Upright Citizens Brigade Season One & Two

Upright Citizens Brigade Season One & Two

Considering the way that Saturday Night Live has come to depend on Amy Poehler in recent years, it’s surprising that it’s taken so long for the second season of the Upright Citizens Brigade to appear on DVD. But then again, considering the first season didn’t sell too well when it was released four years ago, it’s an even bigger surprise that it has been reissued to join its successor. Running on Comedy Central in the U.S. between 1998 and 2000 (and never making it onto Canadian channels), the Upright Citizens Brigade was a sketch comedy show featuring Poehler, along with Matt Walsh (who appeared on The Daily Show for a while), Matt Besser and Ian Roberts. The UCB was an underground organisation that existed to undermine society by causing chaos in increasingly elaborate and bizarre ways. The scenes featuring the foursome form the thread between the sketches, giving them an element of continuity, à la Mr. Show or Monty Python. Considering there are some surreal moments in most episodes, UCB isn’t the kind of show that everyone will find funny, but those who can appreciate the bizarre or grotesque will wonder how this managed to slip through the cracks. Each episode has a recurring theme that shows up throughout to varying degrees and may or may not be tied together conveniently, with many of the sketches being improvised rather than scripted. This improvisational background means that the individual performers are incredibly good at disappearing into different characters, something that Poehler has taken with her to SNL. Each season is pretty consistent but there are a handful of excellent episodes that are downright hysterical. The prime example is their infamous "Little Donny Foundation” episode (from season one), which tells the tale of Donny, a child suffering from Magnimus-Obliviophallocytis, a condition where he has a ridiculously large penis (which is pixelated), but that he is completely unaware of. The episode features sections of a tastefully shot documentary about his day-to-day family life and the issues he deals with. Season two’s pinnacle of hilarity comes with "Supercool,” a clever satire on the ’90s War on Drugs. The season one extras are a little on the spotty side — there is the original pilot episode, which features versions of sketches that turn up in other episodes, and some live sketches from the UCB Theater in New York. The commentary tracks are funny without being particularly informative, plus there is one done by the characters from the "Little Donnie Foundation” episode. The season two extras are the more interesting, with footage of the UCB from early TV appearances and live performances, plus the more typical deleted sketches. There are some interesting twists with the commentary tracks, including one recorded live with the cast at the UCB Theater. The Q&A session between audience and cast is very, very funny, with the cast being ruthless in their responses to what they deem stupid questions. (Paramount)