BWW Interview: A GROUNDed David Jahn On Directing GROUNDLINGS NEW YEAR'S EVE SPECTACULAR!
The Groundlings, directly segueing from their sold-out run of GROUNDLINGS HOLIDAY SHOW, will be working hard this New Year's Eve providing a special night of complete improvisations with GROUNDLINGS NEW YEAR'S EVE SPECTACULAR! SPECTACULAR!'s director David Jahn, a Groundlings alumnus, took a few moments out of his busy holiday schedule to answer my inquisitive questions.
Thank you for taking time out for this interview, David!
Your GROUNDLINGS NEW YEAR'S EVE SPECTACULAR! will be an evening completely of improvs, instead of Groundlings' usual written sketches. Do you have a couple of ideas for the improvs, or will you be tossing it all out to audience suggestions?
I have ideas for some holiday-themed set-ups for a number of scenes, but I will go to the audience for all the scenes to ask for suggestions which the improvisors will have to pay off.
I see an overlap of cast members scheduled for your SPECTACULAR! who currently perform in GROUNDLINGS HOLIDAY SHOW (Josh Duvendeck, Ryan Gaul and Laird Macintosh). Do you, as the director, choose who's included in your SPECTACULAR!?
We cap the cast at eight performers, and it's 'first come, first serve' after I put the 'ask' out via email. The Main Company members have first dibs, and this year's cast is all Main Company Groundlings.
At last year's GROUNDLINGS HOLIDAY SHOW, I saw a hilarious Groundlings sketch of a modern-day Jesus and Mary in bed. Any topics you would deem off-limits to parody?
The only things off-limits are suggestions I deem to be in bad taste, as I'm getting suggestions from the audience. We always want to steer away from anything too dark, gross or controversial. Other than that, these improvisors can parody anything brilliantly.
You became a Groundlings main company member in 1995. How did this long, advantageous association come about?
I had been doing a fair amount of theatre work and wanted to loosen up my acting. I always heard about The Groundlings and improv, but really knew nothing about it - as my audition for the Basic Level would prove. I believe I took my first Basic class in 1991. Mindy Sterling was my teacher. It was the most fun I had in any kind of acting class anywhere. I was hooked and moved through the program step-by-step. I had never written sketches so when I reached the writing levels, it was extremely challenging for me. But something finally clicked, and off I went!
Do you have an actual count of how many Groundlings shows have you been in?
I would guess I performed in about ten different main show revues. I've done various specialty and improv shows throughout the years, as well. I currently perform in The Beverly Winwood Showcase when we're fortunate to have everyone in town and available to do it. I understand it sells out in about one day!
You, yourself, are now in the rarified class of The Groundlings Alumni. When did this anointing happen? Did you stop Groundlings-ing for a while?
I resigned from the Main Company in 2002, which activated my alumni status. Though alumni don't do the Friday/Saturday Main Show revues, I never fully stopped, performing in other specialty shows periodically.
You're currently on The Groundlings School's steering committee. What are your functions sitting on it?
As of this month, I am now the Steering Committee Chairman. The main function of the committee is to maintain quality control of the school.
So, at what point in your career did you announce, "But what I really want to do is direct!"?
I've never had the moment of saying,"But what I really want to do is direct!" My first foray into directing was directing The Groundlings Sunday Company for a year in the late '90's. Since then, I've directed numerous projects. I think my acting background has greatly assisted me. I like performing different functions within the industry.
What's the most surprising audience reaction you had from one of your sketches?
One night a performing arts high school had bought out the theatre. They all walked out after Michael McDonald and I kissed in a sketch we had written. The kids were fine with it... Apparently, one of the school parents was not.
Is there anything else you'd want from your GROUNDLINGS NEW YEAR'S EVE SPECTACULAR! audience besides their outrageous skit suggestions, their collective laughter and applause?
No vomiting. LOL!
Any plans for David Jahn in 2019 you can share with us?
I'd love to share that I'll be launching my new one-man-show FILL YOUR HOLE on February 12th at The Groundlings.
Thank you again for your time, David! And thank you and your SPECTACULAR! cast and crew for 'working' on New Year's Eve to provide your consistently laugh-filled entertainment to your NYE revelers.
For ticket availability for GROUNDLINGS NEW YEAR'S EVE SPECTACULAR!, log onto www.groundlings.com