The new Groundlings show is another great loop in the seemingly infinite loop of great Groundlings shows. The part that’s curious to me, as the improv troupe enters its 43rd (!) year, isn’t the level of talent (which, thanks to their rigorous Sensei-like methodology means always strong) or the volume of laughter (which is consistently and generously high–though there was one guy who guffawed so loudly I thought he was doing some kind of passive-aggressive heckle.) No, it’s not them, it’s me—and probably you if you go see the show (and you certainly should).
I’m no longer *just* watching comedy. I’m picking a draft.
You see, it’s a strange time to be an audience member invited to watch the world’s most famous improv group. Or, more accurately, to watch a collective credited (in part) to cultivating some of the most famous comedians in the world. Particularly now, with the pre-aughts generation of Groundlings such as Melissa McCarthy, Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig enjoying a unicorn-rare existence of box office draw, critical favorite, with bonafide comic cred. But you already knew that.
Because for better or for worse, as a wine-buzzed face in the crowd, Groundlings shows have become something of a sport. You go to the show to marvel at the dexterity of these ascending comedians and laugh your ass off (which I did) while silently drafting your favorite players and shrewdly assessing their skills, their age, their “look” to determine just how far they’re going to go. Is she the next Kristen Wiig? Oh, he’s SO Will Ferrell but kind of Rob Delaney-ish too, right? It’s like experiencing the show isn’t enough—you have to build your own future Fantasy Comedian League with the series of sketches playing out like scrimmages, comparing the young performers in front of you to the legacy of MVPs you’ve been following for years.
Maybe it’s always been like that. But I’d venture to say for most of us who aren’t comedy club owners, talent agents or sitcom casting directors, we tended to let Lorne Michaels do most of the legwork. I mean, what the hell do I know about cultivating that particular craft? Yet, if you’re an armchair Fantasy Comedian aficianado like me, you can’t help yourself. We all watch Louis C.K., read Splitsider, listen to a neverending streams of lightening-wit podcasts. We follow Patton Oswalt and Albert Brooks on Twitter–we maybe even throw out a zinger out into the digital void now and again. (And the way we know it’s a zinger is because you yelll “zing!” afterwards, amirite?)
For me to share my first draft picks of this particular comedy show would something of a spoiler. But I’m logging them into my pop culture index so I can say I laughed at them when.