Upright Citizens Brigade Inks First-Look Deal With UCP

Matt Walsh Amy Poehler Matt Besser Ian Roberts H 2016
Gary Gershoff/WireImage

Upright Citizens Brigade and Universal Cable Productions are joining forces.

The founders behind the famed improv and sketch comedy troupe — Amy Poehler, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts and Matt Walsh — have signed a first-look deal with the studio, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Through the pact, UCP will provide resources and support to develop UCB productions into scripted programming for NBCUniversal Entertainment's various cable networks, which include USA, Syfy, E! and Bravo.

“UCB is comprised of a group of amazingly talented people who are fearless when it comes to taking comedic risks,” UCP executive vp development Dawn Olmstead said Tuesday in a statement. “This partnership is a perfect fit for the studio because it allows us to incubate fresh ideas and make our mark in the comedy space by tapping into UCB’s unique point of view. We’re thrilled to be working with them.” 

Added Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre's head of television development Lisa Ullmann: “This collaboration with Universal Cable Productions provides us with the resources to execute ideas and cultivate new audiences across platforms. The breadth and caliber of UCB talent is remarkable and with five theaters across two coasts, there’s no shortage of content to mine."

As part of the deal, UCB has five projects in development at the studio:

We Can Fix You: Is your personal life in need of an overhaul? Besser, Roberts and a team of UCB comedians take on the personal problems of a studio audience and then, using unorthodox methods, set out to transform their lives for the better. They may not be trained, but their empathy runs deep. Based on the successful UCB stage show. Besser, Poehler, Roberts, Walsh, Owen Burke and Aliyah Silverstein serve as executive producers.

House of Delta: The cutthroat inner machinations of a Southern sorority as told through the dramatic lens of a political thriller. If you think the drama depicted in David Fincher’s House of Cards is intense, wait until you get a glimpse of the dark inner workings of the Delta Omega sorority at Southeast Georgia State University! Laura Grey and Megan Stein will write and executive produce.

Sing: A parody of musically driven TV shows (Empire, Nashville) that follows a group of misfits in the surprisingly high-stakes world of karaoke. Jeff Hiller and Pam Murphy are executive producers/writers.

The Peligroso Project: Horatio Sanz (Saturday Night Live) and Tom Gianas (Mr. Show With Bob and David) present a comedy series showcasing writing and performances from the next generation of Latino talent. Each episode features sketch comedy performed in front of a live studio audience, digital shorts and live man-on-the-street bits. 

Hell House: This mockumentary series follows the passionate but misguided members of a church planning committee as they prepare for their biggest event of the year: a sin-themed haunted house. Adam McCabe, Noam Bleiweiss and Betsy Sodaro will write and executive produce.

The deal marks UCP's first such arrangement with a theater troupe and extends the studio's working relationship with alums from Upright Citizens Brigade, which has spawned dozens of successful comedians on both film and TV. Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham, the creators and stars behind UCP's Playing House, are both alums. UCP also is home to Hulu's Difficult People, which Poehler exec produces.

Seeso, from NBCUniversal's Digital Enterprises, also is home to The UCB Show, which is hosted and exec produced by Poehler, Besser, Roberts and Walsh. In addition, Bravo aired a 2005 Upright Citizens Brigade special, A.S.S.S.S.C.A.T.: Improv, named after UCB's long-running show.

The four UCB founders previously created and starred in their own Comedy Central show, titled Upright Citizens Brigade, which ran for three seasons from 1998-2000.

Since then, all four have gone on to find success on the small screen, most notably Poehler with her Emmy-nominated turns on Saturday Night Live and Parks and Recreation. Walsh is a series regular on HBO's Veep, while Roberts served as an executive producer on Key & Peele, and now TV Land's Teachers. Besser's many TV credits include Parks and Recreation, Modern Family and Drunk History, among others.

Formed in the early 1990s, UCB has since expanded to four locations, including two in Los Angeles and two in New York.