NY notes: Upright Citizens

May 5, 2008
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
About a year ago, on a previous trip to NYC, I happened to be in town with a free Sunday evening. That's usually not the most happening time in any town, but I knew there had to be something outstanding going on in Manhattan.

I found it just south of Madison Square Garden at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. UCB had its own series on Comedy Central years back, but it is perhaps best known now as the home base for such "Saturday Night Live" players as Horatio Sanz, Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler.

The New York theatre offers nearly nonstop improvisational shows seven days a week at absurd prices. The highest ticket price is $8. Many shows are free. Plus, you've got to love a place where you can get a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon for $2 and a souvenir t-shirt for only $12. Who said New York is unaffordable?

On that Sunday visit, I braved a long line to catch the Poehler-run group "Assscat 3000," which offered long-form improv that starts with a single audience suggestion that is magnified by a guest monologist. The company (which on my stop included Poehler, Meyers, and "30 Rock" co-star Jack McBrayer, and some "Conan O'Brian Show" writers) then used the monologue to inspire scenes that miraculously wove together while also being, oh, hilarious.

These days, with Poehler hot from her film "Baby Mama," it's even tougher to get in to the Sunday shows. Still, there's plenty going on other evenings at UCB, which I discovered on Saturday's visit.

First up: "Mother: The Soundtrack," where the signature game involves collecting iPods from audience members before the show and turning them over to the guys in the sound booth. The company then constructs scenes based on the songs played (with no prior knowledge of what would be selected, of course). 

The gang behind the second show, "Reuben Williams: As Seen on TV," creates a TV network (including promos and commercials) based on the contents of an audience member's wallet.

This week, there were great ideas, big laughs, a few dead spots, and stand-out performers in both companies (watch for a guy named Jon Daly, a comic with a great face, a sharp mind and a demented capable-of-anything vibe reminscent of The Kids in the Hall crew) and while neither show qualified as world-class in the way that Poehler's did, both were well worth the minor cost of admission. And both gave me more reason to continue touting Upright Citizens Brigade as a great place to find an after-show show, a before-concert show, on an in-between-whatever-else- you-are-doing-in-the-city show.

On my visit, the UCB stop came after a day that included Broadway's new musical "A Catered Affair" and a head trip experience of the off-Broadway hit "Fuerzabruta." More on those in an upcoming IBJ column.
  • Hah! I laughed out loud (and then cringed a little) at the thought of someone basing an improv on the messy contents of my wallet.

    But I would like to see someone riff on my library card.

    One time I was at an improv show and during intermission I put librarian in the goldfish bowl for occupations. Later, I saw the comic draw my card. She said, No! and threw it out!

    How could she think there was nothing funny about being a librarian? I wanted to refer her to the Unshelved comic strip. (www.unshelved.com)

    Anyway, thanks for another fun NYC post, Lou!

    Hope Baugh
  • Funny you write about this Lou because on a recent visit to NYC I took your suggestion to go to UCB and caught a Friday night skit, God's Pottery Saves the World! and let me just say I went assuming I'd love it...

    well, it was terrible..at first. But I think the funniest aspect of the skit was re-telling people what exactly it's about, and maybe that is the punch line. My mom, aunt, cousin and mom's 50 something friends all hated it. Until we started cracking up about it after the fact.

    I was bummed not to see something great like Amy's company, but maybe next time.

    Thanks for the suggestion. It was an easy walk from the Theater District.

    We also caught Mamma Mia...a classic broadway show that is VERY old news, I know, but it was hilarious and had a great cast.
  • Chelsea,
    Sorry you had such a bad experience with UCB.
    I remember dragging a bunch of friends to the L.A. Second City years ago anticipating something wonderful and watching sketch after sketch hit the wall (even with such SC vets as Richard Kind in the cast). So I know how you feel.
    Folks considering UCB should be aware that just about every performance represents a different company of performers. Your mileage by vary.
  • Friday nights offer 2 excellent shows at ucb
    the stepfathers - featuring the very talented Chris gethard and Bobby Moynihan
    and Death by Roo Roo who are the most vetran troupe at the theater . their 11 pm slot is always full and nothing short of Hilarious!

    other show to watch for are nights of our lives - usually last wednesday of the month . a great story telling group that includes John flynn and Chris Gethard [ it is my favorite show at the theater]

Post a comment to this blog

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
  1. How much you wanna bet, that 70% of the jobs created there (after construction) are minimum wage? And Harvey is correct, the vast majority of residents in this project will drive to their jobs, and to think otherwise, is like Harvey says, a pipe dream. Someone working at a restaurant or retail store will not be able to afford living there. What ever happened to people who wanted to build buildings, paying for it themselves? Not a fan of these tax deals.

  2. Uh, no GeorgeP. The project is supposed to bring on 1,000 jobs and those people along with the people that will be living in the new residential will be driving to their jobs. The walkable stuff is a pipe dream. Besides, walkable is defined as having all daily necessities within 1/2 mile. That's not the case here. Never will be.

  3. Brad is on to something there. The merger of the Formula E and IndyCar Series would give IndyCar access to International markets and Formula E access the Indianapolis 500, not to mention some other events in the USA. Maybe after 2016 but before the new Dallara is rolled out for 2018. This give IndyCar two more seasons to run the DW12 and Formula E to get charged up, pun intended. Then shock the racing world, pun intended, but making the 101st Indianapolis 500 a stellar, groundbreaking event: The first all-electric Indy 500, and use that platform to promote the future of the sport.

  4. No, HarveyF, the exact opposite. Greater density and closeness to retail and everyday necessities reduces traffic. When one has to drive miles for necessities, all those cars are on the roads for many miles. When reasonable density is built, low rise in this case, in the middle of a thriving retail area, one has to drive far less, actually reducing the number of cars on the road.

  5. The Indy Star announced today the appointment of a new Beverage Reporter! So instead of insightful reports on Indy pro sports and Indiana college teams, you now get to read stories about the 432nd new brewery open or some obscure Hoosier winery winning a county fair blue ribbon. Yep, that's the coverage we Star readers crave. Not.