• GROUNDLINGS

    EXPLORE OUR TIMELINE

      • 1972 - 1975

        Our
        Beginning

      • Aug 1972

        Gary Starts A Class...Gary Austin, a veteran of San Francisco's "The Committee," organizes a weekly workshop for fellow performers in Los Angeles to improvise, act, sing, and hone their craft.

      • Gary Starts A Class...

      • 1973

        The Gary Austin Workshop begins performing shows for invited friends and family members in various theatres around Hollywood.

      • 1974

        "The Groundlings" Is Made...

      • Jan

        Gary Austin proposes forming a theatre company. The Groundlings is officially incorporated as a non-profit corporation. The regular participants of the workshop become the founding 50 company members.

      • Mar 24, 1974

        The first performance as "The Groundlings" takes place in the basement of The Oxford Theatre near the corner of Santa Monica & Western Ave.

      • April 3, 1974

        Los Angeles Times theatre critic, Sylvie Drake, writes the first rave review for the Groundlings and predicts, "This could be the start of something big.

      • 1975 - 1979

        Lily Tomlin Visits The Groundlings...

      • July 25, 1975

        After attending several shows and becoming a fan, Lily Tomlin hires several Groundlings to perform on "The Lily Tomlin Show" TV Special, which was produced by Lorne Michaels.

      • Oct 11, 1975

        Laraine Newman becomes the first Groundling to be hired as a cast member on Lorne Michaels' new show for NBC, "Saturday Night Live."

      • 1975

        The Groundlings lease a building at 7307 Melrose Avenue and begin renovations to turn the former massage parlor into a 99 seat theatre and permanent home. It would be another 4 years til the space was open to audiences.

      • 1975

        To rein in the size of the company, which had grown to 90 members, auditions become required to join. A young graphic designer named Phil Hartman attends the first audition and is invited to become a Groundling.

      • 1978

        The Groundlings School of Improvisation opens with only 17 students and the original staff members Gary Austin, Tom Maxwell, Phyllis Katz, and Tracy Newman.

      • 1979

        After four years of back-breaking work and endless fights with the city over permits, the Groundlings Theatre officially opens for business on Melrose. “The Groundlings Revue” has its first performance in its new home.

      • 1980s

        A Change In Direction...

      • 1980

        Gary Austin resigns. Tom Maxwell takes over the position of Artistic Director, a position he will occupy for the next 10 years.

      • May 14, 1981

        “L.A. 200, Groundlings 3” opens and becomes the first revue to be given its own unique name. Previously, all the shows were called “The Groundlings Revue.”

      • Feb 7, 1981

        “The Pee Wee Herman Show” debuts at the theatre as a Saturday at midnight show. Centered around the Pee Wee character Paul Rubens created for The Groundlings’ revues, the show was the first “alternate format” show to play at the theatre. Pee Wee would become a pop culture icon, spawning films, toys, and a children's television show.

      • Sept 26, 1981

        “Waco: An Evening with the Frys,” the theatre's second alternate format show, opens. It would be followed by “Waco: A Match Made in Texas,” the following year.

      • 1982

        A second company, the Groundlings Sunday Company, is formed as a training ground at the upper level of the school. After performing in the weekly Sunday Shows for a period of time, the company members could be invited to become a Groundling.

      • 1983

        Groundling Tim Stack's "On the Road with Guy DiSimone," opens, becoming the 4th alternative format show to play at the theatre.

      • 1984

        "Olympic Trials: A Chick Hazard Mystery," an improvisational whodunit featuring Phil Hartman as a hapless gumshoe, is selected to represent Los Angeles in the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival.

      • Mar 19, 1984

        The Groundlings celebrate their 10th Anniversary with a show at the Westwood Playhouse.

      • July 27, 1985

        The Groundlings stage a Reunion Show at the Beverly Theatre (now the Wilshire Theatre).

      • Summer 1985

        "Casual Sex," a musical spoof of singles resorts, written by Groundlings Judy Toll and Wendy Goldman, opens at the theatre. Three years later, it would be made into a feature film for Universal.

      • Mar 28, 1985

        The Groundlings make their first appearance on the "Tonight Show with Johnny Carson."

      • Nov 9, 1985

        Jon Lovitz becomes the 2nd Groundling to join the cast of "Saturday Night Live." Two weeks later, his third show would be guest hosted by Pee Wee Herman, Paul Ruben's character born at the Groundlings.

      • 1986

        "Katz, " Groundling Phyllis Katz's one-woman musical opens.

      • Oct 11, 1986

        Phil Hartman joins the cast of "Saturday Night Live,"where he performs again with fellow Groundling Jon Lovitz.

