For all of my parenting life, I have been bringing my daughter to a place called the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre, in Chelsea, the third-ish location of the then NY-based UCB (Solo Arts could be considered first, the second, the one I went to religiously in the 90s, was on 22nd street). The Chelsea space itself opened in April 2003, and today, November 30, 2017, its lease on the space below the Gristedes supermarket is up. The west side arm of the UCB will now live on West 42nd Street (the other NY location, UCB East, on Avenue A, is where I produce a monthly stand up show, We Hope You Have Fun, hosted by Ruby Karp). The UCB—founded by Matt Walsh, Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, and Ian Roberts in the 90’s—is a community. It consists of performers and behind-the-scenes crew and its ever-evolving audience, comedy nerds and tourists alike. Fans of escaping, of feeling happy, of forgetting and being in the moment. Of people who will sit and stand in the dark, watching their friends and heroes on stage. Of comedy and its nuances. I’d been an audience member since the 90s, when I’d seen Walsh, Poehler, Besser and Roberts at some bar, some other place where the stairs were so very steep. My father fed me my love of comedy in the 70s, and that included improv; finding an improv theatre in the 90s in NY? The best. And while a move is a move is a move, this Chelsea location is embedded in my heart; it’s where I came with my daughter, month after month, year after year, for the past 14 years. My daughter, so young, always in tow, tiny muppet hand in mine. In those early years, when she was 3, then, 4, then 5, she relished in the atmosphere, the laughter, always the laughter. I didn’t know, in retrospect, the impact it would have, that she would be infused with the same fandom as I had; I simply didn’t have the means for a babysitter. Some parents are calculated in what they want their children to have at their fingertips—piano lessons, soccer practice, like that; I had no roadmap. I was winging it. Going to UCB on a wintery night was an escape from the monotony of raising a child on my own. An hour respite from “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.” The UCB was always welcoming, house managers and interns and tech crew as well as the performers. Enthralled my daughter was, atop my lap, eyes in wonder as our friends improvised. Later, as she started stepped onto that stage, the hold of a performer took over; she could play with anyone, if she chose to. Play being the operative improv term. Later still, as she turned 8, 9, 10 and began telling monologues at ASSSSCAT, the Sunday night flagship show, she flourished even further. As she prepped for applying to high school, she spent Sundays in the tech booth, shadowing the ASSSSCAT tech maestro, feeding herself with as much knowledge a tech person at her future high school would demand. All of these things, and so much more, took place at UCB Chelsea. Watching my child find her place, her voice, her passion, well, that has been the elixir, the pat on the parental back. Beyond my own personal love of improv, it’s impossible for me to not feel nostalgic, you see, that a move is taking place. #byechelsea
Gloria Steinem: “I can’t say I was smart enough to see it coming. But I do understand that change is cumulative, and that you reach a tipping point. And we are now at a tipping point. Until the mid-70s we didn’t even have a phrase for sexual harassment.”
Ann Curry: “The women’s movement got us into the workplace, but it didn’t make us safe once we got there.”
Amy Sherman-Palladino: “I knew I wanted to do a period piece, because I just don’t want to type “Snapchat.”
Feminist herstory stuff.
And now have a laugh with Jackie Kashian.