Entertainment Weekly


Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content


Oscar's got an eye on the Groundlings

Several of this year’s Academy Award nominees have more than their nod in common — they got their start in a Los Angeles comedy theater group

Posted on

While talking at the press at the Oscar-nominee luncheon on Feb. 6, Best Supporting Actress nominee Melissa McCarthy shared her disbelief that she was even standing there. ”It makes me [think] back to my first classes at the Groundlings,” the Bridesmaids star said. ”To have this for something I love doing is kind of bananas.” But what’s really bananas is that five of this year’s Academy Award contenders — Bridesmaids‘ McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo (for Original Screenplay), and The DescendantsJim Rash and Nat Faxon (for Adapted Screenplay) — all got their start at the Groundlings. The Los Angeles comedy theater has long been a farm team for Saturday Night Live (including standouts Will Ferrell, Maya Rudolph, and Phil Hartman), and it’s also turned out stars like Lisa Kudrow, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and Paul Reubens. What is it about the Groundlings that has made them such a conduit to showbiz success? Perhaps it’s their boot-camp approach to comedy. ”There are the people who want the instant gratification of… ‘When is Lorne [Michaels] going to drop by my class and discover me?’ ” says Rash, who is still a Groundling and teaches at the theater when he’s not playing Dean Pelton on NBC’s Community. ”[But] we try to impress upon people, we’re not here to teach you how to be funny. I don’t care if any of this stuff is funny. I just want to see the story.” To that end, students go through a rigorous four-class process to build their skills in improv, performance, sketch writing, and creating distinctive characters. Select students are then invited to continue on to the next level: performing every week for at least six months in the theater’s Sunday Company. All told, it took Rash four years to become a full-fledged Groundling. With so many Academy Award nominees, is he expecting an influx of Oscar-seeking hopefuls? ”Exactly,” Rash says, laughing. ”We’re going to start a class: ‘How to Write for the Oscars’!”