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Matt Besser Brings Improv For Humans To Virginia

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted:

Matt Besser
Matt Besser is touring his new film and teaching improv along the way.

One of the founding members of the Upright Citizens Brigade, Matt Besser is coming to Richmond and Arlington touring his new film, "Freak Dance." A parody that has more in common with "Strangers With Candy" than "Scary Movie," the movie creates its own absurd world about dance troupes. In addition to screening the film, Besser is leading improv workshops.

The Huffington Post spoke with Besser before his Wednesday workshop in Richmond and Thursday screening in Arlington.

The Huffington Post: Why are you taking the film on the road?

Matt Besser: We didn't get a theatrical distributor. I wanted it to be seen in theaters and I wanted to do what we're doing now. Get out the word.

I'm from the south and wanted to tour there. We started there. When I was living in Little Rock I remembered what it was like when no one would come to my town.

HuffPost: Why are you teaching while on tour?

Besser: It's the only thing I'm really good it. It's what I do when I'm on tour, I do improv workshops.

HuffPost: Who do you want to show up to these classes?

Besser: I'm calling it, I hope it's not pretentious, a lecture because not everyone does get up. I'd like all experience levels to come. It's more me talking about the UCB process of improv. How we talk about it. The semantics and our methodology. I'm putting it into a nutshell in two hours. You may not understand everything I'm saying because I'm talking about the language of improv. I'm talking about a lot of the words different schools of improv use and what they mean from our school.

I'll be talking about the philosophy of what we teach. It's more of a dialogue than about getting on stage.

HuffPost: What do you recommend for people that don't live in New York or L.A. that want to learn improv?

Besser: We've been writing a book about improv over the last five years. A big, old improv text book. We wanted to write it so that someone that has zero improv can understand it and learn it. Most books assume you've taken a class.

We made an ASSCAT live performance DVD a few years back, it's a pretty good DVD, but maybe the best part is the non-comedic, non sarcastic commentary track where we break down our moves on stage. It's like football analysis.

HuffPost: Would the Upright Citizens Brigade ever set up a school other than in New York or L.A.?

Besser: Um, no, probably not. We thought about it and we're still flirting with doing it in Austin, but I don't know. We don't want to spread ourselves too thin. It's also natural that if you want to get into professional comedy you have to move to New York or L.A. eventually because there's more of a population of comedians. Even as I say that, I'm thinking of the places we've already been on this tour. I was at this place called the Dirty South Improv Theater in Raleigh and it was a small space but it was really cool. We were in Jacksonville and there was a scene. In D.C. the improv scene is really large.

I was looking at the number of groups that submitted to our Del Close Marathon and I'd say D.C. had, outside of Chicago, L.A. and New York, D.C. had the most submissions.

HuffPost: How did "Freak Dance" come about?

Besser: The original inspiration came from what happened to our original theater in New York City in 2001. Because we didn't have a second exit since we had no alley, most of New York has no alleys, the city shut us down and that took away all of our money. We had to do these big improv shows to raise money to open a new theater. It reminded me of all those dance movies where the community center shuts down. They have to win the big dance contest. That got me looking at "Electric Boogaloo" and that was around the time "You Got Served" was released which started the new wave of dance movies.

I grew up in the 80s when breaking was cool and then it got corny in the 90s and it became cool again with all these choreographed B-Boy dance crews. I wanted to make a movie like that combined with the same feel as a "Rocky Horror Picture Show." We wanted to create our own world in the movie.

HuffPost: So it's a stylized parody?

Besser: It's stylized and weird and a lot of it doesn't have anything to do with dance movies per se. In our world all of the problems are caused by one of two things, the dancers or the weed ghetto. In our movie, weed has killed a lot of people. In our world the selling of weed helps terrorists. We made it the number one killer.

HuffPost: What are you looking forward to?

Besser: The tour is what I've been looking forward to. This is what I've been working on. I've wanted to put this on the road. I've also been enjoying my podcast "Improv 4 Humans."

HuffPost: Are you approaching the podcast it differently since it's just audio?

Besser: It's different than improvising on stage. Not having the laughter and the audience and no object work. We found a few ways to be more descriptive. I think there's something gained by having the only audio format. It's softer, more subtle. Stuff that's a little smaller works better in an audio format. Slapstick is lost.

HuffPost: Are you still performing as much as you did when you lived in New York?

Besser: I'll probably never stop improvising. If I don't get up and do ASSCAT once a week, I get a weird feeling inside. I'll still do solo stuff. It's not really stand up. I'll go up and do conceptual bits. It's more like Steve Martin or Andy Kaufman. Something I did a few nights ago was a guy that wanted to tell the most jokes ever in a minute, didn't care about laughter, just the record.

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