UCB Presents All-Stars of Improv in New York’s East River Park

The Upright Citizens Brigade theater, nationally renowned as one of the absolute best resources for improv and sketch comedy in the country, presented a couple of its best troupes last night in New York City’s East River Park, as part of the annual SummerStage festival. Showcasing two distinctly different collectives with a brief intermission, the show was a great example of how good improvisational theater can be when carried out by skilled performers adept at thinking on their feet. It was a unique treat to be in attendance, especially since this particular show will, by definition, never be seen again.

The first troupe, known as The Pox, followed the format of UCB’s celebrated “ASSSSCAT!” show, featuring a monologist telling a personal anecdote based on an audience suggestion, followed by a series of improvisational sketches based on that monologue. Their skits revolved heavily around the experience of out-of-towners visiting New York, such as a scene in which a tourist is robbed at gunpoint in Central Park, then decides that video of the robbery would be a great souvenir of his visit and begins directing the robber while his friends film it. Another highlight was a sketch in which a teacher ruins the joy of swearing for her twelve-year-old students by telling them that Shakespeare coined many of the English language’s best curse words. One of their best ideas, however, was the last scene of the first set, in which a man gives god credit for everything from work promotions to his wife’s pregnancy (“No, I think I knocked god up … or god knocked himself up”), then likewise shifts the blame for a car accident in which he is at fault onto the almighty.

The second troupe, Sandino, was even better, weaving their sketches seamlessly together into a bizarre, alternate-world scenario until, by the end, they felt less like random sketches than cohesive scenes in a play. Using a shouted audience suggestion, “P90X” (which further research tells me is some sort of workout program for which I am undoubtedly too lazy), Sandino improvised a dystopian tale of a world in which robots are programmed for only three functions – rage, sex and boredom – and people have jobs like drunkenly dancing nude in glass towers. Though the set begins with two of the performers working out, the phrase “P90X” ended up referring to a prisoner who has become a problem for his captors, one of whom suggests that the solution is to let him loose in Detroit and see who survives, him or the city of Detroit. This is all part of an evolutionary experiment he feels is vital to the human race, and later this same character reappears to serve an arsenic-laced dinner to a friend, for the same reason. “It’s not a lethal dosage,” he insists. “It’s just going to hurt real bad.”

It’s truly amazing how well Sandino incorporated elements of all their sketches into one large narrative, to the point that the final revelation that prisoner P90X is actually Virgin Group mogul Richard Branson (who designed the boredom robot in order to gain perspective on his overly exciting life) made perfect sense. This is a tremendously talented group of performers, and while I feel privileged to have attended their only performance of this specific material, I certainly hope a video recording is made available in the near future. 

  

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War Tears Up the SummerStage at New York’s Queensbridge Park

Forty-three years after their original 1969 formation, the legendary band War can still rock a stage with the best of them and provide a funky good time for audiences of all ages. Of course, the only original member still in the lineup is keyboardist and current lead singer Leroy “Lonnie” Jordan, but since the band has cycled through more than 25 members since its original inception, this is no surprise. The band, in its current seven-piece configuration, played a free show at Queensbridge Park in Queens, New York, last night as part of City Parks Foundation’s annual SummerStage series. Probably about 400 people, ranging in age from toddlers to elderly folks, were in attendance, and War played an excellent two-hour set full of positive energy and musical prowess.

After an hour-long warm-up from DJ Felix Hernandez’ Rhythm Revue, War opened their set with the funky, upbeat “Me and Baby Brother,” from their 1973 gold record “Deliver the Word,” and the already dancing crowd really began to get down. Jordan is an exceptionally charismatic frontman who really commands the stage even when boxed in behind his keyboards, but he stepped out early on in the show to lead an audience sing-along to the 1972 hit “The Cisco Kid.” He joked that if anyone in the crowd could tell him how many other War songs contained the word “wine,” he would let that lucky fan buy him a glass of wine.

Jordan then slowed the upbeat set down a bit with the more serious jam “The World Is a Ghetto,” from the 1972 album of the same name, taking time to speak off-the-cuff about changing the world for the kids in the audience. He referred specifically to an adorable toddler dancing near the stage, of whom he couldn’t quite identify the gender, saying, “They don’t know when they’re that age anyway. Let ‘em worry about all that when they get older.” The band also catered to an unexpected fan request by playing the gorgeous, tempo-shifting instrumental “City, Country, City,” also from the “World Is a Ghetto” album, which really gave saxophonist Fernando Harkless and harmonica player Stanley Behrens a chance to shine.

