Patrick Wall, Style Editor

The Harman Center for the Arts offered a respite from the snow for those in search of great comedy. The touring improvisational comedy troupe The Upright Citizens Brigade performed Saturday to an audience eager to laugh.

The largely twenty-something crowd piled into the Harmon’s forum, a simplistic yet chic room in the Shakespearian playhouse’s basement. Audience members sipped drinks and quietly chatted amongst themselves, waiting for the show to begin.

Just as the crowd was getting noticeably restless, four ordinary-looking folks ran in the room, raising their arms with an enthusiastic greeting.

Before the four comics started, they requested a participant from the audience. They picked and promptly asked the volunteer to fork over his wallet. They then proceeded to rifle through it.

The evening’s entertainment was broken into two parts — the first, a series of continual sketches based on the contents of their volunteer’s wallet. The second was also long-form improvisational comedy, this time based on a word selected by the audience.

The subject of the first series of skits focused mainly on the volunteer’s profession, a marketer for a Washington, DC accounting firm. The second half was based primarily around the word “penguin.”
Each sketch flowed seamlessly, switching scenes and ideas without so much as a pause from the four performers.

Content ranged from the outrageous (a Law and Order spinoff based on going to the bathroom) to the somewhat topical (racism against supervillians) to the downright wrong (too many jokes about Eric Clapton’s deceased child).

It was clear that the cast members had worked a great deal together. Several times during the show, especially during flashback scenes, cast members would tap one another on the shoulder. The member would instantly make way for the other comedian, who would take their place onstage.

The system worked to near-perfection. The laughs were continual, and the jokes fresh. After awhile it felt as if the show was scripted.

As one might expect, no two Upright Citizens Brigade shows are the same. Several casts tour the country and, due to the nature of the show, each show is a unique experience.

The Upright Citizens Brigade was formed 20 years ago and has since gained a reputation for producing talented comedians. Their performances became so popular they opened two studios to teach their improv methods to inspiring jokesters. Actors like Saturday Night Live’s Amy Poehler, Horatio Sanz and The Daily Show’s Rob Riggle and Ed Helms got their start performing for the troupe.

Several troupes tour the country, and one will return to the Harmon on March 27. For tickets, visit or call the box office at 202-547-1122.