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Del Close Marathon 14 – 10 Must See Shows on Sunday

1. Bombardo – New York City (7:45 AM – UCB Theatre)

With cast members in both New York City and Los Angeles, Bombardo is one of the most famed female indie groups in the country. Consisting of people such as Aubrey Plaza (Parks & Recreation), Chelsea Clarke (The Curfew), and Marcy Jarreau (Project Improviser), this star-studded lineup is surely a gem hidden in the lineup. Performing a character intensive montage, Bombardo has excellent group mind and is always having fun on stage.

2. Dr. Fantastic – Washington D.C. (12 PM – Hudson Guild)

Hailing from Washington D.C., Dr. Fantastic is one of the longest running indie groups in the city. Consisting of Rory Scovel (Comedy Central) and Zhubin Parang (The Daily Show), Dr. Fantastic always plays a fresh high-energy montage filled with strong characters, big choices, and smart connections. Their format centers on the fact that they are “the best improv group ever formed” and they will show you that by using “your dumb suggestion” to create comedy gold. Must see!

3. Mister Diplomat – DSI Comedy Theatre Carrboro (2 PM – UCB Theatre)

Well-known as Dirty South Improv Comedy Theatre’s super group, Mister Diplomat always packs a punch of improv goodness. Consisting of some of the most experienced teachers at the theatre, the group’s style is very patient with a slow build to hilarities. Their commitment to the scene and total agreement helps build very realistic situations that are absurd. Get a taste of DSI with Mister Diplomat.

4. Improv Boston Mainstage – improv Boston (3 PM – UCB Theatre)

At last year’s marathon, Improv Boston Mainstage stunned audiences. Many agreed it was the best show of the festival. Led by Artistic Director Will Luera, Improv Boston Mainstage performs a high-energy montage that is quick with tag-outs, cut-to’s, and scenic support from the entire ensemble. The show is completely unpredictable and satisfying due to the amount of risks and chaotic nature that the ensemble commits to. If you want to see a montage that is both tight and exploratory, Improv Boston Mainstage is a perfect fit.

5. Matt & – Philadelphia (4:30 PM – UCB East)

Hailing from Philadelphia, Matt & is a unique show that is both bizarre and gutsy. Matt Holmes (Rare Bird Show) asks for an audience volunteer, usually someone who has never done improv before, to come up on stage and do an improvised show with him. Holmes is brilliant while working with someone he has had no experience performing with before. His ability to make things work in the scene, create fun dynamics, and avoid obstacles created by the new comer is incredible. It shows you just how talented he is. Must see!

6. Convoy – Los Angeles (5 PM – UCB Theatre)

This three person show from UCB LA really defines what a proper tag-out is. Consisting of three members of Sentimental LadyAlex Fernie, Alex Berg, Todd FasenConvoy’s format is a rapid pace tag-out battle, taking what’s fun in one scene and taking it to a place where that fun is explored to its maximum. Right when you think it’s fully heightened, Convoy begins exploring another element of the scene. The pace is consistent for the entire half-hour and is one of the most impressive, smart, and quick improv groups ever to be created. Highly recommended to those who enjoy quick UCB game heavy improv.

7. Rogue Elephant – New York City (5 PM – Hudson Guild)

One of New York’s long-standing and most revered indie teams does their 9th Del Close Marathon show this year. Rogue Elephant, consisting of Gavin Speiller (Death By Roo Roo), Nate Smith (30 Rock), Jim Santagelli (The Curfew), Silvija Ozols (The Stepfathers), and Eddie Dunn (Grenade vs. Washing Machine), has performed all over the country and at some of the best comedy theatres in the nation – iO Chicago, UCB NY. Moreover, they have had a long run at Under St. Marks in New York City and are a dynamite combination of improv super-stars. Must see!

8. Baby Wants Candy – Chicago (5:30 PM – UCB Theatre)

The mother of all musical improv comedy groups, Baby Wants Candy hits the mainstage as usual this year at DCM. Consisting of LA, New York, and Chicago’s most creative minds, Baby Wants Candy creates a narrative story that follows different characters’ lives and struggles. With musical numbers spread out, each character expresses what is important to them and we find out their journey as they continue on. The musical improvisation, as well as the scene work is brilliant, absurd, and committed. You will leave wanting more and will probably track them down after the show and ask for autographs. Cannot recommend this show enough!

9. Arts & Athletics – UCB LA (6:15 PM – Urban Stages)

Hailing from UCB LA, Arts & Athletics is one of the most up-and-coming Harold Teams at the theatre. Rising stars Mookie Blaiklock (The Twitter Show), Allan McLeod (The Twitter Show), and Tricia McAlpin (FunnyorDie) anchor the group and provide good experience and strong choices. If you’re looking for a Harold that can go off the ropes and come back, Arts & Athletics is an excellent choice.

10. Outlook of the Poet – New York City (7 PM – UCB Theatre)

Veterans of UCB NY Jon Gabrus (The Law Firm) and Gavin Speiller (Death By Roo Roo) create a fantasy-themed show complete with crazy characters and absurd realities. They perform a monoscene that incorporates sci-fi tropes, fantasy jargon, and poetic soliloquy. In addition to being a linguistically impressive show, it provides a fun filter for the improv that is unique and captivating. If you are a connoisseur of genre heavy improv and enjoy something challenging, definitely get over to the mainstage for Outlook of the Poet.

Del Close Marathon 14 – 10 Must See Shows on Saturday

1. Rough Cut – Los Angeles (12 PM – UCB Theatre)

Hailing from Los Angeles this group of UCB mainstays creates an improvised movie on the spot simply by asking for a lyric to a song. Featuring Tara Copeland (Diamond Lion), Suzi Barrett (Sentimental Lady), Will McLaughlin (Cagematch UCB), Monika Smith (Improvised Live), and Nick Wiger (Txt Msg Show), this group gives a clear look into the minds of what UCBLA has in store. Moreover, very few groups are practicing the movie form that originated in Chicago, so it is a chance to see it resurrected by some of LA’s brightest improv minds.

2. Improv 4 Humans Podcast Recording – Los Angeles (12 PM – UCB East)

Matt Besser’s new Earwolf podcast comes to DCM for the first time ever. Besser along with special guest stars take one word suggestions from Twitter, do a monologue inspired by that word, and jump into premise-based improv that plays as well over the radio as it does in person. Past guest stars include Tim Meadows (SNL), David Koechner (Anchorman), Andy Daly (Mad TV), and Ben Schwartz (Parks & Recreation). Come see the live recording of what is sure to be an improv knockout!

3. Mantzoukas & Morris – Los Angeles (4 PM – UCB Theatre)

Two of LA’s best improvisers take over the mainstage for a two-person show that is sure to bring the laughs. Jason Mantzoukas (The League) and Seth Morris (Late Night with Conan O’Brien) team up to perform a monoscene based off an audience suggestion. Mantzoukas currently performs with The Soundtrack at UCB and was part of the legendary New York City group Mother. Morris currently plays with UCB LA super group Facebook and has been featured on Improv 4 Humans. Their brilliance combined will be a sure hit at the marathon.

4. The Brothers Hines – New York City (7 PM – Hudson Guild)

Two of UCB NY’s most popular teachers, who also happen to be brothers, team up for their acclaimed show, The Brothers Hines. Will Hines (The Stepfathers) and Kevin Hines (The Curfew) create a montage of scenes off an audience suggestion that is both connected and meta. Their sibling dynamic comes out in the improv they create and gives a fun twist to the show. If you enjoy duoprov with strong realistic choices, The Brothers Hines is sure to be a hit for you!

5. Sandino – UCB NY (7:45 PM – Urban Stages)

Being the oldest active Harold team at UCB NY, Sandino’s chemistry is incredible, creating consistently fun shows that have entertained audiences at the theatre for over a year. Consisting of players such as Don Fanelli (The Chris Gethard Show), Brandon Gulya (Stone Cold Fox) and John Timothy (Improvised Anime). Sandino’s Harold’s are very connected, fun, and committed. Everyone is clearly on the wavelength and it is refreshing to see the form flow as they do it. Must see for Harold enthusiasts!

6. Death By Roo Roo – UCB NY (8 PM – UCB Theatre)

Famous for their record setting Cagematch runs at UCB NY, Death By Roo Roo is still potent as ever. Consisting of Neil Casey (Two-Man Movie), Anthony Atamanuik (Two-Man Movie), John Gemberling (Fat Guy Stuck in Internet), Gavin Speiller (Rogue Elephant), and John Murray (30 Rock). Roo Roo interviews an audience member about their family problems and then turns it into a montage of scenes that turn the pain into laughter. This show gets down and dirty, a must see for those who like to see boundaries smashed and full-on risks.

