Friday, August 27, 2010

Mande's "Overton Window" in New Yorker

Don't miss this New Yorker article about Joe Mande's adaptation of Glenn Beck's "The Overton Window" at UCBNY.

Interview: Rachel Bloom of "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury"

When a woman in her early twenties asks a ninety-year-old man to fuck her, there's usually an oil fortune involved -- unless, of course, the ninety-year-old man is author Ray Bradbury. Rachel Bloom's poppy ode to the sci-fi master, "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury," has garnered a million hits on the Internet in less than a week and has been Tweeted by writers like Neil Gaiman.

Rachel, who has her BFA in Drama from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, is a UCBNY student. She is a contributing writer for the Onion News Network and performs improv with her indie group, Mastodon Mattingly. She also hosts a monthly standup/music show called Annette Funicello's Beach Party.

"Fuck Me Bradbury" isn't Rachel's first attempt at song -- a children's musical Rachel co-wrote with writer/composer Michael Maricondi called When Push Comes to Shove is due to tour New England schools later this year. None of the songs in it are about fucking.

UCB Comedy talked to Rachel about putting together your own film shoot, who would be invited to her literary orgy, and dancing alone to Britney Spears in your room.

Q: Tell us a little bit about the process of making "Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury."

RB: I was sitting at home about two years ago during the summer between my junior and senior years of college, and I was re-reading The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. I was going through a weird sadness/lull on the boy front, and I kept thinking, "Man, Ray Bradbury is so smart...he'd be the ideal boyfriend." I thought it would be funny to do a passionate love song about Ray Bradbury. Then, I thought it would be even funnier to do like, a sexy pop song about Ray Bradbury. So, I sat down at my parents' piano and came up with the essential structure in about an hour. 2 years later, I revisited the song and refined it.

We shot the video at St. Cecilia's, an old Catholic school in Brooklyn. It seems to be the only school in New York City that will let you shoot, because I know of so many other film shoots that have taken place there. The song was recorded in a studio in LA. My friend Jack Dolgen (of the band "Maricopa") arranged the song and helped me record it, along with fellow musician/producer Jon Siebels.

I produced the video myself -- I did all the casting, found the crew, and asked my friends to direct/DP. It was a lot of work, a lot of e-mails going back and forth for a few weeks. I will say that you don't have to be a genius to put together a good film shoot- it's just a lot of work.

Q: What was your reaction when the picture of Ray Bradbury watching your video popped up on the Internet?

RB: It had occurred to me that Ray could find the video just by Googling himself. If I were a famous author, I'd Google myself a lot. Soon after the video came out, though, I started to get a ton of messages/e-mails from close friends of Ray Bradbury, all of whom were praising the video and promising that Ray would see it. So, before I saw the picture, I had some warning, although NOTHING could replace the joy I felt seeing Mr. Bradbury guffawing at my dirty little music video.

Q: The video was obviously influenced by one of the greatest TRL videos ever -- "Hit Me Baby, One More Time." When you were a kid, did you ever dream about being in one of those '90s pop videos?

RB: The weird thing about me as a kid is that I outwardly wanted to be against the establishment, but secretly wanted to be a part of it. I was made fun of a lot right around the time "Baby One More Time" came out, so although I publicly railed against these pretty popular people and their awesome clothes, I privately danced to the song like a fiend alone in my room. I resented the fact I wasn't cool or pretty enough to be a Britney Spears fan, but couldn't deny that I was a Britney Spears fan. I always openly loved 'N Sync, though. Ah, to be 12 and full of contradictions.

Q: If you were doing a whole literary fuckfest, what other authors would be on your list?

RB: I would fuck Kurt Vonnegut, Philip Roth and J.K. Rowling. Those are the top of my orgy list. My current favorite reads are comic books by Bryan K. Vaughan. Just finished "Y: The Last Man" and updated myself on "Ex Machina."

Q: Have you received any marriage proposals from other Ray Bradbury fans?

(Rachel laughs.)

Not marriage proposals, but there is this one dude on Facebook who has earnestly written "I love you. I think I am in love with you." I want to respond with my thoughts on how love is a very complicated concept, but I also think this guy can't speak English very well.

On September 2nd, Rachel has a SPANK at UCBNY titled "Sing Out, Louise!" -- a musical sketch comedy show.

Fuck Me, Ray
Watch more comedy videos from the twisted minds of the UCB Theatre at

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Interview: Chris Gethard of "Big Lake"

In less than a week, UCB powerhouse and all-around great guy Chris Gethard will join Horatio Sanz and Chris Parnell in Comedy Central's "Big Lake," a new half-hour, multi-camera family sitcom about a big city banker (Gethard) who loses his job and moves home to his parents' couch in the small town of Big Lake, PA. The highly anticipated show is produced by Gary Sanchez Productions (The Other Guys, Talladega Nights, Anchorman) and distributed by Debmar-Mercury.

