The Upright Citizens Brigade Gets New Owners

Photo: Rafael Rautha/Upright Citizens Brigade

The Upright Citizens Brigade plans to reopen theaters and training centers under new management in coming months, Deadline reports. The renowned comedy brand has been bought by Mike McAvoy, the Onion’s former CEO and owner, and Mosaic talent-management company founder Jimmy Miller. McAvoy will reportedly serve as CEO of the new UCB entity, while Miller will serve as chairman. Elysian Park Ventures, a private investment firm led by the owners of the L.A. Dodgers, also provided financial backing for the acquisition.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, UCB laid off all of its theater staff on both coasts in a move that many performers and staffers felt was handled poorly by co-founders Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Matt Walsh, and Ian Roberts. In April 2020, the UCB theater in Hell’s Kitchen and the UCB Training Center on Eighth Avenue shut down, marking the end of an official space for UCB in New York. Eight months later, in December 2020, the co-founders announced the closure of the Sunset Theater in Los Angeles. In a letter addressed to the UCB community, they said that the organization was pursuing nonprofit status for its theater and school. The letter also stated that UCB would be working with Project Rethink, an initiative launched by a group of veteran BIPOC performers; community members had also raised general concerns about mismanagement and systemic racism within UCB.

McAvoy told Deadline that there are many “great plans” for the relaunch of UCB. “Our first priority is to reopen theaters and training centers in Los Angeles and New York with diversity, equality, and inclusion front and center,” he said. “The additional resources at our disposal will enable us to pay performers for stage time and enhance the UCB 4 Scholarship Program, which will continue to aid underprivileged students.” Reportedly, UCB’s new management will work with the Arts Consulting Group, a third-party firm that has consulted the UCB community on diversity initiatives, including the creation of an HR department and the formation of a committee to oversee and execute diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

Project Rethink said in a statement that it encouraged UCB4 to hire the Arts Consulting Group in order to help UCB “become a safer and more inclusive theater.” The group added that over the past year, it made significant progress toward creating a sustainable business model, but said that “the landscape changed significantly” once the offer of a sale was on the table. According to Project Rethink, Elysian Park Ventures expressed interest in collaboration. “We met earlier this year to discuss what a partnership might look like,” the statement said. “But after a lot of consideration, Project Rethink has decided to dissolve and step away from consulting with this new business venture. Best of luck to the new owners.”

The Upright Citizens Brigade Gets New Owners