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Entries in The UCBT (4)


Michael Patrick O'Brien: SHATTER @ The UCBT - 7.7.10

By: Paul Gale

SHATTER is a journey into the absurd notepad of Michael Patrick O'Brien, a former Second City Mainstage performer, founding member of the Chicago improv troupe The Reckoning, and current SNL writer.

With SHATTER, O'Brien creates a spectacular hour-long solo show, filled with bizarre short scenes and smart satire, which is sometimes gut-wrenchingly funny.  Like any form of art, comedy is just as much about what's not there, and O'Brien's one-sided conversations, as well as a glass-aided makeout session, highlight the humor in the absent.

I talked to the now Emmy-nominated man behind the (giraffe) mask while we were waiting for John Lutz' and Peter Grosz' 2 Square to start. We discussed his process as well as what he's currently up to.

What's the difference between writing at Second City and SNL?
Almost all of the writing at SNL is group--you write with one or two other people, so that similarity actually translated nicely--getting together with people in a room to talk about something until it makes you laugh. The difference is at Second City, the writers would put up the sketch together, and for SNL, we hand it over to the actors, who might even be in the room with you while you're writing it. With Saturday Night, instead of getting more nervous, I am kind of done, you know? At 11:30, I hand it over to the trusty actors, and I'm like "You guys are hilarious, go rock it," whereas my nerves used to get heightened at Second City as the evening came, because I had to perform it.

So, when you're writing for yourself, do you go through the same motions? Is it harder to write by yourself?
Writing for myself, for a solo show like this, is easy because it's not as regimented of a process as writing other material. I don't set down a time, sit, and mathematically calculate solo stuff. This is all of the stuff that comes into my head while life is happening. I have a little notebook where I keep these ideas. So it's actually kind of a by-product.

Is this show especially fun, now that most of your work is behind the scenes?
Definitely. I love getting to go back to Chicago and do a Reckoning show too, because I miss playing with people. But the cool thing about solo work is that you can control everything, which is also the fun thing about group work -- you can't control, and you have to learn that lesson: something goes weird, and you just have to go with it and be weird. But with a solo show, I can literally be like "I want this song, at this volume, at this point in the song." For example, during SHATTER, I picked the middle of the Black Eyed Peas song to get loud, because it's most annoying there. For a somewhat-control freak like myself, the solo work is fun for that reason.  After a lot of that, I just want to be with a group, and let it be a mess.

Yes, that Black Eyed Peas part was a very weird, very great part of the show. How long is the run?
Well, this was to get me ready for the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival and then one more here on July 26th. This is the first performance here, besides the one I did in March.

Anything else you'd like to let the readers know about?
Well, The Reckoning will be at the Del Close Marathon in a couple of weeks. I'm also going up at little open mikes, but those are just me starting to figure out standup.

Had you done any standup in Chicago?
Oh, probably only five times the entire time I was there.

Wasn't your thing?
No, it's just that I had four improv projects, three others that I was coaching, and your time just gets eaten up by it. I wanted it to be my thing, but I just never got out to do it.

Catch both The Reckoning as well as one last performance of SHATTER at the UCB Theater later this month.


