Upright Citizens Brigade Touring Company brings improv comedy to RCAH WNL

Story by RCAH alumna Christina Igl.

On January 18, 2017, improv comedy group Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) Touring Company took the stage at the first Wednesday Night Live of 2017 at the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities.

UCB was started in the 1990s by Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh. The group has since expanded to Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. Their show aesthetic is self-described as: “improv, stand-up, sketch, talk/variety, and cool weird stuff.”

The RCAH Theater was packed for the unscripted and totally improvised performance. Improvisers Matthew Starr, Lui Vega, AJ Patton, Tanner Dahlin, and Andy Bustillos began the show by choosing an audience member to interview as inspiration for the first half of the show. RCAH junior, Monica Booker, talked to the improvisers about life on campus, friends, and classes.

Many RCAH students and faculty enjoyed the comical sketch of RCAH 292B, Prison Poetry ‘Zine Project, taught by Guillermo Delgado which included lines such as “Day one, we’re going to prison, day two, Syria” and “never stop riding” (drawing upon Delgado’s love of biking).

The second part of the show was inspired by actual text messages either sent or received by audience members.

Sitting in the front row of the RCAH Theater during the entire show was a group of students who participated in the workshop led by UCB member, Tanner Dahlin, earlier in the day.

Eight students from the Roial Improv Players and from RCAH started the workshop by standing in a circle to “drink each other in” or get comfortable enough with the group to cut loose and take risks. They warmed up with the improv concept of “Yes, and” to build off of each other’s ideas by making eye contact and simply saying “yes.”

Next, Dahlin led the group in a reactionary game where they built group mentality in responding to the actions of another member. His advice was: “work together and don’t try to stand out too much. Find your groove.”

“The way to create great scene work,” said Dahlin, “is to keep it based in reality showing the audience who, what, and where you are.” From there, they spoke about “gifting” or the endowment of a character trait to another person to take the scene to the next level. There were characters who liked cats a little too much, someone who had feet the size of skis and more in that exercise. 

Dahlin gave prompts and feedback to the students who were working in pairs to refine their skills and then did the same as the whole team put all the concepts from the workshop together for a 15 minute show with the advice “hold on to the simple game.”  

Dahlin, who started improv when he was in high school and has been working with UCB since 2010, had a wealth of information and advice to give students who participated in the workshop from what kind of improv classes to take, how to “make it” in improv, touring, and auditioning for UCB teams. His last piece of advice, the secret to improving at improv, was “do it as much as possible, watch it as much as possible.”

Upon leaving the workshop, RCAH student and Roial Improv Player, Jess Black, exclaimed that the workshop was a blast and that “he [Dahlin] gave us some great feedback, tips, and advice that we can use to improve our technique!”

The next Wednesday Night Live will take place in the RCAH Theater at 7 p.m. on February 22, 2017, featuring photographer Joshua Kristal.

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