It's hard to understate the importance of the Upright Citizens Brigade's influence upon modern comedy. The four-person improv and sketch team—Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, and Ian Roberts—that carried the teachings of mad genius/misanthropic drug addict Del Close from Chicago's underground theater scene into a repurposed Manhattan strip club and ultimately onto television and movie screens around the world has had a profound effect upon pop-culture beyond their own contributions, though their contributions have been pretty big. Aside from acting on and writing for shows like Saturday Night Live, Parks And Recreation, Veep, and Key & Peele, their performance spaces/training schools in New York City and Los Angeles have become the go-to place for casting directors everywhere. Good luck trying to find a successful sitcom or comedic film that doesn't boast at a half-dozen UCB alums, including Aubrey Plaza, Ed Helms, Rob Corddry, Ellie Kemper, and Rob Riggle.

Wired contributing editor Brian Raftery's High-Status Characters—available through Sunday as a free download from—is book-length oral history of the UCB and its progeny, as told by people who were a part of the story in the early more-than-slighty-dangerous Chicago days (Adam McKay, Horatio Sanz, Andy Richter), the first wave of students to make the leap to career success (Paul Scheer, Jason Mantzoukas, Nick Kroll), other comedians in their orbit (Conan O'Brien, Marc Maron), and of course the UCB Four themselves. Full of funny, candid and nostalgic remembrances. It's certainly worth the few hours it'll take to blow through it.