The Upright Citizens Brigade unveiled a new look for UCBcomedy.com, designed to make it easier and more fun to explore their vast catalogue of fun-time videos.
And would you look at this? The front page featured a backstage interview with one of the UCB's success stories, Bobby Moynihan, who talks about being a cast member on Saturday Night Live, as well as his love of improv, which is why even after working all week on SNL, he's eager and ready to improvise on Sunday nights at ASSSSCAT. We also learn multiple facts about Moynihan's character he based on his real-life experience as a Pizzeria Uno waiter. Pepper!
I caught up with Upright Citizens Brigade co-founders Matt Besser and Matt Walsh earlier today, or should I say, they caught up with me (thank you, telephones!). Don't know how you're spending your Memorial Day weekend, but Messrs. Besser and Walsh will be among the comedian contingent heading for the Gorge in George, Wash., for this weekend's Sasquatch! Music Festival (the full comedy lineup includes Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, Horatio Sanz, Tim Meadows, Jerry Minor, Rich Fulcher, and Sean Conroy / Brian Posehn / Michael Ian Black / Michael Showalter / Eugene Mirman / Morgan Murphy / Marc Maron / Reggie Watts / People's Republic of Komedy featuring: Andy Haynes, Kevin Hyder, Aziza Diaz, Derek Sheen, and Andy Peters / Seattle School featuring: Mike Min, Korby Sears, and Liza Keckler).
The Gorge routinely wins honors as the best natural outdoor amphitheater from industry watchers such as Pollstar, and for good reason: The main stage has the Columbia River gorge and the setting sun as its backdrop. Been there and done that. Good times. But I hadn't seen comedy there before. Sasquatch has a separate comedy tent at the top of the hill. Enough with the logistics, though. Let's get to my interviews with Matt Besser and Matt Walsh about this weekend's festival, their still relatively new UCB Comedy website, and the upcoming 10th anniversary of the Del Close Marathon in New York City this summer.
Will you guys be camping out on the grounds at the Gorge with everyone else?
Walsh: "They've got RVs set up for us...We'll probably be writing bits right when we get there."
With multiple shows on Saturday and Sunday, how do you pace yourselves to make sure you've got enough funny to go around?
Besser: "Like a marathon? We'll have people standing next to the stage with Gatorade. I won't bother going to the bathroom, if that's what you mean. Yeah, we'll pace ourselves. But no. I think I can sprint. If Chappelle can do it all in one night, we can certainly do it as a group. Am I right?"
Walsh: "Don't get too high. Or drunk. No. I think the bits are written. I think because it's interactive, a lot of it is presentational. We'll be addressing the audience. Guest artists will come on."
How is performing at a festival, or even any larger venue, different from the audiences at the UCB's theaters in New York and Los Angeles?
Walsh: "It's challenging, because it's a big audience. It's more akin to stand-up, addressing the audience. But they're not in a fictional world. We're onstage. At a huge concert. We're not asking 20,000 people to suspend their disbelief that we're in a Starbucks."
Besser: "When you do a festival like this, you're drawing people who have zero knowledge of who you are. The first time we did a music festival like this, it was a Gathering of the Vibes, kind of jam-band festival, I'd say a good portion of the crowd had no idea who we were. This dude yelled out, 'Hey dude, where's your guitar!' We thought he was playing with us but he was serious...I guess."
That sounds a lot like the inspiration for the sketch you guys did at this year's SXSW festival in Austin, right?
Let's watch that sketch!
Besser: "Yes. South by Southwest. What was weird about that night. I actually had a guy in the venue who worked there try to kick me out. Four or five lines into the sketch, he walks up and pats me on the shoulder, saying, 'Hey, c'mon, you got to go.' He's saying this into my ear. 'Alright, buddy, we've had enough.' And I'm trying to explain I'm doing a bit without letting everyone hear me! Are my lines too clever?...And then even when I do get onstage, there's one girl, when I say 'Comedy's easy,' Walsh's next line is supposed to be, 'If it's so easy, why don't you try it,' but this girl in the audience says it, 'If it's so easy, why don't you try it?' There's that interesting aspect of people who aren't used to whatever, breaking that fourth wall, that we do."
