Published on August 10th, 2009 | by Sharilyn Johnson


Del Close Marathon Countdown: Anthony King

Throughout the week leading up to the 11th annual Del Close Marathon in New York, improv folks from all perspectives enlighten us with their expectations for this weekend’s 3-day improv extravaganza.

Today, Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre NYC Artistic Director – and the man behind the DCM schedule – Anthony King.

Tell us about the selection process for groups submitting for the first time. How much competition is there, what do you look for in on a tape, and does being from out of town help significantly?

There is incredible competition for DCM shows. We got over 1000 submissions and could only admit just over 300. We do try to include as many groups as we can from all over the country – and the world (there’s a group from Finland this year!). When I watch tapes, I’m looking for, well, good improv. I also try to get recommendations from improv teachers and theatre directors I know in major improv cities that send lots of submissions (LA, Chicago, etc.). That’s incredibly helpful. We also try to include as many people as possible in the marathon, so two- and three-person groups have a tougher time getting accepted if they’re not mind-blowingly awesome.

Dealing almost exclusively with UCB-trained improvisors throughout the rest of the year, do the styles of non-UCB groups really jump out at you? Can you tell right away who has been UCB trained and who hasn’t?

Anthony King performing in Lets Have a Ball at last years DCM, copying these answers off of Tami Saghers paper. Photo by Sharilyn Johnson.

Anthony King performing in Let's Have a Ball at last year's DCM, copying these answers off of Tami Sagher's paper. Photo by Sharilyn Johnson.

I don’t know that I can tell if a group has been UCB-trained or not. I can usually tell if a group is good or not. All the improv theatres are doing, basically, the same thing – we just approach it a little differently. So I find that the good improv from almost every city and theatre looks very, very similar. It’s the bad improv that is radically different – and bad for different reasons. But most of the submissions I get are good. We just don’t have room for everything.

Ok, so spill it: why no Wicked Fuckin’ Queeyah this year? (and while we’re at it, why no Daily Show / Colbert Report Jam?)

No one submitted Wicked Fuckin’ Queeyah! Those knuckleheads were too busy punching pregnant women and throwing full cans of beer at Jeter. There’s no Daily Show/Colbert show this year because a lot of the regulars from that show are now busy in LA being famous. So we replaced it with the 30 Rock Jam. They’re also busy being famous – but they’re doing it in NYC.

The dates for Marathon have moved around the last few years, evolving from mid-July to now mid-August. Why the change, and what can we expect for next year?

We’re always looking for the sweet spot in between other festivals and conflicts. The end of July is the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal where the UCB Theatre had a stage this year. I’m not sure when the DCM will be next year. We may experiment with the beginning of July or we may leave it in August. We try to announce the date in late spring so people have lots of time to make plans.

With the second UCBT location opening in the East Village in November, has thought been given to whether it will be used as a DCM venue? Is there a chance this will be the last year people can venue-hop without a Metrocard?

I hope we’ll be able to open in November! We don’t have an official opening date yet since we’re still jumping through all the legal hoops you have to deal with in New York City. So until that becomes official, I honestly haven’t given much thought to the role that space will play in the marathon. We might just open the pipes and turn it into a turkish bath.

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About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.

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