When I got out to LA, I wanted to maximize my experience. Since I was already learning a lot about the television production at ET, I wanted to tap into my theatrical side! After seeing Chicago's Second City improv company perform at UNI, I became interested in professional improv...these people are smart, witty, and hilarious. After all, many who I look up to (Um..helLO, Tina Fey!!) got their start by studying at improv academies. So, I hit up the best of the best in Los Angeles--The Groundlings improv company on Melrose Avenue!
What the heck is GROUNDLINGS?!
The Groundlings has bred many notabl alumni, including Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, Kathy Griffin, Phil Hartman, and Paul Reubens--aka PeeWee Herman! Many alumni have moved on to become performers on Saturday Night Live! It is a four-level program, which consists of new sessions every 6 weeks: basic, intermediate, writing lab, and
advanced. Classes are by audition only and students must be recommended by instructor to move to the next level. Students who pass level 4 may be voted onto the "Sunday Company"--a group of stellar students who perform every Sunday. After spending a year and a half in the Sunday company, students are either released from the academy or moved up to become "A GROUNDLING" [cue trumpet fanfare]--the highest honor (and VERY hard to make).
"I'm here because my agent told me I need to get comfortable with comedy."
I listened as each person gave their background story--everyone at the Groundlings audition had a different reason for being there. When I got there, I realized that I was the youngest one at my audition--most everyone was already a professional actor who was making a living doing commercials! After handing in our headshot and resume, we were given a series of characters to portray--from angry truck driver to worried physics professor. We were evaluated on our ability to pop into characters--to make skillful choices of physicalities, voices/accents, and our use of emotion. and our comfort level of performing in front of an audience. Even though I was
one of the only who had no formal improv experience already, I felt comfortable because of all of my past theatre experience--from high school speech to college radio to entertaining my family at the dinner table.
I know that Nick Chizek, my brother from community theatre, would EXCEL at Groundlings because he is skilled at physical comedy!
I didn't think I did too great--my professional ice skater impression could have been a bit better…but I ended up passing! Kristi Yamaguchi would be proud...
LAUGHING THROUGH CLASS
First off, may I say that my instructor, Ted Michaels, is a part-time Jim Henson
Muppeteer, and I think that is the MOST NEATO THING EVER!!!!!
I never thought I'd ever be pumped for a 3 and a half hour class. But I LOVE THIS--each day we go to class and crack each other up! Ted says that Groundlings is basically like "free therapy"--and he is right! From the moment we walk in the door to the moment we leave, we play games, act out scenes, and are as goofy--with semi-structured learning--as possible!
My classmates are all in their twenties or thirties (with the exception of Zack, the 18-year-
old runt). They come from different walks of life--one student just graduated from Stanford with a product design degree. Another came from a theatre conservatory in Texas. One guy, Aaron, already has spent two years with Second City in Chicago. One girl is an actress/model from Georgia, and she was on an episode of Thirty Rock! (I love this show-she got to do her make-up right next to Tina Fey! ) She also just got done filming an episode of Entourage where she played Bob Saget's girlfriend. I get really excited to get to know these people, that sometimes I feel like I am conducting an interview with them about their lives…they just all have such exciting stories to tell!
Dreamy Steamy Bobby...
in love with my classmate?
I have been to two of their shows already--after all, I can't just study at a place and not see what comes out of it! Needless to say, they are fabulous.
Some friends and me at a Friday night show!
Groundlings is known for their "character-based" school of improv; so, whereas Second City focuses on a lot of political satire and current events, Groundlings is heavy into character development and committing to a scene, no matter how absurd it is. My favorite skit was a parody on the author of Twilight. I will not detail the script as to not offend any Twihards...
OH, and you know that girl who plays "Flo" in the Progressive Commercial? She is a current Groundling.
When I come back to LA, I hope to pick back up at level two. If I pass Basic Level, that is. But I've showed up on time to each class and given it my all…the only downside? (And I'm not even kidding) We are not allowed to wear heels, because they are "not easy to move in".
PSHHHH--GIMME A BREAK!!!