Thursday, July 28, 2011

I finally went to the Uprights Citizens Brigade

Never Done: I FINALLY went to the Uprights Citizens Brigade

It was the very very very first item I ever wrote on my Never Done list: Go to Upright Citizens Brigade. At the time I didn't know that it was going to become emblematic of my year -- low hanging fruit that I had somehow never picked -- it was just this thing I had never done that I had always wanted to do. And first on my list. For non-New Yorkers, Upright Citizens Brigade was an improv sketch comedy troupe (including Amy Poehler) that came from Chicago to New York in the 90s, and then morphed somehow that probably involves infighting and legal agreements to be the name of a theater/venue that presents improv and sketch comedy, as well as training people to do same. I love great improv, and rarely rarely rarely go see it, let alone do it anymore, although I used to in another moment in my life.

When I didn't go in the first few months, I thought -- well, it's still early. I have an entire year to fill up. I should leave myself something easy to do later. When I didn't do it the fourth and fifth months, I started to think that it was special, and maybe I should save it for the very end of the year. When I didn't do it the sixth, seventh, or eighth month, I started to doubt I really wanted to do it. And yet there it was, topping off the top ten list:

  1. upright citizen's brigade
  2. kayak on the hudson
  3. ride a Ferris Wheel
  4. sleep in past noon, not sick
  5. go to spring training
  6. have a child
  7. make a dress
  8. go rock climbing
  9. sell a screenplay
  10. get a tattoo

(It's not really a top ten list. It's just the first ten things I thought of when I started this project. It's interesting to me that of the first ten, I have done only three and a half, but I do have the intention of doing all ten.)

So when I was sold out of going to see Pilobulus (specifically a work by an Israeli choreographer I've been advised to see) and I had not yet completed a Never Done activity for the day, I decided on the spur of the moment to go down to UCB and see a show. Finally. My time had come. And it felt great that the very act of going was last minute, spur of the moment, improvisatory you might even call it. Well, it felt great until I got there, paid my $5, sat in the back row of the dingy theater on a seat that seems to have been missing all its springs on the right side so I had to keep from sliding into the giggling woman on my right, and the lights went down, and the stage lights came up, and two guys started doing stand-up comedy. Wait, what? I didn't even know there was stand-up at UCB. But apparently there was, because I had just come in for an hour of stand-up. All in all I saw five guys (yes, all guys) and I am not going to tell you their names, because I don't have anything good to say about any of them. But I will tell you that in one hour, I laughed exactly zero times, and that the audience laughed approximately ten million seventeen hundred thousand four hundred ninety one times -- mostly at "jokes" about people who are homeless, fat, "faggy", black, Korean, female, or (just once) Mexican. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Like the story about a guy on the subway who kept saying "Ew, it smells like shit here. Ew, it seriously smells like human shit! Oh, whoa, this is horrible. It smells like human shit." while his friends tried to shut him up because he was standing right over a homeless man who apparently had no access to bathroom facilities. End of story. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. And the story about you would never kick the seat of a black person on the subway, because that would be terrifying. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. (Also, why would you want to kick the seat of any person on the subway?)

Yes, I stayed. I felt that it was a commitment to my own practice to sit in that theater (trying not to think about bedbugs) for one hour and listen to these cocky young guys tell offensive, un-funny stories. (Actually the worst of the guys was a cocky middle-aged guy who told offensive, un-funny stories.) And here's what I gained from the hour: 1) a deep appreciation for reading. I was in the middle of a book that I was just adoring reading (this is in the past tense because the subway ride home to an unprecedented 90 minutes during which I finished) that Abigail had lent to me, called someday this pain will be useful to you, by Peter Cameron. 2) the re-realization that just because you've wanted to do something for a really long time doesn't mean that it's right for you, and 3) the confirmation that one of the great things about the Never Done practice is that it gives one (me) an understanding of my world: this is something I would like to do more in my life; this is something I would like to never again do in my life; this is something that warrants further experience and exploration. Which means that the entire practice is working, since I started it in order to have a more expansive life just at this point at which people expect me to have a less and less expansive life.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

1 comment:

  1. I used to take classes at UCB. Their shows vary a WHOLE LOT. The shows that are usually funny are the ones put on by "teams," like on Friday nights. I used to see the team "The Swarm," and they were incredibly funny. Apparently the Swarm doesn't perform there anymore. But 2 former members are in "The Stepfathers," and they perform Friday nights. You're probably not missing anything by not going, though...