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 11.4.10UprightCitizensBrigadeTheatreByLuigiNovi1.jpg
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 now offers three nights of programming per week in the nearby SubCulture theatre on Bleecker Street. [6] The Upright Citizens Brigade has been a featured performance in the Comedy Tent at the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, for the past three years.[ timeframe? ]

Screen ventures

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

Since its inception in the 90s, 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, and Ben Schwartz, [11] as well as writer-director Kay Cannon, internet personalities Ninja Sex Party and Travis McElroy, and multi-hyphenate comedian/writer/actor/musician Donald Glover. The writer, actor, and podcaster Andrew Secunda is also a UCB alumni.

See also

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Matthew Gregory Besser is an American actor, comedian, director, producer, and writer, best known as one of the four founding members of the Upright Citizens Brigade sketch comedy troupe, who had their own show on Comedy Central from 1998–2000. He currently hosts the improvisation-based podcast Improv4humans on the Earwolf podcasting network.

Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre

The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre is an online American improvisational theatre and training company founded by the Upright Citizens Brigade troupe members, including Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, UCB had locations in the New York City neighborhoods of Hell's Kitchen and the East Village, and on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. UCB was located in Chelsea West 26th Street location from April 2003 until November 2017, after which it moved to Hell's Kitchen, 555 West 42nd Street in December 2017. The second NYC theatre located in the East Village opened in 2011, and the Los Angeles expansion started in 2014.

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Matthew Paul Walsh is an American comedian and actor, best known for his role as Mike McLintock in Veep for which he received two Primetime Emmy Award nominations. He is a founding member of the Upright Citizens Brigade sketch comedy troupe, with which he co-starred in the original television series and the 2015 reboot. He also previously starred in short-lived comedy programs such as Dog Bites Man and Players, and was a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He has also co-starred in films such as Ghostbusters, Life of the Party, Ted, Into the Storm, Brigsby Bear, and Old School.

Ian Roberts (American actor) American actor, comedian and writer (born 1965)

Ian Michael Roberts is an American actor, comedian and writer. Roberts is a founding member of the famed Upright Citizens Brigade improv and sketch comedy troupe.

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<i>Upright Citizens Brigade</i> (TV series)

Upright Citizens Brigade is an American sketch comedy television series that premiered on August 19, 1998 on Comedy Central. The show aired for three seasons with each season consisting of ten episodes. The series featured four members of Upright Citizens Brigade, an improvisational sketch comedy group. The cast included Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh. The cast would later reunite for another series of a similar format that premiered in 2016 on Seeso.

The UCB Show is an American sketch comedy series that premiered on December 3, 2015 via the Seeso comedy subscription streaming service. The series features members of Upright Citizens Brigade, an improvisational sketch comedy group. The cast includes Matt Besser, Amy Poehler, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh, the same actors that appeared on Upright Citizens Brigade, the previous show that aired on Comedy Central in the 1990s. The variety series features various sketches, characters and stand-up shows from the Upright Citizens Brigade theatres in Los Angeles and New York. The show is hosted by the original actors of the theatre and filmed in front of a live studio audience. The UCB Show was renewed for a second season, which premiered January 12, 2017.

Connor Ratliff is an actor and comedian. He is known for his podcast Dead Eyes, is the star and creator of the long running stage and streaming show The George Lucas Talk Show, and is associated with Upright Citizens Brigade in New York where he is a member of the long form improv comedy troupe The Stepfathers.


  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. 1 2 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