Friday, November 19, 2010

Interview: Vag Magazine

Vag Magazine Episode 6: "Revelling/Reckoning" from Vag Magazine on Vimeo.

Today's video releases include the highly-anticipated season finale of Vag Magazine, the web series about a feminist magazine funded by one really spectacular Etsy sale. The series, created by UCBNY mainstays (and sketch teachers) Leila Cohan-Miccio and Caitlin Tegart, has been receiving a lot of Internet buzz, including coverage from Ms. Magazine, The Gloss, Crushable, Tres Sugar, Jezebel, After Ellen and more!

Prior to her foray into menstrual bucket humor, Caitlin wrote the UCB sketch show How Rude: Tim & D'Arcy Find the 90s and the one-act play Waiting for Obama: A Night at the Hall of Presidents. The latter show made a West Coast journey to UCBLA and the San Francisco SketchFest and was featured on Sirius XM Raw Dog Comedy. Caitlin currently writes for's The Pretty Good Sports Show, the weekend sketch show Beneath Gristedes and the Beta team Diamonds, Wow!. Caitlin has also served as writer and director for the Maude team Stone Cold Fox.

Leila currently writes for the Maude team High Treason. She wrote This Is About Smith, a sketch show about Smith College that enjoyed a six-month run on the UCBNY stage. The experience marked the first Tegart/Cohan-Miccio collaboration, as Caitlin directed the show. This Is About Smith's cast now forms the core of Vag Magazine: Sarah Claspell, Nicole Drespel, Jocelyn Guest, Kate McKinnon and Veronica Osorio.

Caitlin Tegart and Leila Cohan-Miccio (logo by Ramsey Ess)

UCB Comedy sat down with Leila and Caitlin and discussed the multiple definitions of the word "partner," creating a web series and attracting corporate sponsorship to their project.

You’ve said that you created Vag Magazine to continue working with the cast of your UCBNY stage show, This Is About Smith. How far along in the run did you start working on the series?

CT: It was about six months into the run or so into working with the full cast. Thank you, by the way, for reading our other interviews.

LCM: An interviewer asked us the other day if we were lesbian partners.

CT: It was so good. She goes, “Are you guys partners?” This was a conference call, all three of us in different places, with the most staticky connection, and it turns out Leila was making a feast at the time and banging pots and pans and shit.

LCM: I was making dinner.

CT: So, the woman asks, “Are you guys partners?” and I think Leila was like, “We work together a lot? What do you mean by ‘partners?' Romantic?” And the woman said, “Anything.”

LCM: I said, professionally, yes?

CT: I guess? Because we wrote this? But not romantically. Then she asked, “Well, so who is a lesbian in the cast?” We were like, “This is not -- OK. Bye.” It was for a lesbian magazine, which you think would be more, I don’t know.

Where did the feminist magazine idea originate?

CT: It was my idea. I wanted to do something about a feminist magazine because I thought they were funny. My friend from college, Lindsy, and I would always make fun of them -- about how it was mostly vegan sweet potato fry recipes and not a lot of feminist content. And we would always laugh about that together, and I thought, “This could be something great.” But I never had the right platform. When Leila first showed me stuff for This Is About Smith, I thought, “This reminds me of some jokes I wrote down for that.” And initially, I was like, “Oh well.” But then I thought, “Wait! We could all do this together.”

LCM: The Smith cast got along ridiculously well and had good chemistry and they’re all such individually unique performers that we wanted to do something with all of them together. As soon as Caitlin brought me the idea, I was so excited because I had been independently making fun of feminist magazines for a long time.

When you created the character of Meghan, the holdover from Gemma (a traditional women's mag), was it your intention to have a character that represents the audience’s “outsider” point of view?

LCM: I don’t think we came into it with that but we approached it as, what could each actor do really well? And [Sarah] Claspell had a little bit of that attitude in This Is About Smith. She’s so funny -- she has one of the best “bitch, please” faces.

CT: I don’t think I thought about it then. But I am so glad we did it. She’s a strong female character that is not part of their craziness, and I think that’s important to show that we’re not criticizing strong women with ideas. The ideas just have to be good. (Caitlin laughs.)

Both of you have addressed the media’s obsession with women working in comedy. Caitlin, you said, “Lucille Ball was a female comedian sixty years ago, why is this still a big deal?” Did all this media attention in recent years discourage you or encourage you to write a series about women?

CT: It didn’t discourage us because we believe in the idea and it’s so funny to us. We’re like every comedian, where if it’s funny to us, we’re like, “Ahhh! Gotta do it.” But it is frustrating that people treat female writers like we’re novel, or “this is out of the blue.”

LCM: Or “whaaaaat?”

CT: The media is only positive to the extent that it means female writers are getting attention. But it’s like, “We’ve been here.”

LCM: I don’t think “I’m a lady writer” instead of “I’m a writer.”

CT: I could see people thinking “oh, you do stuff with women” leading to a possible stereotype about my work. But for me, personally, I’m coming off touring the West Coast with seven dudes for Waiting for Obama, so no one can question my cred with working with dudes.

LCM: And you do The Pretty Good Sports Show.

CT: I have done mostly dude stuff since this project.

LCM: I write real girly.

CT: I’ve heard people say, the reason that there’s so few female writers for late night is because there are male hosts. There is a correlation between behind the camera and in front of the camera. So it only benefits us as women writers to have more women in front of the camera.

LCM: Exactly. When we sat down and started writing this, we didn’t talk about the feminist implications of this show. We sat down and talked about what we thought was funny. But I do think that we’re both into the idea of having a space for women where they could make these huge comedic choices. It bums me out when I watch TV or the movies and the girl is often reduced to playing the girlfriend or just “the girl.”

But we’re also not the only people at UCB working with women. Broad City, obviously. A lot of the stage stuff. And Shannon O’Neill’s show, Prison Freaks, is so -- I’m trying to find another word besides ballsy.

CT: Ha! Vagina-y.

LCM: Shannon O’Neill is vagina-y.

CT: [The Vag character] Fennel probably waits outside of UCB for Shannon to come out and then never speaks to her, runs into Gristedes and sits in there for an hour. She doesn’t want to be embarrassed.

Working with Shannon O’Neill was so awesome and I feel like there are people who are royalty on the stage, and people forget to ask them to be in videos. But don’t ask Shannon O’Neill to be in any videos because I want all of her time.

LCM: All of it.

CT: I do get nervous when we’re represented in the media as the “funniest women of UCB.” Obviously, we’ll take that because it’s good publicity and we love being funny and we love UCB, but it’s like, “This is a FRACTION of what UCB has to offer in terms of female talent.” This isn’t everybody. This isn’t the women’s review of comedy. It’s tiny. When we think about actors -- not even writers or directors we want to work with, which would be a whole other group -- when we think about the actors we want to have on the series? It’s nuts. There’s so many good people; we won’t be able to do it.

