MHS Alum Performs with Upright Citizens Brigade

MHS Alum Performs with Upright Citizens Brigade

Simone Britto, Staff Writer

Comedy’s next rising star found his passion right here at Miramonte. MHS alum John Zachary Townsend is a member of Upright Citizens Brigade, a New York improv and sketch comedy group which launched the careers of famous comedians such as Amy Poehler and Matt Walsh.

Townsend graduated from Miramonte in 2008. Though he was not a large part of the theater community in high school, he found his love for comedy writing after participating in Goats of Denmark, a sketch show run by Miramonte students.

“It ended up being a real life-changing experience, my first time writing and performing sketch comedy,” Townsend said. “I got really hooked and never stopped. I became obsessed with writing sketches. I almost failed AP Statistics because I was so focused on writing.”

After graduating from Miramonte, Townsend studied film and television at New York University. A week after moving to New York, he and a friend attended a free Upright Citizens Brigade show.

“It was really mind-blowing. I started going to a ton of shows, and eventually worked up the courage to start taking classes at the theater,” Townsend said.

Currently, Townsend writes and performs sketch shows at the theater. One of his shows running now is called Standards and Practices. “It sort of crosses the line between sketch show and play. It’s all about relationships and rejection and heartbreak, you know, the fun parts of dating,” Townsend said.

He also performs in other shows, including a show about Siamese twins that don’t know that they are sleeping with the same woman, and one called UCBW, a comedy wrestling show. “We don’t actually know how to wrestle,” Townsend said.

Throughout his time with Upright Citizens Brigade, Townsend has learned a lot. Making your way in comedy comes with success as well as a few failures.

Townsend’s worst moment at the theater was during a show called Alternate Reality. With a team of five hilarious guys, he did an improv set that went horribly wrong. It was about a pimp who comes across a dinosaur in Central Park and turns the dinosaur into a prostitute for him, ending with Townsend, as the dinosaur, miming sex acts.

“We walked onstage with so much swagger, we knew we were going to do some amazing comedy. And then we proceeded to do the longest, weirdest, most uncomfortable improv set I’ve ever been a part of,” Townsend said.

Though it wasn’t his best work, people appreciated the dedication put into it.

According to Townsend, the set provoked a lot of discussion. “People came up to me all week talking about it.  Some said ‘that was the most uncomfortable I’ve ever felt watching improv,’ some said ‘you guys committed really hard to that!’”

In addition to writing and performing sketch and improv comedy, Townsend writes and draws semi-autobiographical comics, called Young Dolphin Comics, which he publishes online. After a semester at NYU full of negativity, he was inspired to create comics as another form of expression.

“I drew the first two comics in my room on recycled paper. I went upstairs and showed my dad the first two, and he started crying with laughter. After feeling like such a failure for a semester, it felt good to be doing something people seemed to like again,” Townsend said.

Recently, Townsend and his writing partner, Mitchell Stephen Fesh, wrote a sequel to Annie Hall and they are currently writing a sample script for the Bill Engvall Show. Eventually he plans write a pilot about high school, partially inspired by Miramonte.

“My dream would be to write for a comedy TV show. Lately, a lot of UCB people have been hired to write for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live, so that’d be amazing. I’d also like to write and direct sad-funny indie movies or maybe release a graphic novel, anything where I can get paid to write funny stuff,” Townsend said.