It was the winter of 1999, and Amy Poehler was in a grimy bathroom on West 22nd Street, pulling used condoms out of a toilet. For three years, the 28-year-old Poehler and her fellow members of the Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe—Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, and Ian Roberts—had been performing sketch and improv anywhere they could. Now, thanks to Rudy Giuliani’s anti-porn crusade, they had their own theater in a defunct strip club. “The women’s locker room was all Prince mix tapes and bikinis,” Poehler remembers. “It was as if there’d been a nuclear disaster and everyone had just turned into dust and left all their shit behind.”
Poehler, Besser, Walsh, and Roberts (a.k.a. “the UCB Four”) had moved to New York from Chicago in 1996, a time when Manhattan’s comedy scene was in the first stages of gentrification. The city’s stand-up scene was thriving, but many of its nervier sketch troupes—most prominently Exit 57 and the State—were winding down, and long-form improv was all but nonexistent. On TV, Saturday Night Live was at the tail end of a weak period; Seinfeld and Friends, though set in New York, were strictly Los Angeles products. But in downtown Manhattan, scruffy young comics were coalescing around venues like Luna Lounge, Surf Reality, and KGB’s Red Room. Their style was free-form and deliberately unslick, and almost by accident, they fashioned a movement, one that would be given the vague tag of “alternative comedy.”
via And… Scene..