LCM: We’ll turn into a later season Will & Grace where every time there’s three guest stars per episode.

You've joked a lot about season two, but is it happening?

LCM: It’s in the works.

CT: It’s going to happen one way or another. It’s so funny because Leila and I have put a lot of work going into conferences on digital media and web series, and everyone is like, “Vag Magazine? Funny idea but won’t get brand sponsorship.” I don’t want to say anything specific, but we’ve had brand interest in representing us.

LCM: We did not solicit that.

CT: That’s been the biggest “fuck you” for us. Having guys -- yeah, I’m going to say it, guys -- tell us that brands won’t like us. And it’s like HA HA!

LCM: And if all goes well, we’re hoping to film season two in January and then hopefully release them next spring.

CT: We haven’t said anything about Zach Neumeyer yet, our director, but he works for UCB Comedy and the UCB Beta team Diamonds Wow, too. As far of the look of the show, and the high standards of what he does -- it’s nuts.

LCM: Caitlin and I were ready to borrow random people’s cameras and get a PA to hold a camera. And Zach was like, “This is a good script. What if we did it right?” We were like, oh, okay!

Talking about process, as you gear up for season two, how do you work on episodes together?

CT: I’m not sure how season two will work. During season one and our halcyon days of not knowing anything, we came up with the idea, outlined it, and sat down and wrote the first episode together.

LCM: In the training center.

CT: And then, I can’t totally remember, but I think I wrote episodes two and four.

LCM: We knew what we wanted to happen in each episode, so we divvied up the middle four episodes, wrote it, but did pretty substantial rewrites.

CT: We gave each other notes.

LCM: It’s funny because sometimes my husband will ask me who wrote a specific line and 70% of the time I have no idea. It helps that we have really similar voices in a lot of ways, so I don’t think it reads like it wasn’t written by two people.

CT: Zach also gave us notes.

LCM: Zach is a total dude, but he’s been totally on board with all of Vag. He sent us a really funny email the other day, because every episode title is a feminist album, and he sent us this ridiculous list of “outtakes.” He was like, “What about Call the Doctor? All Hands on the Bad One? X-Ray Spex Live At The Roxy?”

CT: He was determined to out-reference us.

What has been your favorite feedback from the show?

LCM: My favorite right now is from a comment on After Ellen, which is a lesbian blog that has been great to us and has posted all our episodes. On their episode five thread, someone wrote, “Am I the only person who sees something Meghan and Bethany romance blooming? Meghan obviously wants it.” Which I love! It makes me so happy. I was like, we have ’Shippers! We have people rooting for relationships on our show! I can’t ask for anything more than that.

CT: My favorite comment was one where the person didn’t know Kate McKinnon’s name but said, “I like the blonde weird one.” Or that one guy who commented on Vimeo that it was ironic that he was attracted to the whole cast. We haven’t gotten any negative feedback that has been “women aren’t funny” or “these chicks are idiots” or “these chicks are ugly” -- even on YouTube.

We haven’t gotten a lot of criticism but it is funny when someone my mom’s age will log in and will say, “Thank God someone said it about these young kids” or something. We’ll be like, “This is our age group but okay, fine.”

What has been the response of older generations?

LCM: My aunt-in-law is a lovely person who is a lesbian and a feminist, she was talking to me about the show. And she said, “I liked the show but I was shocked at the name of the rival magazine in episode four.” [Cunt.] I think for older women, that’s sort of more of a deal breaker, because it’s such an offensive word.

CT: That is true. My Dad’s favorite character is Jaybird, but he won’t say the name of her magazine either. Or remember the name of Jaybird. But he’ll be like, “I like the one that sits at the end of the table at the end of episode four.” And then I knew he didn’t want to say the other word. So I said, “The leader of the other magazine?” And he said, “Yeah, her. That’s my favorite.”

LCM: Ms. wrote a nice article about us and there was an immediate response that was a cut and paste from an older feminist that was like “younger feminists don’t appreciate the work we did.” She gave literally no specifics about that.

CT: In person, we’ve gotten awesome support. Susan Miller, who was a writer for The L Word and Thirtysomething and is huge into the web community, she’s been awesomely supportive and interviewed us. There are older generations of feminists involved in Internet culture who seem to like it.

What can we expect from season two?

LC: We get more into the exploration of characters when they are together. Like, what happens if you have Fennel and Meghan in a room together?

We’re also working together on another web series, about elections and a female candidate.

CT: In 2012. This is a long-term project.

Tell us more about Fennel’s menstrual bucket.

CT: Megan Lyons helped with set design and it looks so buckety. It’s perfect. I think she bought it at Kmart. It’s a good place to get props. If you go to the basement of the 34th St. Kmart, it’s like New Albany, Indiana, in there. They don’t specifically order items based on the location in the store.

We have not addressed Nicole Shabtai as an awesome, invaluable producer.

LCM: We started off producing it ourselves, but when we realized how far beyond our heads it was, we decided to bring on Nicole as a producer and I can confidently say this series wouldn’t have happened without Nicole Shabtai.

CT: She came through with our set designer, our location, our art director, our shooter, our gaffer, our make-up artist, Emilia Ademkiewicz.

I can’t say enough good things about Emilia. We did not shoot the episodes in order and Emilia would have to remember and redo their hair and make-up styles. She was a hero.

LCM: We filmed at Gin Lane Media, who have been very kind to us. Get your website done by them!

We shot in June, it was about 110 degrees and we had to turn off the A/C, in a 5th floor office with lots of windows. It was disgusting. Between every shot, Emilia was powdering them. It was crazy.

CT: Going from sketch comedy onstage to video is an adjustment. It’s hard. But I have no complaints about a hair and make-up person constantly being there.

LCM: The other person who deserves a huge shout out for their work in continuity is Stephanie Streisand, who was there for our first five episodes and made sure everything was exactly in place.

CT: She’d be like, “Oh, that notebook was on a different page.” It was crazy.

How did financing the project work?

CT: The four executive producers -- me, Leila, Nicole and Zach -- just personally fund raised it. It was more money than any of us were imagining but when you look at the quality, it wasn’t that much.

LCM: Interviewers have asked us about our budget and been shocked. It’s low for a web series but extremely high for our personal finances. But it was a great investment.

CT: Most people worked for free or cheap, cheap, cheap for the hours they put in.

What would be your advice for people who are interested in writing and producing their own web series?

CT: It’s so hard to give advice for me because we came into this as dum-dums, and we ended up with a product we are extremely proud of, and that’s not always going to happen with every project. I think you have to write what’s funny to you. So much effort and money goes in, so if you don’t love it, what’s the point?

