There’s a good chance you’ve encountered the work of Jim Rash and Michaela Watkins. Maybe at the movies or maybe on TV or maybe in a web series.
Rash won an Oscar for co-writing the George Clooney movie The Descendants with Nat Faxon and Alexander Payne. He also co-wrote and appeared in last summer’s The Way, Way Back. And Rash plays Dean Pelton on the TV show Community.
Watkins has appeared on TV shows like Trophy Wife, Enlightened and Saturday Night Live. She’s also the co-creator of a new comedy, Benched, coming to the USA Network.
Something they have in common? They’re both veterans of the Groundlings. The improv and sketch comedy troupe recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. Rash and Watkins tell Kim Masters how the Groundlings opened the door for them to find work in LA, even after both occasionally bombing on stage.
The Groundlings and their school are a Los Angeles institution. Students have to auditions for the chance to work their way through classes, hoping to join the team that performs on Sunday nights. From there, you might be voted into the main company, or you could be cut.
The competition is fierce, but the potential payoff is big. Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Will Forte, Maya Rudolph and Will Ferrell are Groundlings alumni. The troupe often feeds talent to Saturday Night Live.
Montage of Jim Rash as Dean Pelton in Community
Michaela Watkins in Funny Or Die sketch