      • 1987

        The play "Ladies Room," written by Groundling Robin Schiff, opens at the theatre. It marks the acting debut of future Groundling Lisa Kudrow. In 1997, the show's characters, Romy & Michelle, would appear in the film "Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion," with Kudrow reprising the role of 'Michelle.'

      • 1987

        Melanie Graham's show "Just Like the Pom Pom Girls" opens at the theatre.

      • 1988

        Groundlings Steve Hibbert and Julia Sweeney's show "Mea's Big Apology" opens its first of two runs at the theatre. Sweeney stars as the apologetic accountant, Mea Culpa.

      • Mar 19, 1988

        "Groundlings: The White Album" opens. Directed by Stan Wells, it is the first show not directed by Artistic Director Tom Maxwell since Gary Austin's departure. All future directors of the Groundlings Revues will be either Groundlings or Groundlings alumni chosen by the company on a show by show basis.

      • Feb 15, 1989

        The independent production "Holiday Dinner," written by Groundlings Deanna Oliver, Nancy Dye, and Mindy Sterling opens.

      • 1990 – 1995

        Don't Change The Channel...

      • Sept 6, 1990

        George McGrath's "Your Very Own TV Show," opens at the theatre. The show follows the improvisational creation of a sitcom, based on the audience's suggestions. Eventually one member of the audience is chosen to star in the show. The show raises $15, 000 needed to keep the Groundlings open.

      • 1992

        Melanie Graham creates "Cooking With Gas," a weekly short form improv show performed by Groundlings, Groundlings alumni, Sunday Company members, and special celebrity guests. The show makes a home in the Thursday night at 8pm slot, and goes on to become the longest running improv show in LA.

      • Sept 29, 1990

        Julia Sweeney joins the cast of "Saturday Night Live."

      • 1994

        The Groundlings celebrates its 20th Anniversary with a sold out week of reunion shows, greatest hits and improv performances.

      • 1995

        The Groundlings give a private performance to the sequestered O.J. Simpson murder trial jurors. The LA Times reports they "received a standing ovation."

      • Sept 30, 1995

        Groundlings Will Ferrell and Cheri Oteri join the cast of "Saturday Night Live."

      • Oct 15, 1995

        Groundling Phil LaMarr is hired as one of the original cast members of Fox's new late-night sketch comedy television show, "Mad TV."

      • 1996 - 2000

        SNL: Chris Kattan

      • Mar 16, 1996

        Groundling Chris Kattan (son of founding Groundling member Kip King) joins Ferrell and Oteri as a cast member on "Saturday Night Live." Phil Hartman would return to the show as guest host for Kattan's second show.

      • Sept 28, 1996

        Groundling Ana Gasteyer joins the cast of "Saturday Night Live." Groundling alumni Lisa Kudrow would host Gasteyer's second show.

      • Sept 7, 1998

        "Instant Comedy with the Groundlings" premiers on the F/X cable network. The show featured Groundlings, alumni, and celebrity guests doing short-form improvisation. It ran for 65 episodes.

      • Sept 12, 1998

        Groundling Mike McDonald joins the cast of "MadTV," where he would perform for 9 seasons.

      • Sept 26, 1998

        Groundling Chris Parnell joins the cast of "Saturday Night Live," for his first of two tours of duty on the show.

      • Sept 24, 1999

        The Groundlings celebrates its 25th Anniversary with a festival of special shows and reunions. The celebration is inaugurated with the opening night of "Groundlings: 25 To Life." In a ceremony that evening, the theatre's auditorium is dedicated to the memory of the late Phil Hartman on what would have been his 51st birthday.

      • May 6, 2000

        Only a few weeks after being voted into the Groundlings Main Company, Maya Rudolf becomes a cast member on "Saturday Night Live." She raises the number of Groundlings in the show's cast at that time to six.

      • 2001 - 2005

        Improv At The Speed Of A Clap...

      • 2001

        The longform improv "The Crazy Uncle Joe Show" begins performances on Wednesday nights. It becomes the longest running longform improv show in Los Angeles.

      • 2002

        Directed by Groundling alumni Tony Sepulveda, "Beverly Winwood's Actor's Showcase," begins the first of many runs at the theatre. A spoof of Hollywood actor showcases, it features Groundlings, alumni, and Sunday Company alumni performing classic scenes from American plays (very badly) for an audience of supposed industry types.

      • Will Forte becomes the 10th Groundling to join the cast of "Saturday Night Live."

        Oct 5, 2002

      • 2003

        The Groundlings acquire a new classroom space that eventually becomes the main campus for the Groundlings School. Located half a block east of the theatre and across the street, it becomes known as "G2."

      • Groundling Danielle Gaither joins the cast of "Mad TV."

