The Upright Citizens Brigade has performed five times at Piccolo Fringe. That means you’ve already had five chances to see the infamous touring company, which hails from the same place Amy Poehler (one of the troupe’s founders) and Horatio Sanz got their start. That means the City Paper has already written five articles about them.
You’d think things would be redundant by now.
But that’s the beauty of UCB.
“Our show is in many ways the same show that we’ve brought down for the past six years, but the great thing about the show is no two performances are ever going to be the same because it’s improvised,” says Carter Edwards, the tour’s director. It’s his first year on the job; he previously served as producer.
“It’s such a vibrant cast, and they’re so good at what they do, and they’re so good on their feet that the show really is almost a spectacle,” he adds. “For that to be true, when you’re dealing with a show that has no tech, a show that has no light cues, a show that has no sound cues, that just has a set of four chairs on the stage, for it to be as big and as awesome as it is, I think that’s a testament really to the caliber of performers that are coming down.”
They call it their school year. From August to May, Brigaders go from city to city, playing colleges and clubs and whatnot. Though Edwards says that this year has been a particularly good one, it still means a ton of travel, a ton of different hotel rooms, and a ton of time away from home. So finishing things up with a blow-out week in Charleston — a place he describes as one of “the most fun towns any of them have ever been to” — sounds mighty fine to them right about now. Edwards considers it a way for the company to thank its performers. “It’s the easiest part of my job trying to cast this particular gig.”
Who could blame them for their excitement? The comedians get to act like typical summer tourists, scoping out the beaches and the bars. Never mind the hour and a half of work they have to do every night. Just make sure to keep an eye out downtown after they’re done; UCBers are known to check out our nightlife, from watering holes to house parties.
Charlestonians also provide the ideal audience. Edwards says we react really well to what UCB does (though it may depend on how much we’ve had to drink). He claims we’re exciting, boisterous, and wild, and we’ll let the act know when they’re doing something we like and when they’re doing something we don’t like. It keeps the cast on their toes.
“You guys are just the sweetest fucking people. You guys seem to like us coming down there as much as we like coming down there,” he raves.
A notable change that Edwards has made is that he’s bringing down a lot more people than the company has previously brought; some are seasoned Fringers, while others have never been to the city. This means the casts for the show will change throughout the entire week of performances. If you go and see their first show and decide hey, maybe I’d like to give it another gander, you’ll get a different group of performers and a different experience.
So after you check out the U.S. premieres of This is What Happens Next or Proserpina, stop by Theatre 99 and get a dose of something familiar. But leave the formal wear at home.
“We don’t quite know why people love us coming down and basically putting us up right next to the opera, but we love that we are in the same festival as the opera and all of these art openings and all these tuxedo-style events, and there we are in hoodies and ripped jeans,” he says. “We are for anybody that does not own a tuxedo.”