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Arts and Entertainment

What's Going On? With Mike Mitchell

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In the entertainment industry, everything is about ‘being prepared’. People have to look the part, know their lines, keep a script in their back pocket, and produce business cards like ninja stars with a flick of the wrist. Indeed, that great scientific milkman Louis Pasteur himself is quoted as saying “chance favors the prepared mind”. So then what exactly is going on with Mike Mitchell? “Nothing much”, if you ask him. But that doesn’t seem quite right.

As a comedian, it’s an easy enough answer. Besides penning jokes for this year’s MTV Movie Awards, Mike ‘Mitch’ Mitchell is a regular Harold Night improviser at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (UCB) on Franklin Ave.. He’s also 1/7th of the best sketch comedy group in Los Angeles, The Birthday Boys. As a new monthly show at UCB, however, the answer to What’s Going On? With Mike Mitchell is a bit more elusive.

One Saturday a month, the UCB stage is transformed from a slightly dingy paint-black stage to a slightly dingy late night talk show studio in Mitchell’s honor. There’s the cityscape background, old school microphone that’s attached to nothing, cue cards, coffee mugs emblazoned with the host logo, and even a helpful group of techies supporting the whole operation while wearing TEAM MITCH t-shirts. And when the lights come up and the man of the hour emerges, tucked woefully into a suit and already beaming, it becomes immediately apparent that the only one who doesn’t know What’s Going On, is Mitchell himself.

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“I honestly don’t know anything about it”, says Mitchell of the monthly comedy show that bears his name. See, the entire thing is crafted without his knowledge, and barely his consent. The comedy bits, the jokes, the guests - it’s all completely unknown to the man behind the desk. “I think (everyone who works on the show) is paranoid about me finding out anything”, he says. “They think that when I’m honestly surprised and the audience is surprised with me, the show does the best.” In recent months, Mitchell has been forced into learning tantric yoga, been covered with snakes, and cluelessly delivered more monologue jokes than Jay Leno. Oh, and lest we forget the celebrity interviews. In the short run since the show’s inception, Mitchell has given couch time to James Marsden (“We talked about X-Men. I got to nerd out with him and that was amazing”), Jim Parsons, Gilian Jacobs, Aubrey Plaza and a slew of others. Yet with each new turn, Mitchell shows an uncanny MacGuyver-like ability to giggle out of any hairy situation. “A lot of times I don’t know what to ask these people,” he says. “Now I just try to treat it like a date. I guess my dating skills are terrible.”

And that’s the best part of the show. The lightly-bearded, squinty-smiling Mitchell just oozes a semi-nerdy brand of Charm 2.0 that you can’t explain, but is completely infectious. True to form, Mitchell chimes in: “I’ve just been loving it so far; and as long as they want me to keep doing it I’ll do it. I’m in no position to say no to a show like that.” His honest, in-the-moment rollercoaster reactions to the dramatic irony hanging heavy around him are simultaneously engrossing, endearing, and really effing funny. And so, once a month, at midnight inside the UCB Theatre, it becomes abundantly clear that What’s Going On? With Mike Mitchell matters less than the man, the Mitch, the legend himself.

What's Going On? With Mike Mitchell
Midnight - UCB Theatre
5919 Franklin Ave.
June 19th, July 17th, August 21st