"Big Lake" premieres on Comedy Central Tuesday, August 17 at 10pm with two back-to-back episodes.

Gethard spoke with UCB Comedy about riding the 7 train to work, treating others with kindness, and how the Internet is like college radio for comedians.

Q: How does it feel to do a television show that's filmed out of New York? Especially a show that's shot in Queens, where you live.

CG: I mean, being able to take this step up in my career without having to leave New York City is the dream. I grew up in New Jersey and have never really left the East Coast. My whole family is here. I always felt a lot of anxiety, like "Can I make it happen here or do I need to do the LA thing?" Luckily, after grinding it out for a long time, things came together here. It's one in a million, but it's doable.

On set, one of the guys in the crew asked me what neighborhood in Manhattan I lived in. I was like "Oh, nah man, I live in a shittier part of Queens then we are in right now." Being able to take the 7 train to work each day was pretty cool. So yeah. A lot of people are like "Gethard, you're gonna wind up in LA soon." And I'm kind of like "Yeah, maybe someday, but not if I can keep doing it here. At all." I like being able to visit my mom.

Q: What can you tell us about "Big Lake"? How has shooting been?

CG: "Big Lake" has been fun and intense and overwhelming and an honor to participate in. I hope people enjoy the show. It's a twisted, subversive take on a traditional sitcom -- it looks and sounds and feels like a regular family sitcom, but the jokes are dark and weird and cool and I think if people give it a chance it could really catch on.

Q: Can we expect any other familiar faces on the show other than the leads?

CG: Fans of the UCBT will be pleased to know that Lennon Parham, Ben Rodgers, Billy Merritt, June Raphael, Seth Morris, Michael Delaney, Jon Gabrus and more appear throughout the run of the show. That's all I can remember off the top of my head. It's pretty late. But for real, UCB represents all over this show.

Q: On the show, your character is crashing on his parents' couch after losing his fancy banking job. Have you ever spent time after high school living with your parents?

CG: Yeah, I lived in LA for the first half of 2004 when I was working out there and when I came back I lived with my parents for three or four months. I was 24. It was fine. My parents are cool, funny, supportive people. I dunno. It was weird having food made for me. I haven't cooked a meal in over four years, I'm a lazy bachelor.

Q: How much does the show deal with the financial crisis?

CG: The show deals with very human repercussions of the financial crisis in that my character was at the core of a bank's meltdown. But episode to episode, the show deals more with the idiotic schemes three guys in a small town perpetrate to recover from their personal fallout in the financial crisis. It's that nice balance, I think. Because the financial crisis is only important in that it affects real people -- no one particularly feels sympathy for the big bankers themselves -- and our show is very much about Main Street America and their dealings with these hard times. I hope it strikes a chord in this way -- I think for an odd, dark little comedy show, it really has a good head on its shoulders.

Q: What is it like working with that amazing cast and crew?

CG: All the things you would imagine - intimidating, challenging, and fun. Being on set with Horatio and Chris - I mean, who comes from where we come from and doesn't admire those guys? They just bring the heat every time. Super hilarious and complete professionals. Working with them every single day made me really step up and bring my A game. Horatio and I have been buddies through Asssscat in NYC for years, and getting my big break in a project he was a part of was truly an honor. And Parnell is like - the king. Every time he shows up in a show or a bit, you know it's going to be good. His timing is insane. I feel insanely blessed that I was able to learn from those guys and the rest of the cast every day. Jim Rebhorn and Deborah Rush? Pros on a level I can only dream of. Dylan Blue? He's 14 years old and pulled off a really hard job, that of playing two characters simultaneously, with seemingly no effort at all. I just tried to keep my head above water and keep up with all of those guys.

As for Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, I mean, they are heroes to me. Especially knowing Adam came out of Improv Olympic and Second City and was one of the founders of the UCB, I really felt like - Man, I gotta step up to the plate and deliver and make these guys feel like they made the right choice putting their faith in me. You don't want to let down dudes who do some of the most brilliant comedy in America and have been doing so for many, many years.

But both of those guys, for being the total bad asses that they are - such positive energy surrounding them. Just a real warmth and a real belief in the project and just such an open mind and willingness to fail big and go for broke with the jokes. It was really inspiring to be around them and see how their brains work. Both of them are the types of people that when they're around, you simultaneously feel happier that they are there contributing in such a positive way and in awe of their abilities.

