After enduring the typical daily chaos, how do New York's funny people unwind? More chaos, although in a more controlled form. Improv comedy is the art of saying yes, embracing spontaneity and surrendering to the often bizarre whims of your fellow man. It could be the official sport of the MTA.
"It's all about listening and keeping yourself open to the moment," says Magnet Theater improviser Louis Kornfeld. "You learn to throw yourself fully into a situation without knowing the outcome --?and all you have is the other people around you."
All of the big, New York improv theaters, such as The Magnet, Upright Citizens Brigade and The Pit, offer a safe place to put yourself out there, as well as be a little vulnerable.
"A lot of the work teaches us to peel off the layers of cool that we accumulate over the years so as not to embarrass ourselves. Being okay with embarrassing yourself is a virtue in improv," says Kornfeld. Try it out for yourself on Thursday nights at their popular Magnet Mixer, where improv novices and experts alike can sign up to perform a quick scene together in front of an audience.
But be careful: It's a close community you're entering. After graduating from NYU in 2000, Julie Klausner, the polymath podcaster behind How Was Your Week, took classes, performed and eventually taught at UCB.
"The spirit of UCB is definitely a collaborative one and a social one," she says, "You learn to work and play well with others." Klausner adds that most of her professional relationships can be traced back to UCB. "I really do consider it my alma mater."
If performing isn't for you, UCB also offers writing classes. After dropping out of Yale Law School, Jessica Dweck moved to New York to pursue comedy, but found the open-mic scene frustrating. If you're serious, friends told her, go to UCB.
After taking UCB's writing class, Dweck is now a sketchwriter for the theater's Maude Night. She's also of the rare comics who gets to be funny in her day job: Since October, she has been contributing to Comedy Central's Indecision Blog.
Where to go
254 W. 29th St.
123 E. 24th St.