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Nationally renowned improv group to bring in new decade at Center for Arts

ESCONDIDO — The California Center for the Arts, Escondido will close the last night of the decade with a round of laughs by playing host to the Upright Citizens Brigade.

Founded in 1990 in Chicago, the group would eventually include Amy Poehler — who went on to become a “Saturday Night Live” legend known for impersonating Hillary Clinton — and comedy film director Adam McKay. The Upright Citizens Brigade plays its regular shows in Los Angeles and New York City. Other well-known alums include actor and rapper Donald Glover, Kate McKinnon of “Saturday Night Live” — also known for impersonating Hillary Clinton and a slew of others — and stand-up comic Aziz Ansari.

Natasha Krause, the producer and head account manager for the group’s Los Angeles as well as a performer, said this will be her first time playing at the Center for the Arts.

“I’ve never performed there, but the cast is super excited to be in San Diego for New Year’s,” said Krause. “In my five years working at Upright Citizens Brigade in New York and Los Angeles, we haven’t done a New Year’s show, so this should be super fun.”

Krause added that the brigade generally performs on college campuses and at other private events. “Performing arts centers usually draw a really fun crowd,” she said.

On its website, the group describes itself as a bit of a mishmash of comedic genres.

“The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre is home for all things comedy,” it details. “The UCB Theater hosts the best and most innovative improv, sketch, stand-up comedy, variety shows, and cool/weird stuff that defies categorization.”

The brigade, for a period of time, has also had its own show on Comedy Central. To this day, Poehler is still an executive with the company and performs from time to time.

“We were just a group from Chicago, trying to get a TV show and an agent and have people notice us,” Poehler said of the group’s early days to the San Francisco Chronicle in a 2012 interview. ”We directed and produced and wrote some shows and we needed a house for those shows, so we created a theater, and that theater created another theater, and now we have a theater in Los Angeles and now we’re producing stuff on a bigger level, and I have to tell you I never would have dreamt we’d be operating the way we are now.”

For Krause, who has done improv since high school, she said she enjoys improv shows due to their communal nature.

“I love improv because it brings people together on and off stage,” said Krause. “Improv shows are special because they’re jokes that are completely made up on the spot and will never be told in the same way again. When UCB improvisers take the stage, the energy in the room is palpable and electric — anything could happen at any moment.”

She said that for the New Year’s Eve show in particular, the cast is “stacked, so it should be extremely memorable.”

“They can expect a hilarious and high energy show from some of UCB’s finest improvisers,” Kraused said in her preview of the show. “We look forward to bringing in the new year with some ‘prov!”

Brian Kiley, a stand-up comedian perhaps best known as the writer for “The Conan O’Brien Show” since 1994, will also perform. He won the 2007 Emmy Award for Writing in a Comedy/Variety Series for his work with Conan O’Brien.

The show is set to begin at 8 p.m. and tickets cost a range of $42.50-$47.50 per seat.

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