LCM: I think we’ve gotten press and attention that we never would have gotten if we had sat down and thought, “What can we write that people will like?”

On the practical side, just do it. Just go out there and do it. And get a producer. Don’t do it all yourself. It turned out so much better because we delegated stuff outside of ourselves. And surround yourself with people you like working with, because it’s an intense, challenging experience.

CT: Ask people for help. We’ve been overwhelmed with the support we’ve gotten from extras and PAs. People want to do those jobs. They want to learn and be a part of things. Ask for help.

Haven't seen "Vag Magazine?" Watch episode one; the rest of the episodes can be found on the Vag website.

Vag Magazine Episode 1: "Fumbling Toward Ecstasy" from Vag Magazine on Vimeo.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Justin Bieber Gritty Movie Trailer Rivals Justin Bieber's Popularity

UCB Comedy's Justin Bieber Gritty Movie Trailer is burning up the Internet, currently featured on sites like Huffington Post, Deadline Hollywood, Tosh.O, Best Week Ever, The Washington Post, the L.A. Times Magazine, iwatchstuff, The High Definite, The Daily What, Splitsider, Comedy Central, Hollywood Reporter, and more!

The video was written and directed by the equally-dreamy-but-not-at-all-related Todd Bieber, UCB Comedy's Director of Content and Production. "When people ask me if I'm related to Justin Bieber, I refer to them to the Michael Bolton scene from Office Space," says Todd.

Emily Axford
plays the pop sensation, with Neil Casey, Nat Freedburg, Kate Riley, Pedro Lee, Tanisha Long and Don Fanelli rounding out the cast.

"I cast Emily because Justin Bieber looks like a cute girl. That's just a fact," notes Todd. "UCBLA did a Justin Bieber video a few months ago and they cast a woman as J.B. and I thought that was smart. I've worked with Emily Axford on a few videos in the past and she's a talented actress and super-funny. She just seemed like the natural choice."

Other forces behind the gritty biopic include Alex Chinnici, Director of Photography; Julie Gomez, producer; Sarah Scheld, costumes and art; Sean Traynor, sound; Alex Adan and Andy Bond, crew and Adam Sacks, graphics.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Interview: Broad City

Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are best friends with hilarious chemistry -- so they decided to write a web series about it. Broad City chronicles the real and imagined adventures of the BFFs "exploring life, love and lipstick in the Big Apple." Together with their partner-in-crime Rob Michael Hugel, who directs and edits the series, Broad City has more than one YouTube user admitting to elaborate fantasies where "Abbi and Ilana are my best friends."

Demonstrating the show is true to life, the Broad City gang finished each other's sentences while talking to UCB Comedy about their writing process, acting with Abbi and Ilana's moms, and their sold-out LIVE show coming up this Fri., Nov. 5 at 92Y Tribeca.

How did Broad City get started?

IG: Abbi and I were the only girls in a long-dead improv troupe known as Secret Promise Circle.

AJ: You don’t have to call it “long dead,” though.

IG: I think it’s funny. It’s dramatic. We became friends.

What year was this?

IG: I think 2003?

(Long pause.)

AJ: What?!


RMH: You were like sixteen!

AJ: Ilana, I was in college in Baltimore in 2003.

IG: It’s 2005 right now, right?

RMH: It’s 1981.

IG: What year is it? We met in 2007. I feel working relationships feel so much longer. I was just saying the other day that it feels like I’ve known you guys since middle school. So, the improv team ended and we were like, “We are so cute and funny! What do we do with this?”

AJ: We also wanted to write something for ourselves.

IG: But I really do think it was, as narcissistic as this is, we wanted to do something with our dynamic. Right?

AJ: Yes. We were like “Oh, this is funny. We constantly fight with each other.”

IG: And also, Abbi had this Capes Coaching class that was very inspiring --

AJ: I really wanted to write my own material.

IG: And that inspired me too, because she was talking about writing down goals.

AJ: It was seriously a year ago. My year was Oct. 22. Capes is not paying me for this [plug] but I will welcome that!

IG: Now we’re looking back over a year. So, we were at that pizza place across from UCB and we said, “Maybe we could do this thing about us and our relationship.” We were so stoked. I think you can feel it’s a project that you want to do and when you’re really going to like it. You can fucking FEEL IT!

AJ: We wrote so many ideas of possible episodes. Probably half of our episodes -- even just anecdotes -- came from that meeting. And then so we started writing --

IG: -- but we were like, how are we going to get someone to shoot? And to edit? But then we were like, “Let’s collaborate with people!” And we did that for a while with directors. Initially, we were going pay Rob as an onetime thing.

RMH: For the first episode.

AJ: We were friends with Rob. But not good friends.

RMH: Once a year at Harold auditions, Abbi and I are always in the same group.

AJ: And Rob wanted to do it --

RMH: -- I was just going to edit that one episode.

IG: But over the season, as we worked together more and more, Rob heavily contributed to the voice. We consider ourselves each a third of the voice. Not only was Rob’s editing like, “That’s exactly what we wanted!” -- but the working relationship? Oh my God, I’m getting CHILLS. Inspiring! He was comfortable saying, “I don’t like that idea.” Not that everyone has to work that way, but it matched our way.

What’s the process behind each Broad City episode?

IG: I’m huge into defining the process. They make fun of me because I act like I'm in a college class, like, “Um, Professor, can we define the process?” We’re still finding the rhythm. We were increasingly prepared throughout the season.

AJ: Tried to be, I will emphasis that. But we do leave room to improvise. And while we’re shooting, there’s always something that pops up.

IG: At first I was like, “Let’s make a chart! The first week we’ll do this..." but you can’t set the process until you do it.

AJ: A big part of the series is that we want it to be based on truth: either something that has happened to us, or a friend.

IG: Abbi is the anchor for that. “We’ve got to bring it back to reality.”

AJ: I think reality is funny. It’s important.

IG: On the other hand, I could be like, “And then we get in a hot air balloon!” And Abbi will be like, “Hold up. Good idea but...”

AJ: We write about things that we find funny about our own lives so other people relate to it.

IG: People are like, “Oh my God, that happened to me!”

AJ: So we brainstorm things that we think are funny that happened to us. Most of the time, we’ll write on our own, because apparently we’re never apart in our lives.

A&I: (in unison) We work together.

Wait. Your day jobs are together?

A&I: (in unison) Yes.

AJ: We write a lot, mostly because we’re together all the time, and bring these outlines and scripts to Rob, and then it’s a collaboration from there.

IG: We decompress a lot in the beginning of our meetings, where we like "update" for a half an hour. But those conversations become the material.

