The Swarm

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An longform improv comedy group in New York City, founded and performed primarily at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York. Described by many as one of the best ever.

Contents

Cast

Dave Blumenfeld, Sean Conroy, Andrew Daly, Michael Delaney, Billy Merritt, Katie Roberts, Andrew Secunda

Former members: Joanne Morrison, Aaron Bergeron

History

First assembled by Amy Poehler in 1998. They started performing Harolds at the Solo Arts Theatre.

Group Style

The Swarm was best known for its uniquely slow style of play, sometimes referred to as the "Slow Waltz" style. This slower style was fairly unique to NYC improv at the time. They put much more emphasis on the technicality of the scene than many of their sister UCB groups, sometimes spending minutes on stage setting up the Where in silence before beginning. Ironically, this forced them to become very quick and adept at finding the game, often within just a few words. The Swarm tended to stay away from the foul language, panicky screaming, and one-upmanship common to other groups at the time, and instead opted for a more grounded, clever, and simple approach.


Significance

One of the all-time great improv groups -- hugely influential in New York, and one of the standard-bearers for how good, funny and artful long-form improv could be. At their best, they could play manic silliness and slow patient moments in the same show. After ASSSCAT, they were the signature group at the UCBT until their Friday night show ended. They mastered different structures like Harold and monoscene (which the UCB Manual credits them with perfecting), even giving discipline to something as shapeless as simple montage. Both as teachers and performers in the UCBT community, they raised the standard for improv for hundreds of students and other performers.

Famous moments

  • First-ever Harold in the Dark at UCBT on October 29, 1998 in honor of Halloween.
  • Spontaneous "back yard" form, where each scene took place in a back yard, and was edited by the neighbor leaning over the hedge and taking focus. Ended in the first backyard.
  • The blindfolded Harold. Halfway through a cagematch, The Swarm called a timeout, lined the edge of the raised stage with bubble wrap and then performed the rest blindfolded. Secunda inadvertently (lightly) smacked the very pregnant Katie Roberts in the face.
  • Won the first ever NYC Cage Match on April 6, 2000. (vs Cowbot)

Shows

Additional Details

  • Opening Theme Music: "Spirit of Radio" by Rush
  • Second Half Opening Theme: "Name of the Game" by The Crystal Method
  • They have hundreds of hours of footage recorded and cataloged from their shows, used mainly for future sketch shows and ideas.
  • Before each show they would do a "light" warm-up consisting of gathering in a circle and throwing an object (usually something random like a water bottle) around to each other while conversing.

Links

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