Last weekend’s Del Close Marathon got me thinking a lot about my formative years as a student and intern at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. The theatre’s current crop of performers are super solid, however the teams and people I came up watching will forever hold a place in my heart. You can hear them in my voice as a writer, see them when I perform, and I wouldn’t have been nearly as motivated to work on my craft without their inspiration.
It should be no surprise to you that most of these people have gone on to crazy awesome success, and I am super grateful to have gotten to see them at Harold Night in their humble basement-under-a-grocery-store beginnings. These are the improvisers that kept me going back to UCB night after night and the people I’m always excited to see again.
The Shoves– Whenever I talk about Harold Night team “The Shoves,” I lose my breath a little. They were just that good. Zach Woods, Erik Tanouye, Risa Sang-urai, Sarah Burns, Lennon Parham, Angeliki George, Bobby Moynihan, and Charlie Sanders were improv and teamwork at its finest. I’ll never forget their sports-themed Harold and the crazy-high level of commitment they gave to every scene and every character. Every scene was done like it was the last they’d ever do, which is the way it always should be.
Mailer Daemon– Mailer Daemon always struck me as the cool kids of Harold Night. They had a weekly zine they’d hand out and were totally hip with their comedy. The coolest part though, was how they did killer improv sets like it wasn’t a thing. The MD I remember is Eric Appel, Jon Gabrus, Dominic Dierkes, Kevin Hines, Matt Moses, Shannon O’Neill, Ben Rodgers, and Gavin Spieller. They took risks, they made noise, and they employed an organic technique that changed long-form for the future. The things Mailer Daemon were doing spilled into all subsequent classes and training sessions and we all wanted to perform just like them. Also, they performed at a benefit I put together for Gilda’s Club for which I will forever be grateful.
FWAND– FWAND was born out of Mailer Daemon and continued their badass legacy. When watching, I had a regular fantasy of them asking me to sit in, as I wanted to be a part of the magic that they were doing. FWAND was Dominic Dierkes, Shannon O’Neil, Jon Gabrus, Sean Hart, Kevin Hines, Ellie Kemper, Gil Ozeri, Greg Tuculescu, and Chelsea Clarke… aka The Dream Team. I want to go back in time and rewatch some of their shows. They were the moments Youtube was invented for.
Hot Sauce– I still can’t hear Beastie Boys’ “Sure Shot” without thinking of Ben Schwartz, Adam Pally, Gil Ozeri, and the awesomeness that was Hot Sauce. They were fast-paced, doing about 15,ooo scenes per set, and didn’t have time for anything that wasn’t at the top of their game. These dudes also knew how to WORK. They were constantly writing and creating content and to this day I use them and their success as motivation to keep my tushy writing. I was lucky to witness their marathon cage match run and was always impressed how they filled up the stage despite only being three people. Gil would play like 6 characters at one time, and all the boys would break a sweat pretty quickly. They wouldn’t ever give anything less than their all and I did everything I could to follow their example.