The Upright Citizens Brigade is easily one of the hottest brands in comedy right now. The improv troops famous alumni include Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer of Comedy Central’s Broad City, FUSE Network’s Billy Eichner, and all-purpose TV darling Amy Poehler. A list of former and current UCB performers reads like a Who’s Who of comedy icons and buzz worthy up-and-comers. The UCB, which maintains theaters and schools in New York and Los Angeles, has been an incubator for some of the most popular comics and writers of the last ten years. Given the number of successful careers it has helped to foster, its presence in the world of online video has been comparatively small.
Dozens of UCB alums have produced and starred in web series but the troupe is now making a concerted effort to expand its brand on YouTube, signing the UCBComedy channel to the Above Average network. Above Average is a boutique network with a comedy focus. Operated by Broadway Video, the digital division of comedy tastemaker Saturday Night Live the network has under 50 partner channels. The roster at Above Average includes established comedy brands like parody music group The Lonely Island, and YouTube sketch stars like The Bilderbergers and BriTANicK for a total audience of around 7 million subscribers.
Online video has been a book to sketch comedy allowing writers to produce short web series or sketches at comparatively low cost in order to develop an audience. These web series can also serve as show pieces to help earn development deals with mainstream media companies. UCB is already a destination for aspiring stand-up comics and writers looking to polish their skills, develop an audience, and network with other creators. Partnering with Above Average should, in theory, allow UCB to continue to operate as a creative incubator, providing its members with the space and resources to launch a career both through traditional means and through new media.