The Groundlings Will Celebrate SNL With a 50th Anniversary Panel

Just as no history of Saturday Night Live would be complete without mention of The Groundlings, it would be impossible to tell the story of The Groundlings without talking about the role SNL has played in their continued success. Which is exactly what the legendary improv and sketch comedy theater intends to do when it hosts a star-studded panel later this month. 

On Friday, June 28, The Groundlings will welcome back a handful of alums who have made it big both on that Los Angeles stage as well as in the hallowed halls of Studio 8H. 

The panel, which will be moderated by current Main Company member Josh Duvendeck, will bring together what the official calendar listing describes as “legends of SNL and The Groundlings,” including original Not Ready For Prime-Time Player Laraine Newman, Jon Lovitz, Cheri Oteri, Chris Parnell, Julia Sweeney, Taran Killam, and Will Forte (who will beam in via Zoom). Behind-the-scenes players including writers Jordan Black, Jake Norwdind, and Emily Spivey will also be joining the panel. 

This is just a fraction of The Groundlings players who have made their marks both in front of and behind the camera on Saturday Night Live over the years. Other members of the prestigious comedy company, which was founded in 1974, include Ana Gasteyer, Phil Hartman, Will Ferrell, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Heidi Gardner, Mikey Day, and Chloe Fineman.

While the late Paul Reubens was never a Saturday Night Live cast member, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. He auditioned for the show in 1980, but lost out to the late Gilbert Gottfried—and claimed that it was because Gottfried had been close friends with one of SNL‘s producers. “I was so bitter and angry,” Reubens told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2007. But it all worked out for the best, as it made Reubens even more determined to make his own luck.

His Pee-wee Herman character was birthed via The Groundlings, and Reubens managed to raise the money to produce the very first season of Pee-wee’s Playhouse in the wake of that rejection. “I went from this Saturday Night Live reject to having 60 people working for me,” he said.

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