From Behind the Bar at the UCBT - IV - By: Margot Leitman

After working at the UCB Theatre bar for almost three years, I've discovered that I have an endless amount of stories to tell. The job was offered to me a while back because I needed a little extra income as my relationship with the UCB theatre community was growing. I've appreciated my experiences working behind the bar at UCB as much as my experiences performing there. Here are some tales I thought I'd share with you this time around. JUST LENDING A HAND There have been countless circumstances where I have been bartending and had to jump onstage to do a bit part. Mostly it's a last minute stand up set when someone hasn't shown up, one time I ran backstage put on a wig, a slutty dress, and some smeared lipstick and did a Courtney Love impression in a crazy bit show... things like that. So one night, one of our more well known performers was doing a bit in a show where he played a purposefully bad stand up comic. He asked me before he went on if about three quarters of the way through his set if I would heckle him from the bar and yell, "You raped me!" He gave me the cue to say the line and I was good to go. I stood watching the show from the bar, and when he finally got onstage, I waited intently for the cue. Just as my cue was coming, like clockwork, a woman came up to the bar and ordered a Bud Lite. I grabbed the beer from the cooler, put it on the counter screamed "You raped me!" at the comedian and then looked at the woman, smirked and said "That will be three dollars please." The look on her face was priceless; moments like that make me love this job. LATE NIGHTS AT THE DEL CLOSE MARATHON I can't believe that in all of the previous columns I have never mentioned the Del Close Marathon. The DCM happens once a year for a three day period over the summer. It's nonstop improvisation from groups from all over the country, and I have bartended the mayhem that is the DCM for the past three years. It's a lot of fun, and somehow after every shift, I always end up onstage in some crazy late night show performing some bizarre form of improv. One year I got off shift, threw on a makeshift "sexy turtle" costume and found myself onstage, almost immediately getting lifted up by Rob Riggle and passed around through a crowd of improvisers. The following year, from behind the bar, I saw some chick walking around wearing remnants of the sexy turtle costume that I had been planning on revamping for an encore performance of the previous year's debauchery. I actually had someone cover me at the bar for a moment so I could go confront the situation. I found the stranger wearing the turtle shell and said, "You probably weren't aware of this, but I'm the sexy turtle. You're going to have to take that off, I was the sexy turtle last year, I'm going to be it this year and basically every year thereafter. I'm sorry, but you're going to have to take off the turtle shell, please." She slowly acquiesced, justifiably looking at me like I was crazy. I went back to work, and realized that I had, as a grown woman, actually just had someone cover my bar so I could defend a handmade turtle costume. I have these moments all the time where I think to myself some variation of, "I'm a grownup, and I'm battling some stranger for the rights to a felt turtle shell." And then I have a second thought, "Maybe I've beat the system. Most grownups have mortgages and babies and divorces to worry about." CHANGING TIMES In the three years I've worked at the UCB theatre, I've seen a lot of changes. When I first started working there, Owen Burke was the artistic director. I came into work one night and for some reason everyone thought it was my birthday and felt terribly that I had been scheduled to work. It was actually not my birthday, but the day before my birthday. But nonetheless, I received a card signed by all the people there that night including Rachael Mason, Matt Besser, Owen Burke, Chuck D, I can't remember everyone. Then Owen came up to the bar and placed one white carnation in a tiny vase on the bar and said "Real sorry you have to work on your birthday." I couldn't bear to tell him that it actually was not my birthday, so I just simply thanked him. But when someone is running an operation as significant to comedy as the UCB Theatre and still takes the time to place a tiny white flower on the bar for one of his employees, it makes you realize why this place is so special, why it has such a following. As big as it has become, the human aspect of it will always remain, it's not corporate comedy. All founders and people in charge have very hands on relationships with both the theatre itself and its employees and performers. The night the Red Sox won the World Series I was working. I went to the back to restock and Matt Walsh was sitting back there alone watching the game on a tiny TV with barely any reception, with a long antennae that actually had tin foil attached to it. He said, "Margot, stop working for a second, you gotta see this." I stopped and sat with Walsh backstage staring at that tiny black and white TV as the curse of the Red Sox was finally being lifted. It was so surreal. I know Walsh probably has a nice big screen TV back home in LA, but he'll always be watching the proverbial "game" on that rickety TV backstage at UCB with old friends like me. See Margot live, away from the bar TONIGHT, March 7 at 9PM as she co-hosts "Stripped Stories" with Giulia Rozzi at Mo Pitkins. This month "My first..." true sex stories with Greg Walloch, Adira Amram and video editor Jon Levin. PREVIOUSLY From Behind the Bar at the UCBT - III From Behind the Bar at the UCBT - II From Behind the Bar at the UCBT - I

