Upright Citizen’s Brigade brings some lighthearted fun to UNCW

Helen Rogalski, Managing Editor

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The Upright Citizens Brigade touring company came to UNC Wilmington on Wednesday, March 23. Commonly referred to as UCB, the Upright Citizens Brigade is an improvisational comedy group that was created by a group of comedians, including the ultra-famous Amy Poehler, in the 1990s.

Wednesday’s show featured four cast members, two men and two women, appearing to be in their mid-twenties to thirties.

The comedy troupe performed a version of long form improvisation. This means there aren’t any pre-rehearsed sketches; everything was made up on the spot, according to the audience.

UCB had a lively introduction followed by a slow start because of their need to gather material from the audience. The performers chose volunteers and asked them to share an embarrassing or funny story. They had three students share their material, and then allowed the audience to applaud for which story they would most like improvisations to be made up from.

The story that gained the most applause was one of a girl who rode her bike down the steps of the amphitheater, drunk, and wound up crashing and getting a concussion. The story seemed to be funny, painful and relatable to both the audience and the performers. The volunteer, Caroline, was a great sport.

One of the female performers sat Caroline down on stage and asked her to elaborate on the story in detail. She answered questions about who she was with (two male friends), what they were drinking (tequila), and where they were biking to and from (Cookout). Then, they asked her further questions about her life, job and family.

This process was a lengthy one, however seeing her personal stories played out in a combination of truth and randomness was very entertaining and crowd pleasing. It seemed as though they extracted every detail from her stories and exaggerated them with fact, fiction and comedy.

Key parts of Caroline’s story were reoccurring throughout different sketches. For example, one of the friends she was with did a concussion test on her after she wiped out on her bike. She briefly mentioned that her friend’s mom was a nurse, so we had an idea of what was going on. One comic would often interject, “Wait guys, my mom was a nurse,” and infer that she knew better than the others in many different settings. This was a crowd favorite.

Sketches were created about anything and everything, based loosely off of Caroline’s story. Ancestors joined World War II on the wrong side because they were drunk. People would skateboard off of ten-story high buildings. Brothers-in-law were turned into super-douches with frosted tips.

In addition, they took inspiration from Caroline’s work in the fast food industry. She spoke of an old woman who came in everyday at 3 pm and ordered the exact same thing: two small root beers, two small fries and two chicken soups, just for her. She would come in, order, then eat both orders there, alone.

The comedy troupe played onto this heavily, creating a complete sketch of this story. As they played it out, one member acted as the woman, and another acted as a tiny head attached to her torso, thus explaining why there would be two orders of everything. They played out the story, which turned into a romance between a fast food worker and the old woman. Again, the crowd loved it.

While the first act was based off of Caroline’s personal experiences in several sketches back to back, the second act of UCB took a different route. For the final part of the show, the comedians gained their inspiration from texts off of audience members’ phones.

These included texts about women being compared to a dolphin in a sexual manner, spelling errors about “poocorn” and someone’s genitals being shot off with a gun. Through this material, the comedians were able to have more freedom with where their sketches went. While these sketches were more sporadic, it allowed for a better impression of the UCB as individual performers.

Overall, the show was a crowd pleaser. While not even half of the Burney Center was filled, the audience was present and engaged. Although it came from a slow start, the Upright Citizens Brigade touring company provided UNCW with personal experiences turned humerus, impulsive creativity and a view into the extensive world of improvisation.