Upright Citizens Brigade, the Improv Theater Co-Founded by Amy Poehler, Is Closing Its New York Location
The Upright Citizens Brigade is an improv theater that hosts performances and classes in New York and Los Angeles. One of the more well-known comedy theaters, UCB was created by four improvisers: Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, and Ian Roberts. Comedy people know these four co-founders as the “UCB 4.”
Unfortunately, in addition to many other theaters and comedy clubs, the Upright Citizens Brigade had to shut down its New York City locations. The closure is due to the coronavirus pandemic–but the lockdown only added to the theater’s long-standing financial issues.
The Upright Citizens Brigade is closing its doors in New York City
As Vulture recently pointed out, the COVID-19 outbreak caused several public-facing business to close. However, UCB made a more “drastic decision during the pandemic,” they reported. Via email, the improv theater’s founders revealed the news: they will be closing the Hell’s Kitchen theater “as well as the UCB Training Center on 8th Avenue.”
“The closures will mean the end of an official UCB space in New York following the closure of the Chelsea theater in 2017 and the East Village theater last year,” Vulture continued. The email referred to the decision as “devastating” and “heart-wrenching, but necessary.” As the email explained, the theater has been experiencing financial issues for a while.
“Even in a normal, robust economy, we have barely been able to pay the high rents in New York City for the Hell’s Kitchen Theater and the Training Center,” the UCB4 wrote. The Upright Citizens Brigade “simply cannot afford to continue on in our New York City leases,” they continued. However, the UCB 4 are committed to keeping the improv culture alive in New York.
“UCB is not leaving New York City,” the email read. “The school and the theater will continue on in a pared-down form, which will be very similar to how we operated when we first started in NYC over 20 years ago.” Other comedy venues in New York will host performances and classes.
The comedians went on to say that they “are open to the possibility of again having our own facilities in New York in the future if we can find an economically feasible way to do so.”
UCB news comes after the improv theater laid off staff in New York and Los Angeles
Indeed, the Upright Citizens Brigade has been struggling for some time.
Comedy reporter Seth Simons has written on the controversial fact that UCB doesn’t pay its performers. Last month, as a result of the pandemic-related closures, Simons reported on Substack that UCB laid off most of their staff in both cities.
“This truly is a time of uncertainty amidst the COVID-19 outbreak … however, we are being forced to make some very difficult decisions,” UCB’s CFO Darly La Fountain wrote in the email to Upright Citizens Brigade employees.
Amy Poehler and the rest of the UCB 4 responds to theater closure
For their part, the Upright Citizens Brigade founders are trying to support improv community members. Poehler, Besser, Walsh, and Roberts, say they want to provide new options for their students and performers. As Amy Poehler told the Hollywood Reporter in a recent interview with all four UCB founders:
Every move is to make sure UCB survives and hopefully, in the future, thrives. 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 Parks and Recreation star also admitted their faults.
“I think we did make mistakes, and we’re trying to do better,” Poehler said.
Another Upright Citizens Brigade co-founder, Matt Walsh closed out the interview by attempting to reach out to the comedy community. He told the Hollywood Reporter:
To our community, we care about you. We’re listening. We’re doing our best to keep UCB alive and make it even better than before. And thank you for being part something that means so much to us and hopefully means so much to you.
Matt Walsh, the founder of Upright Citizens Brigade who appeared on Veep and several other TV shows, also chimed in.
“We’ve lost our venues multiple times,” he said. “We’re scrappy. So, god-willing, we’ll survive this as well. Hang in there with us as we figure this out, please.”