“Doctober” Trip to Los Angeles: Sturdy and Austin in the Can.

Gary Austin

pictured: Gary Austin

This month we’ve made a lot of progress: we located and secured an amazing trove of rare Committee-related photos and just this weekend wrapped up two more interviews, with Howard Hesseman aka Don Sturdy and Gary Austin.

Howard, of course, was an important member of The Committee’s ensemble – his work was captured both in The Committee’s feature A Session With The Committee and in numerous late night television appearances, from Dick Cavett to The Midnight Special. With a limited window of time available to us (many thanks to IO West for allowing us the use of the Del Close Theater on short notice), Howard was concise, comprehensive, and hilarious. We discussed Howard’s introduction to The Committee, the birth of “Don Sturdy”, seminal Committee sketches such as “Acid” and “20,000 Came Home”, the ABC/”Music Scene” deal and its fallout on the company, and the influence The Committee’s cast played on “WKRP in Cincinnati”.

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Pictured: Justin Chin (DP), Sam Shaw (Co-Writer, Co-Director), Howard Hesseman, Jamie Wright (Co-Writer, Co-Director)

On Sunday we met with Gary Austin, Committee castmember and founder of the The Groundlings. The Committee introduced Gary to improvisation and the pioneering work of Viola Spolin, and he carried this influence through The Groundlings to help shape generations of performers, scores of whom have swelled the ranks of Saturday Night Live.

Gary traced for us the path he took from Committee stage manager to performer, and helped us paint a picture of Committee performer Chris Ross, an improvisational genius who died from a drug overdose at the age of 25.

While we plan on another trip to LA in early 2016, we’re starting the winter the editing room. Stay tuned.

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