The New York-based UCB frequently uses what's called the Harold Method -- long improvisations with specific rules and structures. During one show, the comedians had to work with a scenario in which "a depressed marketing executive meets a crazy psychiatrist," says Martin & Orloff's director, Lawrence Blume. He helped the company develop the sketch into a script.
Kansas Citians will be among the first to see the madcap result when Blume comes to town for a May 23 Indy Film Showcase. Blume says the movie is typical of the UCB's work. "I was always attracted to their mix of the lowbrow, like dick and fart jokes, and the highbrow, which is rather sophisticated," he says. "I like that combination: intelligent absurdity. It reminds me of Mel Brooks circa Blazing Saddles, where you had the farts-around-the-campfire scene followed by a Jewish Indian with Gucci saddlebags."
The movie begins with a bloody crisis of conscience. After an unsuccessful suicide attempt, a thirtyish New Yorker (Ian Roberts) who designs marketing tools (such as pickle costumes) decides that a visit to a therapist is in order. His first session with Dr. Orloff (Matt Walsh) is cut short, though, because the doctor has a softball game. Thinking that Orloff's unorthodox style might help him, Martin goes to the game, umps and winds up in jail. The pair eventually takes off on a journey through the city, with Orloff constantly saying "Let's have a session" at inopportune moments.
Though the UCB had a Comedy Central show for three years, Blume is mystified that the troupe isn't more famous. The group is "New York's best-kept secret," Blume says. "I mean, they've got 8,000 subscribers on their mailing list. I equate it to where alternative music was years ago, when Nirvana was a secret -- and then overnight, alternative became mainstream." In addition to Roberts and Walsh (who is now with Jon Stewart's The Daily Show), the film features Third Watch's Kim River and, from Saturday Night Live's funniest roster of females in years, Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch and Amy Poehler.
Blume admits that the movie's ratio of dick jokes to intelligent pop-culture references will make its impending distribution "a marketing challenge." But its strongest selling point is its Kafkaesque truth. As Blume says, "Every single character in the movie is crazy -- except the guy who's supposed to be."