Walsh says you may expect to see similar things this weekend. "I think some of the things we're going to incorporate will be organic to that (music festival) atmosphere," he says.
Why do more and more music festivals (Bonnaroo, SXSW, Coachella, etc.) want to include comedy into their formulas?
Walsh: "I suppose, one, it's worked before...I would presume they want to attract a wider audience. And there's a lot of down time so they want to entertain audiences while they're in between bands, so it's a simple thing to include comedy. So basically, we're the intermission entertainment."
Besser: "They don’t always work on the same stage, one after the other, that can be rough. But giving them a separate tent, where they can get a break from a full day of music, that can work."
Earlier this year, they also launched UCBComedy.com as "a third stage" for the many performers who now make up the UCB collective at their first two actual stages in New York City and Los Angeles.
Walsh: "It's an opportunity to give them an outlet for their ideas. It's just an extension of the brand. We want to be a network. We want to program things. We've got the two theaters in New York and Los Angeles. To program a Website is a logical next step...The truth of it is, there's so much more video in live shows anyway. That's one thing we've found in Los Angeles."
Besser says two things set UCB's comedy site apart from the other online comedy video sites: 1) live clips from UCB shows, and the fact that they don't allow people outside of the UCB to upload clips.
Besser: "That's our whole philosophy to the site. It's our third stage. It's not open to anyone to upload...It's another way for them to showcase themselves and get their stuff out there. And it's great. Especially if you don't live in a big city, to experience these shows."
One thing I've noticed from comedy fans is that they increasingly go online immediately in search of clips and reviews of shows they've just seen themselves. Have you noticed any of that with uploading clips of live UCB shows?
Besser: "To get footage that's cut the next day, is impossible, unless you're a full-scale production...Some people are big fans and will watch a one-camera feed for 30 minutes, but not everyone."
Any other feedback?
Walsh: "People really like it. Unfortunately, things with bikini-clad women get more hits, because those images in clips have more appeal with young men...there's great variety, though. Clips from live shows. We've figured out how to shoot them really well, like a Comedy Central special, so they appear really well."
How was working on the HBO pilot for David's Situation with Bob Odenkirk and David Cross?
Besser: "That was great. Besides working with Bob and David, who are geniuses. Eric Hoffman is who I started doing, back in Chicago, when I was doing sketches for the first time, I was doing them with him and Walsh, Bean Can Tour, ever Friday night. So that was a reunion. But the show itself is crazy. Like The Young Ones."
Do you think it's an automatic go because of Bob and David's past history with HBO and Mr. Show, or do you still need to wait by the phone? Besser laughs.
Besser: "I would never say anything like that one way or the other. I am not that high up in the process."
In August, you guys will come back to New York City for the 10th anniversary of the Del Close Marathon. Anything special up your sleeves?
Besser: "It's just more and bigger, really...Kim Howard Johnson, who wrote the Del Close book this year. It's a really great book, and the festival is all about him, so Kim is going to start it off first with a panel...that will be special and neat."
Walsh: "There's talk of a Carnegie Hall show, and the marathon itself is a physical task in itself. It's literally 70 hours of endurance. All of us will do 5 or 10 shows...We get people from all over the country to see what other sketch performers are doing, so it's great for the performers, too. It makes it a real festival."
Had you ever thought about setting a world record from Del Close? The Comic Strip Live in New York says it vows to set an official Guinness World Record in June with a 50-hour stand-up show.
Besser: "Hadn't thought about it." Laughs. "Totally, it's been 72. Man, that's your article. Get the real record!"
Watching Matt Besser's Magical Sack of Dump at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater in New York City, you might have thought that it lacked some planning...but that's all part of the plan. After all, Matt Besser has made his name as an improviser and sketch comedian who helped create the Upright Citizens Brigade in the first place. Who needs planning? We've got some videos and some characters and let's let the audience dictate the rest. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you.
Besser had an hour an 45 minutes in store for last night's audience, beginning even before the beginning, working out his intro with Pat the master UCB tech. This lasted several minutes, with Besser critiquing each and every possible intro Pat offered as the audience filed into the venue. After several minutes of this, Besser said to Pat: "Also, you sound kind of put upon, if you could add a little excitement." Pat attempted such, which only prompted Besser to say: "Now you sound like a DJ." They played upon the notion that Besser had created and produced Comedy Central's short-lived Crossballs, that Besser was a founding member of the UCB, and his roles and the significance of such in Walk Hard and Drillbit Taylor.
