I used to go to the Sunday 9:30PM ASSSSCAT show pretty regularly. I had a system in place: Earlier in the day, I’d ask friends to go — I rarely had takers. By 8PM, I’d hop the 2/3 and get to the theater by 8:30PM. I would get in line and almost always small talk with first-time visitors to The UCB and to New York.
I would get my numbered ticket, then I’d hit up the Boston Market on 23rd for a dark-meat chicken dinner. By 9:20PM, I’d return to the theater and figure out my place in line. Or if the crowd was light that night, I’d stand in the scrum and just wait for my number block to be called. Once inside, I’d claim a seat and on a few occasions, record the show’s audio with a MiniDisc recorder. I still have those shows; some of them hold up better than others.
On Dec. 1, 2002, I attended one of the ASSSSCAT shows at The Chelsea Playhouse, the little black box that opened its doors to The UCB after a city-building inspector shut down the original location (161 W. 22nd). I remember being especially impressed that Seth Meyers, who had been on SNL for about a year, was performing. The rest of that night’s cast included the always-excellent Ian Roberts, Michael Delaney, Sean Conroy, Jack McBrayer, Seth Meyers and Horatio Sanz. Also, Andy Rocco made his ASSSSCAT monologue debut that night. Here was my favorite scene from that evening.
* * *
INT. CITY BUS – DAYTIME
Several men are riding a city bus. One man is reading a newspaper over another man’s shoulder.
Michael Delaney: Hey, I was reading your paper over your shoulder. I apologize about that.
Seth Meyers: Oh, no problem. But, yeah, it’s a pretty good paper.
Delaney: Well, I read enough of it, so I’d like to give you a quarter. For the information I absorbed, I could have bought a paper, but I didn’t. It was a long bus ride and I’ve been having these pangs of guilt.
Meyers: You know what, you don’t have to give me a quarter. I knew someone was sitting behind me and was reading my paper. It didn’t bother me at all.
Delaney: Well, then allow me to enjoy the rest of this bus ride without having the weight of that guilt weighing down upon me.
(long, awkward beat)
Meyers: No, don’t worry about it.
Delaney: No, I insist. Take this quarter.
Meyers (fed up): No, and I’m gonna tell you this: In the future, I’d rather just not even have the interaction we’re having.
(another long, awkward beat)
Delaney: Well, how about this: In the future, don’t wing by the real news and dwell on that, uh, ‘Dear Abby’ crap. How about that?
Meyers: I can’t believe I’m getting criticized for reading my paper. I don’t really appreciate it. Keep your quarter, and let’s…
Delaney: You’re right. I’m sorry. I got aggressive, and that detracts from my primary …
Horatio Sanz (to Delaney): Hey, buddy. Here’s a dime.
Delaney (looking at dime): Why?
Sanz: That’s for reading aloud that theater review.
Delaney: Oh, okay. (to Meyers) Someone just pitched in a dime, so I’m gonna kick in 15 cents, totaling the entire cost of your paper. If you don’t accept this quarter, I consider you the most foolish man on the face of the earth. This is 25 bonus cents you could have.
Ian Roberts: Hey, fellas.
Roberts: I’d like to give the three of you, like, $15, ’cause I’ve been watching this whole thing and it’s pretty much like a good one-act play. I’d pay $15 bucks for that, and you (points to Meyers) — you’re very good, very believable, at playing someone who’s annoyed at someone reading their paper. So here’s five for you.
(Meyers accepts the $5 dollar bill)
Delaney (to Meyers): You took the five?! What? Is my 25 cents is beneath you somehow? Or is it because it’s coming from me?
Meyers: No — you know why? The paper — it entertained you — I had nothing to do with that. But I happen to think that I was very believable.
Roberts: $40 bucks more! I’m gonna say it’s one of those half-priced tickets for a Broadway play. You know, those TKTS things. And this is like a second act.
Delaney (aloud to the entire bus): I am offering a $100 bounty to anyone who can get this foolish, foolish man to accept this 25 cents. A pittance for one hundred dollars! Who of you has the …
Meyers: I will take the 25 cents … if you will then pay me the bounty.
Roberts (reading theater review aloud): Unfortunately, a perfectly good socially realistic play turned into some avant garde, festival, self-indulgent piece of crap where the actor who played the man who wanted to give away the 25 cents addressed the audience…
Delaney: Hey! What the Hell?
Meyers: Yeah! You got self-indulgent! That’s what happened!
Jack McBrayer (to Roberts): Hey, hey … I owe you $200 bucks.
Roberts: How so?
McBrayer: I just jerked off looking at your head.
Amazing! I want to hear more!
Mr. Huang, you have just accomplished the impossible. You described an improv scene… and made me laugh. Congratulations.
I love this story. Rare to read an improv scene and think it’s hysterical. Tell me more stories Keith!