Q: Have you been watching TV when "Big Lake" promos have popped up? What was that like?

CG: Uh, it's weird, dude. I'm a dummy from New Jersey. I'm overwhelmed by all of this and psyched about it in a very genuine way. I try to own it and accept that for the time being this is part of my life now. But I don't know, anyone who knows me through the UCB Theater knows that I'm an easily overwhelmed guy. I just want to try to enjoy this ride as best as possible without letting anxiety get in the way.

Q: Do you feel that making videos with UCB Comedy or having an on-line presence has been a part of your success?

CG: The Internet is invaluable these days. If you really think your comedy is up to par and represents you well, the internet is an amazing tool to get your work out there to people in a very democratic way. There's a lot of really bad stuff out there, so try not to be a part of that. But the Internet for good underground comedy is kind of what college radio was for good underground music a few generations back - there's an actual do it yourself outlet for us that gets our work into the world! I can't believe it when talented people don't take advantage of it.

The fact that there are sites like UCB Comedy around, as well as Funny or Die and College Humor, these places that serve as a nexus for good, reliable comedy, and that they are all embracing the next wave of comedians and giving people an honest shot at getting their work seen? It's sort of insane. One day we will all look back at this and realize what an opportunity it is. Sadly, too many people will see it as a missed opportunity.

One of the biggest turns I took was when Zach Woods, Nick Paley and I made a very dumb little series called "The Most Awkward Boy in the World" and put it on YouTube. I wrote them, Nick directed them, and Zach played the main character amongst a bunch of our friends from UCB. People watched those way more than they ever thought we would. We all got a lot of great attention from them. I know Zach got a lot of calls from them, and some of our other friends were offered movie parts based off of it. These dumb 30-60 second long videos. It's crazy. Between my work with those guys (Cutman Films) and Nuclear Palm, as well as other random things I've put up online over the years, I really feel like I had a chance to get my voice out there into the world in a way that I wouldn't have been able to ten years ago - and I assume will not be able to in another ten years, because anything this good and democratic will be corporatized eventually.

And you would be amazed at how many people STILL talk to me about the Darryl Strawberry Show videos I put up on UCB Comedy in its earliest days. Those were videos Justin Purnell and I shot with friends and students of mine. Each took about 15 minutes to shoot. Now, years later, I still have people ask me about them often. My manager saw those videos before we ever spoke to each other and it was part of why he wanted to work with me. If you can use the Internet, use it. If you can associate yourself and your ideas with a brand like UCB Comedy, recognize that for the asset and opportunity it is and don't waste the chance!

I know I just gave the longest answer of all time, but I hate seeing talented performers and students doubt themselves and talk themselves out of putting themselves out there. You have to make it happen for yourself - no one else is going to! - so use the opportunities you've been given. No more excuses. It's 2010. The world ends in two years! Make it happen now!

The Darryl Strawberry Show: Ep. 1: Texas and
Watch more comedy videos from the twisted minds of the UCB Theatre at

Q: The UCB community has been going crazy about you being on the show: the support has been buzzing from every social media network, the green room, etc. How does that feel?

CG: Man, the UCB Theater is my home and I can't tell you how emotional it has made me to see people be so genuinely supportive and excited for me. I have put in ten years - that's one third of my entire life - at this theater. The fact that so many people have been so excited for me - it makes every day that I doubted myself and doubted my life and career choices null and void. It would be impossible for me to explain how much this community means to me. Just impossible. And seeing it return that love... there are no words that can describe the impact this has had on me.

A lot of people have said that if I made it, it makes them feel like they can make it. That means the world to me. I don't get to teach classes as much as I like to anymore with my schedule being nuts, but every time I do - I see that this theater still attracts such amazingly talented people. I know that with what's happening with me right now, really all I did was refuse to give up. Seeing people "buzz" over it - it makes me really happy to see them excited and I hope if they are excited and take away anything from what's happened to me this year that it means that they aren't going to give up either.

Horatio Sanz, Chris Parnell and Chris Gethard

Q: Any advice for up-and-coming comedians who would love to do what you're doing?

CG: Don't. Give. Up.

Also, don't make excuses. Work as hard as you can. If you aren't working as hard as you can, someone else is out there working as hard as they can. Those people who are working harder than you deserve opportunities more than you do, so stop making excuses for why you aren't working hard and just work hard. When you feel like you're working as hard as you can possibly work, work a little harder and you are probably getting close to how hard you actually have to work. Do more shows. Take more classes. Watch more shows. Meet more people. Challenge yourself. Don't expect anyone to hand anything to you. If you aren't exhausted all the time, you probably aren't working hard enough.

