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Advanced Lab at The Groundlings

On April 3rd, 2015, I received an email I’ve been anxiously awaiting for since November 1st, 2012. It simply said that the sender was “pleased to be offering [me] a spot in the second Advanced Lab of 2015, which will begin this April.” I was elated. Still am, and we just had our second of twelve weeks worth of classes.

My understanding as to why it took more than two years for me to be invited into this level is that there are a bunch of very talented people who have passed through the first three levels of the program, and there are very few teachers who are trained, tenured enough, and available to teach at this, the fourth level. Along with that, classes are very small – 12 people are in mine – so there is a LOT of individual attention. Plus, I believe they generally try to do six men and six women per class. It makes sense, in that case, that there is a long wait time.

I came to find out that the class started 21 days after I received the email, on April 24th, at which time I would have to have paid for the class, or have signed up for a payment plan. I was fortunate that over the last couple years of waiting, I have asked for help paying for the class for birthdays and Christmas, so my mom helped pay for some of the class. The Groundlings offered a number of different options to pay though, which was awesome – various payment plans for various circumstances – but it’s, admittedly, pretty expensive.

The cost of the class was $730, which, at first blush, is a lot of money – but breaking it down, it’s not that much. We have 12 “official” class weeks, which would break down to $60 per class. Not much at all, comparing it to other “normal” acting classes in LA. This is obviously a long-standing institution of comedy, so I hold it to a higher standard, which makes the $60 that much more stomach-able. But to indulge you, we have an additional eight classes to prepare us for our two shows. So, a total of 20 classes breaks it down to $36.50 per class. I won’t even get into the fact that multiple times throughout the week, we are to meet with classmates to create content to show during the class…which basically says we’re getting this class for a fraction of the price they could be charging.

The email also included a list of my new classmates, most of whom I didn’t know. A follow-up email a few days later prompted us to meet up with each other and come to the first class with sketches written. For those of you who don’t know, The Groundlings is an improvisation and sketch comedy theatre which provides classes in “their way” of creating comedy. My love of it began when I realized a number of their alumni have gone on to become huge names on Saturday Night Live, and beyond. Just to name drop, their website has the following 19 alumni who have gone through the same program that I’m currently in the top level of: Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Phil Hartman, Lisa Kudrow, Paul Reubens, Cheryl Hines, Jon Lovitz, Larraine Newman, Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Michael McDonald, Kathy Griffin, Phil LaMarr, Cheri Oteri, Chris Kattan, Julia Sweeney, Chris Parnell, Ana Gasteyer and Rachael Harris. Unreal.

For our first class, I came with 6 sketches that I had written – most with another member of my class, but I also did one by myself. My understanding of this level is that we should a) have a lot of fun, b) try a bunch of shit out, and c) don’t be afraid of failure. Check.

In the coming posts, I’ll let you know about what class is like, what my hopes and expectations are, and a flurry of other things having to do with my experience. I look forward to sharing what I’m going through. Feel free to comment on my posts with questions, and I’ll do my best to answer.

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