Alumna Follows Familiar Script to Comedy Fame by Joining Groundlings

Emily Joyce BA’15 plays an on-stage improv game at The Groundlings Theatre & School with classmates Samat Turgunbaev and Robert Keller (right). Joyce, who recently finished the advanced improv class at The Groundlings, is preparing for the next stage of the program — the writing lab.

A UT Dallas alumna has taken her penchant for comedy and improvisation to Los Angeles, where she is honing her craft through classes at The Groundlings Theatre & School.

Emily Joyce BA’15

Emily Joyce BA’15 enjoys comedy and hopes to make it to a big stage where she can impact a lot more people.

“I am an entirely silly person; I just have a knack for making people laugh,” she said. “I like being able to do really silly characters and to do voices. I know it’s weird, but I like making other people feel good.”

Along with The Second City and a few others, The Groundlings is known for the development of some of the best comedy talent in the country. Alumni of the program include well-known comedians and actors such as Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Phil Hartman, Maya Rudolph and Lisa Kudrow.

“I’m the person that just soaks up comedy,” Joyce said. “A person who wants a career in comedy has to look at places such as The Groundlings, Second City or Upright Citizens Brigade. ‘Saturday Night Live’ pulls from these places, so if you want to be a writer or performer with ‘SNL’, then you have to look into these places.”

She said she would like to not only be an improv actor, but also a sketch writer for “Saturday Night Live.”

“It’s one of the top improv and comedy shows in the business, and working there can open a door to take you wherever you want to go,” she said.

Emily told me after she had taken her first improv course that this is what she wanted to do for a living. And I knew she would do it. She’s got the smarts; she’s got the drive; she’ll make it.

Kathy Lingo, clinical associate professor in the School of Arts and Humanities at UT Dallas

While Joyce had learned a lot about theater before she attended UT Dallas, it was at UTD where she discovered her love for improv, said her mentor, Kathy Lingo.

“Emily told me after she had taken her first improv course that this is what she wanted to do for a living. And I knew she would do it,” said Lingo, clinical associate professor in the School of Arts and Humanities. “She’s got the smarts; she’s got the drive; she’ll make it.”

Joyce, who has been involved in the program for a number of years, said she sees The Groundlings as a graduate school where she can develop her craft.

The competitive program, with admission by audition, consists of five levels: basic, intermediate, advanced improv, writing lab and advanced lab. The ultimate level is the Main Company — performing as The Groundlings — which is composed of no more than 30 members at any time.

An Evening of Improv

As part of the Spring Student Arts Festival, the School of Arts and Humanities will present a night of improvisational performances at UT Dallas.

When: 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 29

Where: University Theatre

Cost: Free admission (adults 18 and older only)

The goal of most participants is to get paid for doing what they love.

“Getting through these classes, you’re learning a ton. It’s a quick pace, but they want to make sure people are ready to handle that kind of work,” she said.

Joyce recently finished the advanced improv class and is preparing for the writing lab. At the same time, like many aspiring performers, she works on the side to make ends meet. But she said she is committed to the process.

“There are only so many places that are going to sit you down and teach you and not give you the runaround,” she said. “This place will make you work for it and make you work hard. Groundlings is one of the places that gives you a higher percentage of succeeding.

“The Groundlings is really for me; I feel it’s what I’m meant to do.”


About The Groundlings

The Groundlings is an improvisation and sketch comedy theater that has been entertaining audiences in Los Angeles for over 40 years. The nonprofit organization was founded by Gary Austin in 1974. Some of its famous alumni include:

Will Ferrell (“Saturday Night Live”)
Will Forte (“Saturday Night Live”)
Ana Gasteyer (“Saturday Night Live”)
Rachael Harris (“Reno 911!”)
Phil Hartman (“Saturday Night Live”)
Cheryl Hines (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”)
Chris Kattan (“Saturday Night Live”)
Lisa Kudrow (“Friends”)
Jon Lovitz (“Saturday Night Live”)
Melissa McCarthy (“Mike and Molly”)
Laraine Newman (“Saturday Night Live”)
Cheri Oteri (“Saturday Night Live”)
Chris Parnell (“Saturday Night Live”)
Jim Rash (“Community”)
Maya Rudolph (“Saturday Night Live”)
Julia Sweeney (“Saturday Night Live”)
Kristen Wiig (“Saturday Night Live”)

Media Contact: Phil Roth, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2193, [email protected] , or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].