Sitcoms, drama, TV, movies, commercials: You better be able to improv because, as an actor, you most certainly are expected to be able to do it and do it well and flawlessly.
Improv can come up in any scripted show or movie. You better be able to do it on set and at auditions and not be shaken up by it when the director or CD expects you to do it. It happens with scripted material a great many times on set. Sometimes what looks good on paper sounds stilted when delivered verbally on set by the actors and the director has them throw out the script and improv the scene for it to come out real and naturally. On top of that a great many TV shows and movies are totally or mostly improv based.
I don't give a hoot in hell if you don't like to hear it, if you are stupid or ignorant enough to think you don't need it, the truth is you will not be a working actor if you are not very comfortable and good at improvisation.
That goes for day players and stars. Every actor on earth needs that skill. An actor who is only comfortable with scripted material is only half an actor. What fool thinks only stars do improv? Would a day player in a scene with a star who was improvising have to stick word for word to the script? How stupid would that be? You should be and must be able to go with the flow of the scene and stay in character no matter what happens on set in a scene; scripted or not.
Do not avoid improv training! If improv scares you then that means you need it. In fact you should be doing, practicing, rehearsing and studying those areas of acting that you are most afraid of. To avoid those things that scare you the most, avoiding those things you are weakest at, is a sure way to remain a weak actor that has no career potential.
Get into the best acting classes. Get into classes that teach improv and scripted material. Train until your ass drops off. And then train some more. That is what the actors who book do.
And I forgot to mention Voice Acting.
In voice acting, I normally do NOT have another actor to play off of so the booth director can say "give me three" and I'm expected to give 3 different takes of a line. What helps me in doing that? IMPROV!
I'm surprised how many people are saying "Go to UCB, its easier." Nobody is going to make a career for themselves going the easy path. Just remember, easier is usually not the best option. Nobody goes to Harvard because its an easy school to get into and graduate from, same goes with the Groundlings. I have just finished Basic level 1 at the Groundlings and as grueling and competitive as it is I have grown and learned so much as an actor and improv student. There's a reason why most of the famous comedians have gone here, and because they expect and train people to be the best of the best.
I havent looked into UCB but yes, if you are looking for just a casual course to learn improv, long form, feel good about yourself etc, this might be the way to go, but if you want to train for a comedy career or something bigger and competitive The Groundlings is the Harvard of comedy schools and definitely tough.
If you're serious about comedy and improv, and want others to see on a resume you are serious actor, the Groundlings is the only choice
UCB isn't easier. It's less competitive than Groundlings in that you don't have to fight for your teacher's love for him or her to advance you. Most actors don't have dreams of doing improv shows or being on SNL, so a competitive environment isn't always the best one.
UCB isn't less in prestige either. Almost all of the current SNL roster is from UCB. The majority of Principato Young's roster is from UCB. Principato reps some of Comedy's biggest stars.
The huge surge of people coming out of Groundlings and making it big hasn't been seen since the 90s when pretty much all of the mid 90s SNL cast was from Groundlings. Sure there's Stephanie Courtney, Nassim Pedrad, Abby Elliot to name a few but it seems UCB and even IO are having the big surge the past several years.
I love how Dashryder felt the need to register today to post this condescension, masquerading as school spirit.
All you have to do is look at the most recent cast additions to SNL this year to gain a new perspective. Out of 6 new cast members I believe 4 of them have ties to UCB. That's a pretty good and easy ratio to grasp even if you're only good at comedy and not math.
Your right in saying the easy path may not be the best. But there is no reason to make your path harder than it needs to be either. And the reason why so many successful actors have trained at The Groundlings is because The Groundlings used to be the best improv school in LA by far. But as has been pointed out, the graduates from other schools are being picked up by SNL as well as other TV shows and movies far more than current and recent graduates from The Groundlings. The successful Groundlings members that work today were trained at The Groundlings by a different crop of teachers than those who teach today. As a result I believe the training is not as good as it used to be. It's good, just not as good as it once was.