RMH: In general, the process starts with a personal story that we think was funny. And then we do an outline, and look at it together, and say, how does this work? And at that point, we have someone in mind who will be “the guest” and know what their strength is, so we know it’s going to be funny -- we just need to find the direction of who the guest will be.

IG: It’s like creating the most ideal improv situation, where we’re like, this guy is going to be hilarious in this situation -- like Johnny McNulty is so funny in the "Laundry" episode as a smooth douche.

AJ: Shannon O'Neill's episode was one that wasn’t based on reality but we wrote that part for Shannon.

IG: We wanted to write for Shannon's strengths -- this really weird character, ambiguous in so many ways.

AJ: She’s one we keep talking about to use in other things. She’s so unique.

IG: We’re like, “How can we get Shannon in next?”

AJ: But there’s so many people that we want to use. We have the whole UCB community to play with!

RMH: There’s a million more people we want to use.

IG: And in some episodes, we’re not even using their funniest part. Like, in "Mom Brunch," Paul Downs is the waiter. Paul Downs is playing the straight man waiter and he is an AMAZING character actor.

Let's talk about "Mom Brunch." Do your Moms have any acting training?

IG: I have to say Abbi’s mom was incredibly impressive as an actress. My mom nailed it as a mom actress.

RH: But they had no training.

A & I: (in unison) No training.

AJ: My mom memorized the whole script. She wanted to be comfortable enough to improvise.

Had your moms met before?

AJ: No, just earlier in the day.

RMH: They were pretty amazing. I wasn’t working on that episode -- I was just there -- and at first they were being side-coached, but then it got to the point they were just going off on their own. And some of the funniest lines they improvised. Ilana’s mom goes, “Abbi’s a fucking drip, and when I took at her, I want to take a nap.”

IG: We were like HOLY SHIT!

AJ: And then my mom goes, “Ilana is such a slut, she should put her phone number on her chest.” And at one point, it didn’t make it in, but Ilana’s mom was just like, “You two should just go fuck each other.”

IG: With like, fuck hand movements. We were like, what??? And Abbi’s mom improvised the last line!

AJ: She improvised the button.

RMH: She did a call back!

IG: "Mom Brunch" is a good example of the following: we wrote a whole script out but we treated the script as though it was bulleted. I never would’ve thought of the word “drip.”

RMH: It’s old timey.

AJ: In every episode, someone has said a line that we could never have written.

What is your schedule for releasing episodes?

IG: At first, we released videos weekly, like, “we’ll keep this up for five years!” But now we’re releasing them every two weeks, just because we have them in the bag. We’re hoping to lock down more of a rhythm in season 2 and be able to release.

When will Season 2 start?

IG: We released our first video in Feb. 15th and within a year, we’ll have 18 episodes and a short film that we’re working on now. I imagine Season 2 will start in Feb. or March.

Can you tell me a little about the short film?

RMH: We’re in the planning stages.

AJ: Some of the episodes tell you more about the characters, while some of them are just snips of their life. This will be a longer journey with the characters -- to sit with them a little bit.

IG: It’ll be an extended version of an episode.

AJ: My hope is that it maintains the same fun --

IG: and the casual tone --

AJ: But the film will be a little more in-depth --

IG: And invested.

RMH: So far, we’ve never really followed a story arc. For this one, that’s our goal: do what we’ve always done, plus a storyline that is a true arc.

IG: We’re considering more emotional storylines for the characters. We want this to be funny. We don’t want it to be sappy --we don’t want to be boxed in as touchy-feely women -- we want to keep it light and funny. Actual shitty, heartbreaking stuff can happen, but as long as we’re like, “bada-dump!," we can keep a casual tone where we don’t take stuff too seriously.

What else is new with Broad City?

AJ: Mackenzie Condon is part of the team now. That’s been fun, working with her.

IG: Mackenzie's vibe, and energy and mind -- she just fit in immediately. And is so helpful as a reference, even helping us with stupid little decisions, like emails and shit, she’s just so fucking good. She’s a bad ass bitch.

Abbi, an illustrator, created the poster for the live show (and Broad City's titles.)

92Y is hosting your big SOLD-OUT live show on Friday. How did you get involved with them?

AJ: Over the summer, we were part of this short film festival there called The Iron Mule.

IG: It was fucking awesome --

AJ: And they didn’t tell us, but they featured us in the NYTimes. So there was a huge picture of us in the Times.

IG: We opened the Times and it was like WHAT THE FUCK! Abbi texted me about it and I died.

AJ: It legitimized everything, everything about New York City, just to be in the Times, and it wasn’t even about us. We were just the intro --

IG: The intro was something like “make them laugh, but don’t take all day,” which I took to mean, “Right, Broad City?”

AJ: We won the Judge’s Choice, which was awesome, and forged this relationship with 92Y.

What can audience members expect from the live show?

IG: Stand-up from our past guests, like the awesome Sara Schaefer from our "Yoga" episode and Jon Friedman and Hannibal Buress from our "Date Night."

We’re trying to invite bad ass bitches, New York women that we know and love, like some comedians and shit or like writers. If you’re a bad ass bitch, we’re like, “Please come.”

Our moms are going to be there.

AJ: The live show is going to premiere the finale and it’s very exciting. It’s a guest director, we shot it a while ago, and it’s very special.

RMH: It’s a break from the format.

AJ: We’re treating the live show like an event. It’s a 70-seat theater and we want the audience to be full of people who have supported us. It’s been a great year and there have been so many people who have gone out of their way to support the show.

RMH: In general, this whole thing has surprised me in a big way because I’ve never felt crazy support for anything like this. People are supportive in this community, but it’s kind of hard sometimes to feel like you have a place --

IG: It’s simultaneously competitive.

RMH: It is. You see other people do great things and you think, “Why haven’t I done anything great?” But it’s just so amazing how supportive people have been for this show, all the comments we’ve gotten from like friends or strangers, people who say really nice things.

IG: It’s like hol-eeeeee shit. I’m such a cynical bitch, when a guy likes it, I’m like, “Oh, you’re a special dude” -- how fucking patronizing, but I really can’t believe it. It’s like, thank you so much! It’s so cheesy, but it’s such a fucking amazing way to figure yourself out, and create a relationship with people. I’ve made friends with people who have said, “I like Broad City." I’m like, "Let’s TALK!” It’s so inspiring. I always say my chest is going to burst because my heart is growing. I say that all the time.

Interview: Chris Kelly and Craig Rowin on "This Show Will Get You High"

If you haven't checked out This Show Will Get You High, created by UCB co-founder Matt Besser, the final airing is tonight at 4am on Comedy Central. Set those DVRs!

UCB Comedy sat down with This Show writers Chris Kelly and Craig Rowin to talk about writing the pilot. Chris, serving as "senior writer," spent ten weeks in Los Angeles working on the show, and Craig joined the writers room for a month.

