Years passed, and Ulrich moved on to a position at the Embassy of Japan following Gore’s failed presidential bid. One day, on a whim, he decided to fan his dormant comedy flame and took that long-awaited DC Improv class.
“I’ve never stopped since — and that was 16 years ago,” says Ulrich, 53. “In some way, shape or form, I’m either teaching, performing or taking an improv class always because it’s an endless onion to peel. It just fills me with so much joy.”
Over time, Ulrich realized his political background and comedic instincts were more compatible than one may think. In 2011, he founded the company CU in the Moment, which provides coaching on body language and presentation skills. The idea, Ulrich says, was to the take the pillars of improv — in particular, the “yes, and” principle of facilitating teamwork — and apply them to a corporate setting. Last month, the company celebrated its 10-year anniversary.
“If you’re going to read and analyze body language, it’s really about listening,” Ulrich says. “And improv is all about taking in what someone else is saying and being alert to how you’re coming across.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, Ulrich has taught virtual classes at the DC Improv and offered online coaching through CU in the Moment. But on his ideal day in the D.C. area, the Northwest resident relishes the chance to step back onstage before an audience in a post-pandemic world.
I love to exercise in the morning, so I would start my day by going to VIDA Fitness on U Street, or I’d go to Stead Park and work out. From there, I’d go to Teaism on R Street. I’ve been going there for years, and for breakfast my favorite thing is the cilantro eggs with smoked salmon and a side of toast with coconut butter. Then I’d sit outside on one of the benches there — people tend to sit down and the next thing you know you’re in a cool conversation with folks who are traveling or live in the city. If it was a perfect world, maybe I’d meet a new client for CU in the Moment and the business stays alive.
After that, I’d head to the grounds of Washington National Cathedral, where my sanctuary is the prayer and meditation room. It’s this dark, cool space in the basement that I stumbled upon one day — the quietness, the chance to reflect and be at peace for a little while, it’s just a crazy, lovely experience. And through the Olmsted Woods nearby is this cool grass amphitheater where I would stand up on the stage and do a little show in my mind.
Then I’d walk down and watch the sunset with my partner, Maria, on the backside of the Lincoln Memorial. For dinner, of all the restaurants I’ve ever been, the best place — because of the people, because of the ambiance — is my best friend Ashok Kumar’s house, up in Woodley Park. I’ve known him for 30 years, and he’s one of my dearest friends. He cooks the best Indian food.
If I’m not performing that night, Maria and I would go to E Street Cinema and see one of my favorite movies, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” From working at the White House, I got to know Fred Rogers, and he became a friend. So to watch that movie and see how Tom Hanks captured him, it was really a beautiful thing. And that theater just always brings me joy.
Or if I am performing, I’m at the DC Improv with my comedy partner, Joe Randazzo, in a group called Jive Turkey, or this other troupe called Nox. Then it stretches into the next day, because everyone would be so wired that we’d all go sit at Bar Pilar and break down the show a little bit, but mostly just hang out. That’s what I miss in the pandemic. When I get home from this magic day, because I’m a night owl, I’d watch “The Fisher King,” which brings it all back to my hero, Robin Williams.