NYC Top Comedy Choices for Wednesday 8/10/11

August 10, 2011

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For comprehensive coverage of the spectacular FringeNYC 2011 Festival, please click here.

Ian Roberts

It's a blowout evening at UCBT that includes a rare NYC performance by improv master & Upright Citizens Brigade co-founder Ian Roberts...

Justin Purnell

...and the universally loved Justin Purnell's last edition of School Night

Tonight’s recommendations for the best in New York City comedy (in chronological order, with top picks noted and shows over $10 marked with $) include:

[FREE] 6:00 pm to midnight: Six free hours of improvisation at The PIT’s Super Free Wednesday

[$] 7:00 pm (no cover if you mention you came for Brooke Van Poppelen, but 2-drink min.) NYC stand-ups—including the beloved Brooke Van Poppelen (brilliant stand-up, writer, and storyteller; blogger for trutV; TLC; co-host of Dive Comedy; for stand-up videos about overindulging at 30 and impersonating Morrisey, please click here and here)—audition for the chance to appear on Comedy Central’s upcoming Comics to Watch show by performing their best material tonight at the Carolines Comedy Club: Comics to Watch Auditions

8:00 pm, 9:00 pm, and 10:00 pm ($5): Magnet house troupes performing improv, followed by a free show at 11:30 pm: The Magnet’s Megawatt

[TOP PICK] 8:00 pm ($12): This top musical improv troupe has wowed audiences around the world with its skill at making up an hour-long musical moment by moment. The plot and characters, the musical accompaniment, even the song lyrics and the “choreography” are invented on the spot, with no pre-planned structure. Please note this is among the last chances to enjoy improv genius Tara Copeland on an NYC stage before Tara moves to LA next month. Come see why BWC won aFringeNYC Award for Outstanding Unique Theatrical Event by catching any or all of this five-night run (through Friday) at the Hudson Guild Theatre (441 West 26th Street): Baby Wants Candy

8:00 pm ($5—which includes a free beer!): NYC stand-ups (not announced) performing stand-up atThe Creek upstairs theatre in Queens’ Long Island City hosted by Nick Turner: Monsters

[TOP PICK] 8:00 pm ($5): Frankly, watching a guy singlehandedly recreate a Step By Step-like sitcom didn’t sound that interesting to me. Then persistent PR wiz Leila Cohan-Miccio pushed me to see it—and am grateful she did. Seth Kirschner (30 Rock, Lipstick Jungle) lavishes astonishing care to the nuanced movements, facial expressions, and concise dialogue of every character he portrays. His sheer joy at representing subtle details gives this show a depth that transcends the source material; and even though I never watched 90s family sitcoms, I felt like their DNA had been imprinted into my being—warm fuzzy feelings and all—by the time the 30 minutes flew by. Seth Kirschner is an exceptionally talented comedic performer whose passion for both pop culture and the craft of acting shine through in this production. I’m still not sure recreating a sitcom is the best use of his immense talent…but I can’t argue with the result, which is one of the finest shows to grace the UCBT stage this year: Sertainly Seth

[MEGA-TOP PICK] 9:30 pm ($5): An excerpt of my coverage of the 2007 Del Close Marathon:

