The Upright Citizens Brigade—the influential comedy troupe and improv-teaching organization founded by Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, Matt Besser, and Matt Walsh—announced today that it’s going to be shutting down both of its New York City locations, a training center and a theater in Hell’s Kitchen, due to being unable to keep up with “the high rents in New York City.” That comes from a statement that the UCB founders released, which also pins some of the blame on the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing shutdown of all theaters and schools.
The group will not be abandoning New York altogether and will find ways to hold classes as long as there are “students who are interested in taking them,” but they will be held at “various locations” in the city instead of at these specific permanent facilities owned by the organization. The statement also makes a point to compare this to the way things were when UCB started, before it was successful enough to even own its own venues, but that’s an odd position to take when the organization is no longer just four people doing improv. Anyway, the group’s work in L.A., for the time being, will be unaffected.
This news comes as UCB has faced financial struggles for years, with a number of employees being laid off in 2018 and a theater in New York’s East Village closing in 2019. A number of employees (The New York Times says “broad swaths”) in New York and L.A. were also laid off when the pandemic started, but it evidently wasn’t enough. UCB has also been criticized for generally not paying its performers while charging high prices for lessons, leading to some in the comedy community to distrust how UCB was being run. You can see the full statement about closing the theaters below, and Vulture has a recent deep-dive on accusations of financial mismanagement regarding the recent layoffs.