Gary Austin, founder of the improv group The Groundlings, which launched the careers of countless comedic actors, has died following a long battle with cancer. He was 75.
Austin, a widely renowned acting teacher, founded The Groundlings in 1974. Alums of the prestigious improvisation school include Conan O'Brien, Phil Hartman, Will Ferrell, Melissa McCarthy, Lisa Kudrow, Jon Lovitz, Kristen Wiig and many more.
Austin was born in Oklahoma and later received a theater degree from San Francisco State. After college, he moved to Los Angeles, where he became a stage manager for improv group The Committee. He would later become a performing member of the group in San Francisco.
The Groundlings Theater in Los Angeles on Saturday night announced the news of Austin's death on Twitter.
RIP Mr. Gary Austin, the founder of The Groundlings Theatre.
Our deepest condolences to his… https://t.co/qpSPH9g6oI- The Groundlings (@groundlings) April 2, 2017
Austin created The Groundlings as a nonprofit improv theater group in 1974, and it quickly grew in popularity. Audience members in the early years included Lily Tomlin and Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, who would go on to cast many of the troupe's alumni.
Austin is survived by his wife Wenndy Mackenzie and daughter Audrey Moore.
RIP Gary Austin, founder of the @groundlings ! But kudos on a life well-lived!
- Wendi McLendon-Covey (@wendimclendonco) April 2, 2017