The Office Night
Upright Citizens Brigade, Theater, 12/18
Review and photos by Nicole Campos
(Right, Brent Forrester)
What nuggets of Dunder Mifflin-esque hilarity would ensue as cast members and writers of The Office stormed an extremely yuletidy stage (inherited from the evening’s previous show) at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre? There seemed to be some confusion on the part of those I talked to earlier in the day, who seemingly assumed tonight’s benefit for The Actor’s Fund was akin to the New York UCB’s recent live staging of SNL. Not quite; what was on the menu was a loose night standup in front of a small group of dedicated fans who, as writer Brent Forrester (emcee with the mostest) was keen to point out, would trek out in the rain for a late-night set (and huddle outside the tiny house’s front door in the bitter cold until the early show let out) from their favorite sitcom’s team.
(Ed Helms showing off his Brokaw)
Some of them, anyway… no Carell, no Wilson, although who needs them when you’ve got Ed Helms steamrolling through a short set that includes riffing on the heavily tinseled set and treating the room to one spectacular impression of Tom Brokaw nasally revealing his sexual predilections. (You could just see the glint in the eye, as though he’d always regretted he could never get away with that one on The Daily Show).
Granted, the crowd tonight is inclined to love this bunch outright as any dedicated fans might, but it’s difficult not to be won over by a crack group of comedy writers playfully jibing in front of an audience on the sort of observational funny that kills ‘em in the writers’ room but doesn’t always make it into a script; case in point, actress/writer Mindy Kaling (aka Kelly Kapoor) inviting her fellow scribes up onto the stage for a face-off of impressions of Leslie David Baker’s deadpan Stanley. Arguably won, it must be said, by writer Michael Schur whose own set may have lacked in finesse – as Forrester noted early on, everyone was pretty sure he’d never done standup before in his life – yet soared on “and you know another thing I noticed?!” charm. (His dead-on closer on “every Victoria’s Secret ad ever” in particular…”twenty dollah panties just ten dollahs!...thirty dollah panties just twenty dollahs!...”forty dollah panties just…”)
Among the other highlights: Kaling’s impassioned yarn about her much-beloved pitch for a Ghostbusters sequel in which the bustin’ crew’s daughters are forced into the job they’ve shunned all their adult lives, which she somehow mustered the chutzpah to pitch to an utterly bemused Harold Ramis when he guest-directed the show; and razor-sharp B.J. Novak’s riotous anecdotes about…oh, right. At least two of his bits were prefaced with a pleading request that any bloggers in the house not recap them in the morning lest his mother Google them and bust him years later – “…and believe me, she’ll look” – so in the spirit of the giving season, let’s stop short of breaking a giggly, unspoken promise. He did, however, voice a wish that someone might snap a photo of him mugging with a frog puppet (“What if I do stand up again and that winds up my press photo. People are going to think, “What…the FUCK?!”), and that, of course, we can certainly oblige. Merry Christmas, Ryan.
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(Above, Novak's future press photo)