The UCB Theatre (and DCM) in Encore MagazineMar 16, 2015
New York may be the epicenter of culture in America, but Chicago has its moments. For some 30 years, Del Close was the force behind improv comedy in the Windy City-and Bill Murray, Tina Fey and Mike Meyers were among the talents he influenced. To honor his legacy, the Upright Citizens Brigade, founded on the Chicago-style improv model, presents the 9th Annual Del Close Marathon July 27-29 in Chelsea.
In one weekend, more than 150 shows will be performed. Troupes from Austin to Salt Lake City, New York to LA, will be in attendance-and admission to the marathon is a mere $20. Sound incredible? Not if you know the UCB.
A theater and training ground for some of America's best comedy acts, UCB runs theaters in both New York and Los Angeles. The brainchild of Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh, it features improv, sketch and stand-up comedy. More impressive is the sheer volume of output: 25 shows weekly that boast both up-and-comers and established comedians. Every day, somebody, on some UCB stage, is killing them nightly. And the UCB Touring Co. is a hit on campuses nationwide.
As Anthony King, artistic director, proudly notes, "Our performers are regularly seen on Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, Best Week Ever and Late Night With Conan O'Brien, to name a few. And many of our performers write for TV and film." People like Rob Corddry and Ed Helms from The Daily Show and Paul Scheer and Rob Huebel from Best Week Ever. Plus, the New York theater's flagship show, Asssscat, was featured as a special on the Bravo network starring the UCB and friends: Andy Richter, Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch.
Two years ago, the UCB expanded into Los Angeles and opened a training center in New York to house its ever-expanding improv and sketch-comedy school, the intensive Improv Gerilla Training Center, where students learn the art of improvisational and written comedy. At any given time, according to King, it has "more than 800 students in class." Not bad for a theater that debuted in 1999 to battle then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani's war against obscenity.
Opening first on West 22nd, the former home of the New Harmony strip club, the UCB gained a rep as a place for cutting-edge comedy. Soon, the little 74-seat theater in Chelsea became the darling of casting directors and festival producers. And where talent goes, buzz follows. Five years later, UCB's new 152-seat theater opened on West 26 Street and continues to entertain New Yorkers. Ditto in LA, where fans enjoy shows seven nights a week and can take improv classes.
Weekly improv shows in New York include "Mother, "Reuben Williams, "The Stepfathers" and "Death By Roo Roo," as well as the always-popular "Asssscat" on Sunday nights. The theater, a strictly for-profit venture, is proud of its alums, its vast comedic inventory and its prices. There are no drink minimums and all shows are $8 or less. And many are free. Sometimes goofy, sometimes subversive, UCB is one of the best clubs to catch the comedy wave.
UP LATE! w/LORD VOLDEMORT in NY Magazine's Vulture BlogMar 16, 2015
Ridikkulus! Harry Potter Comedy at the UCB Theater
Last night's sold-out UCB show, 'Up Late! With Lord Voldemort,' drew an enormous crowd of the most delightful mix: Harry Potter nerds and comedy nerds. (Overheard behind our seat in the Hufflepuff section: 'As long as I get my hair cut before Comic-Con...') Achilles Stamatelaky wrote the show with enough detailed knowledge to satisfy the kind of fans who hiss when the name 'Snape' is mentioned and sufficient smirk to keep it funny for everyone else. Billy Merritt channeled the voice of the surly Sorting Hat in what was the night's best performance. 'Do you know how hard it is to make a rhyming song year after year about the same subject,' complained the hat, before declaring to an audience member, 'The whore goes to Gryffindor!' Lennon Parham's J.K. Rowling frostily explained that inconsistencies in the books were easily explained by 'magic,' and the Weasley Brothers did a snappy 'Who's on First' routine involving Quidditch.
The audience was wholly unprepared for Anthony Atamanuik's bearded Severus Snape, especially his reading of erotic Harry Potter fan fiction. 'Nothing in Honeydukes candy shop tasted this good,' he intoned to nervous audience giggles, which transitioned to helpless laughter at the thought of Harry 'dart his tongue back and forth like a golden snitch.' But maybe the blue humor should have been abandoned after the fan fic: Crabbe and Goyle are gay, Hagrid is gay, Madame Maxine is a tranny, Harry wants pubic hair, and dildos are actually 'exotic wands.' Hermione suggested that the audience was 'filled with people who had to borrow their mother's car keys to get here,' and she wasn't far off; you should have seen the look on one kid's face upon hearing the word 'fisting,' likely for the first time. He'll never think of Draco and Harry the same way again.
'brilliant' MySpace improv show featured in MetromixMar 16, 2015
An improv comedy show that peeps your page
Face it: Your MySpace profile sucks.
Your comments section is nearly empty. MySpace Tom is still in your Top Eight. And James Blunt's 'You're Beautiful' is your default song.
Enter The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre -- L.A.'s bestest comedy venue -- and their weekly, improvised comedy show MySpace,which turns even the lamest real life MySpace profile into brilliant theatre.
Here's how it works: Each week, resident UCB comedians (including SNL's Rob Riggle and Best Week Ever regular Paul Scheer) pick three random audience members and craft long form improvised comedy sketches based entirely on their profile. Drunken comments left by exes, embarrassing photos of you at your cousin's bar mitzvah, your not-so-secret, not-so-ironic love of Charles Bronson films -- it's all fair game. To really get into the good-natured profile bashing, get thee to the nearby Mayfair Market just before the show and grab some delicious (root) beer for you and your homies.
If you're going to lurk on Myspace on a Wednesday night, at least get out of the house.
And, FYI: According to the show's official MySpace page, the show is a Libra and doesn't want kids.
Wednesdays at 9:30pm ($5)