Chris Kelly is a staff writer and director for The Onion News Network, which won the 2009 Peabody Award. Chris wrote, directed, and acts in his new one-act play Oh My God, I Heard You're Dying, which is currently running at UCBNY (the next shows are Wed., Nov. 10 and Thurs., Nov. 18). He is also the director of Michael Hartney's one-man show, So I Like Superman, and is a writer/actor on the Maude Team Stone Cold Fox. Chris has a variety of credits at both UCBNY and UCBLA, including ASSSSCAT (monologist), Maude Night (writer/actor), 2Pac: The Musical (director) and Sketch Cram (writer).

In addition to This Show Will Get You High, Craig Rowin has written for Comedy Central's Night of Too Many Stars and contributed to Comedy Central's Onion Sports Network. He is the head writer and director for the sketch show, The Pretty Good Sports Show and contributes to The Onion. He has acted in and written video content for College Humor and wrote and hosted VH1’s webcast, Best Night Ever. Craig has performed in numerous shows at the UCB Theatre including Rory and Craig: Our Internet Knowledge, Maude Night, Killgore: The Resurrection, and many more. Craig performs improv with The Upright Citizens Brigade Touring Company and the UCB house team The Law Firm.

UCB Comedy spoke with Chris and Craig about This Show Will Get You High, how Maude Night prepared them for a professional writers' room, and risking your life in the name of comedy.

What was the writing process like for This Show Will Get You High?

Craig: We’d come into the office to write every day. Matt Besser wanted us to have sketches when we arrived in L.A., and I had my sketches from Maude Night and other stuff. Every day, we’d bring in new sketches and then do notes and rewrites and then read them again. And after work, it was crazy, I probably wrote three sketches every night.

Chris: In the writers’ room, Matt really let everyone’s voice be heard. If you had a sketch and if it wasn’t his sense of humor, he would let you explain it and defend your joke. He made a point of having a bunch of different voices and different people in the room, and I feel like it was very apparent that he had collected people with different sensibilities and I thought that was awesome.

I just cannot say enough great things about working with Matt. If we had sketches that we didn’t think were going to work, he’d be like, “Let me call UCB and get you a slot tonight so you can test it out,” and we would memorize it real quick and perform it ourselves, or he would organize actors to come in and perform it. We would write all day, perform a couple sketches at night, film it, show it to Matt, and he’d say, “Yeah this killed, let’s put it in the show,” or, “This didn’t work, let’s cut it.” And it was such a perfect way to know instantly what was working and what wasn’t. And even though we were only filming for a week or two at the end with the fancy cameras on the official Comedy Central dime, we filmed the entire time we were there, because a lot of the show was the connectors -- the things in-between the sketches.

Craig: The writers room was very comfortable. It felt very familiar, being in this room with all these writers -- it was like doing Maude Night or being in a good sketch class. Building on other people’s ideas, giving notes, giving your point of view on a sketch, making each other laugh -- it was totally similar to Maude and it helped to have that experience of being in a writers’ room. I think Maude Night tries to mimic that -- and by “mimic that,” I mean do exactly the same thing. Rather than doing a stage show, you’re just trying to write 22 minutes or 44 minutes or content for a video.

Obviously there was pressure of “I hope I get something on the show,” but working on this show felt just like how I want writing comedy to feel like: you’re in a room with a ton of funny people, making each other laugh. And that was nice to have that experience, to be lucky enough to get that job and then to be like, “Oh, not only is this a job and I have to work hard, but it’s really fun.” It confirmed that what I want to do, I like to do. It was a great experience.

What was one of your favorite sketches that you worked on?

Chris: John Gemberling has this character “Winnie the Whiny Baby” and it’s just him with a rattle and a bib and a diaper. For those six weeks, I saw him more in a diaper than I saw him fully dressed.

When we went to the Grand Prix, it was sort of a long day and the people were sort of terrible and annoying and we just got frustrated about how un-fun some of the people were. Then, at the end of the day, we were leaving and we saw one of these random Christian guys with a megaphone and big signs about how everyone’s going to hell. Matt or someone said, “John, go out there as a baby and ask him to put suntan lotion on you,” and it was so simple and unplanned and so ridiculous. And John talked to this guy for probably half an hour and was crying and laying at his feet and we got hundreds of people surrounding him, asking him to put sunscreen on the baby. It was surreal.

Winnie and the Jesus
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Craig: I wrote a sketch about a guy who is so enamored with his pet chimp, Mr. Bananas, he won’t admit that there’s a problem -- even when it is literally ripping his face apart and beating him. That was pitched in the room and then Besser had Brett Gelman and I write it up. It was written for Gelman.

I was back in New York when it started filming, but Chris would text me these pictures of Gelman’s face in super-realistic makeup, with his face like hanging off, or the prop cage that had all the bars ripped apart. It was great.

Craig, has a pet ever turned against you in real life?

Craig: Yeah. My pet died. My freshman year of college, I found out -- on the same day -- that the dog I had since kindergarten died and that my parents sold the house I grew up in. I grew up in one day. It was a pretty sad day.

This Show Will Get You High has a lot of warning labels: "Please don't watch this show if pregnant, recovering addict, or while driving." Have you ever endangered yourself watching comedy or doing comedy?

Chris: I think you mean, “Oh, I laughed until I died,” but I have no sense of danger. I’m never afraid of anything. And I mean that not in a brave way, but in an "I’m stupid" way. I’ve been robbed at gunpoint, I walk in front of traffic all the time, I don’t pay attention. I live without fear. My thought is always, “I’m not really going to die. I’m going to have an interesting experience and talk about it later.”

Is this going to be an insufferable interview? “Chris Kelly says nothing scares him and he’s never going to die.”

It didn’t kill me, but the worst experience I ever had shooting was at The Onion, three years ago, and it was like zero degrees and we were filming this press conference in like a wind tunnel down by the river. The shoot was taking forever because there was honking going on. We were all so cold, we were literally screaming and crying. We were bundled and in between takes, we’d be like, “Ahhhh! Ahhhh!” Everyone at The Onion will talk about that day and be like, “I’ve never been colder in my life.” It was freezing and miserable. Even watching it now, I have problems viewing it as a comedy video -- I just get cold and angry.

