by Ananya Bhattacharya
Making up roles on the spot, night after night, Allie Kokesh entertains the crowd at Upright Citizens Brigade. Her comedy is raw, unscripted and instinctive. When Kokesh doesn’t hear her audience laugh is when she knows to steer the ongoing act in a different direction. Kokesh tells us how comedy is all about right instincts and freeing yourself from conventions and constrictions, letting go of all your inhibitions. Especially in a long-form improv act, all actors must be willing to say ‘yes’ to their teammates at all times- they must go with the flow of the show.
Trained in the UCB center started by Amy Poehler, Matt Bess, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh, Kokesh pursues her passion by writing and acting for the UCB. The 27-year-old has been performing at Lloyd Night for the past two years, and she is currently part of the team ‘First Lady’. Journalistic Inquiry speaks to Kokesh about inspiration, mishaps and the unoriginality of auditioning as a drunk character.
Journalistic Inquiry: Where does your comedy come from? Like not your biggest influence- maybe- but where do you draw from the most from your life?
Allie Kokesh: I would say, like any working actor I don’t get paid to do comedy so I spend a lot of my time doing different jobs. Mostly I’m an assistant so I feel like most of my comedy comes from there.
JI: Can anybody take classes at UCB?
AK: Yeah, anyone can. You’d start at the 101 level; in either sketch or improv. They also occasionally host like storytelling classes. It depends on the teachers that are available.
JI: What’s the hardest you’ve ever bombed?
AK: Oh my God. Um, ah, I think I can always vividly remember bombing an audition the most because that’s when I care the most. Um, I just, yeah, I would say the first time I auditioned for Herald actually, which would have been 2011, I bombed pretty significantly. But I was pretty green and hadn’t been performing a lot.
JI: What went wrong?
AK: I played a drunk person, which is not unusual or funny, it’s just like, it was like a weird pretend that didn’t feel comfortable when I auditioned either so it didn’t translate to being funny.
JI: Can you describe a little bit about what the Harold is?
AK: Yeah, so the Herald is a structure. It originated in Chicago, and the UCB four brought it to New York, and established a theatre and training center where they teach it. There’s an opening to generate ideas, then you pull those ideas and you see them in the first three scenes, and then there’s a group game, which is kind of like a palette cleanser. Then you see second beat for those three first three scenes- so either a time dash or analogous feed of those same games that have already been established- then another palette cleanser. And then the third beat is the time for either making connections between all those themes or easter egg- as I like to call them- where someone says something that caught your ear, that you thought was funny, that you basically do in the third beat.
JI: How many times have you auditioned? How long have been?
For two years. This is my third team on Lloyd night. I auditioned twice and didn’t get it either time and then I was placed on a team.