Monday, September 13, 2010

The Groundlings and SNL (where Kristen Wiig came from)

What with the addition of Taran Killam (a long-time Groundlings member) to SNL, we wanted to take a deeper-dive look at The Groundlings, and their history with SNL.

The Groundlings are an improvisational comedy troupe based in Los Angeles, California, USA. The troupe was formed by Gary Austin in 1974 and uses an improv format influenced by Viola Spolin to produce sketches and improvised scenes.

The troupe moved into their current location on Melrose Avenue in 1979.

The Groundlings School holds new sessions every six weeks with over 300 students per session, with over 2,000 students per year going through the program. The competitive program consists of 4 levels (Basic, Intermediate, Writing Lab, and Advanced). Participants must be successfully advanced from each level by the instructor. After completing the Advanced level, one may be voted into the Sunday Company, which performs every Sunday at 7:30pm. Members of the Main Company are selected from members of the Sunday Company.

Current Groundlings main members include...

Taran Killam (signed to SNL for this coming season)
Michaela Watkins (let go from SNL before last season)

Here are SNL members who came from The Groundlings...

Abby Elliott
Jimmy Fallon
Will Ferrell
Will Forte
Ana Gasteyer
Phil Hartman
Jan Hooks
Chris Kattan
Jon Lovitz
Laraine Newman (founding member of The Groundlings & SNL)
Conan O'Brien (writer & non-credited cast)
Cheri Oteri
Chris Parnell
Maya Rudolph
Julia Sweeney
Michaela Watkins
Kristen Wiig

Other famous Groundlings alumni...

Adam Carolla
Jennifer Coolidge
Kathy Griffin (Shrek Forever After)
Cheryl Hines (RV)
Lisa Kudrow (Friends)
Phil LaMarr (MadTV)
Michael McDonald (MadTV)
Pat Morita (Karate Kid & Happy Days)
Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee Herman)
Joe Ranft (voice actor for Pixar)
Dax Shepard (Punk'd & When In Rome)

Note 1: Phil Hartman and Paul Reubens were friends during their Groundlings days, and Phil encouraged Paul to put together a pilot for Pee Wee Herman. Phil also appeared on Pee Wee Herman as a fisherman, a frequent guest.

Note 2: Will Ferrell's SNL class was composed of a lot of Groundlings alumni. They must have worked so well together in the comedy troop that it was natural for them to work together on SNL. This group included Will Ferrell, Ana Gasteyer, Chris Kattan, Cheri Oteri, and at the tail end of Will's reign on SNL, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Parnell, and Maya Rudolph. (This is similar to when Lorne hired Chevy Chase, John Belushi, and Gilda Radner from the Lampoon Show back in 1975.)



  1. are groundlings actors paid

  2. Anony,

    Yes. They do live shows and are paid from ticket prices, just like actors in plays. It isn't much, and sometimes groups like this start growing and building various troops. And then those troops start making different degrees of money (depending on their popularity). And when they aren't making very much money, then they still have to have a second job, such as waiting tables.

    - TAE


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