves and laugh. We're holding up a big gay mirror ... with drugs on it. (Laughs) We're not judging anybody. We love being gay.
Frank: They'll get a rip-roaring good time, and I think our material has relevance. I hope people laugh and learn something and weep uncontrollably throughout the evening because that's what good theater is.
How have audiences responded to your show so far?
Bryan: They've come back to see it again and brought other people. You couldn't ask for more than that.
Frank: The reaction was been so bizarrely enthusiastic. We hear people exclaim loudly from the audience in recognition, 'Oh my God!' That's so gratifying, and I appreciate it even more than the laughter.
NSA Presents: Crystal and Push-Ups
Wednesday, March 28 at 8pm ($5)
Amy Poehler in the NY Times!Mar 17, 2015
ON a rare winter weekend when Saturday Night Live was in reruns and Amy Poehler had not been called upon to play Hillary Clinton, Paula Abdul, Nancy Grace or any of the dozens of women she gleefully cuts down to size, she could have spent her Sunday evening any way she wanted - say, at home, with the phone disconnected, catching up on much-needed sleep. Instead she was standing on the subterranean stage of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Chelsea, navigating through another marathon night of performing, this time without the benefit of cue cards or a script.
Surrounded by dozens of young audience members dressed in hooded sweatshirts and heavy coats, Ms. Poehler, 35, clad in a vintage Michael Jackson T-shirt and blue jeans, was improvising a skit about rival Ping-Pong players. Furiously swatting at an imaginary ball with a nonexistent paddle, she explained to her opponent - played by Jack McBrayer, who plays the perpetually optimistic page on the sitcom 30 Rock - that she'd learned her technique from the self-help documentary The Secret. "You are pretty good," Mr. McBrayer replied, "even though you're a girl." And everyone in the room burst into laughter, even Ms. Poehler.
If there's a bit of truth in every joke, then the truth is that Ms. Poehler has done exceedingly well in her chosen field. At a time when the comedy herd has been dominated by ample alpha males who strip to their skivvies and run half-naked around Nascar tracks, Ms. Poehler, a slender actress who stands at most 5 foot 2 in silver Converse sneakers, has nonetheless elbowed her way to the front of the pack.
As a founder and owner of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theaters in New York and Los Angeles, she has become an influential figure in the mostly masculine world of improvised comedy. And in her six seasons on Saturday Night Live, once the inspirational keg from which all frat-house laughs were tapped, she has risen to become one of the show's most versatile cast members and an anchor at the Weekend Update news desk.
Still, Ms. Poehler would prefer not to be celebrated for her achievements simply because she is a woman. Better yet, she would prefer not to be reminded so frequently that she happens to be a woman surrounded by men.
"You have to be grateful for it, and you want it to go away at the same time," she said a few days later, enjoying a brief moment of calm in her dressing room. "If you try to analyze comedy at all, it's deadly. If you try to bring your gender into it, it's unbearable." Let's be unbearable for a moment: On SNL Ms. Poehler is one of just 3 female performers in a cast of 11, and there are only 3 female writers on a staff of more than 20. Yet to friends and colleagues who witnessed her breakthrough on the Chicago improv comedy circuit in the 1990s, she has always been one of the guys.
When Ms. Poehler, a native of Burlington, Mass., and a graduate of Boston College, first arrived in Chicago in 1993, the scene was in flux. "You'd hear, 'Oh, women aren't funny,' and most of the improv teams were eight guys and one woman," said Rachel Dratch, a Chicago veteran who would later join the SNL cast. "But within like four years it had kind of switched up." As Ms. Poehler rose through the ranks at ImprovOlympic (now known as I.O.) and Second City, gender divisions within these institutions' comedy teams began to even out, and she found herself in the company of strong female performers like Ms. Dratch and Tina Fey, the future Saturday Night Live head writer and 30 Rock creator and star, who appeared with Ms. Poehler in an I.O. group called Inside Vladimir.
Soon Ms. Poehler was invited to join the Upright Citizens Brigade, a sketch comedy troupe whose formidable roster included Adam McKay, another future SNL head writer and the director of Talladega Nights, and Horatio Sanz, soon to be one of the show's stars.
"We were a group where I think our shortest guy was like 6 foot 1," recalled Matt Besser, a founding member. "So it's not just intimidating to perform with us because of our experience, but also because we were literally towering above most people physically. But Amy was able to get onstage with us, and that just didn't seem to matter." In 1996 Ms. Poehler, Mr. Besser and two fellow members, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh, brought the troupe from Chicago to New York, where they continued to perform showcases and teach improv classes. Within two years they landed their own Comedy Central sketch series, on which Ms. Poehler played various irascible housewives and big-bottomed bus drivers and appeared with the troupe in hidden-camera pranks perpetrated on unsuspecting civilians.
The three-season run of Upright Citizens Brigade would lead Ms. Poehler in 2001 to Saturday Night Live, where Ms. Dratch and Ms. Fey were already employed. Her debut appearance was the show's first broadcast after the 9/11 attacks.
"You're just trying to figure out where the bathrooms are," she said, "and on top of it, everyone's like, 'Will comedy be able to go on?' If you didn't feel small and insignificant before, you definitely did then." Ms. Poehler is especially good at impersonating powerful women like Senator Clinton ("I like her quiet fury," she said), but she also has a soft spot for precocious children like the actress Dakota Fanning and an overstimulated preteenager named Kaitlin, a character she created with Emily Spivey, a writer on the show.
"When I was that old, I was a little wound up myself," Ms. Poehler said. "I like that age, where you're not quite into boys yet and really think you can be an astronaut, a teacher, a doctor and a roller skater. That girl and I live in the same world." Some of that affection is being channeled into The Mighty B, an animated series Ms. Poehler is producing for Nickelodeon in which she provides the voice of the title character, a girl she described as "superoptimistic and a super spaz." Grown-up fans can also see her in the forthcoming Will Ferrell comedy Blades of Glory, in which Ms. Poehler and her husband, Will Arnett, play a brother-sister figure-skating duo who share a mysterious if undeniable friction.
"She's funnier than most dudes I know, and she sort of demands that people don't look at her as a funny lady but just as a funny person," Mr. Arnett said. "She's able to command that." Ms. Poehler is reluctant to dwell on any aspect of her success for too long, for fear of convincing herself that she doesn't actually deserve it.
"You have to be in a state of cautious optimism and egomaniacal denial at the same time," she said, laughing off a momentary lack of confidence. "Believe you belong there, and then go home every night and feel like a fraud. Isn't that how comedy works?"
INSIDE JOKE w/HOT FUZZMar 17, 2015
The show takes place on Monday, April 9th, at 7 p.m.
To attend, send an email to [email protected] and include your name and the number of tickets needed. Please note, there is a limit of two tickets per person. The show is free.
Tickets and location details will be confirmed in a follow-up email.
This show was made possible by the kind folks at Rogue Pictures!