Comedy at Ground Zero
The Groundings has served as a factory for Saturday
Night Live comics for years. The secret? Let’s just say UCLA has
to do with it…By Emily Forster
While UCLA may not be recognized as a training ground for
institution has given alumni like Mike Hitchcock enough material
"UCLA was a great place to be, but there were little things that
me off. It gave me a lot of material," says Hitchcock.
Currently performing at the Groundlings in the comedy theater’s
show, "The Audience is Listening," Hitchcock is still writing
pisses him off.
The two sketches he wrote for "The Audience is Listening"
his disgust with Rush Limbaugh and people who shop at Trader
Although Hitchcock performs in both of his sketches, one of the
he hates most is acting.
"I’m a writer. I’ll act if somebody asks me, but I won’t
Many of Hitchcock’s fellow Groundlings share this hatred for
Melanie Graham, director of "The Audience is Listening," prefers
to get a script produced to auditioning for a part because "all
you have to
do is hand a script to a bunch of people, and then you can go
Unfortunately for Hitchcock and Graham, auditioning is an
of being a Groundling.
"The process for getting a part in a show starts when
audition material that they wrote. Melanie will give them
move things along but the sketch ideas and writing are theirs,"
Allison Kingsley, executive director of Groundlings.
In order to polish their sketch ideas and writing skills,
take classes in improv, writing and performing at the theater’s
"Those who excel in the classes move on to the Sunday company.
always feel like they’re auditioning when they reach that point
take our Groundling cast members from the Sunday company,"
The few lucky members of the Sunday company that ascend to the
Groundling are strong performers and writers as well as gifted
"Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Some people do
detailed characters and don’t write as well, where others are
writers and not as strong in improv. But to be a Groundling, you
have to be
fairly good at everything," says Graham.
Hitchcock was involved in the theater for a year and a half
became good enough at everything to acquire the title of
Hitchcock felt he was well prepared to be part of the comedy
the constructively competitive atmosphere of the theater was
just like the
atmosphere at UCLA’s film school.
"The competition to succeed at Groundlings was very familiar to
because it was the same in film school. Everyone was there to
learn and we
competed with each other in a positive way. Film school gave me
a lot of
confidence that I am thankful for because it helped me a lot,"
Hitchcock is also thankful for several things, including the
wrote for the upcoming film "House Arrest" starring Kevin Spacey
"The experience of writing for Kevin and Jamie was so amazing.
remember when I first went to Groundlings when I moved out to
L.A. and saw
Jon Lovitz perform. I wanted to write great things and be in
Now I’m performing at Groundlings and writing for great actors,"
Hitchcock is just one of the many success stories that
the 20-year-old theater. The company can boast about the fame of
members like Phil Hartman and Lisa Kudrow, as well as the
several writers and producers.
"There are a lot of writers and producers who were in
aren’t household names, but they hold a lot of clout," says
The reason behind the success of so many Groundlings might be
of the theater itself. Kingsley views the purpose of Groundlings
an educational institution than a theater.
"The goal is to teach the craft of a comedic actor. They can go
create anything that they want. It’s an opportunity that they
anywhere else."STAGE: "Groundlings: The Audience is Listening."
Through Jan. 6
at The Groundlings Theatre. Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 8
p.m. TIX: $17.50. For more info call (213) 934-9700.
ANDREW SCHOLER/Daily Bruin
Jennifer Cooldge stars in the one-woman sketch "My Trip to
Hawaii." ANDREW SCHOLER/Daily Bruin
The Groundlings’ skit "Trader Joe’s" featured Mary Jo Smith,
Mike Hitchcock and Jim Wise.