article thumbnail

UCBT shows and performers named in TONY's Best of Comedy 2008

Mar 9, 2015

Comedy: The best (and worst) of 2008 

Most exciting surprise guest
When Robin Williams showed up at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in November asking if he could perform, Harold team Bangs was about to take the stage. Not only was the audience treated, but eight comics got to play with a legend.

Best new stand-ups:
In showcases, Joe Mande and Sean Patton consistently outshine the more seasoned stand-ups who follow.

Most deserved "finally" moments:
Success has been a long-time coming for Jamie Denbo and Jessica Chaffin (Ronna & Beverly's All Jew Revue); Kimmy Gatewood, Rebekka Johnson and Sarah Lowe (The Apple Sisters Variety Show); and Charlie Sanders (Minnesota Muslim). We think they've finally found the right vehicles.

Biggest breakout:
Last year Aubrey Plaza was in an indie improv troupe and had a supporting role in a Web series. Now she plays Seth Rogen's love interest in Judd Apatow's forthcoming Funny People, just scored a still-secret part in a much-buzzed TV pilot and landed yet another on-the-DL role in a predicted box-office hit. FYI: She's 24.

Most banging out: Mother's finale was also one of the best shows of the improv group's nine-year run. It got a ludicrously long standing O as proof.

Best improv show: Gravid Water, the comedy-meets-plays experiment, is not just humorous; it's fascinating.

Report card: This year's most exciting trend is the one bending away from ironic observational humor toward a more candid, confessional style. I've sat in rooms and felt the energy disappear when a stand-up starts mocking from afar, only to watch audience members reengage when the next comic makes himself vulnerable. For whatever reason, New Yorkers are craving connection right now, the most obvious culmination of which is the growing interest in storytelling shows. The Moth routinely turns away dozens at the door, Nights of Our Lives has become one of the UCBT's hottest shows and Mike Birbiglia's Sleepwalk with Me is exceeding expectations off Broadway. This curve will only accelerate as the economy worsens: Detachment is a luxury of the elite.

NY General

article thumbnail

Mitch Magee's Web Series Mister Glasses, Featuring UCBT Performers, Featured in

Mar 9, 2015

Screen Grab:

The web video series Mister Glasses follows the seriocomic travails of a modernist architect.

Imagine Le Corbusier or Philip Johnson as a film noir protagonist or action-comic hero. That's the premise for Mister Glasses, Mitch Magee's series of video shorts featuring an embattled modernist architect and his quirky entourage. Outwardly dour yet determined to help the world, Mister Glasses (Magee) perseveres in the face of rampant Postmodernism. He narrowly survives an assassination attempt by a rival, restores harmony among his bickering staff, and uses a model of the Farnsworth House to aid a lovesick teen. His deadpan delivery and trim black wardrobe never waver.

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Magee has written and directed six Mister Glasses episodes since fall 2007. Each has debuted at the competitive monthly amateur screening Channel101:NY, where attendees have consistently voted to extend the series. The five-minute videos then become available on sites like,, and YouTube. (The 'videos' link on Magee's site points to Funny or Die.) You don't have to be an architect to appreciate the humor, but design references abound. The first episode credits Mister Glasses as the architect of masterpieces such as the 'Amalgamated Orange Juice Building,' instantly recognizable as Corbu's Unit d'Habitation, for example, and the old form-and-function debate spirals into absurd sexual innuendo in the sixth episode. 

Magee keeps production costs below $500 per episode, working around the schedules of his actor friends and filming on borrowed sets. Like a Wes Anderson film, Mister Glasses is full of 'weird situations that are played straight,' says Magee. The lush black-and-white videography reflects his passion for film noir, while his protagonist's idealism alludes to 'a particular strain of American Modernism that was meant to be a cure-all for poverty.'

Magee plans to extend Mister Glasses to a total of eight episodes in 2009. An Art Institute of Chicago graduate, he performed with improv comedy groups before focusing on film and video for the past three years. Two of his other series, Sexual Intercourse: American Style and Welcome to My Study, are also minor underground hits. As for his architect hero's genesis, Magee says the character occurred to him while touring New York City with friends. They saw the Urban Glass House under construction, and one person asked who designed the building-a Philip Johnson/Alan Ritchie creation, with interiors by Annabelle Selldorf. Magee replied, 'You know, Mister Glasses.'
Watch every episode of the series (featuring Rob Lathan, Ellie Kemper, Brian Barrett, & Ben Rodgers) on
NY General

article thumbnail

Charlie Sanders: Minnesota Muslim reviewed in Time Out New York

Mar 9, 2015

Minnesota Muslim 

An accomplished improviser and character actor finds his own voice.

"You'd believe me if I said I was from Minnesota, right?" asks Charlie Sanders, noting his appearance, at the top of his new solo show. "But if I told you I was raised Muslim, you'd think I was kidding." Amazingly, many of his closest friends have never heard these anecdotes about his high-school years spent whirling with Sufi dervishes, his parents' drug-addled hippie friends and the truly bizarre circumstances of his father's funeral. Sanders doesn't say why he sat on this story for so long--that would be a different one-man show--but the effect is apparent; in the telling, he is less a monologuist than a burst dam. From those opening lines, the piece moves at breakneck speed to a stunning crescendo.

Sanders draws in the audience by recalling, with hilarious acuity, the confusion of his teenage peers in the early '90s. Spike Lee had just made Malcolm X; when some of the African-Americans at Sanders's school found out he was Muslim, they accused him of posing, of trying to co-opt something "black." Then he recited a prayer in perfect Arabic, and they lionized him. Throughout the evening, Sanders is the anchor among such wildly varying and often opposing emotions coming from the tale's other characters. He's the relatable, clear-eyed everyman--which also makes him a keen narrator. The comic wins laughs through composition, by focusing on rhythm and structure rather than by forcing jokes onto the action. In his first storytelling foray, Sanders proves himself a natural with a gift for creating immediacy and a flair for the cinematic.

Indeed, much of Minnesota Muslim plays out like a film (the next Little Miss Sunshine?). Before the funeral, everyone wants something out of Sanders: His father's deluded, saccharine ex-girlfriend needs closure; his rigid grandfather demands a commitment to science; his dad's potentially psychotic best friend craves a fellow outlaw. Our hero just wants to smoke pot. The piece teems with misguided characters searching for meaning. In spite of this--or perhaps because of it--Sanders offers no message. His disinterest in dogma might mirror a decision to leave behind the religion of his youth (he admits he's agnostic now). Or he might agree with Paul Auster, who writes, on the first page of City of Glass: "The question is the story itself, and whether or not it means something is not for the story to tell." Take away a moral if you like. Or just enjoy the ride. 
NY Shows

Newer Entries » « Older Entries