Del Close Marathon superstars commemorate the improv marathon's 15th anniversary

Amy Poehler, Nick Kroll, Chris Gethard and many more reflect on a decade and a half of nonstop improvised madness



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  • Photograph: Keith Huang

    Del Close Marathon 2006: Matt Besser, left, on scooter cooler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh

  • Photograph: Jason Spiro

    An early Swarm show at the UCB Theatre on 22nd Street with Andy Daly and Andy Secunda

  • Del Close Marathon: Jack McBrayer and Paul Scheer in Scheer/McBrayer

  • Photograph: Ari Scott

    Del Close Marathon 2010: Match Game '76 with, from left, Owen Burke, Matt Besser and Chris Gethard

  • Photograph: Keith Huang

    Del Close Marathon 2008: I Eat Pandas with Frank Spitznagel and Glennis McCarthy (nee McMurray)

  • Photograph: Ari Scott

    Del Close Marathon 2009: Cosbyprov with (from left) Brett Gelman, Jesse Falcon, Owen Burke, Rob Lathan, Jon Daly and Anthony Atamanuik

  • Photograph: Keith Huang

    Del Close Marathon 2008: Joe Wengert

  • Photograph: Keith Huang

    Del Close Marathon 2008: Wicked Fuckin' Queeyah with, from left, Jessica Allen Eason, Michael Delaney, Ari Voukydis and Anthony Atamauik

Photograph: Keith Huang

Del Close Marathon 2006: Matt Besser, left, on scooter cooler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh

Andy Secunda (The Swarm, the Stepfathers): The thing I love about the marathon is that regular improv shows are already by definition a little loose, but during the marathon literally anything that comes into your head can be a show. Besser had commented to Michael Delaney and I that all of our scenes had become so talky that we looked like our shoes were nailed to the floor. It’s not something either of us was proud of since object and space work are essential to good improv, but in the marathon you can take a legitimate critique and turn it into a challenge, which turned out to be immensely fun in Nailed Down (wherein our shoes are actually nailed to the stage). Then Will Hines, John Gemberling, Anthony Antamanuik and I came up with the Chairmen, in which we were seated in all of our scenes. I guess I’m slowly working toward being completely motionless in a show called Bedridden and then maybe ComaProv.

Ian Roberts (UCB4 Four): For one of the marathons, someone had purchased a combination beer cooler/scooter. You could basically get on this cooler and ride it around. The UCB Four did a show in which we rode this cooler around quite a bit. The show ultimately degenerated into my lying down on the stage with a piece of plywood on top of me so that someone—Matt Walsh?—could try to ride the beer cooler over me. I honestly don’t remember if this worked or not.

Paul Scheer (Respecto Montalban, Facebook): I started doing an improvised version of Match Game ’76 in the second year of DCM. I was Gene Rayburn, everyone else picked a ’70s celeb, we re-created the show and [Jack] McBrayer played one of the contestants. Every year the characters got more and more insane and the behavior got worse and worse. Beer was spit, fistfights broke out,  balls were placed on people’s faces and Brooke Shields even played herself one year. But the best part of Match Game is that all that bad behavior is directed at Jack. It’s the one time in a year where people hate the most lovable guy in the world—with a passion. Even the audience boos him when he gets onstage. The show has devolved into just an utter destruction of Jack. We must continue to do it until Jack is killed onstage.

Jack McBrayer (Optimist International): I knew every single player on that stage, and I knew that every single one of them would never, ever do anything to truly hurt me. It was just utter, ridiculous, chaotic fun.

Jesse Falcon (Mother): One year, in the middle of Match Game—I was Dr. Zaius— Rob Huebel ran onstage in a Bigfoot costume and wrestled me offstage. It was strange, and not part of the show, but [then] he leaned into me and whispered, "The girl you came with is passed out in the bathroom."

Matt Walsh (UCB4 Four): I love the early morning shows where things get crazy, like Robot TV, Drunken Sonic Assault and Dar Silicon. I also like interviewing the hard-core fans who have stayed for every show during the marathon. They seem to be in a haze of improv.

Matt Besser (UCB Four): The first year, Drunken Sonic Assault was, like, four hours or something, because we had to kill time. It’s basically cranking industrial music and people just doing whatever they want. There were some breasts that came out. I’m not sure if it was the first year, the second or the third, but I think it got the guys hyped up in general: Hey, this is like rock & roll—breasts are going to come out. But I think since that time, it has been a heavy stream of penises.

Ari Voukydis (Beautiful Cop, Pound): Wicked Fuckin’ Queeyah was dreamed up, drunkenly, about 15 years ago at [Peter] McManus [Cafe] by Amy Poehler, Rob Corddry and myself. All three of us are from the greater Boston area, and all three of us have worked hard to eliminate that accent, but it comes out whenever we get really drunk or angry. So one of us had the idea that we do a show as, basically, people we didn’t like in high school. The rules of WFQ are that we have to use our native accents, drink out of tall boys the whole time, every scene has to end in a fight and no scene can be about Boston—the “cast” of the show (an improv team called FunnyBeans from North Adams, Massachusetts) thinks they’re a lot smarter and edgier than they probably are. But the real secret to the show is that the audience only sees the second half. The “show” starts half an hour beforehand in the green room and just kind of spills out onto the stage. On the way through the curtain onto the stage during the debut at DCM 1, Amy punched me in the arm and said, “Dude, that pahty was fuckin’ weak. Your friends ate all my Steak-umms and raped me. [Beat] But it was okay, ’cause one of them was wicked hot and I got a ride home.”

Joe Wengert (Dillinger, Krompf):
One of the first years of Krompf breakfast, we cooked everything at Ryan [Karels]’s place in Brooklyn and I remember either driving or cabbing a big pan of hot eggs over the bridge into Manhattan. The next year, we got a little bolder and cooked everything on camping stoves in the green room which is a really, really, really stupid idea. If you tell any of us early on Saturday night that you can’t wait for Krompf breakfast, you are guaranteeing yourself to miss it.

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