Watching this summer’s comedy, They Came Together, it’s hard to imagine that Amy Poehler wasn’t always a leading lady in comedic entertainment. Yet Poehler’s gift to the genre does not stop with her films; rather it is one that keeps on giving through her involvement with the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (UCBT) and Training Programs. Jessye McGarry ’16, a creative writing major, is interning with the UCBT in New York City this summer with the support of the Joseph F. Anderson Fund.
The UCBT was founded in Chicago in 1990 by Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Matt Walsh and Ian Roberts as a sketch comedy group. The group relocated to New York City in 1996, where they opened their first theatre and training center in 1999. The UCBT had a television show on Comedy Central from 1998-2000, garnering fame and support that has since allowed it to expand to two theatres in NYC and one in Los Angeles.
McGarry, who has previously taken improv classes with the UCBT, is now learning the behind-the-scenes operations of the Theatre and Training Center. She is working with the registrar and the academic supervisor to help organize information for teachers and staff about the “thousands of students who take improv and sketch comedy classes each year.” McGarry also answers students’ questions regarding classes and helps them enroll in various programs.
While McGarry is enjoying her work, she is also thankful for her time with the UCBT because she is able to continue taking classes and can watch the comedy shows free of charge. She referred to the performances as “inspiring,” saying that “nothing the performers are doing has happened before and nothing they're doing will happen again … so I can't just send someone a video of my favorite moments in comedy, but I think that adds to the value of improvisation as an art form.”
“Through this internship,” McGarry noted, “I've been able to see that the people who perform and write for the theatre are not only talented but are also incredibly hardworking.” Despite the fact that the market is flooded with prospective comedians, “alums of the UCBT are writing and starring on shows like Saturday Night Live, Parks and Recreation, The Daily Show and so many more.”
A member of Yodapez, Hamilton’s premier improv troupe, McGarry said “I want to keep surrounding myself in comedy as much as I can.” In the fall, she will attend the comedy studies program at The Second City in Chicago, laying the foundation for her career. “Ideally I'll get paid to do comedy after I graduate,” she remarked, adding, “my dream job is being a staff writer for a sitcom.”
Jessye McGarry is a resident of Perkasie, Pa., and a graduate of Pennridge High School.