matt besser

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Ian and Walsh and Matt were the funniest people I knew and Ian had once punched a drunk guy wearing a sombrero who yelled gross stuff to me from across the street. I felt protected.

It’s easier to be brave when you’re not alone.

We were young and foolish and didn’t know what we were up against. Thank god. We said good-bye to our friends and our cheap and beautiful apartment in the scary neighborhood. We packed all of our things and my yellow Lab, Suki, and pulled away in a U-Haul truck. We had no apartment or job or place to perform in New York City. I didn’t really know who I was, but improv had taught me that I could be anyone. I didn’t have to wait to be cast—I could give myself the part. I could be an old man or a teenage babysitter or a rodeo clown. In three short years Chicago had taught me that I could decide who I was. My only job was to surround myself with people who respected and supported that choice. Being foolish was the smartest thing to do.

- Amy Poehler remembering her decision to move to New York City with the Upright Citizens Brigade in the ‘90s, from 'Yes Please’.

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AMY POEHLER: When the UCB first started out in New York, we set short-term goals: “In three months, let’s check in and see where we’re at.” It wasn’t about being famous, it was, “Can we do good work, and still get paid for it?” And so we made a couple thousand dollars a week to write, produce, and star in the Comedy Central show, and we were psyched. Not at any moment did I think, “Oh my God, I’m being underpaid.” It was never about the money.

ANDY RICHTER: Amy became the real prize. In the comedy world, a woman that strong and funny is worth ten funny guys. At a certain point, there became a strong pull to get her away from the rest of the group.

AMY POEHLER: Some of us had opportunities to make money, and that would have meant splitting up the group. Every once in a while a sitcom would come up, and because I didn’t do pilot season, I didn’t torture myself by putting myself in the position to get things and then have to turn them down. There was money involved, and at the time, it was big money for me. But I always used to say this to people who were looking to start out: Sometimes people do too many things, get in too many groups, get in too many different shows. Just find the one thing and lean into it.

- From High-Status Characters

(Above: Amy Poehler as excitable cookie-dealer Cassie McMadison on Comedy Central’s Upright Citizens Brigade show. Photos from the UCB’s original website.)