Amy Poehler on Her NYC Improv Theater, UCB, Closing Due to Coronavirus: ‘We Did Make Mistakes’

The Upright Citizens Brigade, the comedy theater with locations in New York and Los Angeles, is facing tough times. Like many other public spaces, UCB had to shut down operations — with the exception of a few classes that were moved online. But now, that means the theater can’t keep up with New York City rent. One of the co-founders, Saturday Night Live and Parks and Rec alum Amy Poehler, recently commented on the fact that their New York locations are shutting down.

UCB or Upright Citizens Brigade improv theater
Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh and Ian Roberts perform on stage during the 17th Annual Del Close Improv Comedy Marathon in 2015 | Brent N. Clarke/FilmMagic

Improv theater UCB shuts down New York locations

Before making her name on NBC’s Saturday Night Live, actress/comedian Amy Poehler co-founded the Upright Citizens Brigade. Poehler, along with fellow improvisers Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh opened the theater in New York, offering performances and classes. Many, including Poehler and Walsh (who appeared on HBO’s Veep), have made their names in film and television. Sadly, The Hollywood Reporter reported on the legendery comedy theater’s closure.

An e-mail, signed by the “UCB 4” — the company’s co-founders — read:

Given the indefinite shutdown of all theaters and schools in both Los Angeles and New York City and the anticipated slow and uncertain return to normal when restrictions are lifted, we cannot afford to continue on in our New York City leases.

Amy Poehler's improv theater
The former Upright Citizens Brigade space in Chelsea | Brad Barket/Getty Images

Amy Poehler says, ‘we’re not leaving New York’

All of the UCB co-founders recently sat down with THR to discuss the closures.

“Like most people, we’ve been trying to catch up to all of the changes that are happening so fast,” Poehler said. However, she wanted to emphasize one essential thing about UCB’s future.

“We’re not leaving New York,” Poehler told the publication. “It’s really important for us to stress that we’re going to continue to provide performance spaces. We’re going to continue to provide classes.” The comedians went on to explain that they would seek out other venues for their improv and sketch courses.

Poehler lamented the fact that people couldn’t gather to do comedy during these troubling times. However, she took an optimistic tone about the future.

“We’ve been in New York for so many years,” Poehler continued. “We are going to keep performing here and teaching classes here in the hopes that we can come out on the other side of this.”

‘Saturday Night Live’ alum Amy Poehler says ‘I think we did make mistakes, and we’re trying to do better’

“Every move is to make sure UCB survives and hopefully, in the future, thrives,” Poehler explained to the publication. That meant a shift in the leaders’ responsibilities, thought, too. She said:

We’re not ruling anything out. But, really, the short-term goal is to be transparent and communicative with our community — because our community is what makes the theater.

“We’re really trying to keep it alive, because it means a lot to so many people and we want them to know it means a lot to us,” the former Parks and Recreation star shared.

Amy Poehler, comedian
Amy Poehler in 2018 | Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

The Hollywood Reporter interviewer also commented on some negative criticism the UCB Four received for the theater’s mass layoffs amid the pandemic.

“What did you learn?” the interviewer asked.

“What’s most important is people know how much we care about this theater, to keep it alive,” Poehler responded. But, it comes down to communication. The SNL alum told THR:

That getting lost in translation is something we’re trying to fix — and it’s one of the things we can control. We can’t control many things, but we can control being transparent. We’ve watched so many different business try to figure out how to navigate this, and we’re trying our best to be human.

Poehler admitted fault, too.

“I think we did make mistakes, and we’re trying to do better,” the UCB founder said.