We all love Amy Schumer, everyone knows how brilliant Key & Peele are, and you’ve watched Will Ferrell’s classic SNL sketches countless of times. But in this weekly column Sketchy MVPs, The Laugh Button shines a light on comedians from our favorites shows and troupes who don’t often get rightful credit for their contributions to sketch comedy.
For over 25 years, the Upright Citizen Brigade has been an integral source for alt comedy and improv theatre. However from 1998 to 2000, the theatre troupe’s founders Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, Matt Walsh and Amy Poehler crept its way onto Comedy Central with a truly unusual comedy show. Mixed with random skits, hidden cam pranks, and a continuous plot centered on an organization dedicated to causing chaos, the Upright Citizen Brigade’s foray into TV challenged how downright bizarre sketch comedy could be to great success.
Really all four founding members of the Upright Citizen Brigade are worthy of their own Sketchy MVP profile, and will likely each be featured one day… although Poehler’s genius has already been well-documented given her (rightful) rise to TV and film superstardom. But for now, let’s focus on Ian Roberts. Amongst the four actors, Roberts arguably played rage fueled, out of control characters the best, balancing craziness with a sense of reality scarily well. Maybe what made Robert’s characters so lovable was that as irrational as they often were, they acted out in the way we sometimes wish we could in such a scenario… though hopefully you NEVER find yourself in many of the scenarios depicted on the show.
Roberts has made many appearances on TV shows over the years, including recurring characters on Reno 911 and Arrested Development, as well as had supporting roles in films like Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby and Semi-Pro. He also recently reunited with his UCB crew for a show on Seeso. However, Roberts’ biggest contributions to comedy have lately been behind the camera, having served as a showrunner for all five seasons of Key & Peele with writing partner Jay Martel. Him and Martel also recently wrote the script for Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart’s film Get Hard, and currently serve as showrunners for the TV Land show Teachers.
But let’s go back and relive four of our favorite sketches Agent Antoine Roberts attempted to cause comedic chaos on Comedy Central.
There’s something completely ridiculous about sticking pennies up your butt to begin with. Yet Roberts’ intense portrayal of a successful business man beyond confident that his ass pennies are the key to his success is what makes this bit comedy gold. Not that we’ve ever stuck pennies up our asses and dispense them back out… nor would we…
Once again its Roberts’ aggressive reactions that makes this simple bit truly hilarious. After all, who hasn’t gotten stuck with a crappy fortune while playing the “In Bed” fortune cookie game? … I’M NOT LAZY IN BED DAMN IT!… Sorry, Roberts’ anger is contagious.
Roberts’ portrayal of a frustrated groom is basically all of us during a wedding ceremony or rehearsal dinner when the flower girl starts going off script. Only Roberts does what none of us would ever do and acts out on that frustration… we know we shouldn’t enjoy watching a grown man curse out a young flower girl (and a priest), but it’s hard not to when watching Roberts do it.
Astronaut Mike Birchwood is one of Roberts’ more subdued recurring characters. But this bit, where Birchwood discovers some shocking secrets while snowed in with fellow NASA employees, gets dark very fast… no seriously, you won’t be able to think of virtual reality the same way after seeing this sketch.