Groundlings Gives Back! Groundlings Partners with VME to Offer Improv Classes to Veterans
The Groundlings School is a renowned improv and sketch comedy theater that has been entertaining us for over 40 years, and has produced comedy greats such as Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Phil Hartman, Lisa Kudrow, Maya Rudolph, Jon Lovitz, Will Forte, and more! Of the Groundlings grads is one of our favorite Groundlings teachers, fellow military veteran Guy Stevenson. Guy is a seasoned teacher, comedian, actor and writer, whose involvement at Groundlings helped him gain a position writing and producing for the Fox show, ‘Mad TV’. He’s made other appearances in ‘Punk’d’, ‘Reno 911’, ‘The League’, and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ to name a few.
Last year, The Groundlings and Guy Stevenson teamed with us to offer exclusive improv classes to members of Veterans in Film and Television at no cost. Just recently, we teamed up again to offer a series of improv classes to more VME members. So far, over 50 VME members have benefited from Guy’s and Groundlings’ generous program offer. Attending VME members ranged from actors and writers to production crew and directors. The beautiful thing about improv is that anyone can benefit from classes.
VME continues to build relationships which lead to programs and offers like these for veterans. We’re thankful that Guy Stevenson and The Groundlings School could partner with us to provide this great opportunity.
To take up even more of Guy’s time, we sat down with him to pick his brain about comedy, the military, and the difference between civilians and veterans.
What motivated you to volunteer your time to teach improv to veterans?
I think that more veterans should take improv classes. I’ve spoken to some who said that veterans may shy away from taking improve classes because most people have more experience on stage, whereas veterans are often getting their first start years later. I think if we expose veterans to improv, they would want to pursue it, and that’s why I volunteer my time. Because I know once they were introduced to improv they’d really love it.
As a veteran yourself, how has your military service helped your career as a writer or actor?
It definitely has with writing. The thing about writing is that you just have to get up and do it. Especially when you’re writing and there’s no deadlines, the discipline you’ve learned helps you to get it done. I’ve performed with a lot of people who have been in theatre and who have always had a say in the types of roles they play. The school of hard knocks that we [veterans] have all been a part of helps, especially when you’re doing characters you can draw from the military experience. A lot of people in classes have only hung around people like themselves. Whereas in the military that will not happen, that really helped.
Is there a difference between veteran students and civilian students?
I think veteran students are very much about the letter of the rules. They’re very into what do we do, at what time, and for how long. A lot of the civilian students usually come from a theatre training background, or they’ve majored in it, or they’ve been in a million high school plays. A lot of veterans didn’t do high school theatre. They caught the bug late, like me. I didn’t catch the bug until I was 28. I think a lot of us (veterans) were in that same spot. Where other people have been doing it since they were children. So they’ve been on stage a lot and a lot of veteran guys and gals are still almost at parade rest at first. It takes a bit to really loosen up in an improv environment. I think that’s where a big difference lies.
Do you wish you would’ve had an opportunity like this one when you first began to pursue a career in the entertainment business?
Yeah I think I was an anomaly when I started here being a veteran, it was a big deal. I started in 1998, there weren’t that many veterans here. I would’ve definitely taken advantage of this, I wish something like this was around back then.
How does the Groundlings benefit from empowering veterans in their fields?
I think it benefits the Groundlings by broadening the net of students. A lot of our students aren’t veterans. By broadening your net of students, people will add to their experiences. You know when you get a veteran they’ll be polite, not miss class, take notes, and you’ll get a good student who’s there by choice and is seeing the other side of the fence. I think they’d benefit from that as well as the students. I had a gentleman in my class who was retired Navy, and some students had never met a guy like that, and he was someone that you should know, that you should experience. If you’ve only been with people your own age that have your life experiences, there won’t be as much progress in your development. Like everyone’s first day of boot camp, all of a sudden you’re not with people that look or sound like you. I’d never hung out with a dude with a southern accent until my first day at boot camp and then they were screaming at me. So I think it would be a benefit in that way.
Any advice you would give to a veteran, someone who’s brand new to Los Angeles?
Get with VFT and do things, do things. I know money is tight and you need that survival job but do things. Write your own stuff, make things happen. We’re in that age where the digital revolution has won. You can produce your own things and that’s how you’re going to get the experience and make contacts. Places like the Groundlings, I’ve met almost all my professional contacts here. I’ve got my jobs from here, I met my wife here. Doing things instead of waiting for things to happen to you, because they won’t. You have to be a self-starter, which is good advice for veterans because sometimes we’re used to getting orders, but you have to be a self-starter. You have to do it on your own and be that kind of self-motivator.
Such great advice from Guy! He and Groundlings have inspired so many veterans to keep working at it and to take advantage of the opportunities out there.
Are you a veteran working in the entertainment industry? Check out some of the events and opportunities VME can connect you with once you’re a member.
Want to be like Groundlings and team with VME? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org there are a ton of ways to get involved.