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An Off Night For The UCB

by Photo of Hannah Rettoun

Maybe it was the heat, but the ‘All-Stars of Improv’ just weren’t on their game

In this article…

The Upright Citizens Brigade presented their All-Stars of Improv at the SummerStage theater in Central Park last night, but the audience was unimpressed. 

Here's the way the night was supposed to work: At the top of the show, the audience suggests a word which prompts a monologist to recall an anecdote related to that word.  The performers then improvise scenes loosely based upon things said in the monologue.  Hilarity ensues. 

The thing about improv is that the performers and the audience never know what's going to happen, and, frankly, this night was a dud. 

Usually, when a scene isn't working, performers will tap each other out or just end the scene all together.  In many cases last night, the cutoff came too late, and performers struggled to revive a dying scene.  

Occasionally when something was going well, a performer would walk in and change the tone and direction of the scene.  Once a scene takes a turn for the weird, you can't really change it back.  One of the first rules of improv is to "yes-and," which means accepting and adding to every idea your fellow performers come up with.  Not every idea, however, is worth following through with.  

DJ Cipha Sounds from Hot 97fm was the guest monologist for the night, and I really think the UCB could've done better without him.  For a radio personality, he didn't have much charisma.  His anecdotes were long, boring and mostly about the famous people he knows.  A performer actually interjected "they hate you right now" during his monologue in the second half.  She might have said it for a laugh, but it was true.  It wasn't just the audience who was bored during the show; the performers didn't seem to be having a blast either.  

While most of the night was hard to watch, there were definitely some great lines, most of which came from Saturday Night Live's Bobby Moynihan.  He stole the show every time he spoke or changed his facial expression.  Moynihan was absolutely hilarious, especially when he worked with 30 Rock's Scott Adsit.  The pair worked off each other really well and proved why they were the only performers we had heard of.  

Highlights of the night included customers being stranded in IKEA ("There's no exit in IKEA. You have to build it yourself!"), the friendly salutation auction ("I bid you Adieu!" "I bid you Good Day!"), and the recording of the "Understanding a Woman's Body" book on tape with Moynihan as Lou Diamond Phillips.  

Overall, this show wasn't as great as it could have been. Maybe this group just didn't work very well together. The UCB will present their All-Stars again on August 19 at East River Park, and I would still go.  This time I would hope to see Moynihan and Adsit joined by Amy Poehler, Ben Schwartz, Opus Moreschi, Nate Dern and John Mulaney. In fact, I would love to see that combination on stage. I'm putting that request in now. 

Here's to better luck next time, UCB.     

Let CHARGED.fm get you tickets to see your favorite comedians this summer.

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