40 Years of Improv Comedy: An Oral History of the Groundlings | Vanity Fair

40 Years of Improv Comedy: An Oral History of the Groundlings | Vanity Fair40 Years of Improv Comedy: An Oral History of the Groundlings | Vanity Fair.

One of the first jobs I got when I moved to Los Angeles in November 1987 was working here, at The Groundlings. The first week I was in LA, I was walking along Melrose when I came across a sign proclaiming “Theatre.” Now, I’d been involved in theatre since I was 9 and after a successful run as the Teddy Bear in elementary school holiday play (thank you Mr. Kaiser, for making me audition) I joined the Rainbow Company Children’s Theatre. I grew up on and behind the stage so when I was feeling alone and scared in the big city of Los Angeles, I thought a theatre was the place to be. If nothing else, I figured I could paint sets, usher, do whatever. And I could meet people and begin my Los Angeles Adventure.

In that first week, I stopped in on a tuesday and asked if they were hiring. I was told to come back thursday and talk to someone I thought they called “Bryce.” So I showed up on Thursday, resume in hand, and asked to see “Bryce.” Turns out his name was “Brace” and John Brace was the tech director for the place. He was a nice guy, he looked at my resume and showed me around. Then he asked if I knew what kind of shows they did there. I had no idea. He explained it was a comedy club, doing sketches, “like Saturday Night Live.” Obviously I knew that show so it seemed like an okay place to be. Brace suggested I come to the show that Friday night to check it out, see if it was the kind of thing I’d be interested in. So I did.

Friday night I went to the 10pm show and I laughed my ass off. It was brilliant! Afterwards, Brace asked if I thought I’d like to be part of it. I said absolutely. Then he asked me if I’d ever run a sound board. I had. The Rainbow Company prides itself on training young theatre geeks, and we were taught early on that being on stage didn’t make you any more or any less important than the people backstage. It didn’t matter how good your monologue was if no one could see or hear you. So in turn, all of us at Rainbow did everything at one time or another. When I left Rainbow, I worked at the Las Vegas Little Theatre, where I was a techie. So running a sound board wasn’t anything new to me. Brace said “great… see ya tomorrow.”

And that was it. for the next 8 years, from 1987-1995 I was in the booth at the Groundlings on most weekends. Most of the time running the sound board. Sometimes lights. Sometimes I was on stage doing something. The place had an amazing impact on my life. Working on my first BIG Hollywood film came about from a late night conversation with a fellow techie. My first TV sale came about when performer Roger Eschbacher and I decided to work together on a Star Trek pitch (and he bought me a pair of shoes in celebration). My early days in LA were absolutely shaped and changed by the people who trod the boards in this place. By the people who were patrons and would hang out for conversation afterwards. I was lucky enough to be around and help celebrate the 20th anniversary and had I been in town, would certainly have been there for the 40th. Thank you, Groundlings, one and all.

Tech crew '91  - Michael Soliz on Lights, Ted Milano Managing the Stage and yours truly behind the sound board (and even way back then, bow ties were cool!)

Tech crew ’91 – (from l-r) Michael Soliz on Lights, Ted Milano Managing the Stage and yours truly behind the sound board (and even way back then, bow ties were cool!)

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