Out of Bounds Comedy Festival

Tremendosaur, Rough Cut and Bangarang!: Jacob Reed's a UCB-based triple theat

Tremendosaur, Rough Cut and Bangarang!: Jacob Reed's a UCB-based triple theat

Jacob Reed and Justin Michael are on their way from Los Angeles to Austin for this week’s Out of Bounds Comedy Festival, where they’ll be presenting their two-man sketch group Tremendosaur—if they manage to make it through days of heat-hazy driving, nights filled with workshops and roads crawling with notoriously ill-humored border patrol cops, that is. We’ve got our fingers crossed.

Reed and Michael met in a long-form improv troupe at USC and have gone on to form their own sketch duo, one with impressive credits: from regularly featuring on College Humor, Funny or Die, Cracked.com and Current.tv to hosting their own show for Playboy (yeah, that Playboy), Tremendosaur has a corner on the absurd (and absurdly popular) video sketch market.

This weekend, Reed will also be performing with Rough Cut, the UCBLA team that improvises complete movies off a single suggestion. He’s also appearing with Harold team Bangarang!, one of the most lauded groups on the theater’s current roster.

I checked in with Jacob and Justin to talk about their OOB road trip, embarrassing props and the sketch-improv connection.

Catch Tremendosaur on Friday, September 2nd at 9 pm at The Hideout; Rough Cut on Saturday, September 3rd at The Hideout at 7:30 pm; and Bangarang on Saturday, September 3rd (well, technically Sunday, September 4th) at 12:30 am at ColdTowne.

What’s your trip to Austin been like so far?

Jacob: We just got into Tucson and we’ve got an hour and a half before we have to teach a workshop here, and it’s hot and everything’s good.

What workshops are you teaching?

Jacob: We’re teaching a workshop at the University of Arizona, to the two college groups they have on campus.

Justin: The class that we’re teaching is using improv as a way to generate sketch ideas, to write sketch. The first half of the workshop will be doing more game-based, montage-y sets, identifying patterns and using that to sort of pluck valuable sketch ideas that we can use in a writer’s room setting.

Jacob: One thing that’s interesting that we realized last night is, in different parts of the country just the experience level and improv vocabulary is very different.

Justin: It is from theater to theater.

Jacob: Right, and we’re used to that UCBLA style. Out in Phoenix, everyone who was in the workshop was from one of three of four different theaters in Phoenix, so a lot of the first half of the workshop ended up being just getting on the same page about style and terminology so we could teach the second half of it.

Is using improv to generate scenes generally the UCB style?

Jacob: I don’t think it’s officially part of the curriculum, but I think it’s definitely the mentality.

Justin: I think it depends; a lot of the time, I think they teach it sort of as a parallel to their improv classes. I’ve never taken a class that utilized that as an exercise. But a lot of coaches at UCB who coach sketch groups will do that, have the first half of practice be an improv set then talk about what ideas we like then go from there.

Jacob: I think that UCB’s approach to improv is a lot more writerly than other theaters. I feel like iO is very relationship heavy, or character heavy, and UCB is more about premise and games and heightening and exploring an idea.  

There was a workshop some of us took with Ian Roberts that ended a couple weeks ago, and something that he kept coming back to is, if you can do improv you can do sketch, and vice versa. Because the best compliment you get on an improv scene is, “Wow, that was like you guys wrote it.”  And so, it should follow the same format, use the same tools.

Justin: And sketch should feel organic.

What groups are you performing with at Out of Bounds?

Jacob: Tremendosaur, which is our sketch group, we’re doing Friday night at 9 pm at The Hideout. I have two other shows, with Bangarang, which is the UCB Harold team that I’m on (performing Saturday at ColdTowne at 12:30 am), and then Rough Cut (performing Saturday at The Hideout at 7:30 pm), we’re a UCB team that does improvised movies.

When you tour with a sketch show, do you bring a lot with you?

