This weekend, the Del Close Marathon hits NYC for its 20th year with more than 56 nonstop hours of comedy at a collection of venues across town—including Carnegie Hall. The beloved—and totally bananas—improv holiday celebrates the legacy of Upright Citizens Brigade, the comedy theater that has helped shape the careers of performers like Kate McKinnon, Donald Glover, and co-founder Amy Poehler.
Before DCM launches on Friday, June 29, we asked some of our favorite UCB veterans—Natasha Rothwell, Sasheer Zamata, Douglas Widick, Michael Kayne, X Mayo and Nicole Pasquale—to share their favorite memories of the festival
"During DCM 2017, I was scheduled to perform in 'Improvised Cell Block Tango' at 4am at UCBT Chelsea. I was supposed to perform with four other women. Two of the women dropped last minute. The person who created the bit got white girl wasted—cuz ya know it’s DCM baby—and she told her brother (whom I’d never met, and who randomly found me at 3am leaving a show at The Magnet) to tell me: "The show is yours! Do whatever you want! Bish I can’t make it!" I was fucking terrified because I agreed to do the bit and honestly had no idea what it was.
I was on an all-black improv team at the time and we were all together and I grabbed two more black people and I said: 'I need you to do a show in 30 minutes.' They said: ‘Let’s go!’ I’m backstage at Chelsea and I yell ‘Who’s seen Chicago?' to the audience. Three people raise their hand. Oh Lord! One of the girls who was supposed to do the gig shows up drunk as hell and keeps apologizing. I tell all the women that we’re going to step out and describe how we killed our husbands. As that’s happening, a man will come out and act out the death and then die and lay on the ground and we will edit with ‘He Had It Coming!’ We went out and fucking killed! People added more things to the bit once we got on stage, and it was electric! We got a huge applause and one guy said: 'This is the best bit show! How long have you been doing it?’ I said: 'Babe we just came up with this backstage.’ That’s the heart of DCM and this community: Being supportive, kind, and improvising how you killed your husband at 4am."
"Three years ago, I got asked to coach an improv team from Iceland that was in town for DCM. 'Sure, why not,' I thought. I had zero expectations. Turned out they were incredibly brave, sweet, thoughtful, attentive. Every one of them was also a statuesque blond fitness model. They were aggressively flawless in character, appearance and talent. Not long after I coached them, they performed a show at DCM entirely in Icelandic that was the best show I'd ever seen. I am still, to this day, bitterly jealous."
"At my first DCM in 2011 on the last night, I was waiting in a long-ass bathroom line at the very sweaty party space, and I made a friend! His name is Ryan and he’s a UCB L.A. guy. In line, we talked about a Jurassic Park improv show. The next year we did it at DCM and it was a hit. The year after we did it again at a better time slot and it was wild. As a raptor I jumped into the audience, then onto a chair, which collapsed underneath me, and I landed on my neck, then popped right back up roaring. I never felt so alive! Then the next day I never felt so sore!"
"My most memorable DCM involved doing over 10 shows and sleeping only one night in three days. The Prov-Core set that year (which is improv inspired by hardcore punk music) descended into a unregulated mosh pit that shook the rafters of UCB East. That memory still puts a smile on my face. By the end, I started hallucinating from exhaustion and saw some animals in my backyard that I'm not sure were really there. Also, when I was volunteering [at the door] one year, I almost stopped Amy Poehler to check her wristband…bush league move on my part."
"My favorite DCM moment was the first year I was a performer in the marathon, which I’m pretty sure was in 2010. I’m in a group called Doppelgänger with Nicole Byer and Keisha Zollar, and we were scheduled to perform at 4am at Urban Stages. Those time slots are hard, because if you’re not performing all night leading up to those morning shows, you just have to be up until the show, or go to sleep and wake up for it, but that seemed awful. So we were partying hard, and by the time 4am rolled around we were so drunk and high that I didn’t know how we were going to do a show. We did, but I don’t remember it well. I’m pretty sure I stayed behind Nicole and Keisha just watching them and laughing at what they were doing. The only thing I can remember is one of them smacking the other with their improv dick, which is pretty much how we played all the time. I’m sure that was a sloppy show, and I don’t even know what the audience saw, but it was very fun to do and I remember laughing a lot."
"I started going to DCM with Washington Improv Theatre, back when I was still living in D.C. In 2007, we submitted a new show, iMusical, which thankfully got accepted, because it ended up being one of my favorite improv shows to date—a musical that started out with a meet-cute in a comic book shop. We got a standing ovation afterwards, and I remember being on a high from that show for days."