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WrestleslamMania III, & Gravid Water in NY Press

Mar 13, 2015


Plenty of themed alt-comedy for the risk averse 

So They're Into... Sports Entertainment!

The WWE is pretty hilarious on its own, but the UCB Theatre's wrestling federation, the UCBW, pays such good attention to the details of the genre, it feels less like a satirical mockery and more of a hyper-hilarious homage to the dramatic sport. Just like real wrestling, there are shocking heel turns, referees who are distracted by shiny objects and promos that get you pumped. The announcers, Ben Rodgers (The Captain) and Eric Scott (TT Billingsworth) are so easily excited by all the action, it's impossible not to get caught up in their hysteria too. Leave the Papa Roach Special Edition iPod at home, the UCBW is the only distraction you need.

So They're Into... The theater!

Theater people may have already happened upon blurbs for Gravid Water, a show featuring professional stage actors spouting memorized lines from real plays while a superstar improviser makes up the other half of the dialogue. It sounds like a train wreck on paper, but the results don't seem to stray too far from the script. The secret? To put it in context, if someone in real life says, "How are you?" you probably wouldn't respond with, "Chicken Pot Pies are delicious!" There are only a couple ways for an improviser to logically take his or her side of the conversation, so the scenes unfold naturally with a touch of quirky charm.

NY Shows

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Mar 13, 2015

An angel gets his wings

A young Pakistani man moves West, loses religion and finds comedy. 'I am not as interested in or as insightful about politics as some people are,' says Kumail Nanjiani. 'I'm just trying to be funny-but my personal life is inherently political.' Nanjiani was raised a devout Muslim in Karachi, Pakistan. When he first landed in the U.S., for college, the customs officer looked at his passport and, as Nanjiani recalls onstage, said, 'That's unpronounceable.' Not 'I can't pronounce that,' or 'How do you pronounce that?' Just-Nope, sorry.' The comic, 29, tells this and other East-meets-West tales in his aptly titled solo show, Unpronounceable, Friday 28 at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. At times, the monologue is funny; at other times it's incisive and harrowing. But Nanjiani is most adept during the moments its both: He has that rare ability to make painful material hilarious. Interestingly, that wasn't his initial intention.

Two things happened during Nanjiani's senior year in college. First, he decided to make a career out of jokes. Second, September 11. After that, the easiest way to get work was on 'niche' tours with other Muslim comedians. 'That was not the comedy I wanted to do,' Nanjiani explains. 'Woody Allen is obviously a very 'Jewish' comedian, but his stuff is relatable, on a very human level, to everyone. That's what I aim for.' Instead, Nanjiani moved to Chicago, where he performed with the group Blerds, founded a monthly sketch-horror show and wrote observational jokes of the Jerry Seinfeld 'what's the deal with?' variety, but with a hip, wordy twist-instead of bits about cab drivers, he talked about video games and dildos. In just a few years, Nanjiani had become one of the most respected stand-ups in the city. 'He'd established himself as a strong comic,' says Chris Ritter, artistic director of the Lakeshore Theatre in Chicago. 'But he needed to do stuff that was more honest.' Ritter proposed that, instead of working autobiographical jokes into his set, Nanjiani should write an all-new one-man show.

The original run of Unpronounceable, at the Lakeshore, was directed by Paul Provenza and was a sell-out success. So Nanjiani set his sights higher, understanding that, 'you really need to move to New York or L.A. to throw your hat in the ring .' A longtime Woody Allen fan, he says his decision was easy.

The first act details his Pakistani childhood, praying five times a day and fasting during Ramadan. Nanjiani often uses Western pop-cultural references to explain the traditions of Islam. 'Pigs to Muslims are like water to Gremlins,' he says. He contextualizes the constant threat of Sunni-Shiite conflicts by declaring his childhood love for He-Man and Skeletor figurines: 'I had a real connection to cartoonish fights to the death for control of the universe.' In the second act, Nanjiani moves to 'the lion's den-Grinnell, Iowa-where he witnesses snow, alcohol and dance parties: 'There's a spot on the floor where people shake around? Why?!? What do the winners get?'

As a freshman he still prays-or tries to, considering his roommate's active sex life. But he also studies philosophy, which leads to a 2am existential crisis, the timing of which he admits is cliched: 'But that's just when they happen! I didn't pick it. If I had, I would have chosen, like, an hour after lunchtime, when you're all energized and ready to tackle an epiphany.' It's the kind of realization most Westerners are never in a position to experience. Unpronounceable will teach you a thing or two about Islam and Pakistani culture; it will also make you appreciate the ideological freedoms New Yorkers take for granted (a guy sitting in front of us guffawed in shock at each mention of religious zealotry). But if you catch Nanjiani's stand-up sets instead of his solo show this week, expect the clever jokes to be about Atari, not Karachi. 
NY Shows

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Paul Rust lands lead in flick "I Love You, Beth Cooper," gets paparazzed

Mar 13, 2015

Congratulations to UCBTLA performer Paul Rust (Last Day of School, Not Too Shabby, Fireball Deluxe) who is in the midst of shooting Fox Atomic comedy I Love You, Beth Cooper, an adaptation of Larry Doyle's coming-of-age novel.

Paul plays Denis Cooverman, a nerdy valedictorian who declares his love for the popular cheerleader (Hayden Panettiere) during his high school graduation speech. Chris Columbus directs.
LA General

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