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DCM 2013: Three Days of Peace, Love, and Improv Mania (Review/Pics)

by Arielle Gordon

Del Close Marathon

The 15th Annual Del Close Marathon went down in NYC from 6/28-6/30, and it was certainly “bigger than ever.” With 420 shows on seven different stages, the marathon had no problem filling 56 straight hours with improv. As always, there were college teams, indie teams, local house teams, and mind-blowing team reunions with legendary lineups.

The Press Conference

The weekend kicked off with a press conference at the UCB Chelsea theatre (UCBT) with the original four UCB members (Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, and Ian Roberts). Amongst other topics, they premiered the illustrious Comedy Improvisation Manual, a dense comedy “textbook” written by Besser, Walsh, and Roberts. As Roberts put it, “The book took tremendous time to put together because we were painstaking in making sure that this could be understood by someone who’s never seen improv and never had improv classes. So, we constantly challenged ourselves to look at it with naïve eyes.”

Del Close Marathon

At the DCM party space, other improv celebrities stopped by to hang out, take pictures, and discuss their hopes and fears for the festival. Matt Besser talked about the proliferation of improv culture since the beginning of DCM, saying that “it used to be something where you almost had to explain what it was; now it’s something that even our parents know about.” Poehler, looking in her element in a UCB Comedy shirt, gave advice to young girls, saying that improv could teach them that “being silly is okay and fun; there’s power in enjoying yourself. No one looks stupid if everyone’s having fun.” Indeed, that mindset certainly set the tone for the rest of DCM15.

continued below…


The Improv

One highlight on Friday included Play By Play, where Kevin and Will Hines narrate improv as it happens, like sports commentators. While this show is always fun because of the Hines rapport and dedication, this weekend’s special edition of Play By Play was especially enjoyable because of the stellar lineup – Jason Mantzoukas (The League, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh (Veep)joined the usual New York cast of improvisers. Also on Friday was legendary improv team Mother, which included Mantzoukas, Jon Daly (Kroll Show), Jesse Falcon, and Christine Walters. The four took improv inspiration from songs drawn from iPods pulled from the audience – one scene began with “Freshman” by Verve Pipe and ended with an abrupt, “The 90s are over,” from Jon Daly.

On Saturday, another memorable show was a live taping of the Beginnings podcast, hosted by Andy Beckerman. The special guests, Billy Merritt and DC Pierson, really brought the podcast to a new level. They discussed their childhoods and what inspired them to become comedians, and of course shared a few secrets of the UCB Theatre of “yesteryear” – Merritt at one point described a Cage Match (a show at the UCB where improv teams perform against each other and are voted up the ranks to determine which team is the best) where one team drank, one team got high, and one team took mushrooms.

After a few more shows at Beast on Saturday, those “in the know” left to wait on a five-hour line outside of UCBT for the fantastic Saturday night lineup. The wait may have been absurd (that’s almost part of the DCM charm anyway), but the improv more than paid off. The five-hour block started with the UCB4 (minus Poehler, plus Horatio Sanz) doing some crowd-sourced improv, including a scene where they reenacted an audience member’s first time having sex. Bangarang!, an LA house team, certainly gave a unique performance, considering only one original member (Ryan Meharry) performed with the team. LA’s Reuben Starship shined with huge laughs coming from Eugene Cordero. New York’s Death By Roo Roo (featuring SNL writer Neil Casey) broke from the form by doing one long, continuous scene throughout its entire set. Grandma’s Ashes stood out with an improvised choreographed dance to Miley Cyrus’ We Can’t Stop. AIRWOLF’s Adam Frucci played a convincing bad stripper in a scene that somehow incorporated both school budgets and a strip club named “Bonerz.” But while all of these teams were spectacular, the most special shows of the night were Mike Birbiglia’s Dream, which functioned like an ASSSSCAT with Birbiglia as the monologist, and The Stepfathers, which brought every member, past and present, of the legendary team together for the first time on stage. At one point, each member of The Stepfathers began reciting eulogies for other members, which continued smoothly until Bobby Moynihan forgot a newer cast member’s name. Later in the show, every member tried to add an ingredient to the “perfect Billy Merritt sandwich,” which included banana peppers, the spice thyme, and bread (thanks, Don Fanelli). All in all, it was a euphoric improv experience.

