I can only speak for the Groundlings having studied there.
I took a few classes there, and had multiple instructors (and a few classes we had subs) - a combination of current company members and instructors who were not members.
I found the instructors (and subs) who were also members of the main company to be really supportive actually.
The instructors who were not part of the company on the other hand tended to create a harsher vibe in class. I don't want to say these instructors were bitter, but they certainly weren't as supportive as those instructors who are part of the main company.
Being good at both improv and scripted material is essential. Therefore excellent training in both is needed.
Years ago almost all commercial, movie or TV auditions and bookings involved scripted material. Now they can require one or the other or a combination of both. The timing learned at comedic improv schools is especially good for sit-coms and a great many commercials.
So it is essential to become very good at improvisation. For LA, The Groundlings has the top reputation. In Chicago it is IO and Second City. But all the main schools in LA are known for developing good improvisers.
LA has IO West, UCB, Second City, The Groundlings, ACME, free Monkey Butler classes and probably others. If you train diligently at any of those schools you will become good at improv. At least you will become much better. Like acting, some people are more natural at it than others. The more comfortable and at ease you are in front of a camera or on stage expressing dialog and actions that are not predetermined by a script the better you will be at both scripted and non-scripted material.
However, any class is only as good as the teacher. And you rarely get to choose the teacher at improv schools. So you don't know what you will get. You can take a class at The Groundlings or any school taught by a good teacher and the next class taught at the same school can be taught by a real loser. And being a great improv artist does not equate to being a good teacher.
As someone pointed out, The Groundlings has a great history of outstanding teachers and alumni. But that great history is just that: history. Those teachers don't teach there anymore. I personally think the value of training there has dropped a notch or two over the years.
Improv training is a bit different than most acting classes. As you move up in levels of improv you may find that the good teachers become tougher and tougher. They will not tolerate amateurish mistakes nearly as much as they did in lower levels. However, overall you should feel good and have a fun time learning improv. It's just a different game than learning very deep level method acting. A teacher should not be making his or her whole class feel bad every class. Sometimes, but not all the time. There is probably something wrong if that is happening.
I know Sean Hogan. He is good and firm in his teaching but I've never known him to be mean.
As far as students in a class that are not focused and who do not pay attention; they should be kicked out. If they are not paying attention then they are doing something else like texting or talking to someone next to them. That's distracting. A teacher who tolerates that crap is not a good teacher.
If you are serious about acting/improv then maybe your main concern should be which place/teacher makes you improve the most rather than which place/teacher makes you feel the best. When you do good work then you will feel good about yourself. If you screw up you won't and you shouldn't.
Go to different schools. See the Main Players do shows at the different schools too. That is an indication of the level of training. Watch their graduates perform.
I think the proof is in the pudding. Talent is talent. You can be trained by the best teachers at the best institutions and still not be good at what you do. I've seen this many times. Seeing a show performed by graduates of an institution is not a gauge of that institution.
I've studied at a famous studio in LA for two years. The graduate students are really not much better than those students with minimal training but lots of talent. Even though they had an extra year of training, I hold my own with this class.
Same with auditions. I trained at The Groundlings. But I didn't progress through the ranks and take all the classes. Yet at auditions I hold my own with UCB and Groundlings graduates. Why? Not because of training. But because I improv at auditions all the time.
Just like anything in life and in the biz, you have to find what works for YOU. And only YOU can decide that. You can never make blanket statements about this teacher, that school, this photographer, this agency, etc. What's good for the goose may NOT be good for the gander.
Do what feels right for you and only you.
Just remember that Improv does not make for good film actors. It's a genre in itself. Stand-up, show imrpov and commercials. But Not film/tv.
There certainly aren't any highly improved TV shows.
You're obviously unaware of the work of Mike Leigh and others.
"Curb Your Enthusiasm" was mostly improv.
I, unfortunately, have to disagree.
Curb your Enthusiasm and Reno 911 are popular shows that were almost completely improvised. I've had an audition for Curb once and it was nothing but improv. Even when I auditioned for a completely scripted show like Modern Family, Jeff Greenberg had me and everyone else do the sides as is and then improvise.
In film, pretty much all of those Apatow films like 40 Year Old Virgin have improvisation. Hold a script of any of those films while watching it and you'll see that almost none of the dialogue is word for word but yet they still have the gist of what's going on. Apatow trusts those actors to improvise. Or the recent "This is the End" is all improvised.
Even when auditioning for film/tv, improv is a very important tool. You can come in with brilliant choices, but they might give you re-directs that might be something totally different from what you might have prepared. Improv teaches you to let go of choices and come up with new ones on the spot.
What pisses me off is the misconceptions of what people think improv is. A lot of people think it's being SNL funny or trying to be the wittiest. FAR FROM IT! If you try to be funny, then it won't be funny because it looks planned. But if you're listening and in the moment, the unexpected is what makes it funny.
Gene Wilder said in his autobiography that every time he tried to be funny, he wasn't. It was only when he took the scene very seriously that it became funny. Much as Lucille Ball stuffing all those chocolates from that conveyor belt in her mouth and down her blouse in that famous I Love Lucy scene.
Stephanie Courtney, my teacher at The Groundlings always told us she didn't want anyone to try and be funny. She wanted good actors.
Truth is right. Improv is a very important tool that you use all the time with redirects and in performance.
This comes up every time improv comes up, and I am always surprised by it.
It"s in EVERYTHING. Not just comedies, John Cassevettes, Robert Altman and Martin Scorcesse are big users of improv, and they are hardly new directors.
Its pretty rare I am on a set with zero improv. Get used to the idea!
Who doesn't want a 20 minute scene of "You know how I know you're gay?"
Girls is also a highly improved show.
I think any actor that doesn't have improv in his toolbox is like a carpenter that doesn't have a screwdriver in his.
I think whoever made the comment that "Improv does not make for good film actors" is very mistaken and there are long lists that prove otherwise.
Improv is an essential tool and has helped me so much in my acting - it has taught me to listen, react honestly, ground my relationships, explore characters, find the game of scenes and, more than anything, build my confidence! Getting up in front of people and making stuff up is equally terrifying and exciting and makes you a better actor, period.
I have taken at UCB and iO West, which are fairly similar. UCB is the 'hot' school right now and a lot of people are coming out of there (especially writers) I feel UCB is more competitive, particularly to perform. I love iO West because there are so many chances to get up and perform (from their Lottery program to their three stages) I am on a house team and performing every week has made me so much happier and confident. They also have a bar in front which really fosters the community (although UCB has Birds) They have lots of classes too and usually there aren't wait lists.
Bottom line - find a school between the big four (iO, UCB, Second City, Groundlings) and have fun!
Unless you are a major star none is going to let you improvise a scene. No one!! Not in Film/TV and I'm not talking silly Sitcoms. Get used to it.
Not sure if trolling...or if just stupid.
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