Upright Citizens Brigade

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The Upright Citizens Brigade is an improvisational comedy and sketch comedy group that emerged from Chicago's ImprovOlympic in 1990.[1] Its most recent (and best known) members, who authored together (except for Amy Poehler) its 2013 manual The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual include Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh.[2] The original incarnation of the group consisted of Besser, Drew Franklin (a photocopy of Franklin wearing 3D glasses has remained the UCB logo ever since), Adam McKay, Ian Roberts, Rick Roman, and Horatio Sanz. Other early members included Neil Flynn, Armando Diaz, and Rich Fulcher.

History[edit]

The Upright Citizens Brigade began performing improv and sketch comedy at Kill the Poet in Chicago. Their first show was called Virtual Reality. The group followed with shows entitled UCBTV, Conference on the Future of Happiness, Thunderball, Bucket of Truth, Big Dirty Hands, The Real Real World, and Punch Your Friend in the Face.

In 1993, the Upright Citizens Brigade (Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, Adam McKay, Rick Roman, and Horatio Sanz) were regular guests on stage at the New Variety produced and hosted by R O'Donnell at the Chicago Improv comedy club, 504 N. Wells.[3]

In 1996, the Upright Citizens Brigade relocated to New York and began performing shows and offering improv training at Solo Arts Group. These shows and classes were so popular that the UCB were able to open their own theater, The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, at 161 W. 22nd Street in Chelsea on February 4, 1999, in a former nude dance club.[4] On April 1, 2003, they moved to a new space at 307 W. 26th Street. In July 2005, the UCB opened at the Tamarind Theatre in Los Angeles at 5919 Franklin Ave (between Tamarind & North Bronson Ave). The Upright Citizens Brigade have also been a featured performance in the Comedy Tent at the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, for the past three years.

Television series[edit]

Upright Citizens Brigade
Ucb comedy logo.png
Format Comedy
Starring Matt Besser
Amy Poehler
Ian Roberts
Matt Walsh
Narrated by Del Close
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 3
No. of episodes 30
Production
Executive producer(s) Kent Alterman
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time 30 minutes
Broadcast
Original channel Comedy Central
Original run 1998 (1998) – 2000 (2000)
External links
Website

The group formed a television series dedicated to their sketch comedy on Comedy Central that aired for three seasons from 1998 to 2000. Each season contained 10 episodes, which included sketches inspired by their live shows and new material. Each episode was centered around a theme, to be tied together in some way by the end. The progression of each episode essentially followed an improv format known as the Harold, which was invented by Del Close, improv teacher and mentor to the UCB (who also contributed the voiceover in the show's opening title sequence). Additionally, episodes in each season would make reference to a fictitious element within the show's world and would culminate in a season finale that would focus exclusively on this element. The show avoided overused staples of sketch shows, and rarely used pop culture parodies or celebrity impersonations (with some notable exceptions: the Unabomber, Albert Einstein, Harry Truman, and Jesus).

The four main actors rarely appeared as themselves. They each took various roles throughout the sketches, which were linked by segments featuring Adair (Besser), Colby (Poehler), Antoine (Roberts), and Trotter (Walsh), the Upright Citizens Brigade.

The show centered on a group called 'The Upright Citizens Brigade', an underground organization "with no government ties and unlimited resources" dedicated to creating and monitoring chaos from their secure underground base. The sketches depict chaotic or bizarre events in the world, events which are shown to be often directly engineered by the UCB.

Another defining feature of the show was a series of real-world pranks, which tied in with the show's theme. Usually run at the end of each episode, these hidden-camera pranks featured the cast (as either the central UCB characters or other characters from that day's episode) interacting with strangers. These segments featured such concepts as attempts by UCB cast to buy the fictitious drug "supercool" (which resembled pixie sticks) from real drug dealers in shady dance clubs, a UCB mother trying to convince a real store clerk to let her put up flyers advertising "baby fights," Roberts dressed as Santa Claus standing outside a department store offering free samples of his "Santa Liqueur", and the UCB at a sidewalk stand attempting to sell "poo-sticks" (sticks with dog feces on one end) as defensive weapons to passersby.

In the Season 2 finale, the DEA invaded the UCB lair as part of a raid to find a Supercool smuggling ring. As a result, in the third and final season, the UCB had set up operation in a bakery delivery truck. The UCB characters also had less of a presence in the episodes, appearing frequently in cut scenes.

The show was not renewed by Comedy Central after the third season. Its players have since moved on to other projects while still performing in various combinations at their weekly improvised show, ASSSSCAT, which can be seen once on Saturday and Sunday nights in Los Angeles, and twice on Sunday nights in New York. In Los Angeles, the Sunday night show is free, as is the second show in New York. One of the show's running jokes involves cast members explaining that "it's free to get in, but you have to pay to leave." A version of the show's Bucket of Truth is passed around and donations are taken. Both Poehler and Sanz went on to perform on Saturday Night Live. Comedy Central released a DVD containing the episodes of the first season in 2003. The Season 2 DVD was released on September 18, 2007 in the United States. In the fall of 2005, Bravo showed a one-hour special of ASSSSCAT Improv with guest stars like Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, and Andy Richter. Then in March 2007, a performance of ASSSSCAT was recorded at the LA Theatre with all four original members and also Chad Carter, Sean Conroy, Andrew Daly, Horatio Sanz, as well as guest monologists Will Arnett, Ed Helms, Jen Kirkman, Thomas Lennon, Paul F. Tompkins and Kate Walsh. This was released on DVD in March 2008 and features the full ASSSSCAT show and some bonus clips and interviews.