Justin: We have videos and either make sure ahead of time that they can show them and hope for the best, or come up with something last minute.

Jacob: Right before you called, we just came up with a contingency plan for the show tonight based on what levels of tech are available, what sketches we’re going to do.

Justin: We also, prop-wise, do have a Little Tikes prop car in our trunk.

Jacob: Taking up roughly half the space we have for packing stuff.

Justin: And all of the space for looking like pedophiles.

Jacob: I generally hate walking to the show, because we have to carry all the props there and people will just give us this look. And it’s not even a full Little Tikes car, because Justin can’t fit in the normal one because he’s an adult, so we had to rip off the top and it’s just half a Little Tikes car that we carry over our shoulder as we walk through cities to venues.

Justin: I also feel like, when touring, there’s a contingency plan for like, what level of pop culture references we can make, at this point.

Jacob: Yeah, what we think is topical is no longer topical, like we’re older than we think we are. We did a show at USC one time and we did a sketch about Mrs. Doubtfire, and it did not go over.

Justin: It had gone over super well at UCB…

Jacob: Then it fell flat. After the show, someone mentioned like, “Yeah, I’ve never seen that movie, but the sketch was kind of funny.” We were like, ok, if you haven’t seen it guess that sketch isn’t going to play.

That makes me feel really old.

Jacob: Right? Isn’t that terrible?

Justin: I feel like that’s automatic, everybody should know that.

Jacob: We were doing an improv show, a different time at USC over the summer, and we warmed up the crowd by basically saying things from our childhood and having people applaud if they had ever heard of them. It was not a good way to warm up the crowd, at all.

Justin: It made us feel super depressed, then we did a show.

So, Bangarang won’t be performing as a full team this weekend?

Jacob: It’s going to be me, Adam McCabe and Ryan Meharry. We got into Out of Bounds and the Del Close Marathon at the same time, and so some people were like, well, I can only go to one place. And I had other things that got into OOB that I wanted to perform with.

You’re a Harold team—will you be doing a Harold this weekend?

Jacob: We’re still on the fence; we’re either going to do a three-person Harold or a montage, which is what I heard [Betsy Sodaro, Lauren Lapkus and Ryan Meharry] did in New York [at last month’s Del Close Marathon]. It’ll be fun. The three of us were all in the same jam set at UCB a couple weeks ago and it was just ridiculous, so I’m pretty excited about doing that again.

What about Rough Cut?

Jacob: It’s a really big team, the actual cast of Rough Cut. I think there’s 13 of us, so it’s kind of based on availability. A lot of people do a lot of work, like John Ross Bowie is on Big Bang Theory and Children’s Hospital, so he’s actually been MIA for the past few months shooting stuff. So what we’ll do is, between all of us, we’ll have eight or so perform when we’re up at UCB. For Austin I think there’s six of us, so it’ll be smaller than we normally perform but still a big show.

Have you guys been to Austin before?

Justin: I’ve never been to Austin, period, so I’m pretty excited.

Jacob: I’ve been once, but I’ve never done Out of Bounds. We're both pretty stoked for it. But the heat has been crazy. We rolled down the windows at one point on our way over, like, “Oh, we’ll get some fresh air!” Then it was just a blast of heat.

Justin: It was the worst idea, I take full responsibility.

Anything you’re looking forward to in town?

Justin: I want to go to the Alamo Drafthouse! I heard they show Breaking Bad every week, and we both really love the show so we’re probably going to go see Breaking Bad, which is not even a Texas thing.

Jacob: But the Alamo is! When I went through Texas before, that was like my favorite thing, the Drafthouse was great. We’re also going to see the bat bridge.

Justin: I kind of want to see everything.

Catch Tremendosaur on Friday, September 2nd at 9 pm at The Hideout; Rough Cut on Saturday, September 3rd at The Hideout at 7:30 pm; and Bangarang on Saturday, September 3rd (well, technically Sunday, September 4th) at 12:30 am at ColdTowne.