The UCB Theater is a breeding ground for the country's best comedic talent. It should be no surprise then, that the theater's teaching staff consists of dozens of hard working, accomplished, kick-ass people. From time to time, we'll touch base with different members of our teaching staff to see what they've been up to in the world outside of the theater.
Peter Gwinn has taught both improv and sketch at the UCB Theater. You may have seen him performing on the UCBT stage with such groups as Chicago Style, The Stepfathers, Arsenal, and Asssscat. He also performed and taught at Chicago's ImprovOlympic, where he was a founding member of cult hit musical improv group Baby Wants Candy. These days, Peter is a writer on Comedy Central's The Colbert Report.
UCBT: What are your feelings on working at one of the country's hottest comedy shows right now?
PETER: The show is going great and we're really excited about getting to go to the Emmy's. Although lately, it seems like our fans are getting super-rabid, which is a bit scary. Like, our 'Better Know a District' district last week had Skywalker Studios in it, so we had a bit with Stephen swinging a lightsaber in front of a greenscreen, like the Star Wars kid in that internet video. THE NEXT MORNING there was a youtube video where someone had added a background and lightsaber sound effects. This is, like, less than 12 hours after it aired. I don't know how comfortable I am with that level of attention.
UCBT: How do you feel your improv background has helped you with your professional pursuits? What about the comedy communities in Chicago and NYC has helped you along the way?
PETER: There's the obvious training in finding/heightening a game that helps, as well as the ability to make quick decisions, which helps when you're writing stuff for the show that night. Beyond that, you learn really well how to work as part of a group. It's a lot more fun to write with someone who listens to your ideas and builds on them than with someone who doesn't listen at all and just pushes their own ideas.
UCBT: You're teaching writing classes at UCBT now. You've taught improv in the past. UCBT is known for producing great improv content and performers, but the nature of sketch means the public is less aware of the hard work people put into their sketch writing and the products coming out of the theater's sketch training program. What are your impressions on the state of the sketch program and sketch students at UCBT?
PETER: I think there could be more improv-sketch crossover. Not as many people seem to do sketch. Which is no surprise - sketch is a lot more work than improv. But writer-performers are so much more marketable than improvisers. I'd like to see people broaden their horizons.