[Catch Mike Birbiglia on 7/10 at the Bell House for 826NYC]

Sunday back at UCBeast, Monkeydick had their annual show. With a cast that included Neil Casey, Anthony Atamanuik, Curtis Gwinn, and Will Hines, it was guaranteed to be insane. And it was, with the first five minutes turning into a 80s hair metal jam session with the entire team and the audience. At Hudson Guild, New York Harold team The Regulars gave a very interactive performance, with Grant O’Brien leaping into the audience several times. But Sunday’s highlight, of course, was the three ASSSSCATs that closed out the marathon. I was in the audience for the second show, which incorporated audience monologists and a screening of an animated version of a comic book Del Close wrote. The lineup was unbelievable – the UCB4, Mantzoukas, Seth Morris, Brian Huskey, Chad Carter, and Owen Burke. However, the audience who stuck around for the 11 PM ASSSSCAT got the best surprise of the marathon: Louis CK as the surprise monologist. And with that, the fifteenth annual Del Close Marathon drew to a close. It was long, it was hot, it was at times strenuous, but it absolutely lived up to its nickname – “improv Christmas.”

some more pictures and other upcoming shows below…

Del Close Marathon
Del Close Marathon
Del Close Marathon
Del Close Marathon
Del Close Marathon
Del Close Marathon
Del Close Marathon
Del Close Marathon
Del Close Marathon

MORE UPCOMING NYC COMEDY SHOWS

July 10

A Night of Comedy to Benefit 826NYC @ The Bell House
826NYC, a nonprofit organization fronted by writer and publisher Dave Eggers, holds several events each year to raise money for its operations, which include running a children’s writing center. This fundraiser is co-hosted by Eugene Mirman and Sarah Vowell, and will feature comedians Daniel Kitson, John Oliver, Reggie Watts, and Mike Birbiglia, plus special guests. Tickets are still available.

July 11

UCBComedy Spotify Session: Adam Newman @ UCB East
UCBComedy is now on Spotify with standup from awesome comedians. The sets are recorded at UCBeast every month and released exclusively to Spotify. This month’s comedian is Adam Newman (John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show). And it’s FREE.

The Armando Diaz Experience at The Magnet Theater
Straight out of Chicago, the Armando Diaz Experience features experienced improvisers creating scenes based on a monologist’s stories. The featured monologist this week is comedian, writer, and actress Ophira Eisenberg (host of NPR’s “Ask Me Another). Tickets are no longer available online, but stand-by is definitely a safe bet to get into this show.

July 14

Week At The Creek with Christian Finnegan and Nick Turner
The Creek & the Cave hosts “Week At The Creek,” a standup series where one comedian performs at the Long Island City venue every night for a week. This week, hilarious standups Christian Finnegan and Nick Turner are stepping up to the plate. And it’s FREE.

July 15

Week At The Creek with Christian Finnegan and Nick Turner
The Creek & the Cave hosts “Week At The Creek,” a standup series where one comedian performs at the Long Island City venue every night for a week. This week, hilarious standups Christian Finnegan and Nick Turner are stepping up to the plate. And it’s FREE.

July 16

Big Long Sets with Paul Oddo & Myq Kaplan
Big Long Sets at UCBeast is always a good way to see your favorite comedians for $5. This month, the show features Boston Comedy Festival winner Paul Oddo and Myq Kaplan (who maybe you’ve seen on Conan).

Week At The Creek with Christian Finnegan and Nick Turner
The Creek & the Cave hosts “Week At The Creek,” a standup series where one comedian performs at the Long Island City venue every night for a week. This week, hilarious standups Christian Finnegan and Nick Turner are stepping up to the plate. And it’s FREE.

July 17

Uptown Showdown: Books vs Movies
This bi-monthly show at Symphony Space brings together two teams of comedians, writers, and performers to face-off on a chosen topic (this month, books vs. movies). Tonight’s installment features debaters Janeane Garofalo, Eugene Mirman, Dave Hill, Aparna Nancherla (Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell),Bridey Elliott (Funny or Die), David Rees (How to Sharpen Pencils) and more. Hosted by Adam Goldman (The Outs).

Week At The Creek with Christian Finnegan and Nick Turner
The Creek & the Cave hosts “Week At The Creek,” a standup series where one comedian performs at the Long Island City venue every night for a week. This week, hilarious standups Christian Finnegan and Nick Turner are stepping up to the plate. And it’s FREE.

July 18

Week At The Creek with Christian Finnegan and Nick Turner
The Creek & the Cave hosts “Week At The Creek,” a standup series where one comedian performs at the Long Island City venue every night for a week. This week, hilarious standups Christian Finnegan and Nick Turner are stepping up to the plate. And it’s FREE.

Fresh Out! with Reggie Watts, Mike Druker, & more
Every Thursday, Fresh Out! at UCBeast features well-known standup comedians and the best of new open-micers. Next week’s lineup is unbelievable, with Reggie Watts (Comedy Bang! Bang!), Mike Drucker (Late Night with Jimmy Fallon), Jim Tews, Josh Gondelman, Phoebe Robinson, and David Smithyman. Amazingly, $5 tickets are still available HERE.

July 19

Week At The Creek with Christian Finnegan and Nick Turner
The Creek & the Cave hosts “Week At The Creek,” a standup series where one comedian performs at the Long Island City venue every night for a week. This week, hilarious standups Christian Finnegan and Nick Turner are stepping up to the plate. And it’s FREE.

July 20

Week At The Creek with Christian Finnegan and Nick Turner
The Creek & the Cave hosts “Week At The Creek,” a standup series where one comedian performs at the Long Island City venue every night for a week. This week, hilarious standups Christian Finnegan and Nick Turner are stepping up to the plate. And it’s FREE.

Check It Out

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