Pop Roulette acting at UCB.
Photograph: Courtesy of Pop Roulette/YouTube
Since information broke of the Upright Residents Brigade’s final remaining New York theater closing its doorways for good, many have taken to Twitter to ponder how it will likely be remembered. Over the past decade, UCB was finest recognized to mainstream New York Metropolis audiences for its flagship weekend present ASSSSCAT 3000 the place, if you happen to confirmed up on the proper night time, you possibly can see legendary improvisers like theater co-founder Amy Poehler. At instances the theater was additionally finest often known as a spot that drew criticism for not paying performers.
What’s typically forgotten is that UCB was additionally a spot the place lesser-known performers may check out splendidly bizarre and dangerous concepts in entrance of a wildly enthusiastic and supportive viewers. In my quick time as an lively pupil and performer at UCB, I used to be thrilled to see big-name performers at the annual Del Shut Marathon, however most of the finest sketches I noticed had been completely weird, experimental, and written and carried out by individuals the mainstream comedy world had by no means heard of.
Now that UCB’s New York levels aren’t any extra, it’s unhappy to suppose that there will probably be fewer areas the place this sort of creativity can percolate. However on the very least, we will keep in mind and rejoice these under-the-radar gems and the laughs they provided. It might be unattainable to checklist every hilarious bit that made UCB in New York so magical. So listed here are 20 of the funniest UCB exhibits, sketches, and characters you’ve in all probability by no means heard of.
Model New Day (2011)
From the second the lights go up on two lengthy traces of performers wearing matching khakis, side-stepping and snapping to the beat of Sting’s “Model New Day,” it’s clear that the actors and writers of UCB home sketch staff Fambly are committing to the bit. As an alternative of performing a typical month-to-month present, throughout which home groups would usually showcase a wide range of loosely related sketches, Fambly dedicates the subsequent 37 minutes to relentlessly arguing that “Model New Day” is a musical masterpiece.
The present is stuffed with deranged gems, like a CNN political newsroom the place the information has been canceled so a panel can talk about the deserves of the hit tune (3:24); an audition for a Sting-only a capella group, “No Stings Connected,” the place everyone seems to be making an attempt (and failing) to nail the harmonica solo; and a man-on-the-street video of Arthur Meyer asking individuals in Union Sq. to hearken to “Model New Day” and react. Spoiler alert: Everybody loves it. And actually, if you happen to watch this present, you’ll too.
“New Automotive” (2013)
This isn’t a lot a sketch as it’s a quick horror movie carried out reside. Tim Martin performs a dad who is completely stoked about his new automotive, however his household isn’t fairly on board. The actors sit in silence for over a minute earlier than anybody speaks, and the rising rigidity is as creepy as it’s hilarious. That is the form of sketch that forces you to maintain watching, and solutions its personal questions with extra questions. Even the ending is a bizarrely humorous inversion of what you’d usually anticipate to see.
“Identical Garments” (2014)
Natasha Rothwell’s best-known efficiency throughout her time on the UCB stage stands out as the sketch from UCB home staff 212 the place she’s a traumatized flight attendant delivering security directions. However equally good is that this diamond within the tough. Rothwell arrives at a gathering sporting the identical garments she wore final night time and instantly launches right into a tailspin monologue explaining away each attainable factor her colleagues could be pondering.
“Lady in Choir” (2014)
So far as bits go, altering the phrases to a pop tune — on this case Alicia Keys’s “Lady on Hearth” — can really feel overly easy. And as for characters, a choir trainer who pronounces his choir picks through tune may additionally sound too broad for laughs. However good God is that this premise pleasant in Michael Hartney’s palms. Hartney bounces from delivering shining excellent news to heart-stomping rejection with the light-footed glee of a breakdancing butterfly. His beatbox breakdown at 2:45 destroys me each time. It’s one of many silliest, most satisfying sketches to ever grace the UCB stage.
