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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Equinox launches Equimatic app on Facebook

Equimatic by EquinoxIf you live in one of the country’s metropolitan centers, you probably know Equinox. For the rest of the world, Equinox is a super posh club gym that caters to the wealthy and fabulous. That’s not to say it’s not a good gym, in fact, by most accounts it’s a fantastic place to workout.

Today, Equinox launched a confidence campaign. Basically it’s an effort to inspire you to get your lazy ass to the gym and get into the kind of shape that will give you confidence. To support the campaign, the company created Equimatic, a Facebook app that works a little bit like Instagram, framing uploaded pictures to look like a polaroid, and giving them a bit of a vintage blur filter. The hope is that confident people from around the world will upload pictures on the Equinox Facebook page, showing off their confidence and sending those pictures to friends and family.

Maybe it’s just me, but I hate getting pictures of my super-fit friends with their shirts off, but that’s probably just because I’m out of shape. And maybe that’s the point. To inspire the people around you to work for a body that will give them the same kind of confidence you have.

The best part of the campaign is that anyone who uploads a photo to the Equinox Facebook page will be eligible for exclusive Equinox rewards. If you’re feeling extra fit, and feel like flaunting it to a few of your closest friends, check out Equinox Equimatic on the Equinox Facebook page.

  

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