Comedy Improv Instructor Gary Austin Dies

Influential improvisational teacher Gary Austin died April 1 in Los Angeles at the age of 75 after a long battle with cancer. Daughter Audrey said that her father was surrounded by friends and family at the time of his death.


Austin is the founder of the improvisational theater troupe The Groundings. Some of his thousands of former students include Laraine Newman, