UCBT performers named "Comics to Watch in 2012" by Back StageBack Stage July 6, 2012
Back Stage's 10 Comics to Watch in 2012
by Daniel Lehman
"Broad" appeal: This New Yorker can brag that Amy Poehler is a fan. The "Parks and Recreation" star and Upright Citizens Brigade co-founder is now executive producer of Ilana Glazer's upcoming FX series "Broad City." Glazer and her comedy partner Abbi Jacobson began the show as a web series -- it featured Poehler and Kristen Schaal in an episode -- then sold it to FX and produced a pilot earlier this year. Ironically, Glazer and Jacobson met because they couldn't find a place on any of the UCB house teams after taking improv classes there. "We were inspired to create material for ourselves," Glazer says. "We found our dynamic entertaining to us and hoped others might feel the same way. But you can't know until you put it out there." In addition to the new TV project, Glazer performs standup and hosts shows across the city. She is also writing scripts for an animated pilot and a live-action feature.
Career counselor? The college admissions process was a little unorthodox for Lauren Lapkus, who began training at iO in Chicago as a high school senior. "I stayed in Chicago for college mainly to continue doing improv," she says, "which was an awesome decision for me." Lapkus later moved to New York to take classes at UCB and join Story Pirates, and when she eventually moved to L.A., she was welcomed by its West Coast counterparts. "I was so happy to have a community in L.A. right away, which wouldn't have been as easy if I hadn't put in the work in other cities," she says. An appearance in an improvised sketch with Ryan Reynolds on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" was one of her first gigs in L.A., followed by the NBC sitcom "Are You There, Chelsea?" as recurring character Dee Dee. "Getting to be the 'weird roommate' on a sitcom was a dream come true," Lapkus says. She just finished filming a part in "You Are Here," the upcoming feature film from writer-director Matthew Weiner ("Mad Men").
JK LOL: After seven years, Joe Mande recently moved to L.A. from New York, where he was recognized as one of the city's best comics and hosted the long-running show "Totally J/K" with Noah Garfinkle. "I wanted to get good at standup and promised myself that I would never move to Los Angeles," he says. "And I just moved to Los Angeles." But hey, he has a good reason: Mande has been hired as a writer for NBC's "Parks and Recreation." "All the other writers have resigned in protest of my hiring, so I have a lot of work ahead of me," he says. "But I'm excited for the opportunity!" He'll have at least one friend on set, having served as the opening act for "Parks and Rec" star Aziz Ansari on his recent standup tour. Mande's own half-hour standup special recently premiered on Comedy Central, and he will be in Montreal this month for the 30th anniversary of the Just for Laughs festival.
All in the family: As children, Arthur Meyer and his two sisters performed a sketch comedy show called "Meyer Kids' Night" every Saturday for their parents. The show started at 8:31, he says, "because that's funnier than 8:30." In 2006, he followed the other members of his Boston University sketch troupe Slow Children at Play to New York City and formed a new group there called Pangea 3000. Since then, Meyer has been a fixture of the city's sketch and improv scene, performing at UCB, the PIT, and the Magnet as well as in cities nationwide. Audiences should look for Meyer's frequent appearances on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," where he sometimes performs with John Haskell as the sketch duo "Two Fun Men." He also stars in the feature-length comedy "We Made This Movie," which will be released later this year.
Rebecca Delgado Smith
Sail away: While studying at the Atlantic Acting School at NYU, Rebecca Delgado Smith became friends with a few other aspiring actors and co-founded the Harvard Sailing Team sketch comedy group. "I started pursuing comedy after college because it was the most accessible to me," Smith says. "I was intent on starting my own theater company, but renting a theater and putting up Off-Off-Broadway productions can be extremely costly." So the group wrote its own material and performed in New York comedy clubs and alternative venues for free instead. Having since performed across the country and won multiple awards, its members are beginning to achieve individual success. HST continues to tour, and Smith also performs with her husband, Chris Smith, as the sketch comedy duo the New York Smiths. Their new show, "Speed Dating," begins July 26 at the UCB Theatre in L.A.
"Animal" instincts: Over the past six years, Betsy Sodaro has been honing her sketch and improv skills in L.A., where she performs in teams at UCB, iO West, Second City, and more. This fall Sodaro will be a regular on NBC's new comedy series "Animal Practice." Before stealing the show in black-box theaters, Sodaro got her first taste of the spotlight at age 3 as an audience member watching her actor mother perform onstage. "My mom was screaming at a fake spider -- all part of the play -- and I just walked out onstage with a rock and smashed the spider. People started laughing and cheering, while I started bawling and running offstage. Over time, I realized I could make people laugh, and I thought, 'I'm going to try and do this for a living!'"