7. Diamond Lion – UCB NY (8:30 PM – UCB East)

The only musical improv house team at the UCB, Diamond Lion has made a name for themselves within the last year by having consistently entertaining shows. Made up of seasoned UCB players such as Winston Noel, Michael Kayne, and Amber Petty, Diamond Lion creates scenes that transition into song. This musical montage is a sure hit for those looking to see this specific form and it usually features guest stars. Must see!

8. The Curfew – UCB NY (9 PM – UCB Theatre)

Formerly known as Reuben Williams, The Curfew is one of the most long-standing weekend house teams at UCB NY. Made up of some of New York’s best improvisers – Kevin Hines (The Brothers Hines),  Charlie Todd (Improv Everywhere), Porter Mason (Bodega) – The Curfew creates a semi-narrative piece in which different time dashes occur, leading them to places where fun is located. Like a Harold, the show strives to make strong connections as characters develop and the thematics are very abundant in the form. Strongly recommended as a show that is both silly and meaningful.

9. The Late 90’s – iO Chicago (9:30 PM – UCB Theatre)

Touted as the best iO Chicago team of 2012, The Late 90’s hit the UCB mainstage to show off the best of the city’s talent. Their form, dubbed 9 Slots, is a combination of a Harold, the Deconstruction, and the La Ronde. If you enjoy organic, relationship-based improv, The Late 90’s is sure to wow you and give you a good perspective of what iO Chicago strives to produce. Must see if you want to know more about Chicago style improv.

10. The Great War – UCB LA (11:45 PM – Urban Stages)

Hailing from UCB LA, The Great War is one of the premiere Harold teams, made up of some seasoned veterans and bright young faces. Marcy Jarreau (Project Improviser) and Hal Rudnick (Groundlings) provide experience, while Brandon Sornberger (Nethertales) and Josh Simpson (Werner Hot Dog) provide fresh new talent. The group does a traditional UCB Harold with strong character play and fun choices made throughout. Get a taste of LA Harold Night with The Great War!

Del Close Marathon 14 – 10 Must See Shows on Friday

1. Doppelganger – New York City (6:30 PM – UCB Theatre)

This New York City indie group rocked the marathon last year in essentially the same time slot. The group is made up of three of the funniest female improvisers on the New York scene – Nicole Byer, Sasheer Zamata, and Keisha Zollar. Their style is a fast-paced montage with organic edits incorporating different emotional sounds and physicalities to transition between scenes. The chemistry they have creates a flow that is incredibly silly and fun. Must see!

2. Bassprov – Chicago (7 PM – UCB Theatre)

Hailing from Chicago, this duoprov group is a mainstay at the Del Close Marathon and in many other improv festivals around the country. Composed of legendary Chicago improvisers Joe Bill and Mark Sutton, Bassprov is a show that centers on the concept of two guys having a conversation while fishing, showcasing the characters opinions, perspectives on life, and past histories. The format is a straight up monoscene often featuring guest stars such as Matt Walsh and Scott Adsit. Definitely check this one out and you may catch some famous guests!

3. Sentimental Lady – UCB LA (7:30 PM – UCB Theatre)

One of UCB LA’s top house teams comes into the Del Close Marathon with a similar time slot as last year, where they destroyed. Composed of all the members of Convoy, as well as Mel Cowan, Suzi Barrett, Johnny Meeks, and Joel Spence, Sentimental Lady showcases their quick wit with a sense of patience and impeccable listening. Their format consists of a base monoscene that they use as a jumping point to fun quick montages. After the montages they time dash back to the monoscene and continue this pattern. The fusion of these two forms creates a sharp contrast and emphasizes the talent this group.

4. Junior Varsity – Magnet Theatre NY  (8 PM – UCB East)

Hailing from New York City, Junior Varsity was founded by Armando Diaz as a house team at the Magnet Theatre, where they still perform every Thursday night. It is composed of some of the most seasoned improvisers in the city including Kevin Cragg, Shawn Wickens, and Jarret Berenstein. In addition to being a mainstay at the Magnet, they are known for being a touring group, having performed at festivals all over the country. If you are a fan of New York comedy, Junior Varsity is a must see.