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From Behind the Bar at The UCBT - II - By: Margot Leitman

After working at the UCB Theatre bar for almost three years, I've discovered that I have an endless amount of stories to tell. The job was offered to me a while back because I needed a little extra income as my relationship with the UCB theatre community was growing. I've appreciated my experiences working behind the bar at UCB as much as my experiences performing there. Here are some tales I thought I'd share with you this time around. Groupies This one time a very well-known and very attractive comedian was in town and made an appearance in a UCB show. He literally walked off stage, walked up to me at the bar, introduced himself to me and said, "I'm going out right now to get a drink, how about you come?" I said, "I can't, I'm working." He asked until when and I told him about midnight (it was around 8:15 at the time). He responded, "You want me to wait?" I said, "No, that's a really long time to wait. You don't have to wait four hours at a bar for me just to grab one drink." Then I realized, Ooh, he's talking about sex! He wants me to meet him after I get off work to have sex with him! Wow! I am being thoroughly propositioned. There was a long awkward pause as he stared intently at me, wondering if I understood what he was really saying. He was so hot and confident that I uncontrollably and almost robotically handed him my phone number. Although I had no intention of meeting up with him or sleeping with him, I was impressed with his technique and thought it at least warranted a phone number. When I'm working it's usually cute, awkward, kind of dorky guys that hit on me. But something about his fearlessness--walk off stage, walk up to bartender, ask her out immediately... really appealed to me. He acted like a rock star, and I understood why comedians now have groupies as well. The most I've ever gotten was a bouquet of red roses and an e-mail saying he was in love with me, from an awkward seventeen year old who came to see my one person show many, many times. This guy walks off stage and gets laid. Awesome. Comedians as Rock Stars I've worked some shows where some very big names in comedy perform. I'm very used to it, and a lot of times I end up having great conversations with them, probably because they all remember having their survival jobs as well. One night David Cross was performing and he came over to the bar to get a drink and we ended up chatting for a bit. He walked away and then I turned my back to refill something. When I turned back around a part of the cash register was missing (the sheet where we scan the merchandise). I was confused as to where it had gone and then remembered that a fan had been lingering behind David the entire time we were talking. Cross had been leaning on the sheet and the only conclusion I could come to was that the lingering fan had waited until I turned my back to grab the sheet that Cross had touched. The fan just wanted to own something that had been touched by David Cross. As extreme as I thought that was when it happened I realized how significant comedy is to our generation. My parents own crushed up brick dust from one of the bricks that constructed the Beatles original rehearsal space. They paid a lot of money because they believed it embodied the sounds and history that was made in that space. To this kind of obsessive fan, David Cross was his version of the Beatles, and that scan sheet that he touched somehow possessed comedy genius and history. The icons of comedy have become just as important as rock stars. The Family Throughout the years I have worked at UCB, I have developed some close relationships with the other people that work there. The people that make that place work: the interns the managers, the technicians, the other bartenders. One night we were closing up and one of my all time favorite interns came running into the box office saying, "Guys, Oh my God! I just found a whole cake in the audience!" The house manager made an executive decision--"Well, let's slice that shit up!" I, being the only female working as usual, took the motherly role, and grabbed a plastic knife and served slices to all the guys on paper towels. While chowing down with my bare hands I said to the guys, "This is what working here with all you dudes has done to me. I used to be a lady! I used to style my hair, watch what I ate, appreciate the finer things in life. Now I'm slicing up some stranger's mystery cake with a plastic knife in the basement of Gristedes. And strangely I'm perfectly happy." Often at work I feel like the Marilu Henner character on "Taxi." I'm the only woman surrounded by a nutty cast of characters who I work with and have grown to adore. And I am seriously trying to listen when they discuss their video games in depth with me, I really am. You can see Margot live and away from the bar this Wednesday in her new show, co-hosted by Giulia Rozzi, Stripped Stories -- a monthly storytelling show featuring true sex stories on a theme. This month: embarrassing sex. With: Adam Wade, Reggie Watts and make-up artist Adriana Lomysh. Wed. Jan. 3 at 9PM at Mo Pitkins, Ave A and 3rd. FREE! PREVIOUSLY From Behind the Bar of the UCBT - I

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From Behind the Bar at The UCBT - By: Margot Leitman

Image Hosted by I have worked part-time as a bartender at the UCB Theatre for almost three years now. There have been times when I have desperately needed the money and times when I have not needed it at all. I've kept the job for this long because in this crazy business of entertainment, it's nice to have something stable amidst the uncertainty of auditions, writing submissions, and the general lack of financial security comedy provides. Here are some great moments in UCB bartending I would like to share. NAMEDROPPING One time I was working a private party, and this guy from The Strokes (the one with the huge hair) insisted on leaning on the bar exit (the thing I have to flip up to scoot out) all night. albert.jpgFor four hours every time I had to re-stock, throw something out, use the bathroom etc., I had to say "excuse me" to him, to which he would move and then immediately return back to that annoying spot to lean. Everyone knows that's a bad place to stand, at any bar. One month later, I was doing a sketch on Conan O'Brien, and I was changing in the dressing room. As I exited, the door bashed right into that same guy from the Strokes. "Excuse me," I said. He looked at me, recognized me and said "Hey! You again!" That dude is always in my fucking way. BITS It's crazy how many people try to do a funny bit with me simply because they're buying beer at a comedy venue. I have literally said to people "Take your bit outside!" Usually people laugh at comments like that, because it falls under the "sassy bartender cloud." Just last night, I said to an adorable patron who was upset that we were out of PBR, "I don't have time for your sob story." He laughed and then tipped me generously. It's like a whole other persona I have when I'm working, I would never say something like that to someone in regular conversation. I'm much nicer when I'm not bartending, but people have more fun with sass. FIGHTS I have gotten in very few fights with people while working. However, one time, this guy gave me such a hard time, he was acting like it was 4AM at a frat bar, was totally belligerent and lecherous. Saying things like, "If this bitch is gonna make me show her my fucking ID... If she's gonna tell me I can't get as many beers as I fucking want..." After he bought a bunch of beer for the first time ever I yelled at a customer and said, "And you're not even going to tip me!" He responded, "I would have tipped you if you weren't such a..." I screamed and got in his face yelling, "Such a what? Say it!" We faced off, then I got the manager and got him kicked out. That was probably the most I've ever lost it on a customer. For the most part, I love the job. PERKS I've made a ton of connections, made friends, gotten dates out of it, made some money, seen a lot of shows and partied all night. Almost everyone in this business has had to have a survival job at some point. I'm very lucky to have had one so flexible in the environment I want to work in. I've had two successful shows run for a long time at UCB, and although I was not favored for a run because I work there, I definitely think I got a lot of audience members for both shows by being in front of people's faces, serving them beers. I watched a wrap-up show for the Emmys a few years ago, the year when Ray Romano won, as did the lead guy from The Shield, Michael Chiklis. During Romano's interview, Chiklis interrupted to hug Romano, overwhelmed with joy that they had both won the same year. Ray Romano explained to the interviewer that, years ago, Ray would be performing at a comedy club where Michael Chiklis would bartend. They became friends that way, and now, here they are, winning Emmys on the same night. That made me smile. Margot Leitman is currently working with Sarah Burns on a screenplay adaptation of their hit UCB show, Slow Night. She performs regularly and has appeared on virtually every cable network including ESPN, AMC, VH1, Comedy Central, E!, Style, MTV, in addition to numerous appearances on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien." Margot was recently featured in Glamour and her weekly column about sex, dating and nightlife from a female comedian's point of view can be found on Hello Hilarious.

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