The Upright Citizens Brigade is an improvisational theater group, originally from the thriving improv community in Chicago, now centered in New York. They are truly amazing.

Most people have only heard of the Comedy Central show they have and are not aware of the fact that the UCB members are actually among the world's most talented improv actors. If you are ever in New York, you can actually see the UCB performing live for free. They have a free weekly show they have been doing for years; more recently they added a second show, where you can call in and reserve a seat for $4, meaning you don't have to wait in a line. Look around on the internet. If you can see this show, go. They simply go up on a small stage with some people they know and do two hours of completely improvised sketch comedy. They have a technique called "the Howard" where they take one single word from the audience, then have one person from the improv group ramble for five or so minutes on personal anecdotes and stream-of-consciousness type stuff related to the word given. The actors then structure the next two hours off loosely what the storyteller said, but warp it so wildly that it's hard to believe the final product wasn't prescripted. Like in the TV show, their sketches in the live show intertwine and interact in weird, crazy ways, and in the end they always somehow all connect together. The trippiness of the final result transcends mere sketch comedy in a way that cannot quite be described.

The UCB also teaches improv classes, again if you happen to be in New York.

They are true masters of and pioneers in guerrilla improv; the only such performance they have done that i have heard of was an incident where they went to random post offices dressed as the unabomber sketch and mailed things, but there were many more i haven't heard of. The strange live-action outdoor sequences that sometimes display during the credits of the UCB TV show are generally hidden-camera tapings of their guerilla improv performances.

From the dawn of civilization, they have existed in order to undermine it.
Our only enemy is the status quo. Our only friend is chaos.
They have no government ties and unlimited resources.
If something goes wrong, we are the cause.
Every corner of the earth is under their surveillance.
If you do it, we see it. Always.
We believe the powerful should be made less powerful.
We have heard the voice of society, begging us to destabilize it.
Antoine. Colby. Trotter. Adair. We are — the Upright Citizens Brigade.

In addition to being a improvisational comedy troupe, the Upright Citizens Brigade were given their own television program, which ran for three seasons on Comedy Central, airing in 1998, 1999, and 2000. The show is heavily reminiscent of their improvisational comedy, although it was, for the most part, scripted. The humor is absurd and often hit-and-miss, however, a really good episode of Upright Citizens Brigade is among the funnier things every to have been aired on television.

The basic concept is that there is an underground organization called the Upright Citizens Brigade, dedicated to introducing chaos into society whenever and wherever possible. Blessed with absolute secrecy, enormous amounts of money and power, and no political ties, the Upright Citizens can get away with whatever they want.

The Brigade is made up of Antoine (Ian Roberts), Colby (Amy Poehler), Trotter (Matt Walsh), and Adair (Matt Besser). Although they spend a lot of time in their underground lair, monitoring events through computer systems, they find plenty of time to disguise themselves and spread chaos. The second season of the show concluded with the FBI bursting into UCB headquarters as part of a drug raid. As a result, the Brigade operated out of a delivery truck (labeled “United Cake Bakers”) for the remainder of the show.

Each episode plays out like a sketch comedy show. Early in the show, each scene focuses on a different group of characters and their situations. Unlike other sketch comedy shows, however, episodes are thematic, sketches return several times in the episode, and each episode usually culminates with a finale wherein every sketch runs straight into the others. Often, this is done cleverly enough that the finale is the best part of the episode, with all of the previous bits fitting together like puzzle pieces.

Every episode has at least one scene where members of the Upright Citizens Brigade go out onto the street with a camera (usually hidden) and harass ordinary people with something related to the theme of the episode. This might be trying to get people to sign a petition to start the new sport, Thunderball, trying to get a costume store to sell werewolf masks for sex play, and many others. The idea is that the Upright Citizens Brigade is real, and we are seeing a glimpse into their actual methods.

The show has many recurring bits, including the nefarious drug Supercool (actually just Pixie Stix), Pro Thunderball, the various cyborgs under the control of the Upright Citizens Brigade, and others. The most prominent of these bits are the themes of entire episodes, and are previously and subsequently referred to in others.

In fact, Pro Thunderball is important enough that more than just passing reference is made to it. In a nutshell, Thunderball is reminiscent of baseball, but with three balls, bats thrown at targets, a car roaming the outfield and trying to hit players, ceramic balls filled with bees, a loaded handgun within a paint circle that no player may ever use, and dogs and pretty girls wandering the field and trying to distract players. The episode entitled “Thunderball” was a well-executed parody of the generic fluffy sports program, complete with player interviews, overdone computer-rendered transitions, and peppy, loud-mouthed announcers. The Upright Citizens Brigade website lists the following teams in the American Thunderball Federation:

Upright Citizens Brigade was one of the better shows that slipped through the Comedy Central net. If you’re in need of a good, bizarre laugh, you would be well-advised to get ahold of old episodes of the show and watch it, especially since they are available on DVD. Your life just isn’t the same without that special dash of chaos.


