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L.A. Foursome

Well, almost. Three of the original UCB members display their trademark rapport in their new home.

Pictured: Matt Besser and Matt Walsh

LOS ANGELES -- Three of the original four Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre members -- Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh -- have been firmly ensconced in their new L.A. theater for about a year now. As a result, this trio, with a few fellow performers, are together most Sunday nights for their own “Asssscat 3000” show, a New York tradition since 1999.

Besser, Roberts and Walsh have improvised together for so long now that they are like a family with each other. It’s very apparent they know each other inside and out, as in their August 27 show, when Besser challenges Roberts to use a cultural reference later than 1995, teasing him as being an old man. (Roberts had filled in a needed song name by saying “The Long and Winding Road.”)

The performers, namely Roberts, heighted the family feeling by even welcoming an audience member to shake his hand on stage (Roberts had supposedly washed after scratching his behind, which had inspired disgust from his stagemates). And actually, the unknown audience member pulled off a comic coup, licking Roberts’ hand then sitting back in his seat stone faced and blank, not laughing at all.

Anyway, performing with Andrew Daly, Sean Conroy and Chad Carter -- all UCB performers who have made the move to L.A. either recently or several years ago to pursue comedic acting opportunities -- the original trio quite effortlessly conjures whole worlds, working off guest monologist Shonali Bhowmik’s stories of life on the road with her rock band.

Daly became an innkeeper reluctant to turn on the lights because of monsters hiding in the shadows), with Walsh as the bewildered guest. Besser, playing one of the scary creatures, strangely said, “AIDS. Fart.” fueling an entire new joke within the scene once Roberts asked him what he meant exactly. “I was reading an article about AIDS. Then I farted and said ‘fart,’ Besser said.

Bhowmik’s story of an ex-boyfriend coming to one of her shows shortly after their break-up, already with a new girlfriend, inspired Carter and Walsh to play a couple, with Walsh in a high voice playing Roberts’ ex-girlfriend, obliviously offering him a DVD of “her” relations with Carter -- complete with extras no less.

All these Sunday night players step into these scenes with ease and explore them extensively, more so than the New York version which can be more ADD-like in its presentation, ending scenes almost as quickly as they are started. Maybe these players have acquired California personalities that makes them laid back so that the situations inspiring them play out longer. Even so, the performance never seems like they are stalling.

It’s New York’s loss that the original UCB trio is only back in town on sporadic occasions, like the recent Del Close Improv Marathon. The familiar atmosphere and rapport with their audience makes watching them do their thing feels like coming home.

 
   

     

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