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.
PART III: COMMUNITY
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 … Thats 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.