Friday, January 18, Carleton students crowded into the Concert Hall to see the Upright Citizens Brigade Tour Co (UCB), a live improvised comedy group based in New York City and Los Angeles. Carleton improve comedy troupe Cujokra opened for the UCB.
The UCB, which moved to New York City from Chicago in 1996, has long held a reputation for being one of the best improv standup comedy companies in the United States. According to Paper magazine, the company is characterized by “smart writing and solid acting by the goofy, hip, and subverse.”Usually, the UCB performs at its personal theater, which opened in Chelsea, New York in April 2003. According to the company, the theater attracts “casting directors, agents, festival producers, and journalists.” Said a company member, “In addition to our performance space, [the theater] is home to an intensive improv guerilla training center where students learn the art of improvisational and written comedy.” In addition to stand-up comedy, the company also teaches classes, sharing its skills with the public.
The performance’s material for last Friday’s show was gathered from two Carleton students who were interviewed on stage, one of whom was Tom Duda, ‘08. Among the topics the act touched on were first floor Burton Hall’s party scene, lifeguard sweatshirts, Sodexho food, and preservation of historical buildings.
The show received generally positive feedback. “[UCB] was quality entertainment—it definitely outdid Ebony,” said an anonymous upperclassman.
“I thought the Sodexho personification was completely accurate,” said Meagan Nishi ’11.
Besides the reputation of the performers, the event was significant in light of the Writers Guild of America strike, which started in November of 2007. In short, the nation has suffered a loss of new episodes for popular television shows seen on the “Big Four” television networks: CBS, ABC, NBC, and FOX.
One consequence of the strike is that less popular television shows are getting more viewers. Another result is that people are looking for different sources of entertainment, like stand-up comedy groups.
Although the writer’s strike may be forcing viewers to find other forms of entertainment, it certainly seems not to have negatively impacted one of the country’s most popular comedy groups.