The big comedy news of the week is that the Upright Citizens Brigade, or “Comedy’s Scientology” as some call it, is departing its Chelsea theatre for a new space in Hell’s Kitchen. Per a report in the Wall Street Journal, the move will address UCB’s longtime noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (wait, that’s been going on this whole time)? The new space, which according to this bankruptcy auction rents at $315,000/year, will become the nexus of New York City’s bustling improv scene in December. Congrats, UCB! You have a beautiful new home and a bright future ahead of you. Here are ten things you can do keep that future as clear and bright as the lights of 42nd Street:
1. Start paying your performers.
2. Stop not paying your performers.
3. Give money to the comedians who perform on your various stages in your various theaters.
4. After comedians perform a show, or “set,” tell them “Good work on the show!” Then, give them money.
5. At the end of a long night producing world-class improv, sketch and stand-up comedy for the low price of five-to-12 bucks a ticket, open up the cash register and bask in the green green glow of all that sweet comedy money. Then, take some of that money out of the cash register and give it to the comedians.
6. Create some sort of “training program” that charges “tuition”—say, I don’t know, $450 for a set of eight classes and $225 for four—and spin that program into a massive, bicoastal school that runs hundreds of classes for thousands of students. Use this school to cultivate regular new crops of talent, but be sure to optimize that talent—say, by not allowing students to audition for house teams until they’ve completed a certain number of courses, let’s say four courses, for a total of roughly $1,600. That’s totally reasonable, though, because once they get on a house team you’ll start paying them.
7. Look around. Do this—take a few seconds and look around you. At, like, the world and stuff. Look at all the nice people going about their daily lives. Bakers baking the day’s bread, glassblowers blowing the day’s glass, some guy on a ladder. There’s teachers and bricklayers and barbers and sous chefs, there’s people who cut various lengths of wood, there’s a whole guild of what’s called “operative millers.” There’s, like, at least nine different types of people with all different kinds of lives! Do you think some of them might, in the back of their minds or even the front of their minds, want to channel their various lived experiences into some sort of art, maybe even comedy? I bet some of them do. I also bet most of them won’t, because comedy doesn’t pay money, because the overwhelming gentleman’s agreement of comedy (and it is a gentleman’s agreement) is that artists must suffer long before they will prosper, even though very few will prosper, so in fact most will only suffer even as others prosper around them and off their backs. That’s a bad deal, right?
8. Well, guess who’s responsible for it.
9. A riddle: Who takes the classes not taken by who can’t afford to take them? What kind of comedy is made by people who can afford to make comedy for free? What kind of experiences does that comedy reflect? Who does it appeal to? What kind of culture does it create?
10. Don’t—please—create that kind of culture. It will stain everything. Pay your performers.
Seth Simons is Paste’s assistant comedy editor. Follow him on Twitter.