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And… Scene.


RICHTER: At a certain point, there became a strong pull to get [Poehler] away from the rest.
POEHLER: Some of us had opportunities to make money [by] splitting up the group. We fought that off for a while. Every once in a while, a sitcom would come up, and I didn’t torture myself by putting myself in the position to get things and then have to turn them down.
ROBERTS: [Matt and Amy] handled [their romantic breakup] so well. Matt called me up and said, “Hey, can I come over?” And I thought it was to use my printer. So I said, “Yeah, I may not be here, but I’ll leave the door open.” He was like, “No, dude, I wanna talk to you.” And he sat down and said, “Look, Amy and I broke up, and we discussed it, and it’s not going to have any effect on the group.” And we never missed a beat.


As the UCB business began to grow, so did the accompanying social scene. The students frequently gathered (and still do) at the Peter McManus Cafe, a cop bar on Seventh ­Avenue at 19th Street.

“I’ve seen things most people will go to their graves never even imagining.” — Adam Pally

KLAUSNER: You’re asking about my twenties, which is a Venn diagram of bad decisions and decisions made at McManus. Which were generally the same thing.
HELMS: A comedy community is comprised of a lot of people who have not thrived in conventional social circles. And that just makes for a giant pool of awkward sexuality.
BOBBY MOYNIHAN, SNL: Every single female I’ve ever worked with at UCB, I fell in love with for at least fifteen minutes after she told an amazing joke onstage.
CASEY WILSON, SNL: Right off the bat, my instinct was, “Look at all these guys who are all ­comedy-hot.”
TARA COPELAND, performer-­teacher: [A lot of the guys] were rejected in high school and maybe college. But I thought they were hilarious and charismatic and cute, and we were all always together.
ADAM PALLY, Happy Endings: I remember seeing Ellie [Kemper], because she’s the nicest person, getting trapped and literally having to make her way from nerd to nerd to nerd to get out of the theater.
ELLIE KEMPER, The Office: [Laughs] Oh, I don’t know … That’s very nice of him.
ZACH WOODS, The Office: I didn’t feel like the object of a lot of positive sexual attention. No one was especially eager to be hooking up with an awkward, backne’d 16-year-old with a praying-mantis body. Which is probably for the best, because it would have been illegal.
JESSICA ST. CLAIR, performer: A lot of comedy nerds met their comedy princesses.
JOHN LUTZ, 30 Rock: I met my wife backstage.
SUE ­GALLOWAY, 30 Rock: I saw John in a show and thought, “I have a crush on that guy,” which I guess is what guys who perform comedy hope women are saying.
PHIRMAN: I’m sure you can imagine 23 improvisers in a room together. I don’t think anyone had a real conversation about anything. We’d constantly do bits. ­
FOGELNEST: One night, Michael Stipe was hanging out at McManus with me, Horatio [Sanz], and Jimmy Fallon, and Horatio pretended to have a heart attack, very convincingly. Everybody knows this is just some asshole ­McManus bit, but Michael Stipe had no idea. He was mortified. It wasn’t always fun for people who weren’t in the theater.
SANZ: I don’t mean to sound like Sid Vicious or anything, but there are a lot of those nights I don’t remember. I do remember, one night, I threw a stool at this jukebox. Kurt Cobain was playing, and I thought that he would like that. Afterward, I called [the bar] very sheepishly and was like, “Sorry. I want to pay for that jukebox.” And the owner said, “Eh, don’t worry about it.” We pledged our undying support of his bar for life. I was given a key eventually.

In the fall of 2002, the UCB Theater faced two setbacks: First, Farahnakian and Diaz struck out on their own, opening the competing Peoples Improv Theater. (Diaz would later found a third competitor, the Magnet.) Then, in November, UCB’s building was shut down for a fire-code violation.

CHARLIE TODD, founder, Improv Everywhere: When I was in college, my house burned down. I would actually say that the UCB theater being closed was more tragic than that.
POEHLER: I was so bereft: “Oh my God. We’re never going to find another home.” There were months where we were performing around New York, asking people to hold on while we found a space.
ANTHONY KING, ­artistic director, 2005–2011: The real panic was, “Has this all been for nothing?”
ROB RIGGLE, The Daily Show; SNL: Maybe I was being naive and optimistic, but I felt like the community was so strong that we’d find a way.

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