One of the first sold-out shows at the UCB improv marathon was the "Daily Show/Colbert Report Improv Jam," featuring writers and correspondents from those shows, or, in the case of Ed Helms, ex-correspondents who went on to totally steal Jim's proposal thunder on The Office. These gentlemen — seven of them, and no women (TCR's Laura Krafft had to pull out last minute) — spent in the neighborhood of an hour riffing scenes off monologues inspired by various words from the audience (the first one was "broccoli"). They were, in no particular order: TCR writer Peter Gwinn, TDS correspondents Wyatt Cenac, Rob Riggle and John Oliver, Helms, and TCR writers Rob Dubbin and Eric Something, I didn't catch it but he's the skinny guy in the brown striped shirt, and at one point he yelled out "Tase him, bro!" which was very funny.
Like school plays, shaky footage from the third balcony of a concert and home sex tapes, it's never as good on video as it is in person. That's because improv comedy exists on two levels: As the story unfolding on stage — however it may evolve — and as a private joke shared with the audience, who know that the show is being entirely made up on the spot, which makes for a deliciously wobbly fourth wall. That's amplified by the fact that often long-form improv is inspired by a real-life monologue told by a cast member — a story from their past that is clearly recognizable in the scenes to follow, often to hilarious effect.
The following two videos demonstrate this quite neatly. Oh yeah, content advisory: These people are comedy writers, off the air, and boys. So don't expect knock-knock jokes. See below:
Ed Helms' Monologue - Chuck E. Cheese
Scene - "Magic Douche" (those are the first words Rob Riggle yells in the scene, which I missed, but which the audience is responding to, and upon which the players build):
Scene - "Balloon Race":Here's another, more random scene, but don't stop there because the best stuff comes after:
O-kay. That ends our videos, because my camera battery ran out. But my pen and paper didn't! So I can bring you two moments that, to me, where the highlights of the evening. Neither were improv, actually - both were monologues. The UCB is something of a truth crucible - that fourth-wall-inside-joke feeling with the audience makes it feel like a pretty damn safe space, and the stories often veer to the personal. (Go to enough AsssCats on Sunday nights and you will learn a loooot, often about some fairly well-known monologists.)
Rob Riggle, who has this excitable, explosive, just-this-side of dangerous quality (perhaps from his time as a Marine) told a great story on the topic of bad jobs. He opened thusly:
I've had shitty jobs, I think we've all had shitty jobs. If you haven't had a shitty job, go out and get one, because it's a real character builder. Ah, let's see...SNL!
Awe-some. For those who may not recall, Riggle was, shall we say, under-utilized on SNL for a season (2004-2005), and then let go, only to be scooped up by the Daily Show for a fantastic second comedic act. Anyhow, his job was something manual (lifting things on to a truck, I can't quite remember) but he took it at his grandfather's urging (something about not being "a pussy") and earned a whopping $120/week to work alongside the following colleagues (and I'm paraphrasing): Vernell, who was on a work-release from prison, having served 8 years o a 20 year sentence (Riggle: "I never asked."); Dwayne, who drove the forklift and "was a pimp"; and Davy, a Vietnam vet who didn't have any teeth (and I think sometimes went sorta crazy - that's from my memory, not from my notes). Apparently it took until halfway through the summer for them to acknowledge Rob and invite them to join him for lunch, which meant piling into a tiny car and going 100 mph to the liquor store ("I sat bitch...I know it was 100 mph because the speedometer was right in front of me"). There, they'd split I think he said 2 six-packs and two bottles of alcohol (I should know what kind and how much, but I think I got caught up in the story). Point being, they'd been doing that all summer. We're just glad Rob survived it so he could go on to be funny for the rest of us.
(From the scene riffing of that one: "Over here's accounting, over here is billing, and I'm a pimp.")
This, however, was the craziest story of the night: Wyatt Cenac told the story of how someone contacted him through his MySpace page and informed him that he had...a sister. He was skeptical at first, but polite (he said he'll never turn down a friend request because he didn't "want to be a dick"). The person was persistent, and somehow connected him to a woman who was, actually, his sister: Turns out his dad had fathered a number of different children by a number of different women: "My sister, another sister, then another brother...I have a family I never knew anything about." I reached Cenac via Facebook, (where he proved the easy touch promised and added me immediately), and confirmed the numbers: "It's 3 brothers and 1 sister (possibly 2)."
Depending on what you were hoping to get out of this post, this may qualify as "burying the lede." You may think that the newly-discovered family members of a Daily Show correspondent is bigger news, but in the hierarchy of comedy, "Magic Douche" obviously had to come first.