S2E45 Make Em Laugh

Conventional wisdom says comedy is hard. It is for some people. Hell, for some people (the ones without a sense of humor – not everyone has one, ya know!), comedy is downright impossible. For the rest of us though, comedy isn’t all that hard. And it gets easier the more honest we are. Phyllis Katz (of the Chicago Katz’s) teaches people how to reach that inner-most place where comedy lives and breathes. How to “make em laugh” as it were. She was one of the founders of the Groundlings School. And The Groundlings is one of the preeminent training grounds for great comedic talent.

Gary Austin started The Groundlings in 1974 in Los Angeles. He’d been part of the improv group The Committee up in San Francisco. The Committee had been formed by alums of Chicago’s The Second City – truly the mother of all improv.

Meet Phyllis Katz

Actor, Author, Teacher Phyllis Katz

Phyllis compares improv to jazz. The creative process is similar. It requires a completely open mind, great hearing and the willingness to go anywhere the spirit takes you.

As creative outlets go, improv checks off a particular set of boxes. It’s not about joke-writing or even going for the joke. It’s about character – about quickly and deftly finding the physical attributes and personality quirks that define a character and the world they inhabit. Few things inspire the wild laughter that happens when an audience grasps the abstract ideas inside another person’s head. A completely imaginary world suddenly springs vividly to life – and a whole audience is delighted that they’re in on the joke!

Improv epitomizes the collaborative process. Everyone must be on the same page for the enterprise to work. “Yes, and…” is improv’s operating principle. It’s the operating principle of every creative endeavor.

In this episode, our guest Phyllis Katz will give us deep insight into how The Groundlings came to be – and how they’ve put their imprint on American comedy for a generation.

The Cavalcade

Will Ferrell

Will Forte

Heidi Gardner

Anna Gasteyer

Kathy Griffin

Phil Hartman

Cheryl Hines

Chris Kattan

Lisa Kudrow

Phil LaMarr

Jon Lovitz

Melissa McCarthy

Edie McClurg

Pat Morita

Laraine Newman

Cheri Oteri

Cassandra Peterson

Paul Reubens

Maya Rudolph

Mindy Sterling

Julia Sweeney

Kristen Wiig

Is Comedy Hard? Depends…

Some incredibly talented people crashed out before making the main company. Alan is one of them! Those people could write volumes about how comedy is hard. Some have…

On the plus side? Listening or watching this episode isn’t hard at all! The best thing about comedy is that enjoying it isn’t nearly as challenging as creating it.


Hipwrecked – Phyllis’s book – Get it HERE!

Ira Sullivan & Stu Katz Live At Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase – Get The Music!

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