Craig: The only time I’ve felt nervous doing a shoot for a video was doing the Pretty Good Sports Show, which is the show I do with, and we went to shoot a segment at a Jets game in the new Meadowlands stadium and the atmosphere there can only be described as post-apocalyptic. Like, crazy -- I came late because I was working on something else and I couldn’t believe the amount of beer cans and bottles just strewn around the stadium. I’m used to going to baseball games, and obviously there’s drinking there, but not really a tailgate culture. The whole thing was interacting with fans and people were like screaming into the camera and being super-aggressive. We got to sneak into the stadium with some passes to shoot some stuff, and during the third quarter, it was obvious the Jets were going to lose this opener. The energy was so negative and angry and we had to wake up at 5:30am the next morning to shoot, so I was like, “Let’s. Get. Out. Of. Here.” Because not only do we need to catch the train, but also, I didn’t want to be murdered. That was the most scared I’ve ever been doing comedy. And it turned out hilarious.

Do you have any advice for UCB students who want to make the transition to being a professional writer?

Chris: Jesus. I always feel weird giving advice, because I think I need advice, but the thing I tell my students -- which I know is the most frustrating answer -- is just keep writing more. Oftentimes when I’m frustrated or feel like I’m not doing enough or think, “When are things gonna happen for me?” that’s when it’s been a long time since I’ve written and I should just sit down and write a bunch. And because there was such a long time between Maude submissions, people were saying, “What else can I do with a big packet of sketches?” And I say to have a packet ready, because you never know. And obviously Maude Night helped me get discovered for this show because Anthony recommended me to Matt -- and if you are writing and you have an arsenal of different sketches, you never know what could happen.

I tell my students to find ways to trick yourself into writing. It’s hard to write if you don’t have a deadline. If you’re in a class and there’s somebody that you like their writing style or even think they’re better than you, try to write with them. And you can say, like, every two weeks you’ll bring in sketches because that will guilt you into writing. It’s pretty generic, but I feel like you should be really exhausted at the end of each day.

Craig: I think the same principles stand from being a student or a professional: obviously, work hard and, you know, be funny.

I think a couple of things are important: always write what you think is funny. Some good advice that I’ve gotten is, “Don’t tailor to what you think other people think is funny.” Obviously try to get the voice of what you’re submitting for, but really stay true to your sense of humor. Don’t just shoehorn in other things because that’s what you assume other people want. People want to be able to hear your voice. I think that’s really important.

Also, don’t wait for a break. No one is going to come up to you and be like, “Hey. Write for this show!” You get that opportunity after you’ve put out a ton of your own stuff. People respond to that, knowing that people are making comedy just for the sake of making comedy -- not just to be seen, or to get a job. I think most people that I like working with, or people that other people are drawn to, just love comedy. The other stuff will follow. I hope. I hope! Because I need jobs.

Can't get enough of Chris Kelly? Visit his website or check out Oh My God, I Heard You're Dying Wed., Nov. 10 or Thurs., Nov 18. Looking to add more Craig Rowin to your day? Oh, yes, Craig has a website, too, or catch him every week with The Law Firm.

"This Show Will Get You High" is on Comedy Central TONIGHT at 4am.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Interview: Charlie Sanders on "Death Valley"

Charlie Sanders has been a UCB performer and writer at UCB since 2002. His sketch group Police Chief Rumble won Best Sketch Group at the Emerging Comics of New York awards in 2004. His other sketch group, Buffoons, went to perform at the Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in 2007. Charlie's hit one-man show Minnesota Muslim garnered high praise from Time Out NY and New York Magazine. During his time in New York, he appeared in several national commercials and was a regular sketch actor on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

In 2009, Charlie moved to L.A. and bought the first car of his life – "a Ford Focus, not to brag." He performs regularly at UCBLA in Shitty Jobs and ASSSSCAT. He has landed roles in the feature films A NY Things, When in Rome, Freak Dance, and Cedar Rapids and has appeared on The Office.

Just in time for Halloween, UCB Comedy talked to Charlie Sanders about fighting monsters in his upcoming MTV show, Death Valley.

Can you tell me more about Death Valley and your character on the show?

CS: I can give you a real general description because they don’t want me to say more until the show airs. But in the Valley, in L.A., all of a sudden people start turning into werewolves, zombies and vampires. The city of L.A. has to make the undead task force -- the cops that go fight the undead in the valley. And I’m one of the cops that fights the monsters.

Are you a good cop or bad cop?

CS: I consider myself a good cop.

Do you have any crazy action scenes?

CS: Yeah. It’s awesome. The show is a really cool combination of action and monster stuff. All the monster stuff looks really freaky, really real and really cool, and the comedy is well-written, in terms of the dialogue. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another show like it before -- which is what I’m so excited about this show. The way it balances truly scary stuff and really funny stuff is cool.

We had a fight choreographer come in and he’d teach us how to get hit and punch people and all that shit.

Have you been in any fights in your personal life that helped that process?

CS: I was in one... no, two fights in high school, but those were with humans.

When you were a kid did you prefer zombies, werewolves or vampires? Did you have a favorite?

CS: Zombies I got into later, like with the whole zombie craze we’ve been seeing in the past decade in Hollywood. But as a kid, my brother and I were completely obsessed with monsters, like Frankenstein, The Wolfman, Dracula -- all those classic black-and-white horror movies. We owned every single one and watched them countless times over.

My brother and I wrote this comic book -- it was like a 300-page comic book, written in our notebooks, about a guy that would fight Frankenstein and Dracula. So this is really a childhood fantasy come real for me.

Did you and your brother watch MTV together?

CS: No, we didn’t have cable but my friends did, so I liked MTV. I think Beavis and Butthead was on when I first got into MTV. I remember I would go to a friend’s house and watch eight straight hours of Beavis and Butthead.

What the process for getting the role on Death Valley?

CS: I auditioned for the pilot back in late February or early March. I found out about it because my friend Eric Appel was directing the pilot. He and I had just collaborated on making that Funny Or Die video “Big Dog." We've known each other for years but “Big Dog” was one of our first times working together.

I think I did two callbacks, if I remember correctly, and then they had two or three of us come in and work on the cop roles. It was really fun because they let us do improv.

And then we shot it. We shot 12 minutes for a pilot presentation/proof of concept sort of thing over two days in March. A lot of time passed, like three months. And I figured it was over, you know, “These things come and go.” Then they called us up and said, “MTV likes it and wants us to shoot it, but they’re not giving the green light for a whole series." They wanted to shoot the remaining 10 minutes to make a full pilot. So we had shot these two different sequences and they had to figure out how to write around them to make a full pilot.

And then this guy Eric Weinberg, who was an executive producer for both Scrubs and Californication -- a very hilarious, cool dude -- came in and became the showrunner guy. He worked on that whole process of expanding the script for the pilot and we shot the rest of it in July. It turned out great! I was definitely wondering how they’d write around [the segments] to make a linear pilot, but they did a great job. Finally, I think around Sept. 15, my manager called me and said that MTV had ordered 12 episodes. That was really exciting.

When do you start shooting?

CS: I think late December/early January we’ll start shooting.

Any advice for up-and-coming writer/performers?

