I’m a UCB Fangirl, and You Should Be Too

UCB

At least once every month I try to make my way over to the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre to catch some type of comedy show. Whether it’s an improv troupe, or sketch show in Chelsea or a stand-up special at UCBEast, it’s always worth the $5 or $10 I spend on a ticket. Truthfully, it’s worth much more as UCB is the top comedy school in the nation and the seriously insane level of talent that it houses is unreal.

A crowd favorite, and one of (if not the) longest running shows at UCB is ASSSSCAT 3000, which is offered at 7:30pm and 9:30pm each Sunday. It’s always a fully improvised show (they play off the stories of a guest monologist) and usually features some of the greatest people in the industry. Some of my fav ASSSSCATers [I’ve seen] are: Zach Woods, Adam Pally, Gavin Speiller, Fran Gillespie, Neil Casey, and the always hilarious Shannon O’Neil. I consistently pray to the comedy gods that one of these Sundays, I will cross paths with the beautiful and glorious UCB founder, Amy Poehler. So far, no cigar, but I remain hopeful.

If you live in NYC, like to laugh (or just generally smile and/or not be a terrible person), SHAME if you haven’t gone to a UCB show. If you’re visiting New York, attending a performance – any performance – really should be on your tourist to-do list, right up there with seeing Lady Liberty and eating at the Times Square Applebees.

I’ll likely never be one of the top actresses, improvisationalists (a word I made up) or sketch writers in the industry, but anytime I’m at a UCB performance, I break out of whatever world I’m spinning in for an hour or 90 minutes, and just laugh. And any place that can get someone like me out of my head that quickly and reliably in the heart of NYC deserves some serious accolades. Book those show rezzies here!

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My Thoughts on the SNL Diversity Debacle

By now you’ve probably heard a little something about the heat Lorne Michaels has been receiving since (and really, before) Kerry Washington hosted the sketch comedy show last Saturday. The cold open poked fun at the recent press about the lack of black women who’ve been cast on the show. Saturday Night Live’s current male black cast members, Jay Pharoah and Kenan Thompson, have both famously refusing to dress in drag, stating that it’s time a black female is cast. While the show’s opening sketch was written in a light-hearted fashion, it seems to have spun further investigative efforts and even more articles about the show’s “lack of a diversified cast.”

I understand the benefits and importance of diversity. I chose to move to New York City from a small suburb in the midwest, after-all. I think a group of very diverse people, with different backgrounds of gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, political preference and social class can bring a lot of opinions and creative ideas to a collaborative art-form, like the show. I, however, do not think affirmative action is a necessary practice in the casting of SNL.

Hiring someone “because she’s black, first of all” as Jay Pharaoh suggests is not really the answer to solving “the show’s diversity problem.” First of all, I think it should be noted that out of Season 39’s sixteen cast members, there are: six women, one gay woman, one Iranian-America, a few Jews and two black men. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. But diversity is not just a black and white issue. What about Asian-Americans? Hispanics? Gay men? Buddhists? AND out of all the shows on network television (i.e. How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men, CSI) does SNL really deserve all of this negative press? IMO, it seems that the casting has always been based largely on talent. I choose to stay under the impression Lorne actively searches for the funniest sketch writers/performers that exist, and remains impartial to any of the aforementioned factors that could be an outlet of discrimination.

At the end of the day, people watch SNL to be entertained. Hiring funny people is priority. This season, it happened to be 83% white dudes. Oh well. They’ve had cast members and hosts of all kinds in the past, and that will continue. I’m sure most of us agree that it would be nice for ALL network shows to be a little more representative of what this fabulous melting pot actually looks like. We’ll get there, some day. But in the intermediate period, I think we should all have a little more faith in Lorne. He did just air a huge parody of his critiqued casting last Saturday. Call me crazy, but I think he knows what he’s doing.