“I’m Like a Chook” (2014)
Very like “Lady in Choir,” this sketch is nothing however retooled tune lyrics. Besides on this case, the setting is even easier, which actually ups the stupidity, and for that matter, the enjoyment issue. This time Hartney is joined by Dan Chamberlain for a duet the place they riff on actual hen details, lastly answering the query each pop fan wonders: “What if pop songs had been approach approach far more literal?”
“Jock and Brock” (2015)
A number of the funniest and weirdest sketches at UCB had been produced and carried out by group members who shaped their very own indie sketch groups. One indie favourite is Women With Brown Hair’s By way of the Again Door, a kids’s present for grown-ups stuffed with raunchy puns that show ladies in comedy will be simply as gross and attractive as dudes. This musical quantity has a satisfying pivot. Simply once we suppose this younger man’s secret is that he’s homosexual for his finest buddy, he delivers a ballad about incest.
“The Leaning Susan” (2015)
When home sketch staff Bellevue determined to put in writing a wholly new episode of Seinfeld, they didn’t miss a beat. Particularly Cathryn Mudon, whose putting Elaine impression is hauntingly good. A part of what makes the present so hilarious is Bellevue’s option to skew the plot simply bizarre sufficient that it doesn’t play as a spec script. George’s lifeless fiancée Susan has returned from past the grave, and the entire gang responds with their traditional antics, however twisted. Bellevue went on to carry out improvised episodes of Seinfeld on the theater later in 2015. The improvised episodes aren’t on-line, however this flawless unique stays.
“The Center Passage” (2015)
Astronomy Membership was UCB’s first all-black improv staff, and in 2015 they went on to create a hilarious black historical past–themed sketch present. Within the opening sketch, they throw us straight into the bowels of a slave ship, the place a chained Jerah Milligan does the whole lot he can to woo Keisha Zollar (additionally chained) earlier than gasping his final breaths. It’s possible you’ll acknowledge this sketch from 2018, when, previous to getting their very own Netflix present, Astronomy Membership created a Comedy Central digital collection. It is likely one of the darkest bits of humor you’ll ever watch, and it’s hilarious. (Notice: This footage is from a efficiency at UCB Franklin in L.A., however this present originated on the UCBNY levels.)
Wonderful Earth (2016)
This present from musical comedy group Pop Roulette is an irreverent roundup of all of the ridiculous issues people do set to an intergalactic backdrop and, after all, tune. Highlights embody “I’m a Metrosexual,” a tune about popping out as somebody who likes homosexual issues however isn’t homosexual, and “Huge and Stunning,” a body-positive ballad for ladies who’re sizes 6 by 10 and a warning to skinny ladies in all places.
“Simply Keep” (2016)
OSFUG is an indie sketch recognized for delivering fast-paced, quick sketches that ship a one-two punch like “Espresso Ballet.” In “Simply Keep,” Becky Chicoine and Sudi Inexperienced play exercise instructors who encourage college students to do nothing however the naked minimal. The best way the performers embody this sketch is a superb instance of how dumb enjoyable bodily comedy at UCB may get. You possibly can see OSFUG’s complete “Greatest Of” playlist right here.
“Late Secret Santa” (2016)
This sketch that includes Glo Tavarez as an workplace supervisor out for blood is an absolute deal with. The primary passive-aggressive greeting between workplace supervisor Carol and happy-go-lucky Brenda exhibits that even a reputation generally is a punchline. What follows is a masterpiece of escalating rigidity and a catharsis for anybody who’s ever lived by the hell of a delinquent Secret Santa. In order for you extra Glo, try this implausible sketch the place she calmly explains to her freaked-out pals that she’s fats.
“Angel, Satan, Todd” (2016)
This sketch explores the outdated trope of the little angel and satan on our shoulders and divulges a 3rd ingredient: Todd! A man who’s not fairly good, not fairly unhealthy, and has very very tempting concepts. From the second Jay Malsky, who performs Todd, squeals, “Let’s order Thai!” you realize you’re in for a enjoyable little journey.