The show's motto was "Don't think."

The show opened with this narration, voiced by improv legend and UCB guru Del Close: "From the dawn of civilization, they have existed in order to undermine it. Our only enemy is the status quo. Our only friend is chaos. They have no government ties and unlimited resources. If something goes wrong, we are the cause. Every corner of the earth is under their surveillance. If you do it, we see it. Always. We believe the powerful should be made less powerful. We have heard the voice of society, begging us to destabilize it. Antoine. Colby. Trotter. Adair. We are the Upright Citizens Brigade."

Episodes[edit]

Season 1[edit]

Title Episode
"The Bucket of Truth" 101
A Realtor shows a house featuring the "Bucket of Truth" and a "Hot Chicks Room". Also featuring the Unabomber and his Girl Scout friend Cassie.
"Poo Stick" 102
Big Red Cat gets harassed by a poo stick while performing mini-movies.
"Saigon Suicide Show" 103
In an attempt to destabilize society by eradicating prejudice, the UCB host a benefit featuring the Saigon Suicide Squad.
"Power Marketing" 104
"Power Marketing" guru Duke reveals the secret of his success: a new brain. Also, a new recruit is hired in the hyperminimalist office building, and the secret of the ass pennies is revealed.
"Children's Revolution" 105
A pro-union puppet show at the elementary school incites one boy to stand up to his bullying school-bus driver.
"The Story of the Toad" 106
People use the heartwarming story of the toad to bring meaning to their lives.
"The Lady of the Lake" 107
A frat guy dates the Lady of the Lake, who bores him with the story of how she once presented King Arthur with Excalibur.
"Time Machine" 108
Andy goes back in time to play cards with Jesus and President Truman.
"Cyborgs" 109
The UCB's cyborg project goes wrong.
"The Little Donny Foundation" 110
Little Donny has a giant penis....but doesn't know it.

Season 2[edit]

Note: Season 2 was released on DVD September 18, 2007.

Title Episode
"Master Dialectitian" 201
Great fights in history: Tesla vs. Edison, man vs. horse, and a young boy's struggle to become a Master Dialectitian. (parody of Searching for Bobby Fischer)
"Bomb Squad" 202
The Wu-Tang Clan dig their way into the UCB's secret underground lair, the police use a psychic to solve crimes, traveling swindlers pull major heists on homeowners, a man buys drugs, members of the bomb squad consider their place in the world.
"Mogomra vs. The Fart Monster" 203
A boy repeatedly teased by his classmates seeks revenge with ninja throwing stars and a summoned monster, an animated children's cartoon, a man gets a tension-relieving massage.
"Real World" 204
The UCB collects freaks (such as Gilly, the color-blind girl, and a ferocious bikini-wearing Ingret) to star in a new season of "The Real World".
"Eli's Face Therapy" 205
Wealthy women pay Eli to slap them in the face.
"Infested with Friars" 206
A friar infestation begins when deli meat and cigars are left out; meanwhile the UCB is busy investigating theme restaurants.
"Spaghetti Jesus" 207
A woman finds a visage of Jesus in a bowl of spaghetti. It is then made the main exhibit of a religion convention. (Includes a Mud Golem, and Psychotonomy presentation)
"Big City" 208
An urchin shows a rich man around the Big City.
"Hurricane" 209
Bong Boy is in a hurricane, but thinks he's watching it on TV.
"Supercool" 210
A documentary about the drug Supercool, including interviews with the Titté Brothers.

Season 3[edit]

Note: Season 3 was released on DVD June 26, 2014.

Title Episode
"Costumes" 301
When a man tries "werewolf sex" to turn his girlfriend on, she stabs him with a wooden stake.
"Mafia" 302
A thug from the Mafia tries to give back to the community by donating sperm.
"Hospital" 303
Grim Reapers work in shifts at the hospital, until they claim Workman's Comp for scythe-related injuries.
"Band" 304
The Breaker-Uppers go on tour; The Murderers perform at an old-fashioned caka-walka.
"Food" 305
The Glendale Fitness Authority sets up Fat Camps to imprison the overweight.
"College" 306
When one player is possessed by a demon at the college basketball game, the only thing that can save the day is Santa Liqueur.
"Sex" 307
When Adair is reincarnated as a sandwich, the UCB must fulfill a sexy prophecy to bring him back.
"Small Town" 308
A small town has a meeting to discuss dolphin-centric SATs, then "log-rolls" to see who will win the Apocalypse - and unfortunately, Evil wins.
"Technology" 309
Mike the Astronaut is trapped in Virtual Reality with a malfunctioning telephone, forced to eat nothing but edible panties, and both verbally and physically abused by the French.
"Pro Thunderball" 310
The first televised Pro Thunderball game! Three balls in play at all times, gorgeous honeys and vicious hounds to distract the players, and a car that roams the infield...

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "And...Scene". New York Magazine, September 25, 2011. 
  2. ^ Get the Laughs, but Follow the Rules, The New York Times, 20 February 2014
  3. ^ Spitznagel, Eric (October 11, 1993). "The New Variety Just Might Make Comedy Dangerous Again". The Third Word magazine Sept/Oct issue. 
  4. ^ About page, Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, Accessed November 7, 2010.

Further reading[edit]

  • Raftery, Brian (2013). High-Status Characters: How The Upright Citizens Brigade Stormed A City, Started A Scene, And Changed Comedy Forever. Brooklyn: Megawatt Press. 

External links[edit]