  • Ian Roberts performed two 30-minute monologues titled Lazy Man, because he claims to be too lazy to plan and script a one-man show. Instead, Roberts did something incredibly courageous: he dug deep to connect with his fears and hopes, and shared them with the audience unplanned and in the moment.Roberts’ first show revolved around how entering his 40s has led to giving up many of his youthful dreams of glory: “I thought I’d be a multimillion dollar actor. Now I’m not sure I’ll even be a $16,000 actor.” On the up side, it’s also given him a more relaxed perspective: “I’ve been exhausted for a long time about nothing; things that really don’t matter. Now I look at the sky and the clouds, and realize how small I am; which makes all my troubles tiny and insignificant.” The father of young children, part of him feels harassed by the responsibilities; but then he’ll pick up his baby with love and say, “It wasn’t your idea to be here.” Still, Roberts can’t help worrying about his kids: “They don’t know they’ll get kicked in the teeth when they go out into the world and people tell them their f*cking drawings don’t look anything like what they think they do.” Roberts lamented that there’s no way to win with child-rearing: “It’s like you’re told to move some precious Steuben Glass piece across the country. And so you wrap it up in styrofoam and heavy wood and do everything you can to protect it. And then when it finally arrives safely, it screams at you, ‘You ruined me! You suffocated me in styrofoam! You imprisoned me in wood! No one got to see me, or play with me!! And I’ve never learned how not to break!!!'” Roberts said he’s lucky in that his main task is to make money; his wife handles the truly difficult job, and the one that matters, which is raising the kids. Which isn’t to say Roberts doesn’t pitch in; for example, he makes up little rituals to help put his daughter to bed. Problem was, his daughter used to insist on keeping each ritual she enjoyed, and Roberts couldn’t stop himself from creating new ones to entertain her, so the “getting to bed” experience grew longer and longer until it was taking more than an hour each night. Roberts finally convinced his daughter to put some rituals in rotation “to be revived periodically, like a repertory theatre.” Finally, with age comes wisdom such as this: “I now realize we’re all f*cked up. And there’s a certain comfort in that.”

    Roberts’ second show focused on a series of awful experiences he’s had as an actor. These included a commercial shoot that required having meat taped to his pants so a dog would snap at his leg; an audition for a part consisting entirely of the words, “Too bad,” and the casting director asking “Can you put a little more into that?”; and an audition with a big-name actor who apparently felt the appropriate “in the moment” action was to kick Roberts in the ass. Regarding the latter, Roberts said he should’ve grabbed the star by the shoulders and thrown him against the wall; but Roberts simply thanked everyone for the opportunity and left…without even getting the part.

    The acting tales shed light on one of Roberts’ favorite characters, a retarded guy who’s surprisingly cunning. To navigate the Hollywood system, Roberts has undoubtedly often played dumb—because it would dent egos to let on he was by far the smartest guy in the room.

    Roberts concluded, “May you be braver than I.” I’d say that misses the mark, though, because his recounting of the incidents—and the other ways in which Roberts made himself emotionally vulnerable and open, while never for a second neglecting to entertain—was jaw-droppingly brave, even for a master improvisor.

As I write this, tonight’s edition of Ian’s show hasn’t yet sold out. Guys, this is a rare opportunity to experience a genius at his best. Grab tickets immediately for Ian Roberts: Lazy Man

[MEGA-TOP PICK] 9:30 pm ($5): Scott Adsit (cast member of 30 Rock, and co-writer/director/producer & cast member of Adult Swim’s awesome & Emmy-winning Moral Orel) teaming up with fellow 30 Rock actor John Lutz (who previously spent six years as a staff writer forSaturday Night Live) to form a super-smart and hilarious star improv duo who should not be missed…and are performing tonight and tomorrow at the Hudson Guild Theatre (441 West 26th Street): John & Scott

[MEGA-TOP PICK] [FREE] 11:00 pm: Host Justin Purnell (The Colbert Report) has hosted this wonderful show more than 350 times over the past eight years. I considered School Night the beating heart of UCBT—a place where anyone Justin believed deserved a chance could try out ideas and material in a casual late-night environment. Some of NYC’s best comedy shows were birthed on this supportive stage. Every week Justin packed a dozen or more comics into 75 minutes performing stand-up, improv, sketch, and occasionally acts that defy categorization. The level of talent varied wildly, but for some (like me), that was part of the laid-back fun; and this was often one of the most amazing comedy shows in town—which is why it was my pleasure to support the experimentation, and periodic magical surprises, that this uniquely organic rollercoaster of a show made possible.

The show is slated to continue past tonight, but Justin is leaving his hosting duties to go to (ironically) business school. However superb the guest hosts, it won’t be the same without him.

Come enjoy this blowout finale, which includes star stand-ups Janeane Garofalo and Todd Barry, world-class improv troupes Rogue Elephant, Krompf, and Doppelganger, and other ace comics—and don’t forget to toss $1 in the bucket on your way out: School Night

[FREE] 11:00 pm: Open-mic stand-up running until 1:00 am, with time divided evenly between performers (up to five minutes), at The Creek downstairs lounge in Queens’ Long Island City with host Rob Stern: Bucket ‘O Buckets

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