Sometimes people get by on talent alone. And it's amazing to see. But more often than not in the many years I've been around here, the people who break through are the ones who are talented and perhaps more importantly, are the ones who know how to put their head down and do the work.

Every time I've gotten depressed about career stuff, it goes one of two ways. Sometimes I get all woe is me and dwell on stuff. This always makes it worse. It doesn't even not help. It actively makes it worse.

Other times, I take those feelings of hitting a brick wall and force myself to get motivated and active and do more stuff. And it always turns into something unexpected and productive and pride inducing.

For years, I worked my ass off at improv. And I felt like I got good. And then that felt like I hit a plateau, and I got scared and frustrated. So I started writing as much as possible. And then in 2007 I eventually got to guest write at SNL. Two of the most amazing weeks of my life. But then I didn't get a staff position there, and that was demoralizing and terrifying -- felt like I missed my shot. So I got back on the horse and got really into storytelling. That led to a one man show that I felt great about, which I took to the Montreal Comedy Festival... and ultimately, I met a lot of people but still, nothing really stuck. So then I started doing The Chris Gethard Show, and that really felt like a good creative thing. And in the midst of all that activity was when Big Lake presented itself. It was ten years of trying any type of comedy I could.

So I guess my point is, don't convince yourself that there's no point to trying. Try as much as you have to. If this is really what you want to do, and you actually have talent, you can do it. But you have to try every single avenue available to you. If I hadn't done all that stuff, I wouldn't have any skills to offer. If any of those things that felt like failures actually caused me to give up, as opposed to finding the next type of comedy to attempt, I would have left comedy about eight and a half years ago.

Even today, with all this stuff happening, I am doing as much stand up as I can. It's terrifying and I'm not very good at it, but I'm just trying to be out there on any stage that will have me. This is because I've realized that when I am doing good, creative work, trying, failing, and getting better along the way, I feel good about myself and the fact that I've chosen to attempt this.

Getting "Big Lake" has been an amazing and mind blowing experience. But doing things I've been proud of along the way has been its own reward. If getting famous is your goal, I have no advice for you. If doing the best, most creative, inventive stuff you can do is your goal, you will feel satisfied by going through that process and if you are lucky, the world will notice. But even if they don't -- and for me for a long time, they weren't -- you will wind up feeling good about what you've been doing.

I too often see young performers emulating things and people they've seen come before. By all means, people should be learning from those who are of previous generations - Lord knows I spent a lot of time stealing tricks from Rob Huebel and Rob Corddry and John Ross Bowie when I started out - but I think everyone needs to turn that corner where they say "What is the thing that only I bring to the table? What do I do better than anyone else? What do I represent when I'm out on stage and how can I embrace that to the fullest?" The sooner you get honest about asking yourself that question, the sooner you will become content with what you are pursuing, I think. That may be super pretentious. I don't know. I just believe it wholeheartedly.

Also, don't burn bridges. Be good to people. John Ross Bowie took me under his wing, coached my early groups for free, let me know he believed in me. To this day, I would do literally anything for that guy. And I've done the same for some of the people I've really identified with as they've been my students, done my best to bring them up, help them find venues for their talents, tried to offer them any advice I possibly can. There is no negative effect caused by being good to people.

I see people get cliquey and exclusive - I am amazed by it. It's such a bad policy, personally and professionally. The level 201 improv student you are being a shithead to at a bar could be the producer of the show you want to work at in five years. That person might be the most talented diamond in the rough you are being rude to because you are in a 600 show and they are only in 201. I don't get it. Be nice to everyone. All the time. If someone seems positive and talented, find a way to work with them. And if that doesn't work out, find a way to support them. And spread the word.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

UCB's Elaine Carroll on Mad Men

Sunday night's Mad Men episode (SPOILER ALERT) featured the "man date" of the century -- Don Draper and Lane Pryce hitting the town! The advertising executives' romp through Manhattan included a menu of Texas-sized steak, a late-night showing of Godzilla, and UCB's very own Elaine Carroll as a "Barnard girl" with a $25 fee.

Elaine Carroll

Elaine recently moved to Los Angeles from New York. She received her BFA in Acting from Marymount Manhattan College, where she got the comedy bug as co-founder of the sketch group Dutch West. Elaine can be seen in numerous videos on College Humor and was formerly on the UCBNY Maude Team Gramps. She is currently a member of the UCBLA Maude Team The Space Program.

Elaine also created the very popular (and hilarious) web series, Very Mary Kate, the unofficial life and times of Mary Kate Olsen. More information about Elaine can be found on her website.

UCB Comedy asked Elaine about working on one of the most buzzed-about shows on television.

