It takes an experienced comedian to play several characters that are all visually different and recognizable. It takes a stalwart one to parade these characters in front of the audience, one after the other. So it was impressive to say the least to see six members of Upright Citizens Brigade rewind their parade then bring it back again three or four times, assuming the same roles each time.
The scenario: an assortment of weirdoes trying to get into the Trio Club with one VIP card. The parade included a condor, a gimp, Siamese twins, and a guy so happy he insisted on firing an automatic rifle in the air.
Just a typical night at an Upright show, or as typical as it gets. Touring Company director Eli Newell likes to point out, no two nights are the same. For their opening show at Theatre 99, UCB was represented by Newell, Shannon O'Neill, Neil Casey (Adult Swim's Fat Guy Stuck in Internet), Bobby Moynihan (SNL), Lennon Parham (Parks & Recreation), and Katie Dippold (MTV's Boiling Points).
They kicked things off by inviting a willing volunteer named Lacey onto the stage. Lacey was less willing to provide them with any information about her life, opinions, or experiences, so her friend Madison was called up to channel her thoughts. By the time the slow first 20 minutes of interviewing were over, the performers had plenty of material to improvise an act's worth of comedy scenes: a pathetic welcome home party for a super suicidal woman; a court-ordered therapy session that's improved by a trampoline; a high school Spanish student who brings her buddy Bienvenido along for oral support; and a breast appraisal ("Do these titties look 25 to you?")
Although the company members came from far and wide (including LA), their chemistry bubbled up as the show progressed, suggesting that they work together every week. The tall, amiable Newell led the show but knew when to step aside and let his fellow citizens have fun with a concept. Casey and Moynihan enjoyed playing gay and female characters. Parham, Dippold, and O'Neill got lots of play out of a second act volunteer's tampon bag.
At an hour and a half, the show was packed with ideas, gags, characters, and bonhomie. The languid start was a byproduct of the whole interview-a-volunteer deal. This was a funny first performance that developed multiple memorable characters, made grown men in the audience clap their hands together with glee, and turned regular pastimes — reading a library book, eating in a restaurant — into feats of insanity and hilarity.