Upright Citizens Brigade, Facing Financial Struggles, Announces Layoffs

The Upright Citizens Brigade comedy theater, facing significant financial challenges, announced that it was laying off staff members on Tuesday, including much of its sales and marketing teams.

The theater, which has four spaces, including the flagship that opened in Hell’s Kitchen last year, has struggled in its new location, in part because of increased competition and high rents.

“After much thought and careful consideration, we have decided to streamline our business entities, focusing our efforts on the cornerstone of our organization: our school programs and our theaters, while downsizing some of our digital and sales and marketing initiatives,” U.C.B. said in a statement. “This will enable us to grow our programs and theaters in a way that our community has come to expect from U.C.B. without having to compromise the very heart and soul of this organization. We strongly believe that redoubling our efforts and returning to our roots is not only the right thing to do for the organization but also for our current and future students, performers, and audience members.”

The theater did not say how many staff members were cut, but a majority were New York-based. Some employees found out early Tuesday about the layoffs, according to a now-deleted post on Twitter from one worker who lost his job. A spokeswoman for the theater said that classes and teachers would not be affected.

Last year, U.C.B. began raising ticket prices, which represent a nominal source of revenue. Much more important are the fees it charges for comedy classes, which can be more than $500 for Improv 101.

U.C.B. performers — whether improv or sketch — typically do not get paid, a sore point among many in improv. It was only this summer — as reported by Paste Magazine — that the theater began paying coaches of some performers.

What started in the 1990s as a scrappy troupe founded by Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, Matt Walsh and Matt Besser eventually became an institution in New York City and beyond, helping propel the careers of many A-list comedians, including Donald Glover and Chris Gethard.

The founders opened a second Manhattan theater — U.C.B. East in the East Village — and two in Los Angeles.

When the founders, known as the “U.C.B. 4,” first arrived, long-form improv was hard to find in New York. Now, with competitors like the Peoples Improv Theater and the Magnet Theater, competition is more fierce.

Another New York improv outlet, the Annoyance Theater in Brooklyn, closed last year, but a spokeswoman for U.C.B. said the theater was not in danger of shutting down.

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