Things I learned during the show:
1) Besser has a very NSFW video for his alias as Mark Dunn, King of the 3-Way. And he spent the better part of 20 minutes showing the video and taking audience questions about 3-ways afterward. Apparently, his f*** version of his "Bucket List" includes a 3-way with Hannah Montana and Miley Ray Cyrus. "I call it the best of both worlds...or There Will Be Blood." OK. I'll try not to include too many more spoilers.
2) But Besser wants me to tell you that French DJs, such as J.U.S.T.I.C.E., are robots. That's what he learned last week at the SXSW Playboy party.
3) Robots could never infiltrate the human race as comedians. "They have no timing. They rush the punchlines!" Besser said.
4) His NYC audience broke down along estimated religious heritages of 20 percent Jewish, 20 percent Protestant, 50 percent Catholic and 10 percent other (mostly Muslim).
5) Besser grew up half-Jewish, half-Christian, and now is an atheist.
6) Besser only follows 1.5 of the accepted Ten Commandments, so he suggested replacements for the others. (I won't spoil that for you, just yet)
7) Besser has a theory about who wears what kind of hats.
8) According to track #8 of his CD, "May I Help You Dumbass," Besser attempted to counteract the many phone calls who mistook him for tech support, and did so quite humorously.
9) His version of Pope Benedict has a gay test that only results in one answer. (Hint: You're gay)
10) He looks enough like the founder of MySpace to produce a funny election video.
11) He won't make fun of audience members from Little Rock, Ark., because that's where he is from.
12) His send-up of Last Comic Standing with America's Best Comic contestant/winner Jason Yellow, the deaf, blind, armless comedian, is so damning (in a good way) that he told the audience he'd have to put it online so we could see more of him.
13) Comedy Central will air a special uncensored 90-minute version of ASSSSCAT this Friday night (well, 1 a.m. Saturday), and that special will be available on DVD next week (March 25).
Yeppers. The Upright Citizens Brigade, which already has online sites to check out schedules and performers at its New York City, Los Angeles and touring companies, launched its own original content video joke machine today. It's UCBComedy.com. Check it out!
UPDATED: I just checked it out. Lots of fun stuff, links to ASSSCAT and Improv Everywhere vids, and thankfully, embed codes. Here's a video I somehow hadn't seen before now, but shows the madness prankster that is Rob Lathan in "Lost Jogger."
Sometimes you really should see the Upright Citizens Brigade in the UCB Theatre. Particularly if you're talking about ASSSSCAT, the improv show that features UCB founders Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh and all-star guests. This past Sunday night, the show moved to Irving Plaza's Fillmore to close out the New York Comedy Festival. Twas quite crowded.
How was the view?
Does this answer your question?
The cast did invite a couple of short ladies up front to get a better view, while the rest standing-room-only crowd could get a different look via a few flat-screen TVs along the back and side of the room. Oh, and yes, it was that dark, too, and the cast spent several minutes trying to overcome that while having fun jumping in and out of dark "dead zones" onstage. "Could we get a little more light, because we are not a rock band," Poehler said. As they do, they asked audience members to contribute stories which could serve as launching points for a series of improvised scenes. After a half-hour or so of lackluster stories and scenes, they took a half-hour intermission. Worked well for liquor sales, worked even better on the UCB improvisers, who came back for a second half of inspired hilarity. It helped to start with a story of a kid who lost her prosthetic leg and ski off a chair-lift. A series of scenes jumping from hacky sack to Horatio Sanz as a unicyclist at a wedding to a battle between a hippie and a hipster worked especially well. And, as with most improv, some of the funniest moments come when one actor twists the idea of another actor's premise. Case in point: Matt Besser opened one scene by hopping around the stage as if he were a rabbit, but Matt Walsh opened the scene by a callback greeting, "Hey, Pogo Pete!" Laughter ensued. You had to be there. Early enough to grab a good viewing spot, that is.