The Groundlings Improv Troupe is a legendary sketch comedy group that has been entertaining audiences since 1974. Based in Los Angeles, the troupe is comprised of talented performers who use their hilarious and creative improvisational skills to create unique scenes and characters. The troupe is both famous and influential in the comedy world and has made a significant impact throughout its almost 50 years of being in business.
The troupe was originally founded by Gary Austin, who had been a performer in the New York Greenwich Village improv comedy scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Austin moved to Los Angeles in 1972, and the following year he launched his own structure of an improvisational comedy troupe, which he dubbed the “Groundlings.”
The Groundlings began performing for small audiences at local clubs and coffee houses, but soon grew into a thriving enterprise. During the following years, the troupe developed a core group of performers that included founders and co-founders Phil Hartman, Heather Morgan, Laraine Newman, and Michael McDonald, as well as a number of newcomers including; Paul Reubens, and later, Will Ferrell and Kathy Griffin.
Since the beginning, the Groundlings have become renowned for their improvisational skills, often using techniques such as the ‘Yes, And’ rule in order to move an improvisation forward. The interconnected improvisations are often quite anecdotal, as the Groundlings build on each other’s ideas and stories. They utilize their wits and skill to create characters, stories, and shows that are often wildly unpredictable and hilarious.
The style and tone of the Groundlings have been likened to the comedy troupe, the Second City, in Chicago, although the style of the troupe is unique to the Groundlings. Throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s, the Second City developed a style of comedy which relies heavily on self-reference, satire, and parody. However, the Groundlings’ improvisational style is more fluid, relying heavily on the talents of their performers to create unique and original sketches.
Impact of the Groundlings Improv Troupe
The success of the Groundlings over the decades has been greatly influential in terms of the comedy industry. Many of the troupe’s members have gone on to become mainstream sensations in the film and television industry, including Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman), Will Ferrell (Anchorman), Lisa Kudrow (Friends), and Jon Lovitz (Saturday Night Live).
The Groundlings have also spawned a number of spinoff shows and movies, including the Groundlings’ own spinoff sketch show, MADtv, as well as the popular film series, Best in Show. These spinoffs owe a lot of their success to the raw talent of the Groundlings’ cast, which continues to be packed with some of the most creative and hilarious comedians in the business.
Aside from their film and television influence, the troupe also continues to be well-known and respected within the improv community. To this day, they host a variety of workshops and classes to teach the skills of improvisation. They also remain popular with fans worldwide, who flock to their shows to witness the incredible talent of the Groundlings’ cast.
The Groundlings Improv Troupe has had an impact on the comedy world in ways that will never be forgotten. They have brought joy to audiences worldwide and have shaped the way improvisation is seen and perceived. From their small beginnings in 1974, the Groundlings have maintained their dedication to the craft and continue to be a successful and influential presence in the comedy community.