CS: The best thing to do is write and perform as much as possible. Create a show with your friends and put it up. I think an important thing to note is that performing a lot should not just mean being in a million improv groups. Improv is important and fun, and definitely do it, love it, and embrace it. But, from my experience, real career progress comes from writing and putting up scripted shows -- polished material you can showcase.

Check out a picture from "Death Valley" on director Eric Appel's Tumblr.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Amy Rhodes at Universal Studios Haunted Maze

The Ellen Degeneres Show sent Amy Rhodes, their Emmy-winning staff writer (and UCBLA teacher/performer) to check out the haunted maze at Universal Studios.

Amy clearly LOVES haunted houses. So funny.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"Neighborhood Watch" Created By and Starring UCB Comedians

Neighborhood Watch -- Official Promo Video from Noam Bleiweiss on Vimeo.

UCB comedians Mike Mitchell, Ron Babcock and Jake Regal star in Neighborhood Watch, a new web series written and directed by Noam Bleiweiss, who also directs the Beta team Pantsuit. The series features Dennis Haskins -- yes, Mr. Belding from Saved by the Bell -- in what Noam calls Haskins' "first-ever return to onscreen 'principal-ing.'"

"When I think of comedy in L.A. I think of UCB," says Noam. "It's where the funniest actors are. So when the time came to cast for Neighborhood Watch, I knew that's where I wanted to look. We kind of got to treat the performer page on the UCB site as our casting site for the show. We went through all the performers and picked the ones who we'd seen on stage and knew were funny. Then we could take it a step further and go watch their videos on UCB Comedy. It's so much more enjoyable than auditions. And the great thing about UCB is that if someone you wanted to cast is already booked during your shoot dates, there's so many other super-talented performers to pick from."

Noam notes that Lindsay Hendrickson, UCBLA's General Manager, was extremely helpful -- "she always seemed to email me people's contact information within minutes, which is so convenient when you're facing the time crunch before a shoot."

Neighborhood Watch, which debuts Mon., Nov. 1,
is about fool-hardy middle age men living in Sunnyvale, the safest town in America, who start a Neighborhood Watch as an excuse to spend time away from their wives. But, when actual crimes begin to pop up, the men attempt to solve the mystery... very poorly.

Visit the Neighborhood Watch website and check back Monday for the first episode.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Interview: Matt Besser on "This Show Will Get You High"

Matt Besser is co-founder of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. The Upright Citizens Brigade television series ran for three seasons on Comedy Central, and in the fall of 2005, the UCB premiered their improv show ASSSSCAT: Improv on Bravo. Besser teamed up with Method Man and Redman to create and perform in the hidden camera show Stung on MTV. He was also a co-creator and star of Crossballs which ran 23 episodes on Comedy Central; and created and starred in The Very Funny Show for

Besser has guest-starred on The Sarah Silverman Show, Reno 911, Mighty B, Word Girl, Pilot Season, The Bernie Mac Show, Frasier, Late Friday; and featured in the movies Freak Dance, Year One, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Drill Bit Taylor, The TV Set, Junebug, and the zombie western Wanted: Undead or Alive.

His new sketch pilot/special, "This Show Will Get You High," hits Comedy Central Wed., Oct. 27 at 3am; Thurs., Oct. 28 at 4:30am; and Mon., Nov. 1 at 4am.

UCB Comedy talked to Besser about This Show Will Get You High, what's exciting him about the UCB scene, and Save the Last Dance.

What is the premise of This Show Will Get You High?

MB: The show is a sketch show but we do a performance live on the road -- we did one at a theater in Santa Cruz -- but we also go to a big event and hang out at it. So we went to 4/20 at Santa Cruz, the Long Beach Grand Prix and the Anaheim Comicon.

Costume Contest 2 - James
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So each episode has the live show element and a big event?

MB: That was the idea but we ended up shooting too much material. A lot of that material will end up on UCB Comedy.

One of the goals of the show was to get the best sketch writers and performers from UCB Theatre. So, the first step was to ask both artistic directors, Anthony King and Neil Campbell, who are the best writers out there? Who is putting out the best stuff? We got a bunch of good submissions. I must have looked at 40-60 submissions and then we ended up whittling it down to around 20 people we really liked and a couple people we brought on to be there just about the whole time, including Chris Kelly, who was kind of our senior writer, and Craig Rowin, who also came out from New York. And there were 15 other writers from the theater, mostly from L.A.

The original idea for my show was to use the entire UCB Theatre and not have a set cast. I thought it was an unique idea -- calling it a 300-person ensemble -- just whoever is best-suited for the scene is cast. But the network wanted to go with a cast where you’d become familiar with their faces, so we went in that direction.

What were you looking for when selecting writers and performers for the show?

MB: For writers, I look for someone who knows the game, which is what we focus on at the UCB. I look for people who know how to find game, know how to find the focus of the scene really quickly and then are really good at heightening that without being too verbose, too, because these days, sketches need to be on the short side. You know, you’d like to have a five- or six-minute scene, but we have to aim for three or less, which is a kind of a whole skill in itself.

I think there’s less attention span now, that people would like you to get to the joke a little quicker. I do think that’s a trend. And that’s okay. It has a lot to do with YouTube and being able to see so much sketch all the time -- so viewers demand a lot more from their sketch, too.

From a performer perspective, I just looked for who is working the hardest on their sketch. There are so many funny people at the UCB, but as anyone who has auditioned for a sketch show, specifically SNL, you know you can’t just show up for the audition. You really got to have characters that you’ve worked on for while and that you know are good. You need characters that you work on all the time, put them up onstage all the time. I’d say there are very few people that are doing that each year. You got to focus like you are focusing for the Olympics, you have to really decide, “This is going to be the year I do characters all the time, I’m getting on stage and I’m working them out.” And I’d say it really showed in the audition. It came down to like 20 people who I think really have it going on in the sketch character category. It wasn’t just up to me, it was also up to Comedy Central, but there were about 20 people I would have been happy with. And then we used five or six.

Did any characters from the auditions get written into the show?

MB: Without question. John Gemberling in particular has this character called “Winnie the Whiney Baby” and it did really well in the audition and ended up getting a full scene in the show and we took Whiney Baby to just about every event. People were loving him.

Winnie and the Jesus
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A lot of the sketches featured on UCB Comedy involves the cast interacting with real people.

MB: I’ve done a lot of prank shows and I didn’t want to do another prank show but I’ve always liked putting characters out in the real world. We’re not really tricking them or fooling them that John Gemberling is a baby, but it’s funny to see a character interact with a real person. And people react in all kinds of ways. We had rednecks threatening to kick our ass at the Grand Beach Grand Prix, and we had hippies completely tripping out on us.