5. Popular Science – iO West LA (8:15 PM – Urban Stages)

Made up of some of the most up-and-coming performers at iO West Theatre in Los Angeles, Popular Science fuses relationship based improv with quick game play. The group won Best DCT Show in 2010 and 2011 at the Del Close Awards. While iO West has sent only a few teams to the marathon this year, definitely check out Popular Science to get a good idea of the talent housed there and the difference in style.

6. The Stepfathers – UCB NY (9 PM – UCB Theatre)

One of UCB NY’s oldest house teams comprised of some of New York’s most seasoned improvisers and teachers at the theatre. The group features veterans Chris Gethard (The Chris Gethard Show), Michael Delaney (The Swarm), Zach Woods (The Office), Shannon O’Neill, Will Hines, Silvija Ozols, and Connor Ratliff. Join them as they explore things to their extremes. Highly recommended for improvisers who want an example of potent realistic comedy with the UCB brand on it. Smart, fearless, and brutal.

7. The Premise Keepers – Los Angeles (9:30 PM – UCB Theatre)

Being Matt Besser’s indie troupe, last year this show tore the roof off the mainstage. Featuring Chad Carter, Joe Wengert, Katie Dippold, and Alex Fernie, this group showcases some of the best game players in the world and is some of the quickest improv you can find on the planet. The group takes a one word suggestion from the audience, a member of the group tells a quick anecdote, and they launch into scenes that pull premise clearly from the story. Smart, quick, clear, and brilliant! The Premise Keepers are a must see.

8. Revolver – iO Chicago (10 PM – UCB Theatre)

Hailing from the famed iO Chicago Theatre, Revolver is one of the top Harold teams in the nation that brings high energy and strong characters every time they grace the stage. Made up of some of Chicago’s best improvisers including SNL Cast member, Vanessa Bayer, Revolver does strong Harold’s that are about as connected as I’ve ever seen them. Their trust and support is evident in their slow building to climactic third beats. Moreover, I have never seen a group that looks like they’re having this much fun on stage. See them and remember how much fun improv can be!

9. Bruckheimer – Los Angeles (10:30 PM – UCB Theatre)

Three hilarious dudes, doing a monoscene. Bruckheimer is a legendary group consisting of Paul Scheer (The League), Chad Carter (The Premise Keepers), and Owen Burke. Carter is one of the best game players in the world, while Scheer and Burke are strong with characters as well as being well-averse in game play. Watching this slow build to insanity is an experience you will want to have!

10. ColdTowne Theatre Tourco – ColdTowne Theatre Austin (10:30 PM – Hudson Guild Theatre)

Austin’s premiere improv theatre sends its touring company to DCM again, comprised of the best improvisers from its different house teams. Their form is grounded in the Harold structure featuring very gamey beats that play like a montage.  The pace is quick and they nail premise with consistent heightening. ColdTowne has been to many different festivals across the country and is definitely a hidden gem on the schedule. Be sure to catch them!

Del Close Marathon 13

Last week my improv group from Washington DC, Ouroboros, traveled to NYC to perform in the Del Close Marathon. Our show was on Friday night at 10:30 PM at The Hudson Guild. Our set was a lot of fun, but it was also great to see a ton of great improv non-stop for an entire weekend. I saw over 30 shows, some good, some bad, but ultimately it was a time for improvisers to come together and network as a community of performers and to just have fun. The party was a great chance to talk to people from different scenes and nerd out of seeing really cool shows. The UCB Press Conference was also really great, getting to see , Matt Walsh, Ian Roberts, and Horatio Sanz talk shop.

Above: Picture of the UCB Founders taking questions at their press conference.

Here is an analysis of the top 15 shows I saw at the Del Close Marathon this year:

15. Cartel (Los Angeles)

I was very impressed to see this group that I had never even heard of before. I didn’t recognize any of them, but they apparently are a team that performs at iO West frequently. The group chemistry may have been one of the best I saw all weekend. These eight players really were on the same wavelength, understanding the comedic ideas of each other and taking it to fun places. They really functioned well as a team and committed to strong character play. They were excellent at labeling the situation and it was always very clear as to what was going on. Interesting group! Check them out.