Elaine in her Mad Men gear

Q: How did you get a role on Mad Men? What was the audition process like?
The audition process was surprisingly normal. There was only one round of auditions, and the episode was shot the following week. The sides for the audition were different from the actual script. They change it up so that they don't give anything away.

Q: What was it like working with Jared Harris and Jon Hamm?

It was amazing. Everyone was extremely friendly. Jared Harris and Jon Hamm are both really kind and professional. It was weird, though. Jon Hamm kept trying to make out with me. (This is less of a fact and more of a faint, wistful daydream.)

Q: Did you get to meet any of the other actors on set or Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner?
I met all the other actors at the table read. Matthew Weiner was there, as well as the entire staff of writers and producers. It happened to be Christina Hendricks' birthday and Matthew Weiner had the whole room singing Happy Birthday. (The cake was great too.)

Q: Any fun anecdotes from shooting?
I had my own trailer, the hair and make-up crew was great, Jon Hamm kept trying to make out with me. (Still not a fact.)

Q: What does Jon Hamm smell like?
A cigarette burning in God's ashtray.

Q: Inquiring minds want to know about the clothes.
The clothes on that show are breathtaking. They're authentic down to the last detail, and yes, I would have loved to keep the earrings, but I had to give them back.

Q: What’s up next for Elaine Carroll?
There's gonna be a second season of "Very Mary-Kate" on College Humor!

Elaine in the UCB Comedy video, The Undermining:

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

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Behind-the-Sketch: Chris Kelly

If you haven't noticed by now, Chris Kelly has had a slew of videos featured on UCB Comedy in recent weeks. Chris also has a new "sketch play" starting its run on the UCBNY stage August 11th-- the hilarious Oh My God, I Hear You're Dying, about seven family members, friends, coworkers and a neighbor of seven weeks accidentally ruining their final goodbyes. (Make your reservation now!)

Chris Kelly

Chris was nice enough to give us the inside scoop on some of his latest work on UCB Comedy.

"How To Make A Situation About You" (UCB Comedy Original Webseries):

CK: So I really just wanted to write something with this type of person. It's maybe my favorite type of person, and maybe I am this type of person, too. Everyone sort of is, right? I love people who veer conversations back to themselves or sigh deeply in your direction so that you'll be forced to ask them, "Oh no, what's wrong?" So that's how this web series started; I just liked the idea of this self-absorbed woman giving tips on how to go through your life making situations about you and never ever for a second being bogged down in the sound of other peoples' voices and opinions. As soon as I wrote this, I thought, "Oh Pam Murphy should play this!," not because she is this type of woman, just because she is fucking hilarious in every single thing she does. However, I will say she has been doing some pretty awesome meta-promotion of these videos. I have been out with her on more than one occasion when she has made the conversation about her my mentioning these "How To Make A Situation About You" videos. It's a delight.

"Crying" Movie Trailer

CK: I wrote this video while working on Matt Besser's Comedy Central pilot out in LA. It didn't make it in the pilot, but he had me get together some people to produce it in LA anyway. The BETA team FIX made it and I think it turned out really well. I came up with the idea because I feel like a lot of these indie movie trailers are just shots of people crying and you have absolutely no context for what this movie could possibly be about in 2-hour form. But I never care, I eat these types of trailers up. I also came up with this idea because sometimes if I'm walking down the street listening to music like this, I'll want to just start running and crying like I'm in one of these trailers. The song they used in the video, the Arcade Fire song, came on my iPhone the other day, and I felt the overwhelming urge to cry and I didn't know why at first. Maybe I did end up crying. Don't worry about it.

Eating Lasagna on the Toilet

CK: I came up with "Eating Lasagna on the Toilet" while eating carrot cake on the toilet, because before I am a comedy writer, I am a class act. If people want to date me, they can email me directly. But seriously, I didn't wanna stop eating said carrot cake but I also needed to go to the bathroom, and then I thought the only thing that would make that sadder is if I was naked and was delusional enough to think I was hosting a talk show in my bathroom. This is another video I originally wrote for the Besser pilot, but it didn't take. I don't know why - it has lasagna, Shannon O'Neill's adorable dog, and copious amounts of crying. Plus, it's got Jim Santangeli's bare butt, so I don't know why Comedy Central would wanna pass on that.

Chris is also a full-time staff writer and director at The Onion News Network and a Contributing Writer for The Onion's new show on IFC. Chris is a writer and actor on the Maude Team "Stone Cold Fox" and a sketch teacher at UCB. He also directed Michael Hartney's one-man show "So I Like Superman," which is currently running at UCBNY.

Visit Chris Kelly's website.