Episode List

Season 1
  1. Bucket of Truth

    A house on sale features a Bucket of Truth, discovered in outer space by the UCB, which shows absolute truth to anybody who sticks his head in it. Captain Lounatic tries to catch the mysterious Bong Boy.

  2. Poo Stick

    Mounting violence on the streets is being caused by people waving sticks with poo on them. A man is forced to act in Mini-Movies, which are just him singing “Happy Birthday” in a cat suit. A man in a video store tries to convince the clerk that he had the title and titular lines in Star Wars and Out of Africa.

  3. Saigon Suicide Show

    A charity show hosted by the UCB features the Saigon Suicide Squad, who are replaced by the Hong Kong Danger Duo.

  4. Power Marketing

    People are taught to better themselves by getting new brains. Busy professionals get business confidence by putting pennies in their asses. A Hyper-Minimalist architecture firm sells businesses open woods.

  5. Children’s Revolution

    A union puppet show at the elementary school inspires a child to fight back against the evil bus driver after studying with a martial arts master.

  6. The Story of the Toad

    People are continually inspired by the Pulp Fiction-esque story of the toad.

  7. The Lady of the Lake

    After going on a date with the Lady of the Lake, a college student can’t get her to stop bothering him.

  8. Time Machine

    A time machine is accidentally used to screw up history.

  9. Cyborgs

    The many cyborgs that the UCB has inserted into society start to malfunction.

  10. Little Donnie Foundation

    The heartwarming story of Little Donnie, who doesn’t know that he has a huge penis, and what is being done to help him.

Season 2
  1. Master Dialectition

    A bunch of old men debate the greatest fights throughout history, including baby wrestling, Thomas Edison vs. Nicola Tesla, and the Search for Bobby Fischer-esque story of the Master Dialectition.

  2. Bomb Squad

    The Wu-Tang Clan accidentally digs into UCB headquarters.

  3. Mogomra vs. the Fart Monster

    Japanese culture invades with Japa-noi Tretching (punk rock and aerobic exercise) and throwing star fads. Tired of being teased, a schoolboy first tries using throwing stars, and eventually summons Mogomra to help him. Mogomra helps to kill the Fart Monster, a man who just can’t stop farting.

  4. Real World

    The UCB amasses a collection of monsters and weirdoes and uses them for a season of The Real World.

  5. Eli’s Face Therapy

    Eli slaps women in the face and traps them in cages as part of therapy to help them look and feel younger. A man in an exercise club is forced to run, jump, swim, and play Russian Roulette for his freedom.

  6. Infested with Friars

    Friars infest houses and businesses where cigars and deli food is available, leading to a Bradwick’s theme restaurant almost getting bombed to end the infestation.

  7. Spaghetti Jesus

    Jesus appears in a plate of spaghetti, which is brought to a "Spirituality Expo."

  8. Big City

    A street urchin helps a rich man learn about the Big City. A prostitute helps the manager of a coffee shop become an astronaut. Cowboys help carry crippled women around the city.

  9. Hurricane

    A weatherman and news anchor fight each other, leading to the Doppler 5000 machine causing chaos by changing the weather. Captain Lounatic continues to try to catch Bong Boy.

  10. Supercool

    An in-depth look into the terrifying drug Supercool.

Season 3
  1. Costumes

    A man tries to get his girlfriend to have “werewolf sex” with him, and she murders him, thinking that he is a werewolf. An old man thinks that his costumed grandson is the Grim Reaper. Theme park employees try to find out which one of them isn’t really castrated.

  2. Mafia

    TV investigators show us that most things are actually covered with old dried semen. An ex-Mafia employee starts donating sperm to couples. The Godfather is in an accident and can only repeat a couple of phrases.

  3. Hospital

    Grim Reapers complain about how hard it is to work at the hospital. A doctor discovers that his patient is blessed with the Force.

  4. Music

    Cake walks turn vicious. We get an inside look at the Breaker-Uppers, a death metal band.

  5. Food

    A man trades his first-born son for a single grain of rice. The Glendale Fitness Authority builds death camps for fatties, and a fat man discovers an underground society where he can be safe.

  6. College

    Santa begins promoting his new holiday drink, Santa Liquor. The Fairy Hockey Player helps men to overcome their fears. A possessed basketball player ruins a game between two Christian fundamentalist schools.

  7. Sex

    Adair is killed and possesses a sandwich. In order to revive him, the rest of the UCB must fulfil a prophecy and figure out a series of clues.

  8. Small Town

    Earthquake simulations are the new fad among young folks. A small town settles all of the issues at its town meetings with log rolling.

  9. Virtual Reality

    Mike the Astronaut is stuck in a virtual reality simulation where he eats nothing but edible panties as part of a government experiment. Several colleagues are trapped in a mountain cabin during a blizzard, and it turns out that only two of them are real, as one of them is actually living in virtual reality, and is being raped constantly by the other in real life.

  10. Thunderball

    Our first real look at the exciting sport of the future: Pro Thunderball!

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