See present and future comedy stars improvise during the 19th annual Del Close Marathon

Each summer going back 18 years, the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre has hosted improvisers from around the country — and now around the world — to celebrate the comedy form, and in particular the late improv guru Del Close. Close not only popularized the Harold form, but also taught and inspired a generation of some of our greatest comedians.

Among many, these talented performers (citation, via Wikipedia)


You can learn much more about both Close and the Del Close Marathon by watching the 2016 documentary about both, Thank You Del.

The 19th annual Del Close Marathon begins Friday afternoon and continues with 650 shows on 10 stages across New York City until Sunday evening.

My first DCM experience happened in 2007, shortly after I’d moved to NYC. So this will be the 11th DCM I’ve covered. I may not have the energy or enthusiasm to stay up as late as I did a decade ago, but you and thousands of comedy fans like you will gladly take my seat or standing room only space.

It was a joy not only seeing famous comedians from Saturday Night Live ad-lib scenes a few feet in front of me, but also witnessing late-night hijinx that might include the full introduction of the 1986 New York Mets as imagined by scrawny improvisers, or an all-star celebrity impersonation of Match Game ’76 that took aim at Jack McBrayer (playing himself) as Brooke Shields (also playing herself) broke into laughter onstage amid it all. Even more satisfying: Meeting so many young talents who have since gone on to bigger and better things, and become if not household names, then recognizable faces that draw you into TV series and movies alike. Or sell you products in long-running TV commercial campaigns.

Here’s my review from DCM10 in 2008.

I’ve seen the UCB alumni ranks become so cast-able in sitcoms that they had to move the marathon from August to June, so as not to conflict with writers’ rooms and pre-production.

I’ve watched backstage as Brett Gelman transformed himself into Yoda for a theme show at DCM11:

And Sarah Silverman joined Seth (Morris) & Ed’s (Helms) Puppet Show that year, too:

I’ve seen DCM embrace Vine at DCM15. (RIP, Vine)

I was there when the UCB finally unveiled their definitive UCB book on improv in 2013.

I’ve spoken with several UCB alums, including the UCB4, for podcasts during DCM17 and DCM18.

So you can have just as much fun hanging out all day or all night (or both) inside one of the air-conditioned venues around Manhattan, or you can take your chances waiting on line outside the main UCB Theatre in Chelsea (there’s even a Twitter account just for this @DCM_Lines.

The DCM site has the full schedule, along with an index by performer in case you just want to find your friends or favorite performers.

Some of the names and faces you already know and love who’ll be taking part in 2017:

  • The UCB4: co-founders Amy Poehler (SNL, Parks and Recreation), Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh (Veep)
  • Horatio Sanz (SNL)
  • Bobby Moynihan (SNL)
  • Sasheer Zamata (SNL)
  • Anthony Atamanuik (The President Show)
  • Nicole Byer (Loosely, Exactly Nicole, Party Over Here)
  • Adam Pally (Happy Endings, The Mindy Project)
  • D’Arcy Carden (The Good Place)
  • Echo Kellum (Arrow)
  • John Gemberling (Broad City)
  • Kirby Howell-Baptiste (Downward Dog)
  • Tami Sagher (Don’t Think Twice)
  • Jo Firestone (The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon)
  • Neil Casey (Ghostbusters)
  • Shannon O’Neill (The Chris Gethard Show)
  • Jason Mantzoukas (The House, The League)
  • Scott Adsit (30 Rock, Big Hero 6)
  • Becky Drysdale (Orange is the New Black)
  • Peter Grosz (The President Show)
  • Jessica McKenna (Party Over Here)
  • John Lutz (30 Rock)
  • Sue Galloway (30 Rock)
  • Heather Anne Campbell (Whose Line is it Anyway?)
  • Jon Glaser (Delocated, Girls, Neon Joe, Jon Glaser Loves Gear)
  • Gil Ozeri (Brooklyn Nine-Nine)
  • Chad Carter (The Detour)
  • Zeke Nicholson (Take My Wife)
  • Hillary Matthews (Start-Up)
  • Lou Wilson (The Guest Book)

And of course, many more who you may want to keep an eye on so you can say you knew them before they were famous, performing at DCM.

The full calendar of shows for DCM19 is available online. The marathon begins, per usual, with a press conference at 4 p.m. Friday.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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