Though the overall set was mostly very up-tempo and danceable, War took time for a couple of slow love ballads near the end. Jordan took a lengthy vocal and keyboard solo for the beginning of the beautiful 1973 title track “Deliver the Word” before letting the rest of the band join him to jam it out, and drummer Salvador Rodriguez sang a love ballad of his own before War broke out their two biggest hits. On “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” from the 1975 album of the same name, each of the seven members of the band sang one two-bar verse, except for percussionist Marcos Reyes, who relegated the last small verse to an audience sing-along.

They closed with the iconic hit “Low Rider,” from the same album, and of course the crowd loved it, many of them begging for one more song. Unfortunately, the free outdoor show had a strict ending time, but it is a testament to War’s energy, vitality and long list of beloved hits, that a two-hour set could still leave us wanting more.

  

Guinness Brews Up New Believers in NYC

Guinness gave a simulated tour of its famed St. James’ Gate Brewery at the Altman Building in New York City last night. Though the actual brewery is, of course, in Dublin, the Guinness folks provided a virtual tour via video screens, and talked the audience through a brief history of the company. Founded in 1759 by Arthur Guinness, who signed a 9,000 year lease at St. James’ Gate, Guinness is now watched over by master brewer Fergal Murray, who is in charge of making sure the dark, creamy beer maintains its consistent texture and flavor. One of the most interesting things I learned was that the famed harp logo associated with Guinness also happens to be the logo of the Irish government. If the harp is facing right, it’s Guinness; if left, it’s the government.

According to the official slogan, it takes exactly 119.5 seconds to pour a perfect pint of Guinness; that half a second is allegedly the difference between a good pint and a perfect one. After being given a perfect (and, more importantly, free) pint upon entering the event, an announcement was made that “our show will begin in 119.5 seconds,” at which point a countdown began. Charismatic comedian Dan Soder then appeared onstage to give us some background on the classic Guinness draught we had just imbibed, which is nitrogenated, a process that sets it apart from other beers and gives it that unique, smooth texture. He also gave us some helpful hints on how to mix Guinness with other beers made by the same company, such as Harp Lager and Smithwick’s Ale: Guinness mixed with Smithwick’s is a “blacksmith,” while Guinness mixed with Harp is a “half and half.”

We then proceeded to try mini-pints of a few special brews developed by Guinness. First up was the Foreign Extra Stout, a tasty brew with slightly more bite to it than the classic Guinness and also a bit more sweetness, giving it a flavor similar to very dark chocolate. The Foreign Extra Stout contains more hops and more alcohol (7.5% ABV) than any other Guinness brew, because it was originally developed to be shipped long distances overseas, and alcohol and hops both act as preservatives. The last beer we sampled was Guinness Black Lager, which was my personal favorite of the three. It is cold brewed with roasted barley, giving it a crisp, clean taste that is lighter and more refreshing than the standard thick, creamy finish of the brew for which Guinness is best known. Though not as strong as the Foreign Extra Stout, it is definitely a better summer beer, and one that I will likely sample again in the coming months.

  

Review of Rick’s Cabaret in New York City

The first thing you notice when entering a gentlemen’s club is the quality of the talent. When I walked into Rick’s Cabaret in New York City recently for a night of fun and relaxation, I saw exactly what I expected from an upscale gentlemen’s club – tons of beautiful girls! You can have a great location and plush décor, but none of that matters without the entertainers.

Once you’re surrounded by eye candy, you can sit back with your drink and really get the feel for a place. Finding decked out, upscale clubs in New York is easy, but the atmosphere can vary greatly. At Rick’s I found a fun and relaxed atmosphere that put me at ease immediately. I noticed it right away with the attitude of the girls and the staff, and the cozy feel of the venue added to the experience. The idea is to have fun and everyone at Rick’s Cabaret gets it.