If you haven't looked into UCB than what standing do you have to comment on it? If you haven't trained at other schools how do you know how to compare The Groundlings to them? If it is the track record of different improv school graduates in film and TV that guides you; then currently UCB should be ranked higher.
Probably a pretty true statement for years ago. But a questionable thing to say today.
This, or something similar to it, is what I saw starting to take hold at the Groundlings after training there a couple years. Being a tough school was one thing, but being really good at improv and developing characters (something the school emphasizes) should have been the only thing considered to move students up the levels. Also, there could be years of waiting after passing level 2 before a Level 3 class was offered.
When I first started training at The Groundlings quite a fair number of years ago, all classes were taught by actual Groundlings members. But, probably due to a shortage of teachers, the school started having some classes taught by alumni who went through all 4 levels but never made it into the Sunday Company. In other words some of the teachers were no longer actual Groundlings members. There was a difference of day and night between the classes taught by actual Groundlings and those taught by just alumnus. When this started happening I moved on to other major improv schools. I think this was and is the main reason why The Groundlings is not the school it used to be.
I haven't trained there in quite a few years so things are sure to have changed. But I haven't seen any younger actors come out of there recently who have made a great career in film and TV like some of the older Groundlings have done.
If you are a novice to improv, I suggest Second City or IO West. Groundlings and UCB both have the attitude they are the best when it comes to improv schools, and that attitude can intimidate novices. Frankly, the best shows I ever saw were at Second City and IO West. UCB isn't that good.
If you can get into Sunday Company at Groundlings or in the main cast doors will open. Allow 5-6 years at least. Very difficult.
I think this is the truth statement about comedy and how it relates to the actor. Regardless of which school or path you take(improv, standup, etc.), if you focus on and devote yourself to comedy for 5-6 years at least, and it will be very difficult, doors will open.
All the bickering about who is the best or how my school isn't as stuck up as the other guys is pretty lame and petty. Go watch the best shows(not show in the singular) at the corresponding theatre/schools. Go study at the place that resonates with you.
Also you can do more than one. While you are waiting 2+ years for the next level of Groundlings you are going to need to be performing.
Team opportunities at the other schools abound.
The best improv training that is happening in Los Angeles is done by Miles Stroth. He was part of "The Family" in Chicago and worked directly with Del. He runs his classes out of a dumpy room in the Complex, but this guy is incredible. He's up there with TJ Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi as the best improvisor alive and he is so good at communicating to the students simply how to approach an improv scene through proper listening and recognizing the scene type. He's a bit higher level so its probably best that you do some lower level UCB or IO courses first. I've done UCB, Second City, Groundlings, and studied with Jimmy Carrane and IO in Chicago and Miles is the Best.
Other awesome Improv teachers to check out:
Joe Wengert - UCB
Eugene O'Neil - UCB
Billy Merritt - UCB/Independent Workshop
Craig Cackowski - I.O.
Brian O'Connell - I.O./Miles Workshop
That's a pretty good list, although when you say Eugene O'Neil, do you mean Eugene Cordero?
I think it's good advice to get a few levels in at one of the main four schools before going to indie teachers likes Miles Stroth.
In addition to your list of indie teachers, I would add Becky Drysdale from The Clubhouse to the list.
Lol yes, I meant Eugene Cordero. I just finished working on The Iceman Cometh and Eugene O'Neill is on my mind!
(Clearly I am a big Smokes fan)
Yes, totally agree on Becky Drysdale. She is awesome!
Also fantastic coaches for practice groups: Tara Copeland,and Nick Mandernach
In making this decision, put away career aspirations: no comedy theater can do the work that you need to to for yourself to achieve your goals. Focus on your craft and career will grow naturally from that. Do introductory classes in both theaters and you'll quickly get a feel for which is right for you.
In my experience, Groundlings is focused more towards performing, character work, and sketch. UCB is overall focused more towards writing and improvisation.
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