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Mar 11, 2015

Taking Funny Viral

Upright Citizens Brigade has high hopes for a new comedy portal

Think Kevin Bacon is connected?

When it comes to comedy, Upright Citizens Brigade laughs in the face of 'six degrees of separation.'

Try the UCB 'Bacon' number of one and you get Saturday Night Live, The Office, The Daily Show, Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O'Brien and 30 Rock.

The ever-evolving improvisational/sketch comedy powerhouse has been performing live since their formation in 1990 -- and had their own show on Comedy Central from 1998 to 2000 -- but that's not enough for the classic overachievers.

When the Comedy Central show ended, UCB opened two theaters, first in New York and then in Los Angeles. What followed was the creation of a one-of-a-kind comedy training center (in New York), which is recognized as the largest unaccredited university in the nation, teaching more than 600 students at any given time the fine points of 'Harold' -- the long-form improv technique developed by the legendary Del Close.

Earlier this year, under the imprint Shout Factory, UCB also independently released ASSSSCAT, a taped live performance of their long-running hit show -- featuring founding members Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh, as well as alumni Horatio Sanz and Ed Helms -- making the troupe, for all intents and purposes, their own comedy label.

But what's really got the renegade comics working overtime these days is, their new web channel that Roberts hopes will become the 'YouTube of comedy.'

'That's what you want it to be. Because ou have to really sift through stuff sometimes on the net to find comedy,' says Roberts.

'What we are trying to do different with our site is, we are producing the videos,' explains Roberts, who is working primarily as a writer these days with partner Jay Martel, but was last seen in scene-stealing turns in Drillbit Taylor and as the coach of the San Antonio Spurs in Semi-Pro. 'Instead of just anybody sending us just anything, which they still can, a big part of what we are doing is using the talent from our theaters to create quality content.'

UCB runs a writers' room once a week in Los Angeles, not unlike a TV show, and the group pitches ideas to one another. The best of the best is produced as web content for

'It's a new stage. We have the LA theater and the New York theater and now we have a cyber theater,' says Roberts. 'We can get the same people with this training and this similar sensibility putting this stuff together. We are always encouraging people, if they have a great scene that they are doing in a show, to film it and put it online.'

Something that's much easier today than when the group started, says Besser.

'When we started out, I bought a video camera that was as big as a car and when we edited things, it was between two VHS machines. So now, almost 20 years later, seeing how easy it is to mke a video is pretty crazy,' laughs Besser, who was featured as Hard Walkers' lead guitarist Dave in the Golden Globe-nominated Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

'We used to joke that if we had our own TV station, we wouldn't have to pitch our shows to anyone, and I guess that's where the internet has brought us now. is our own station.'

Like a tree falling in a forest with no one around, if comedy is happening with nobody watching, is it still funny? Or worse, what if someone is looking for a lugh but can't get it?

Besser doesn't want to find out.

'We take the same pride in the website as we do in our two stages in New York and LA,' offers Besser. 'And it's a stage for the rest of America, essentially. I'm from Little Rock, Arkansas, and I know how hard it is to get the kind of entertainment that you get in big cities. But the internet can give you that.'

'It gives us a virtual theater,' adds Walsh, 'which is a great place for people in our community to get their voice out there and to explore their artistic voice.'

'And the stuff we shoot live at the theater is perfect for the internet. The room is the right size to see on a YouTube-type format,' explains Walsh, who was a regular on The Daily Show and Late Night with Conan O'Brien before landing roles in Old School and, with Roberts, in Semi-Pro as referee Father Pat. 'But on top of the live stuff, it's a great place to see some amazing sketches and some good, weird found footage that gets people going, too.'

Roberts agrees, but says that while the 'F-d Up Found Footage' section is highly trafficked by visitors to, he'd like to see more viewers watching the UCBcomedy originals, like Mythbusters or The Darryl Strawberry Show.

'A lot of the most popular things are found videos -- just like weird mistakes or humiliations that have been captured on video -- but there's not a lot of solid sketch online,' says Roberts. 'And what we'd like to do is, our goal is, eventually get as good as anything that you would see on TV. That's something we are lacking, is the overall comedy content on the internet. We hope to bring a little more professionalism to the game.'

One sketch in particular that has generated interest for the site since it was first posted is UCB veteran Evan Susser's Brave New Obamaian World. Political pundits from the left and the right have used it for fuel and/or fodder of late, and entering the title as a Google search now spawns thousands of matches.

LA General

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Christina Gausas & Rob Lathan pilot Official Selection in the New York Television Festival!

Mar 11, 2015

The Department, written & produced by Christina Gausas (Let's Have a Ball), starring Rob Lathan (Get Psyched!), directed by Don P. Hooper (Sunnyside Up) is an Official Selection in the New York Television Festival. View the trailer here.

The pilot also stars Nick Offerman (24, American Body Shop) and Laura Krafft (THREE PIECE) and features many UCB performers including Stoley, Brian Barrett, Mackenzie Condon, Brandon Gardner, Jon Gutierrez, and Chelsea Clarke.
NY General

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Amy Poehler Interviewed In Men's Vogue

Mar 11, 2015

Entering her final season at Saturday Night Live, Amy Poehler sets her sights on primetime.
In her Visionaries Questionnaire, Poehler reveals her greatest sacrifice and something that won't make her laugh

No matter what happens in November, Amy Poehler's impersonation of Hillary Clinton on Saturday Night Live will be remembered as one of the high points of the 2008 election. Bossy, bouffanted, totally absurd, Poehler's send-up helped earn her an Emmy nomination, the show's first supporting actress nod in 30 years. It also managed to steer the political debate, lure Clinton onto SNL - excavating her sense of humor in the process - and give her campaign some much-needed oxygen. McCain and Obama may be safe from an Amytation, but their Secret Service details are feeling the heat: The Massachusetts-born Poehler delights in tormenting the grim-faced agents whenever the candidates make cameos. 'They're pretty badass and super secret, and they just love it if you give them a nickname,' she says. 'Like, just call 'em Foxtrot, or like, Hey, Fireball. What's up, Danger Mouse?'

But after seven seasons on Saturday Night Live, she'll anchor her final Weekend Update later this fall and start filming a new mockumentary series for NBC from the producers of The Office. 'It's gonna be really hard - Boyz II Men hard - to say goodbye to yesterday,' Poehler says. 'SNL was dangerous, late-night, last-minute, and star-studded, but like any good drug, you need to know when to put it down.' With luck, the new series could do for Poehler what 30 Rock did for her pal Tina Fey: crown her as primetime royalty. Before that happens, though, the 37-year-old is somehow going to find the downtime to give birth to her first child with her husband and occasional costar, Will Arnett. She insists their off-camera routines are more sit-down than stand-up (TV marathons of Locked Up Abroad, Intervention, and 'really sad hour-long dramas') and that recently she's even been using what she calls the P.E. - Pregnancy Excuse - to duck out of parties early. Of course, the Baby Mama star knows that fertility can be fertile material. 'My baby drops in October,' she says, 'and everybody's got to go out and get it.'
NY General

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