14. Outlook of the Poet (New York City)

Outlook of the Poet had the tough job of opening the marathon up on Friday night, but they nailed it. An epic monoscene focusing on a mythical land with princesses, scimitars, pizza, and palomino horses. The content of the scene was very high concept and specific, however, the premise of Gavin Speiller coming through a time machine to help Jon Gabrus and Ben Rodgers fight off an army of ghosts and goblins was very entertaining.

13. Diamond Lion (New York City)

A collaborative musical improv group with many of New York’s best improvisers provided the audience with a fun musical montage. Scenes ranged from Fran Gillespie being a terrible childrens show character to Amber Petty singing about witnessing a hobo being murdered to Joe Wengert singing about trees. Either way, this group was totally having all the way, and it was noticeable from an audience perspective, as they were great fun to watch! See em.

12. Cannon & Gausas (New York City)

Christina Gausas from Late Night with Conan O’Brien and Kay Cannon from 30 Rock really put on a display of how to have fun for a half an hour with a best friend. This show immediately had me hooked with a high stakes suicide scene, and then organically transformed into a new scene. The transformation edits, when done correctly look flawless and I feel like every scene should transition like that. It seems so organic. Each of them let themselves be totally affected by what was being said. The strong character play started with taking information personally and reacting in a way that made scenes interesting right off the bat. They also had a lot of fun playing games with the space itself. They did a scene using chairs as cow utters, carrying a tv backstage and coming around the other side with it, switching characters and impersonating each other doing each others character, and by being multiple people in scenes. Very hard to keep track of! So impressive. See either of these performers in Let’s Have A Ball at the UCB.

11. The Premise Keepers (Los Angeles)

Comprised of Matt Besser, Katie DippoldAlex Fernie, Chad Carter, Joe Wengert, and Dominic Dierkes, this really is a super group of geniuses. Their format was very informal as they would do a premise off a monologue and then ask for more sporadically throughout. When the premise was clearly initiated, the scenes struck gold and pretty much wrote themselves. The game play of this group and “if thening” deployed was impeccable and impressive. Super smart stuff, see it!

10. The Curfew (New York City)

This seasoned UCB house team consisting of Anthony King, Jim Santangeli, Kevin Hines to name a few, did a fun show that was very connected which heightened nicely. I couldn’t completely discern the form, at first I thought it was a Harold, but I’m not positive. It had a lot of montage elements in it too. Ultimately, the show seemed very connected and everything was encapsulated within it. Also, small details became the main focus of the entire show. The discovery of bees led to a show about bees and bee life and how it was affecting these characters. Brilliant stuff and super fun group.

Above: Members of The Curfew

9. Sentimental Lady (Los Angeles)

An up and coming team from UCBLA, Sentimental Lady is comprised of the guys from Convoy, as well as some other young guns. This group started with a base monoscene, that they deconstructed and did montage-like scenes with to flesh out themes and elements, as well as to follow fun. They then came back to their monoscene and time dashed it, which was interesting to see how it developed. When a performer was inspired, it was cool to see them jump to an idea, that was very clearly communicated. Again, small mistakes become discoveries that were explored.

8. Doppleganger (New York City)

This show was such a delightful surprise! Doppleganger is an indie group from NYC made up of three UCB women improvisers. Their style was super quick and a montage in nature. They were very quick to follow the fun at any given moment and played off each other so naturally. They were a delight to see and I definetly recommend catching them at UCBNY when they perform next.

7. Bassprov (Chicago)

An amazing show with Joe Bill and Mark Sutton, two-seasoned Chicago improvisers along with guests Scott Adsit from 30 Rock and Matt Walsh of The Upright Citizens Brigade. These four improvisers slowly showed who their character was throughout the monoscene which is just them fishing and talking about topics through their own character filters. It was super impressive to watch how each of them reacted to the other and it was stunning to see how relaxed and smart it was. It was just so darn believable. Bassprov is a must see!

6. Death By Roo Roo (New York City)

This group surprisingly only had three performers: Neil Casey, Anthony Atamanuik and Gavin Speiller. All excellent seasoned veterans of the New York scene. They performed a monoscene in an antique shop where there was a shopkeeper and a gay couple shopping. This monoscene was solidly grounded in want and there was constant tension which continued to heighten throughout the scene. When the tension between the gay couple erupted, they would fight and yell and then make up and fuck in the antique store in front of the shopkeeper. This recharge gave the monoscene a great rhythm and was a marker of the next beat. A big chaotic moment like that helped pace the thirty minute scene and kept things patient, which is SO important in a monoscene. By the end of the scene, information was out there that this scene was taking place in the future, which is where Atamanuik said, “Well, since we’re all holograms.” One of the funniest things I’ve ever heard in an improv scene. These guys are kings of improv. See it!

