A week after almost everyone at the Upright Citizens Brigade improv theaters and training centers in New York and Los Angeles were laid off due to the coronavirus, the UCB founders have addressed the decision. In an email sent to UCBers last night titled “A Message From the UCB4” signed by Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh, the founders said they wanted to share the letter they recently mailed to the laid-off employees with the entire UCB community. “Our hope is that this will help everyone understand why we have taken the actions we have taken, and what our hopes are for the future,” the email read. Before sharing the letter, the UCB4 also said, “For our full time benefit eligible staff, Amy will provide funds for a one month extension to healthcare — information to follow for those who qualify.”
Here’s the full letter to former UCB employees that was shared with everyone:
Dear UCB Employees
Let us first start by saying we are sorry for the delay in hearing from us directly. We have been trying to reach out personally to employees over the last 48 hours before sending anything publicly. Like you, we are reeling from the effects of COVID-19 and what it is doing to the world. Our first concern was the safety and health of our performers and employees, which is why we tried to act fast in closing our theaters and training centers.
Very quickly we realized that with no end to this quarantine in sight, we needed to lay off a large amount of our staff. This is not a decision we made lightly. We are a theater and a community and this was the last thing we wanted to do. We understand how awful this must be for employees, and we are very sorry. As the world suffers through the deadly COVID-19 outbreak and the economies and markets around the globe shut down, small businesses like UCB are having difficulty weathering this financial storm. There are no easy decisions in this situation.
As a company, we were committed to paying our employees for every hour worked and for every vacation hour due. We recognized it was a benefit to allow our team members to apply for unemployment early in the spread of the virus, while unemployment offices were not overwhelmed with claims.
There is no playbook for this. We know how scary and upsetting this all is and the last thing we want to do is add to anyone’s hardship during this time. Unfortunately, we have to take drastic measures to keep some version on the company intact so it can survive this national emergency. With almost no revenue, (excluding online classes which will continue to be offered) it is not possible to employ the majority of our full and part time staff without causing the entire organization and the jobs it offers to cease to exist. We know this challenges everyone short term, but please know it gives the organization the best chance to continue to exist.
You have all given the theater so much more than your time. You have given it your energy, your love and your spirit. The UCB has always tried to be a place that brings people together. It is a place where we gather when times are tough. It is brutal that we cannot provide a space to do that now.
Thank you for your incredible work. We hope this is a temporary pause while we fight to see another day. And most importantly, we hope you and everyone you love is healthy and safe.
Amy, Matt, Matt, Ian