Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Interview: Busy in These Pandemic Times, Leonard Robinson's Been a Triple Threat - Teaching, Performing & Directing THE GROUNDLINGS HOLIDAY SHOW - ONLINE EDITION

The Groundlings, in continuing their online presence, will Zoom this year's annual THE GROUNDLINGS HOLIDAY SHOW - ONLINE EDITION.

BWW Interview: Busy in These Pandemic Times, Leonard Robinson's Been a Triple Threat - Teaching, Performing & Directing THE GROUNDLINGS HOLIDAY SHOW - ONLINE EDITION

The Groundlings, in continuing their online presence, will Zoom this year's annual THE GROUNDLINGS HOLIDAY SHOW - ONLINE EDITION. This sure-to-be laugh-filled program airing three December weekends features original skits and improvs from the hysterical Groundlings Main Company members. Leonard Robinson will be directing himself and Lauren Burns, Michael Churven, Samantha DeSurra, Chris Eckert, Ryan Gaul, Patty Guggenheim, Kiel Kennedy and Ariane Price (cast subject to change).

Thank you for the time for this interview, Leonard!

So, what have you been doing in these unprecedented times to keep sane and your comedy chops ever-ready?

I have been bingeing a lot of new and cancelled television shows, pushing myself with super dynamic workouts at home and in the parks, and even jumping in on every online improv show I can do. See THE CRAZY UNCLE JOE SHOW and The COOKIN' WITH GAS Show we are doing online. They are fantastic and unlike anything we could do on stage.

How many Groundlings holiday shows have you done?

Well, I've only been a Groundling for a little over a year now. Most of it has been spent enduring this pandemic, but this is my second Holiday show. This would be my first time as a director. I love the HOLIDAY SHOW because I celebrate my birthday on Christmas Eve right after the show closes. I feel like I can celebrate two things.

As the director, do you have final say choosing which sketches get included in THE GROUNDLINGS HOLIDAY SHOW - ONLINE EDITION? Or is the selection more of a consensus?

The director picks the sketches and arranges the show order. Overall, you are trying to shape a well-rounded show. I like to take a collaborative approach and I want to bring the writer's full vision to life if I can. I try to be as hands-off as possible with respect to rewrite notes.

BWW Interview: Busy in These Pandemic Times, Leonard Robinson's Been a Triple Threat - Teaching, Performing & Directing THE GROUNDLINGS HOLIDAY SHOW - ONLINE EDITIONWhat kismet first brought into The Groundlings family?

That's a whole other interview in itself! Mine was a very long road, one that I thought I got off a long time ago, but I just kept coming back.

What's your all-time favorite sketch that you created?

That's an interesting question. I have favorites sketches that were terrible and favorite sketches that were great successes. Right now I'm particularly proud of the HOLIDAY SHOW's opening song which I wrote.

What's the most outrageous audience you've experienced on The Groundlings Theatre stage?

The last main stage show running before the pandemic caused everything to shut down was BAR FIGHT. Julian Gant and myself had a structured musical improv where we made up a new funk song every show. We called ourselves the Blueberry Boys. One night, we came on stage to see a woman sitting in the front row on her cell phone. She didn't put it away when the lights came, nor when it was clear that we were on stage. So, as all good improvisers would do, Julian and I started talking to her and asked her to put her phone away, because it was time to get funky and sing this song. She got up and walked out of the theater. Never to return.

When did you start teaching for The Groundlings School?

I actually just started teaching a few months ago! I'm teaching basic improv online. I'm loving it. I think I'm the first Groundling to train to teach online.

BWW Interview: Busy in These Pandemic Times, Leonard Robinson's Been a Triple Threat - Teaching, Performing & Directing THE GROUNDLINGS HOLIDAY SHOW - ONLINE EDITIONAny specific lesson you stress to all your students?

I'm trying to push my students to take big risks and make huge mistakes over trying to play it safe and do it right.

What's the important instruction you learned when you were a student at The Groundlings School?

Writing sketches where things are light, positive and joyous was a real eye opener. I didn't see how you could make comedy without any conflict or taking a dark spin on a subject. I'm not sure if that came from my stand-up background or just life. Karen Maruyama, one of my favorite directors, always had a great eye and push to keep things positive. It amazing how much better a sketch can be if you start out in a positive space. Joy is infectious.

Which gives you more gratification - performing in a sketch with your fellow Groundlings? Or doing your stand-up solo at The Comedy Store?

They both have their positives, but they are two completely different things. Stand-up is great because it's just you, and you are in control of your time on stage. It's your material and your time until you get the light to get off. If a joke doesn't hit and you know you're losing the crowd with your material, you can just switch gears and pull out the hits you know will work. Doing sketch and improv at The Groundlings is a collaborative experience. Even if you write a solo sketch, you collaborate with the director and your fellow scene partners. The other thrill is if your sketch isn't going well at page one, you have to keep pushing until the last page. No bailing out early.

Tell us about The Groundlings Diversity scholarships?

BWW Interview: Busy in These Pandemic Times, Leonard Robinson's Been a Triple Threat - Teaching, Performing & Directing THE GROUNDLINGS HOLIDAY SHOW - ONLINE EDITIONThe Groundlings Diversity scholarship is a great program we have going on to help develop and encourage minorities and people from marginalized backgrounds to take classes at The Groundlings. I believe going into 2021, we will be putting close to $70,000 into those efforts. So if you're reading this and you think this would apply to you, apply!

Thank you again, Leonard! I look forward to Zooming your handy directorial work THE GROUNDLINGS HOLIDAY SHOW - ONLINE EDITION.

For viewing access to any of the six performances of THE GROUNDLINGS HOLIDAY SHOW - ONLINE EDITION, log onto www.groundlings.com



Related Articles View More Los Angeles Stories   Shows

From This Author Gil Kaan