5. Wicked Fuckin’ Queeyah (Boston)

This show was utter mayhem. At 2:30 AM, Boston’s finest showed the audience what improv is all about: Getting wasted on stage, interrupting each other, and getting into fist fights. Lasting 15 minutes, the entire chaotic mess was fun to watch devolve into fights, yelling matches, and spraying beer on the audience. See it at next years DCM!

Above: Wicked Fuckin’ Queeyah takes the stage.

4. Convoy (Los Angeles)

This rapid fire montage group from UCBLA was so catchy and fun! The trio Alex Fernie, Todd Fasen, and Alex Berg works so well. I’ve never seen three people so on the same page about what’s going on in a scene. Every game move, the other improviser immediately picked up on, and they were willing to jump to a new page when fun would strike. Convoy’s style of following the fun at any given moment and jumping to different situations, references, and playing the logic out was so much fun to watch. I could watch them pump out scenes like this all day. Convoy definetly was the fastest group I saw at the marathon and that kind of intelligent quick play is something I aspire to.

3. The Smokes (Los Angeles)

Wow! This was hands down the best monoscene I have ever seen. Comprised of Joe Wengert, Katie Dippold, Neil Casey, Anthony King, and Bobby Moynihan from SNL. One three minute scene, with five people in a car. The patience and listening exhibited by this group was phenomenal. The audience slowing realized more information about the situation throughout the scene and got more and more incites on how the characters felt about each other. The situation continued to heighten throughout the scene and confessions and character assumptions fueled the reactions. Most of all, everyone really stuck to their shit. Each character solidly committed to having a strong point of view and milked it for all it was worth. This show really made me realize that there does not need to be any rushing as long as the improvisers trust each other and are confident that they will explore and discover.

2. Baby Wants Candy (Chicago)

This was my second time seeing them and I must say they are truly the best musical improv group around. Made up of mostly UCB performers such as Mike Still, Jeff HillerWinston Noel, Michael Kayne, and Amber Petty, as well as seasoned veteran Peter Gwinn, BWC put on a completely improvised musical complete with love songs, ensemble pieces, and regular scenes. The narrative structure was intruiging and I could not look away. The story revolved around a “Ladies Night at the Disco” where coked up people came to take refuge and three mass murderers came to steal the lives of women. The show was well connected and had some of the best high moments of any group I saw this weekend. Two thumbs up for Baby Wants Candy.

1. The Back Room (Los Angeles)

This show made me laugh harder than I ever have. At 1:30 AM, a cast of wacked out characters engaged in a thirty minute talk show monitored by Matt Besser. Characters included Darryl Strawberry played by Chris Gethard, Mexican wrestler Espanto played by Horatio Sanz, Nihilist Jeff Foxworthy played by Rob Lathan, and last but not least The Sherriff of Nottingham played by James Adomian. Each character was somewhat zany and big, however totally committed. Adomian really stole the marathon for me. I’ve never laughed harder. He played an effeminate Sherriff who was hell bent on marrying Maid Marion and being in power. If this show is done again next year, I highly recommend it!

Above: The cast of The Back Room answers questions from internet fans

The majority of the shows I saw were excellent. Still, the ones that were not as weel received come back to the basics. There were a lot of transactions, negotiations, and environmental focus which made the scenes boring; whereas, a reaction or a ‘you’ statement would have made something matter. Additionally, there was a lack of listening sometimes which became evident when group members talked over each other and did not react to what was being said. Other groups were just a bit too zany and unrealistic for me, that’s a personal taste preference though. Some late night shows were interesting bit concepts, but were just unwatchable. Other shows that did not take off were grounded in fear of failure, which definetly was noticeable and gave it an uncertain undertone. Ultimately, those shows consisted of boring safe choices than were not fun for the audience or for the performers. At the end of the day, it’s really about having fun on stage with your choices and following what’s working.

