56 hours. 10 stages. 701 shows.
This is the Del Close Marathon in a nutshell. Comedy buffs and performers from all over the world will convene in New York City this weekend to be a part of this insane improv-a-thon. Started by Upright Citizens Brigade founding quartet Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh and Ian Roberts 19 years ago as a tribute to Del Close, the father of improv, this weekend-long festival is the mecca of all things comedy.
Whether you want to see a live show starring your favorite comedy players in the middle of the night (Bobby Moynihan, Horatio Sanz, Tim Meadows to name a few) or you’re interested in seeing what an improv musical is all about, there’s a show happening every half hour so you’ll be able to get your fix. Six high school teams and 38 college groups will participate this year, and performers have come from as far away as Australia to take part in what’s become a nationally treasured event. A few people from Iceland also made the trip out this year, which confused founding member Ian Roberts at Friday’s press conference. “Is Iceland part of Europe?” joked Roberts.
After asking the audience to recite all seven continents for good measure, the men of UCB (Besser, Walsh, Roberts, and Sanz) took the stage to talk about some of their favorite memories of Del as well as some honored DCM traditions that have taken place over the past 19 years.
“Sometimes he’d [Del] make you so embarrassed that you wouldn’t do the mistake again. I was doing something, it was a nasty improv habit, and he embarrassed me in front of the entire class. But I didn’t do it again.” Besser said with a reminiscent smile.
“I would say what I miss is that because Del liked so little, it made you try to be really good. I miss having someone who was so hard to please and had such high standard because it made you be smart with your comedy and do something unique.” added Roberts.
After putting on close to two decades of marathons, it’s not shocking that a few mishaps have occurred over the years. Horatio Sanz was actually arrested during a fake riot performance, one daring audience member (who stayed awake the entire weekend to catch all the shows) had a medical emergency because he forgot to pack his medication, and what started out as a march across town to come up with story ideas was eventually shut down due to new government regulations.
But DCM wouldn’t be what it is today without all of UCB’s loyal fans. Bright-eyed 17 year-old, Fred, plans on staying awake for the entire 56 hour event. He’s got water and plenty of deodorant (the spray kind) to keep him feeling fresh during this New York City summer of humidity. Horatio Sanz even promised him a $15 McDonald’s gift card if he comes to one of his shows this weekend.
When it comes to advice for the next generation of aspiring comedians and improvisers, Roberts reiterated what pal Amy Poehler has always believed. “Your best chance of that [getting into the comedy business] would be not doing anything for success or money. Do it because you’re having fun, and who knows, something may come of that.”
Seasoned comedian and actor Matt Walsh also put in his two cents. “Do what you love because whatever job you have, you’ll have to work really hard. So you better choose something you really love.”
Well, you can tell that all 2,651 DCM performers certainly love what they do. The power of “yes, and,” the cardinal rule of improv, has proven that if you set up a stage with actors and an idea, the audience will follow. In fact, it was just announced that in honor of next year’s 20th Del Close Marathon, UCB’s popular ASSSSCAT longform show will take place at Carnegie Hall. When asked what Del would think about almost 20 years of improvised marathons done in his name, the collective answer from the founders simply was, “He’d love it.”
Come check out what happens this weekend as some of today’s most beloved comedians and talented up and comers show off their improvisational skills on stage. This year, shows will be taking place at ten different venues across the city including UCB Chelsea, UCBEast, SVA Theatres, Magnet Theater, and FIT Haft Auditorium. Tickets range from $10 – $25 and passes are also available for $40. Check the DCM website for full schedule, merchandise, and venue listings.