We went to this 4/20 smokeout in Santa Cruz and Gelman’s character was a Republican and we turned him into a bong and asked stoners if they wanted to smoke out of a Republican. And while they would smoke out of “the Republican,” he would insult their liberal ways. And some people thought it was hilarious, because they’re cool people, and some people got very aggressively mad at us. Like, “Get this guy outta here!” And then some people, he had one guy flip his lid like he was having an acid flashback, screaming.

Wait. The cameras were fully visible, right?

MB: Yes.

But no one got punched or anything?

MB: No. A guy threatened to elbow me in the face. I was playing a character called Nick the Nicknamer. “I’m the guy who gave everyone on the Jersey Shore their nickname, including The Situation, Snooki, Jwwow.” And I nicknamed this guy -- his name was Ludlow -- and he looked really stoned, so I was like, “More like Lud-high!” And he was very insulted by this nickname and threatened to elbow me in the face.

A guy was offended for being called high at a 4/20 event?

MB: No. That was at the Grand Prix.

We also went to the LA marathon and pretended we were one of those “Jesus Hates Gays” groups. We were “Jesus Hates Runners” and we were telling them to stop running. Yelling, “Listen to Kanye’s ‘Jesus Walks’!” There were cameras, but people were buying that we were for real. It was really funny, because they were screaming at us. They thought we were backwards, narrow-minded people.

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Our original pitch for the sketch show was that it would be in the Middle of America and an old medicine show, in the old days, when you’d just show up and put on a show for people. The original idea was that we’d have a mobile stage but it proved a little more expensive than we counted on.

You’ve worked in many different comedy formats: improv, sitcoms, film, “cable news” parody shows. What keeps bringing you back to sketch?

MB: When I think of comedy, I don’t think of stories. 99% of writers, when they talk about what they write, they always talk about story. Stories don’t really occur to me. That’s not how comedy comes into my brain. If I were to work on a sitcom, I could probably come up with a lot of good ideas -- elements of stories -- but I don’t think my strength is writing stories. So I like sketch. A sketch is not a short story. That’s not a smart way to think about it. A sketch is a sketch -- it is its own entity. It’s about finding a focused game and heightening and exploring it. That’s why I like doing improv, and that’s what I like doing in sketch. I like characters but I also like conceptual ideas. I like parodies. I like the wide variety of opportunities that sketch provides.

This Show Will Get You High has a lot of warning labels: "Please don't watch this show if pregnant, recovering addict, or while driving." Have you ever endangered yourself watching comedy or doing comedy?

MB: I always make sure to wear something over my ears, some sound-dampening device, if I know I’m going to watch something or listen to something that is funny. I’ll put on dark-colored glasses that are hard to see through and try not to hear it, so I’m not affected by the comedy. I’m careful about my comedy, even though I do it all the time. I’m careful so it doesn’t become a problem.

What about the UCB scene excites you right now?

MB: I’m excited that we’re opening a second theater in New York. I think we’ve reached a point where talent is literally brimming over and we need another place to put it. We have such demand from our performers for stage time -- and they deserve it. I think the theater is almost finished and I look forward to coming back and performing there. It’s going to have a more stand-up/solo performance, non-improv focus to it, which is good, because it creates balance. Our theater is kind of known as an improv theater in New York. In L.A., it is known for more of a balance, which I’m proud of. It’s really worked out well for us in L.A.

We’re doing a lot of shows now that we record for podcasts. That’s kind of a new thing. We started doing that for ASSSSCAT, and we’re going to start to do that for other shows in LA., so people in the middle of the country can enjoy our shows.

I like our Beta teams a lot. That’s really great. Hiring someone like Todd Bieber to really get that into gear -- people have been really focused. New York, in particular, has put up some really impressive videos on almost a daily basis. And the quality is so much better than it used to be, it’s really impressive.

How involved is the UCB4 in day-to-day operations at the theaters?

MB: We’re always weighing in via email on something or other. Like the new bar at the new theater is called the “Hot Chicks Room,” and about every day we get a new draft of what the logo is going to look like. It could be something as fun as that, or something as boring as dealing with our accreditation, which is a strenuous process of getting our curriculum in order -- which has taken us years to do it. We get together to work on our improv book almost every morning. Sometimes it’s fun, and sometimes it’s stressful, because you’re putting together a textbook.

When is the book coming out?

MB: I can’t say. It’s been at least a three-year process. We can see the end in sight.

What projects are you working on right now?

MB: There used to be a musical onstage at UCBLA called Freakdance, a parody of dance movies. And we shot it last fall and it has taken us a year to edit. It’s pretty much done. Right now we’re waiting to see if it gets into Sundance. I’m pretty excited about that.

Is it in the vein of Save the Last Dance?

MB: You can’t name a dance movie I haven’t seen.

You’re a big fan of dance movies?

MB: Yes. I hate dancing but I love dance movies. I think they’re funny. There’s movies like Beat Street, Electric Boogaloo, You’ve Got Served, Step Up, where dancing is almost treated like gang warfare. I think that’s funny, all the way back to West Side Story. And then there’s Dirty Dancing and Flashdance and Center Stage, Save the Last Dance -- the more romantic ones. Even within dance movies, there’s all different kinds of dance movies. We tried to pile in all the archetypes into one movie.

Are you dancing in it?

MB: I’m involved in choreography but I’m not breakdancing in it. But we do have real B-boys. We got many of the groups from America’s Next Dance Crew appearing in it, even some of the winners, so we have really good dancers for the movie. One of our regulars was Joshua Allen, who won So You Think You Can Dance.

So, you’re a big fan of dance TV shows, too?

MB: I’ve seen every episode of America’s Next Dance Crew.

Any advice for up and coming writer/performers?

MB: Follow me on my Twitter account and you can see how great comedy is written.

I actually do think Twitter makes people better writers. In the same way, making a sketch writer get their scene down to three minutes, is what Twitter does to get your joke down to 140 characters. I think there’s a discipline there that helps.

Watch more comedy videos from the twisted minds of the UCB Theatre at

Don't miss "This Show Will Get You High" on Comedy Central Wed., Oct. 27 at 3am; Thurs., Oct. 28 at 4:30am; and Mon., Nov. 1 at 4am; watch other videos from the show online.

UCBNY Volunteers For "New York Cares Day"

This Saturday, a group of UCBNY writers and performers volunteered at a public Brooklyn middle school for New York Cares Day. In addition to painting doors, murals, and doing some cleaning/organizing, UCB raised over $1000 for the organization.

"UCB has such a wonderful community of people, it's only natural that we'd come together to help out for something like New York Cares Day," said Justin Purnell, organizer of the event.

More community service projects are in the works -- stay tuned!

Photos by Ari Scott. See more photos of New York Cares Day in this Flickr set.