Upright Citizens Brigade

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The Upright Citizens Brigade is an improvisational and sketch comedy group that emerged from Chicago's ImprovOlympic in 1990.[1] The original incarnation of the group consisted of Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, Matt Walsh, Adam McKay, Rick Roman, Horatio Sanz and Drew Franklin. Other early members included Neil Flynn, Armando Diaz, Ali Farahnakian and Rich Fulcher.

In 2013, Besser, Roberts and Walsh wrote The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual.[2]


The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre on West 26th Street in Manhattan, a former location

The Upright Citizens Brigade began performing improv and sketch comedy at Kill the Poet in Chicago. Their first show was called Virtual Reality. The group followed with shows titled UCBTV, Conference on the Future of Happiness, Thunderball, Bucket of Truth, Big Dirty Hands, The Real Real World, and Punch Your Friend in the Face.

In 1993, the Upright Citizens Brigade (Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, Amy Poehler, Adam McKay, Rick Roman, and Horatio Sanz) were regular guests on stage at the New Variety produced and hosted by Richard O'Donnell at the Chicago Improv comedy club, 504 N. Wells.[3]

In 1996, the Upright Citizens Brigade relocated to New York and began performing shows and offering improv training at Solo Arts Group. These shows and classes were so popular that the UCB were able to open their own theater, The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, at 161 W. 22nd Street in Chelsea on February 4, 1999, in a former nude dance club.[4] On April 1, 2003, they moved to a new space at 307 W. 26th Street. On November 30, 2017, they moved again to 555 West 42nd Street in Hell's Kitchen.[5] In July 2005, the UCB opened at the Tamarind Theatre in Los Angeles at 5919 Franklin Avenue (between Tamarind & North Bronson Avenue). In 2011, UCB opened a second New York City theater and bar space in the East Village, UCB East, which ran smaller-scale shows for $10 or less.[6][7] The UCB East permanently closed on February 9, 2019. In its stead, the group once (but no longer) offered three nights of programming per week in the nearby SubCulture theatre on Bleecker Street.[6] The Upright Citizens Brigade has performed in the Comedy Tent at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.

Screen ventures[edit]

The original group, Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, Ian Roberts, and Amy Poehler have had two TV shows—Upright Citizens Brigade and The UCB Show—and their show ASSSSCAT has been televised twice. In addition to this they had a TV movie called Escape From It's a Wonderful Life and appeared weekly on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in the 90s.

In the way of film, in 2002 they created and starred in the film Martin & Orloff, and made another movie in 2007 titled Wild Girls Gone. Neither film was particularly successful or well received.

The group has participated in web series including the ongoing series UCB Comedy Originals, created in 2008, which occasionally shows sketches, and I Hate Being Single, created in 2012.

In 2016, Universal Cable Productions announced signing Upright Citizens Brigade to a first-look production deal.[8]

Notable alumni[edit]

Since its inception in the 1990s, UCB has produced numerous notable comedians.[9]

The Chris Gethard Show with Chris Gethard and Broad City with Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson are examples of successful TV shows that started as UCB experiments.

Saturday Night Live has been known for seeking top talent in improv theatre.[10]

Other famous alumni of the training company include comedians Paul Scheer, Rob Huebel, Seth Morris, Aubrey Plaza, Zach Woods, Ellie Kemper, Sasheer Zamata, Nicole Byer, Andrew Daly, Jason Mantzoukas, Nick Kroll, D'Arcy Carden, Jordan Klepper, Milana Vayntrub, and Ben Schwartz,[11] as well as actors Abbi Jacobson, Ilana Glazer, and Kelly Marie Tran, writer-director Kay Cannon, internet personalities Ninja Sex Party, Brennan Lee Mulligan, Emily Axford, and Donald Glover.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Raftery, Brian (September 25, 2011). "And... Scene". New York. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
  2. ^ Zinoman, Jason (February 20, 2014). "Get the Laughs, but Follow the Rules". The New York Times. Retrieved January 26, 2016.
  3. ^ Spitznagel, Eric (October 11, 1993). "The New Variety Just Might Make Comedy Dangerous Again". The Third Word.
  4. ^ "Upright Citizens Brigade Theater". Retrieved January 26, 2016.
  5. ^ "An Upright Citizens Brigade Theater Closes With Filthy Fanfare". New York Times. Retrieved 2018-09-09.
  6. ^ a b Deb, Sopan (10 January 2019). "Upright Citizens Brigade to Close East Village Location". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  7. ^ "UCB East". Ucbtheatre.com.
  8. ^ Holloway, Daniel. "Upright Citizens Brigade Signs Deal With Universal Cable Productions". Variety. Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  9. ^ Gallagher, Brenden (February 26, 2013). "The 25 Most Famous UCB Alumni". Complex. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  10. ^ Evans, Bradford (March 14, 2013). "Second City vs. Groundlings vs. UCB: Where Do the Most 'SNL' Cast Members Come From?". Vulture. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  11. ^ "The 25 Most Famous UCB Alumni".

Further reading[edit]

  • Raftery, Brian (2013). High-Status Characters: How the Upright Citizens Brigade Stormed a City, Started a Scene, and Changed Comedy Forever. Brooklyn: Megawatt Press.

External links[edit]