The Groundlings are an improvisational comedy troupe based in Los Angeles, California. The troupe was formed by Gary Austin in 1974 and uses an improv format influenced by Viola Spolin to produce sketches and improvised scenes. Its name is taken from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act III, Scene II: “…to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumbshows and noise.”
The troupe moved into their current location on Melrose Avenue in 1979.
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 7:30 pm. Members of the Main Company are selected from members of the Sunday Company. The Main Company (now capped at 30 members at a time) collectively acts as the organization’s artistic director, democratically making business and creative decisions as a group.
In September 2008, The Groundlings began producing short form sketch episodes for Crackle.