For more information about the Del Close Marathon, visit the website at:

For more information about The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre visit:

Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival

Last week I attended the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal Canada and had saw three excellent shows around the city. This month long festival is an attraction to both comedy connoisseurs, up and coming comedians, and seasoned veterans. Montreal went all out for its annual festival, complete with all the street entertainment you can even imagine. Festivities included Victor, the green alien-like mascot, a diving pool with syncronized-divers, a large festival stage with revival bands, circus acrobat street performers, and a campy game show called The Cheese Quiz. Comedians were also walking around the area, and I was lucky enough to spot comedian Weird Al Yankovic in a downtown park. The festivities started early in the afternoon and kept alive until well after midnight. The festival area, just north of Chinatown, became very crowded on weekend nights of the festival.

Just For Laughs featured a slew of up and coming comedians, performing at smaller venues around the city, in a subset of the festival called Zoo Fest. The line-up for Zoo Fest included Saturday Night Live writer John Mulaney, New York indie comedy favorite Eugene Mirman, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon writer Anthony Jeselnik, stand-up comedian Nick Thune, Comedians of Comedy’s Maria Bamford, Comedy Central’s Paul F. Tompkins, stand-up comedian Ari Shaffir, Comedy Central Presents’s Big Jay Oakerson, as well as seasoned professionals Bill Burr, Robert Kelly, Joe DeRosa. These comedians will be the ones who certainly will become bigger in the next few years and will be playing the mainstage shows. Zoo Fest allowed the public to see these performers in a more intimate setting before they play theatres in the near future.

I was lucky enough to see Zoo Fest comedian Hannibal Burress at Theatre St. Catherine on July 27th. Burress is currently a writer for the show 30 Rock and has written for Saturday Night Live. He has appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and Lopez Tonight.

Burress’ performance was opened up by New York indie comedian Moshe Kasher. Kasher’s style was very confident and somewhat impromptu. He immediately commented on the fact that there were two young teenage boys in the front row and that the mother with them had made an unwise decision to take them to the show. Kasher did lots of crowd work throughout his ten minute set and told a couple stories divulging his lack of ability to fight, his relation to the Jewish faith, and trouble with girls. Overall, the act seemed to meandor a bit, but it definetly got the audience listening and focused for Hannibal Burress. Kasher was a good opener in my opinion because he did not steal the show from the headliner Burress, but he got the audience laughing and ready to laugh even harder.

Hannibal then proceeded to bring the house down. His super-deadpan style and impecable timing was brilliant. He began his set with a somewhat improvised recounting of a jay-walking ticket he got earlier in the day. Burress referred to the police officer giving him a  jay-walking ticket as “clown work.” After this display of confidence of working through a new bit on the spot, he went on to more planned jokes that make up his act. Burress’s act draws from everyday experiences and a lot of observational humor. He is incredibly witty and sets up potent punchlines that are not predictable. The deadpan style highlights his jokes and his crafty writing style is one of the best I have seen. He truely is one of the best joke writers in the business today. Burress’ shows was one of the tightest written acts I have seen and he will certainly become a household name within the next few years. I definetly recommend going out to see Hannibal when he comes to your local comedy club.

(Clip of Hannibal Burress’ performance on Lopez Tonight)

The mainstage showcases at the Just For Laughs festivals where mostly held in the multi-theatre arts centre Place Des Arts.

Shows included:

Best Night Ever featuring Russell Peters, Sebastian Maniscalco, Jimmy Carr, Dom Irrera, and Jeremy Hotz

The Relationship Show featuring Eric Stonestreet, Bob Marley, Tim Minchin, and Robert Kelly

A Tribute To Nerds featuring Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, and Brian Posehn

Craig Ferugson’s International House of Comedy featuring Craig Ferguson, Russell Howard, and Adam Hills

Decline of the American Empire featuring John Oliver and Alonzo Bodden

Other mainstage performers included musical comedians Weird Al Yankovic,  Bo Burnham, and Reggie Watts, British favorite Eddie Izzard, JFL favorite Danny Bhoy, alternative comedian Andy Kindler, Comedy Central Presents’ Tammy Pescatelli, Iranian comic Maz Jobrani, seasoned veterans Bobby Slayton and Caroline Rhea, Last Comic Standing’s Natasha Leggero, comedian Elon Gold, Roast Master General Jeff Ross, Live at Gotham’s Amy Schumer, Chapelle Show’s Donnell Rawlings, Tough Crowd’s Colin Quinn, Whose Line is it Anyway’s Greg Proops, The Nerdist’s Chris Hardwick, and WTF’s Marc Maron.