“Rice Rap” (2017)
In 2016, Azn Pop, a spoof of girl-pop teams, placed on a hilarious half-hour sketch present at UCB. The present lives on right now at numerous different comedy venues across the metropolis, however the unique songs carried out on the UCB stage stay a few of their funniest. In “Rice Rap,” a brilliant foolish tune about, you guessed it, rice, everyone seems to be having a good time till Angel Yau interrupts to remind us of the Rape of Nanking.
“Charades However Unsuitable” (2017)
In the event you love recreation nights with pals, this sketch is for you. In the event you hate recreation nights, this sketch can be for you! Tim Dunn steals the scene as an individual who’s horrible at charades however unimaginable at memorizing and performing difficult iconic dance choreography. The one factor extra fulfilling than watching him carry out these strikes for his baffled pals is watching him break them down so he can furiously clarify why his strikes made good sense.
“Toasted Corn Muffin” (2017)
This gem additionally stars Tim Dunn, this time as an inexplicably nervous waiter. When a lady locations an order for a toasted corn muffin, Dunn goes into overdrive to ensure he doesn’t screw it up. I can’t inform if this sketch works as a result of it’s in regards to the absurd theater of being waited on or as a result of it factors to the fact that each one requests begin to appear insane whenever you’re working within the service trade. However I can let you know that it’s unequivocally one of many funniest issues I’ve ever seen. Watching Dunn punctuate each single line of dialogue with reassuring phrases that at all times come out scrambled or poorly timed is like watching an elephant nail a collection of triple axels.
Energy Hour (2017)
One of many absolute strangest and funniest exhibits to Spank and get a run at UCB was Kelley Quinn and Amanda Giobbi’s half hour of music movies. (For these outdoors of UCB, a Spank is a one-off efficiency that was typically required earlier than getting a run on the theater.) Energy Hour opens with a horny dance about not having the ability to take your too-hot sandwich out of a toaster oven. However the crown jewel of this present is the ultimate dance quantity, which begins on the 23:28 mark, a cautionary queer love story about what occurs when two ladies order “one black espresso” at the very same second.
“Gateway Black Pal” (2018)
A part of what makes this sketch so good is that from the leap it roasts UCB for being, like a lot of mainstream comedy, a largely white establishment. Performer Tessa Claire Hersh is a spokesperson promoting the “providers” of a black buddy who will make you blacker, however not so black that you just’ll lose any of your whiteness. The escalating choices for black and brown pals are an ideal takedown of colorism and the realities of what it’s prefer to be tokenized in predominantly white areas.
“Youngsters Birthday Princess Has an Accident” (2019)
Natasha Vaynblat completely kills as this character. Actually. She’s a costumed performer at a toddler’s celebration who has simply had a really scary automotive accident. She’s dedicated to smiling by it, till she realizes one little woman is lacking from the celebration. The darkly humorous ultimate reveal of who she really hit, and Vaynblat’s celebratory response, are pure gold.
“First Feminine President of america” (2020)
Characters Welcome is a nook of UCB that has flourished in recent times, thanks in no small half to performers like Sarah Smallwood Parsons, who persistently delivers memorable characters like Natasha Lyonne, Your Fairy Fucking Godmother. On this current efficiency, the joke is on all of us as a result of we’re not getting a feminine president till the yr 3025 — and even then, it’s solely as a result of the entire males have mysteriously disappeared! Parsons assures her nation that “We’re working to determine it out, form of.” The spotlight of the monologue, nonetheless, is a pause for a shifting tribute to “the great ones.”
“Gang Member Loves Astrology” (2020)
Loads of individuals suppose astrology is a joke. However nowadays, for each skeptic there’s somebody on the market who’s deeply obsessive about their delivery chart. Corin Wells portrays a stone-cold gangster who is prepared for revenge, however retains getting sucked in by her rival’s astrological chart. Because the monologue progresses, Wells jumps from love languages to Myers-Briggs assessments, concurrently roasting and celebrating our obsession with understanding ourselves. Wells additionally delivers one of many creepiest monologues you’ve ever seen as a twin who brings her sister’s head to promenade.