Early on during a press conference for the 15th annual Del Close Marathon on Friday at New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, Matt Besser said, “If [Del] had died this year, it would have been OK.” Besser, along with fellow UCB founders Parks and Recreation‘s Amy Poehler, Arrested Development‘s Ian Roberts, and Veep‘s Matt Walsh, began the marathon shortly after Del, the man who essentially founded the modern day concept of “improv,” died (not “passed away”; that would have offended the atheist) at the age of 64, and his comment would have made the legend proud. It’s a dark, honest joke wrapped in an candid package.
More than 420 groups competed in the marathon over the weekend, and we spoke to the UCB foursome, as well as Nick Kroll, Ellie Kemper, Jason Mantzoukas, and other fellow brigaders before the mayhem began. Del may not be with us anymore, but his presence is felt every time Rafi drops a bomb. (Photos via Nadia Chaudhury)
It must be nice be doing improv after spending so much time on the highly scripted Veep.
Improv is freedom — there’s very low preparation. I have a show that I’ve been doing for 15 years that’s now in Los Angeles, and it’s social and it’s fun. When you’re a young man, you have to rehearse improv, so you get to write and say anything you want.
To totally rip off James Lipton, what do you think Del wanted to hear when he reached the pearly gates?
He’d probably want Him to admit He’s wrong and that He doesn’t exist.
It’s nice seeing the four of you together again. What role in the group do you think you play, like how Paul was The Cute One and Ringo was The Ringo One?
I’m Brian Epstein. I don’t know actually, I think we each take roles and go back and forth. We’ve been doing intros and shows together for so long that we’re like one big four-headed married couple.
Let me begin by saying Hipster Erin is one of my favorite things ever.
That’s so nice of you to say.
Has not checking in, so to speak, to Dunder-Mifflin really hit yet?
It’s weird. It hasn’t been that long, but it feels like it. I miss the people there. It sounds corny, but I made a lot of friends there, in Los Angeles in particular, so it’s sad not seeing them every day.
I’m a fan of your “dead dick” line on Veep. Do you have a favorite quote from the show?
The one that’s in my head is “jolly green jizz face.” I also like “You like to have sex and you like to travel? Then f*ck off.”
Do people ever associate you with being exactly like your Office character, Gabe?
I hate eating alone at restaurants. There’s a sushi place in Los Angeles, I used to go there before shows but I realized I was at a sushi place with some book eating sushi by myself and I felt subconscious because if anyone’s ever seen the show, they’re going to see no distance between me and this f*ck-off character.
*entire long set-up about improv in conversation with me and two other reporters*
Does being a selfish improvisor mean you’re also a selfish lover?
There’s different types of improvisors. There’s three-point shooters, there’s point guards, and everyone serves their different roles on the court, for lack of a better term. The best improviser I’ve ever played with was Dominique Wilkins, the human highlight film.
What’s the movie that How Did This Get Made listeners request the most that you haven’t done yet?
That’s a good question. A lot of the ones that I’ve wanted to do, we’ve done, like Howard the Duck.
I’ve listened to the Last Airbender one two or three times.
That movie made me so angry.