Additionally showcases such as The Homegrown Talent Competition, New Faces of Comedy, New Faces Characters, Talk of the Fest, Best of the Fest, and Triple Threat were hot spots for comedy agents and the media. The Just For Laughs Comedy Conference gave a behind the scenes look into the business side of comedy. The conference featured a keynote speech by Marc Maron, a state of the industry speech by Andy Kindler, a comedy podcasting discussion led by Greg Proops, and an award presentation to Louis CK for “Comedy Person of the Year.”

I had the privilege to see comedians Louis CK and Daniel Tosh. Unfortunately, Just For Laughs had problems with their ticketing software and had to work around double booking for our seats. After this confusion was all sorted out, everything was smooth sailing.

Louis CK’s show was at the Theatre Maisonneuve at 7 PM on July 28th. Opening up for Louis CK was Parks and Recreation writer Harris Wittels. Wittels seemed to have a low energy and centered around self-deprecating material. He hit some of his jokes, however, most of the act seemed to fall flat and was not very joke-oriented. Overall, he performed the function of an opener very well because he did not steal the thunder for Louis CK but got the people situated for the headliner.

Louis CK was infectuous from the moment he walked out on stage. Being one of my all-time favorite comedians, I did not mind his seemingly unprepared improvised style. Although he did do material that he had obviously planned, CK took time to work out his thought process in the moment and comment on the stand-up he was performing. This style resonated because he knew that he was playing to his own fanbase who would enjoy Louie just being Louie. Ultimately, his performance was still brilliant because he was totally himself. CK always brings a refreshing honesty that is not prevalent enough in stand-up today. His ability to be real with topics such as marriage, raising his kids, sex, and everyday life is brilliant and he has no limits when it comes to content or censorship. This only raises the stakes more and seperates him into an elite club of  contemporary comedians. His self-deprecating, yet very likeable persona and his ability to get behind a subject and boil it down into its basic and sometimes sad truths is a talent that few other comedians possess. Louis CK is a must see and a comedian that if you don’t already know, you should check out.

(Clip of Louis CK’s performance from HBO’s One Night Stand)

Daniel Tosh’s show was at the Theatre Maisonneuve at 7 PM on July 29th. Opening up for Daniel Tosh was up and coming comic Kyle Kinane. He told very interesting stories including his trip to a K-Mart late at night to buy Pajamas and a time that he bought an inflatable life-like person from the back of an “little dirty man’s” car. Kinane’s vulnerability was endeering to the audience and his positive energy made him very likeable to the crowd. I definetly recommend keeping an eye on Kinane as he progresses in the next few years. He has already been featured on John Oliver’s New York Stand Up Show and has a Comedy Central Presents half hour out on Comedy Central.

Daniel Tosh followed Kinane and brought a fresh witty energy. It was nice to see Tosh live because he has matured a lot since his Comedy Central special Completely Serious. His style is now more relaxed with a slower pace. He still deploys jokes that are semi-shock value and pits himself against the audience. Tosh’s style of pitting himself against the audience while allowing them to like him is a risky way to perform. However, he successfully makes himself a likeable smart alec. He covered material that was more linked together than previous specials such as dating, being famous, and sports. Still he had his patented Tosh one-liners thrown in throughout the act which caught the audience off-guard and caused a rowr of laughter. One line that struck well was when Tosh said, “The White House is in a bad neighborhood now…yeah, the economy is terrible…oh, you thought it was because he’s black…you folks are racist.” Overall, I think I used to like Daniel Tosh more than I do now. His style is still very witty and edgy, but his live performance was not as quick and from punchline to punchline. Still, Daniel Tosh is one of the most fun contemporary comedians around. Check him out on Comedy Central with his show Tosh.0.

(Clip of Daniel Tosh’s performance from his Comedy Central special Completely Serious)

If you’re considering attending Just For Laughs next year, I would definetly recommend it. From what I experienced, it is best to buy tickets early so you recieve them in the mail before you leave for the city. Alternatively, you can choose to pick them up at the box office by checking that option if ordering online. There are also branches of the Just For Laughs festival in Chicago and Sydney Australia. If those locations are more convenient for you, I urge you to attend. Ultimately, Montreal is a great city with a European feel that has a burgeoning comedy scene. For more information visit the Just For Laughs website.