The tone is set in large part by Lonnie Hanover who is a legend in the New York nightlife scene. Howard Stern fans will recognize him as the guy who always takes care of Howard and the crew from his show. When they need a night on the town, Lonnie handles it, and they’ve been coming to Rick’s ever since Lonnie moved there. Lonnie knows how to show people a good time and celebrities from all over flock to Rick’s because they know Lonnie will take care of them. Anyone looking for privacy can request entrance through one of the side doors direct to the private VIP suites. But this sense of hospitality permeates the culture at Rick’s so that every customer is treated well and everyone there wants you to have a good time.

The girls working at Rick’s are simply gorgeous and there’s something for everybody depending on your taste with plenty of bikini models and fashion model types mixed in with the sexy girl next door. The key is that they’re all very friendly which you don’t always find in the upscale clubs.

With the decked out venue with 10,000 square feet and classy atmosphere, Rick’s Cabaret is naturally a great spot for entertaining business clients as well. The club features a great steakhouse so you can make a full night of it and the VIP area on the top floor is second-to-none. Throw in the smoking deck on the roof and great views of the city and you can indulge in anything you like. But you don’t have to break the bank to have a great time here. The atmosphere throughout the club makes it an ideal spot to party with a group or spend some quality time with one of the entertainers. Their website features daily specials including lunch and drink deals.

They also come up with great promotions like Rick’s Basketball Association during the NBA lockout. Check out the pics in the slideshow above where former NBA star Spud Webb is introduced as coach of Rick’s Cabaret/New York City team. “The girls love Spud,” said New York team member Sky. “We picked him to be coach because he’s such an inspiration to people.” The New York team will be playing against teams of dancers from the Minneapolis Downtown Cabaret and Tootsie’s Cabaret in Miami. That should be fun!

There’s nothing worse than paying the cover at a gentlemen’s club and then being disappointed when you walk in. Some clubs just don’t have the girls, while others can create an upscale environment but take all the fun out of the experience. That’s not a problem here. Based on what we saw in New York, you’ll love Rick’s Cabaret.

  

Bullz-Eye hits New York City with Dodge

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I traveled to New York City courtesy of Dodge to check out and drive some of their 2011 models, including the 2011 Dodge Avenger. This was my first opportunity to test drive this vehicle, and I had a red Dodge Avenger Heat V6 for the drive (see the photos above). It was a rainy spring day, but I was able to push the Avenger on some country roads outside of the city along with hitting the city streets as well. The V6 made this car fun to drive, and Dodge made a number of changes to this vehicle for the 2011 model year to improve the handling. The wet roads weren't a problem and I loved the way it handled tight corners. The result was a vehicle that matched the aggressive styling, and I think this car will be a big hit for guys looking for a sporty sedan. Check back for our full review of the Avenger in our Car Channel.

Dodge also had some Chargers for us as well. I drove the V8 R/T in the past and was very impressed with the vehicle, so I took the opportunity to drive the 2011 Charger Rally Plus with a V6 engine (see the silver Charger in the photos above). While it doesn't have the power of the V8, this V6 Charger performed very well and had plenty of power. You can save some money and get better mileage with the V6, so for many guys this might be the better option. I recommend you drive both of them and you can choose based on your own preferences, but I came away impressed with both the V8 and V6 versions of the Charger. This car handles beautifully for a full-sized sedan and it has the most aggressive styling in its class in my opinion.

On Thursday night the group hit the BroBible Alpha Experience on Manhattan's West Side. The event showcased products and brands targeting the male demo, and Dodge was one of the signature sponsors along with other brands like Microsoft, Xbox, The Art of Shaving, Under Armour, Blackbeard Rum and more. The event produced a great crowd and was capped off with a concert by The Knocks on Skylight West's rooftop. It was nice to be back in New York with a great party crowd. Fortunately the weather cooperated!

The Dodge exhibit featured an incredible Charger R/T with a black exterior and red interior. Jenn Sterger stopped to check out the vehicle and Fred Deperez, Head of Marketing for Dodge, gave her all the info on the vehicle (see the photos above). Dodge also had a slick Challenger on hand as well.

It was a great way to cap off the trip.

Photo Credit for pics 1-7: Sunny Norton (see more on BroBible's Facebook page)

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines, We are disclosing that our time, travel and accommodations have been compensated by Chrysler Corp. for our participation in the Dodge Ride & Drive. Although we have a material connection to Chrysler Corp., any publicly stated opinions of Chrysler Corp. and their products remain our own.

  

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