        Sept 13, 2003

      • Oct 5, 2004

        The Groundlings celebrate their 30th Anniversary with a Gala reunion show at the Henry Fonda Theatre featuring Groundlings from the past 30 years. It is hosted by Will Ferrell, Cheryl Hines and Chris Kattan, and is rumored to have never ended.

      • "Groundlings 30th Anniversary Box Set Vol. 1 & 2" opens. For the first time, two completely different main shows are mounted and play on alternate nights. Deanna Oliver directs both shows.

        Oct 15, 2004

      • Nov 12, 2005

        Groundling Kristen Wiig joins the cast of "Saturday Night Live."

      • 2006 - 2010

        You want more? You've Got it!..

      • Oct 2006

        The Groundlings vote to add an extra revue to their yearly schedule, raising the output to four new main shows year. A bonus holiday themed show (with a shortened month long run) is also added in December.

      • Oct 12, 2006

        Groundlings Michael Naughton & Mikey Day post a video of their main show sketch "David Blaine Street Magic" on the new web site YouTube. Shot in the alley behind the theatre, it would become a one of the first viral web video sensations, breaking YouTube records, and generating over 50 million views.

      • 2008

        The Groundlings partners with Sony to create a series of short comedy videos based on Groundlings sketches and characters.

      • Nov 15, 2008

        Groundling Michaela Watkins joins the cast of "Saturday Night Live."

      • Aug 9, 2010

        Classroom 1 in the G2 building is named in honor of the late Kip King, a founding Groundling alumni, and father of Groundling Chris Kattan.

      • Sept 25, 2010

        Groundling Taran Killam is hired as a cast member by "Saturday Night Live." He joins former Sunday Company cast member, Nasim Pedrad, who joined the show the previous season.

      • 2011-2016

        The Bridesmaids

      • April 2011

        Groundlings Alumni Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo’s film "Bridesmaids" is released, becoming a worldwide box office hit. The film stars Wiig and over a dozen other Groundlings, including Mumolo, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Maya Rudolph and Melissa McCarthy. The film paves the way for a resurgence of female-driven comedies.

      • Nov 2011

        Will Ferrell is awarded with the prestigious Mark Twain Award.

      • March 2012

        Groundlings at the Oscars - Nat Faxon and Jim Rash receive Academy Awards for co-writing the screenplay to "The Descendants" with Alexander Payne. Groundlings Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, are also nominated that year for their work on "Bridesmaids."

      • Jan 2013

        The Way, Way Back Premieres at Sundance.

      • Feb 2013

        The Groundlings Theatre gets a facelift. Nothing major. You know, just a new stage, new chairs and a new lobby. You have to keep it fresh. We’re in Hollywood, after all.

      • May 2014

        Groundlings celebrates its 40th anniversary with a month of special reunion shows and events, concluding with a gala bringing together four decades of alumni.

      • 2014

        Three shows created by Groundlings & Groundlings Alumni premiere this year: “Benched” on USA (created by Damon Jones & Michaela Watkins), "Mike Tyson Mysteries” on Cartoon Network (Hugh Davidson, Rachel Ramras & Larry Dorf), and “Idiotsitter” (Jillian Bell & Charlotte Newhouse) a Comedy Central web series (which then became a TV series in 2016).

      • September 2015

        The Groundlings School launches its Diversity and Inclusion initiatives: including scholarships, partnerships with NBC and Nickelodeon, and expanded outreach to local communities and colleges.

      • Jan 2016

        After decades of renting dilapidated classroom spaces up and down Melrose, The Groundlings finally says goodbye to landlords forever! The NEW Groundlings School opens its doors at 7280 Melrose, a spacework-stone’s throw from the Theatre. The new facility features seven classrooms and a state-of-the-art student theatre.

      • March 2016

        Tony Cavalero leads the cast in School of Rock

      • April 2016

        The Groundlings mourns the loss of its beloved founder, Gary Austin.

      • July 2016

        Edi Patterson lands a lead role on Vice Principals

      • August 2016

        Team-building? Private improv shows? Groundlings corporate business goes live and thrives at www.GroundlingsAtWork.com!

      • September 2016

        Mikey Day joins the cast of Saturday Night Live!

      • October 2016

        Matt Cook lands a leading role on Man with the Plan.

      • 2017-2018

         

      • July 2017

        The Groundlings School launches its first annual Diversity Festival, featuring dozens of workshops, panels and performances.

      • September 2017

        Heidi Gardner joins the cast of Saturday Night Live.

      • February 2018

        Lyric Lewis lands a lead role on NBC's A.P. Bio

      • March 2018

        Ryan Gaul lands a leading role on The LAST O.G.

      • September 2018

        Groundlings Originals video series takes the Groundlings’ signature brand of character-driven sketches out of their sold-out weekly Hollywood venue and brings them to life onto your favorite streaming device.