Matt Besser has made his mark on a generation of comedians as one of the co-founders of the Upright Citizens Brigade troupe and comedy theaters (now four of them, two each in New York City and Los Angeles).
Over the years, you’ve also seen him performing on screens big and small, first with the Upright Citizens Brigade sketch show on Comedy Central, later in things as varied as Crossballs, Reno 911!, Parks and Recreation, Modern Family, Comedy Bang! Bang!, and the Hotwives parody franchise, plus guest-starring turns in dozens more TV shows.
Unless you’ve seen Besser solo at the UCB, though, you may not be as familiar with his stand-up comedy.
And Besser’s stand-up has included a penchant for breaking comedy records — whether or not these records exist or should exist is moot. The premise sets up the game of watching him try to accomplish his goal. Here’s an attempt he made back in 2010 in Philadelpia for most lumberjack jokes in one minute. Roll the clip!
And now, in his first video stand-up special, Besser Breaks The Record, for the new Seeso streaming platform/app, the comedian sets about breaking some more comedy records in front of a live audience at the UCB Theater in Hollywood.
But first, Besser issues instructions for said audience while portraying a would-be TSA agent, complete with fake mustache.
“Please turn your cell phones to vibrate! Right now, I see you doing it. Turn your cell phones to vibrate. And ladies, if you have your vibrator, turn it to airplane mode.”
Then it’s time to start the show, and he enters the UCB “ring” as the champ complete with robe and belt.
Talk about finding the game.
And yet, we still have another 40 minutes or so before we actually see Besser take up the challenge he has laid down for himself.
In the meantime, Besser takes us back to a time before Yelp when people wrote letters to editors of publications and to corporations both, and reads from his own collection of letters plus others that still tickle his fancy decades later. “There’s an inherent anger in all of them,” he says. That type of anger also reminds him of the punk rock which he loved as a kid — and which helped to fuel the low-cost aesthetic of UCB shows since its first theater opened.
Besser also has a charmingly simple reboot of the Ten Commandments, and leads us through all 10 of his suggested updates to the twin tablets handed down from God to Moses to the Jews. How about “Don’t Be Lame,” for one. For another, Besser finds himself off on a tangent talking about the vicious circle of trying to obtain medicinal marijuana to treat anxiety, which eventually reminds him how it’s easier to buy a gun than it is a bong, and that’s not going to help anyone’s anxiety, is it.
Only after presenting all 10 of his modern-day rules, he’s ready to start explaining his record-breaking attempt, in which he takes on the following self-imposed challenges:
- Fastest Joke Ever Told
- Most Jokes in One Minute
- Most Jones in One Minute While Eating
- The Impossible Rhyme
- Most Characters in Five Minutes
Watching him attempt these feats is often more amusing than the actual jokes he tells, or whether any of these feats should be records in themselves. And the latter category, in particular, would make for a fun spin-off of the longstanding tradition of Saturday Night Live auditions, don’t you think? Or is auditioning for SNL such an anxiety-riddled process that putting additional hurdles or restrictions makes it too much so? If only you could buy some weed to get you through it.
A postscript teases or promises what comes next for Besser and his bits.
If someone decides to break any of Besser’s records, it’s almost fate that he’d have to come back for more, though, right?