It basically boils down to this:
Some people feel like being paid a few dollars for performing is the only fair way for a theatre to not take advantage of its performers. The UCB feel like the non-monetary things they offer to the individual and the overall benefits of their model to the larger community are worth more than a few bucks. And paying that few bucks will undermine, and possibly destroy, those other things.
So it comes down to priorities - personal and professional. For people who agree with the UCB, the UCBT is a great place to perform. For people who don’t, the UCBT probably isn’t for them.
But most importantly - these two ideas can coexist! The UCB are not trying to change the economic model of other theatres and clubs. In this podcast they never say that everyone should do things the way they do. All they’re saying is - This is what we do. This is why we do it. This is what we’ve built. We think it’s valuable. So do a lot of other people. If you don’t, then we understand that and wish you well.
I have seen a lot of people saying they hope there can be some kind of compromise. But it seems like what “compromise” really means is that the UCBT start paying people, which is not a compromise, it’s one philosophy replacing the other. But Besser does offer a potential compromise in this podcast. To paraphrase, he says: If stand-ups say the UCBT is doing club-quality shows on the weekends and they want to be paid for performing in those shows, and if the UCBT say they cannot do that, then perhaps there should not be stand-up shows at the UCBT on weekends. Personally, I don’t think that’s a good solution. Personally, I think that hurts more people than it helps. And I think individual performers should just choose not to perform where they don’t feel welcome or respected. But it is a compromise.
I don’t think the issue is about “feeling welcome or respected” at all. It is entirely about being compensated for prepared material performed at a venue that is charging admission. It’s a valid complaint in general.
That said, you’re entirely right. It is stupid to come at the UCB like they are behaving amorally. I personally don’t think the UCB should host weekend standup shows if they can’t pay the comics, but the onus is on the comics themselves to decide that not getting paid is an issue for them, especially considering this is widely known about the UCB!
I don’t think the UCB theater should be punished for being unable to compensate the comics. I do think the comic community in NYC is being obtuse regarding this particular theater. That said, pretending you are “above money” is not a tactic that looks good on anyone. Stop being so self righteous about not compensating people. You’re not a walking boss, and you can make your incredibly valid points better by not being so wounded and confrontational about it.