The Groundlings’ Chris Guerra shares the process he went through to become a Main Company member, as well as the inspiration he finds in everyday life and his two kids.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Chris!
So, what convergence of creative forces first brought you into the Groundling universe?
My commercial agent Stephany Burns, who is now my manager at Bohemia Group, told me to take a Groundlings class because it would help me with my commercial audits. I had no idea that I would continue through the program. It was the best training, and the best decision in my acting/writing career.
Can you describe your history with The Groundlings, step-by-step in reaching your current status as a Main Company member?
The Groundlings starts with an audition to get into the Basic-Level classes. If you pass Basic you move on to Intermediate Improv, Advanced Improv, Writing Lab 1, and lastly Writing Lab 2. Then if you pass all those, you possibly get invited to Sunday Company where you write/pitch sketches weekly and perform those sketches every Sunday. After three months you perform the best of your best with an opening night show. The Main Company has likely been coming to many of your shows throughout the three months and opening night is the time to shine. After that, you do another three months, same process, but this time it leads you up to your closing night. After that, yes there is more, your time is done or you get asked to do another six months, then another six months. I went through a year and half of Sunday Company then was invited to the Main Company. I believe it is the best acting training out there, whether you make it all the way through the program or not.
When did you start teaching at The Groundlings school?
About a year ago I started teaching improv classes online since the school was closed due to the pandemic. Improv online sounds strange, but it really works and the students love it. I will keep teaching online, so come take a class!
What’s the one lesson you learned in your Groundlings training that you drum into your present students now?
Be YOU. No one else is YOU. Bring your life experiences into your scenes and everything you do because no one else does YOU. We don’t create cookie cutter students, we encourage them to embrace who they are in their work.
So, is there a ritual, a rite of passage you go through when you’re inducted into the Main Company?
Just normal things like rolling down a hill in a barrel, cracking open a sacred rock on Mount Zizikuasizas, you know, basic things… No, but really, they throw you a party for you and it’s a wonderful welcome.
Did you know in advance that you were going to be promoted to Main Company membership?
I did not. You just do your best work and keep pushing forward.
What is the favorite skit that you’ve written?
That would have to be ‘Let It Go’ www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtwvdISz9Lk
I worked for Frozen Live at the Hyperion and it influenced me to write a sketch about the a director who is teaching Elsa how to perform “Let it Go.” I believe this was the sketch that got me into Sunday Company.
What is the favorite skit that you didn’t write?
I always wanted to write a sketch about my son trying to hang out past 8pm (I’d be the kid). He does this thing where he stands in the doorway only showing half his body and I think he assumes I can’t see him. It’s creepy and hilarious at the same time. I’d probably write it about a guy trying to hang out with the cool kids and waiting for them to invite him over.
How do you keep from breaking up when a fellow Groundling really nails his punchline or action?
It’s a developed skill. The Groundlings are hilarious. I sometimes will think of something really sad to stop me from breaking. That said, an audience loves a good break, if you’ve earned it!
What’s the craziest thing your kids did to inspire a sketch?
My kids are my inspiration. Kenna (8) and Clyde (5). Kids are blunt and honest and they don’t care about what effects their words will have. I put that into my characters. My daughter once was upset and told me to (and I quote) “Just go, go bye, go bye go, go, go bye go.” I wrote a character after that was insulted by something and told their friends to “Go Bye Go.”
Would you credit your Groundlings training for booking as many commercials (Wayfair, Verizon, Kayak, Coca-Cola) as you have already?
I credit The Groundlings training for helping build my confidence. Everyone should take improv. It teaches you to agree and not shut something down. Building upon an idea rather than pushing your idea/agenda. When a commercial director says, “Try it again this way…” You do it, you don’t plan or think about it. You just hit the ground and go. Improv trains you to jump into any moment. Also, there are no mistakes in improv. There are happy accidents that you can use to move forward in a scene. I look at mistakes as GOLD.
What motivated you into creating your “Nightmares” TikTok videos?
This one time I was giving away a free wooden pallet on Facebook Marketplace. A lady responded and started asking a ton of questions. She wanted to know how heavy it was, how old the wood was, why there was blue paint on it, if there was any water damage, is it heavy and why I had the pallet in the first place. I answered her questions, but kept saying, “It’s a pallet, it’s free!” I showed the messages to my wife Kelsey Cooke, and she told me I had to go film it. I setup a TikTok account and filmed the video – and because I do sketch comedy, I had the perfect wig.
What did you want to be growing up? Actor? Writer? Director? Puppeteer?
I actually wanted to be video editor initially – which I do a lot that now – but Kelsey encouraged me to be an actor. She saw something in me and gave me the push I needed. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for her.
What got you into puppetry?
I grew up watching Sesame Street, Muppets and it always fascinated me. I auditioned for Avenue Q at Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine and booked it. Later performed it again at Gateway Playhouse in New York. It was an incredible experience.
Who is the puppeteer that you idolized?
Rick Lyon. He was the original Nicky in Avenue Q. I was blown away with how he could make puppet look like it’s breathing. When I booked Avenue Q, he was the one that trained me at rehearsals and made me a better puppeteer. Thank you, Rick!
What’s your ultimate goal? Star in a Broadway show? Direct an award-winning film? Be cast in a long running TV series?
I want to write and star in the next big comedy TV Series like The Office. I love comedies with heart. I’ve already started working with my writing/producer partner, Kelsey Cooke on this with our company thisishardtoread productions: www.thisishardtoreadprod.com.
What’s in the near future for Chris Guerra?
My film RE-OPENING, www.reopeningmovie.com has won Best Feature and Best Director at Sunscreen Film Festival, Best Feature & Best Comedy at Beaufort International Film Festival, Best Comedy at Montreal Independent Film Festival and a Remi Award at WorldFest Houston. RE-OPENING is a fully-improved lockdown mockumentary following the cast and crew of a struggling theater (All Voice IS Theater) in Pigeon Valley, Tennessee. They attempt to prepare the theater to reopen to the public after months of lockdown, encountering setbacks along the way.
We filmed this during the lockdown because we wanted to have a creative outlet. Together with Matt Koppin and Kelsey Cooke we made a full feature-length comedy that is completely improvised. I’m so proud of this film. We’re still on our festival run, so if you’d like to catch the film we will be at the Fine Arts Film Festivalwww.veniceica.org/fineartsfilmfestivaland Film Invasion LAfilminvasionla.com/) coming up.
Also! Just found out I’m going to Cannes Film Festival, if you’re out there, come say hi!
Thank you again, Chris! I look forward to seeing you work out on The Groundlings stage soon.
For tickets to the live performances on The Groundlings stage, click the button below: