When I asked my improv teachers for recommendations of what to see in New York City, I immediately started hearing recommendations for Upright Citizens’ Brigade, a famous long-form improv company in Chelsea (they also have a theatre in San Francisco).Some of their shows are free (after lining up), and some have advance sales. So I bought a ticket for an early show Sunday evening called ASSSCAT 3000. That might stand for something but I haven’t figured out what yet.
UCB has their own theatre, and they have shows every night of the week. When I got there, there was a line for people with reservations for the show, another line for people hoping to get in if some with resservations didn’t show, and yet another lineup (before 7 pm?) for the free 9:30 show. And the people in line looked like the people who go to see improv in Edmonton, so I felt right at home.
The performance space is below ground level, and the ceiling is a bit low, but it is otherwise an excellent space to do shows with audience connection. There are five rows of seats on three sides of a medium-size stage. They sell pop, Pabst Blue Ribbon, more interesting beer, and the textbook for their improv classes. (They apparently also sell t-shirts but they were sold out this week.)
The way ASSSCAT 300 works is that a guest monologist gets a word from the audience, then tells some stories provoked by that word, and then the troupe does several scenes inspired from that monologue. After a while the monologist tells another story, they do more scenes, they have intermission, and they do it again.
The guest monologist for the show I saw was Scott Auckerman, a self-effacing charming man with a dry wit who is a leading light in the UCB Los Angeles company. (Imagine if David Francey the Scottish-Canadian folksinger was doing improv.) And the evening’s host, who also participated in the scenes, was Amy Poehler (who I know as Leslie from the TV show Parks and Recreation, but she’s also been on Saturday Night Live and other comedy things I think. (Did I mention that I was in the second row?) When she came out to start the show, lots of people cheered and squealed, and others whipped out their cameras but she made them shut off their cameras. So I guess it was kind of a big deal to other people that she was there too.
It was a very funny show. It was risque without being in poor taste. Four of the seven improvisers were women. I didn’t catch everyone’s name in the speedy introductions, but I particularly enjoyed Tami Sagher, Shannon O’Neill, and another fellow who said he was out of practice. I think probably Anthony Atamaniuk, and Chad Carter were also performing. There were stories about working as a Disneyland character, applying to homeschool/college and not getting in, having a lesbian foursome, trying to date when stuck with a not-cool friend, a Disney funeral, auditioning to be a princess, a restaurant specialising in last-dates, and other amusing scenarios.
I would definitely see them again. I’ll link their website when I get back to a more familiar computer.