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Arts and Entertainment

More Than Roast: Friars Club Improv & Sketch Competition

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The Friars Club of New York has long been known as a hallowed hall for laughs. Their roasts, televised on Comedy Central in the early 2000’s, have often become the stuff of legend, for better (Gilbert Gottfried’s post-9/11 telling of The Aristocrats joke (NSFW)) or worse (Chevy Chase getting “blindsided”). But one thing is undeniable: from its founding fathers to today’s Roastmaster General Jeff Ross, comedy is in the bloodline of The Friars.

Last year marked the inaugural Friars Club Comedy Film Festival, which premiered the Coen brothers film A Serious Man to much acclaim. Now, those Friars have set their sites on the stage, by partnering with the famed Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre - New York to pull talent from both coasts into a national comedy competition with serious stakes. Namely, $10,000. For Angeleno sketch and improv comedians (and there are many), The Friars Club Improv and Sketch Competition means a real shot to take their performances to the next level, and hopefully pocket some cash in the process.

What seems to make the Friars Club Improv & Sketch Competition (FrISC) so different is the level of support that is often missing in any type of comedy competition. This isn’t “OC’s Best Comic” or even Last Comic Standing; there’s a willingness by the Friars to invest in young talent, while very smartly keeping their product in-house. See, the $10,000 purse doesn’t actually go towards the night’s bar tab and a trip back home. Rather, the winner is funded to create a short comedy film which will then bleed back into their very own Comedy Film Festival. Another bonus for the winners, and a savvy marketing move for the Friars.

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Submissions start to wind down soon (the early deadline is April 1), so serious LA comedy troupes should start considering their options. Only 5 improv and 5 sketch teams are chosen from the submission piles to even compete at UCBTNY, so there’s not much harm in at least sending off a prayer and a demo reel. And besides, it’d be nice to bring the top comedy prize home to LA, instead of letting it fester in the hands of those godforsaken NY comedians.

The Friars Club Improv & Sketch Competition takes place on June 25th and 26th at the UCB Theatre in New York, with submissions open to anyone, worldwide. That means you, LA.