Postcard from... Los Angeles


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The Independent Online

At the weekend, I spent an hour queuing on a pavement near Hollywood to see a comedy show that hadn’t even been written yet. Every Sunday at its modest LA theatre, comedy troupe the Upright Citizens Brigade stages ASSSSCAT, a world-renowned improv sketch show.

A guest comedian delivers an impromptu monologue based on a word suggested by the audience. UCB performers then improvise sketches based loosely on elements of that monologue. It’s free-flowing, funny, and features several faces you’ll recognise from the screen if you’re a comedy fan. Among them is Zach Woods of In The Loop and the HBO series Silicon Valley. On Sunday night, Woods starred in a hilarious skit, made up on the spot, about trying to buy suitable trousers for participation in a “three-way”.

If you’ve ever wondered where America finds its funny people, the answer is often in troupes like UCB, which originated in Chicago before spreading to New York and LA. It was famously where Parks & Recreation star Amy Poehler got her start. Nearby on Melrose Avenue is the headquarters of the Groundlings, another comedy factory hosting a rival Sunday show. Its alumni include Jack Black, Lisa Kudrow, Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig.