The Groundlings are an improvisational comedy troupe based in Los Angeles formed by Gary Austin in 1974. It uses an improv format influenced by Viola Spolin to produce sketches and improvised scenes. Its name is taken from ‘Hamlet’: ‘…to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumbshows and noise.’ 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. The Main Company (now capped at no more than 30 members at any time) collectively acts as the organization’s artistic director, democratically making business and creative decisions as a group. Notable alumni include: Adam Carolla, Abby Elliott, Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, Will Forte, Ana Gasteyer, Kathy Griffin, Rachael Harris, Phil Hartman, Cheryl Hines, Chris Kattan, Lisa Kudrow, Jon Lovitz, Pat Morita, Conan O’Brien, Cheri Oteri, Paul Reubens, Maya Rudolph, Dax Shepard, and Kristen Wiig.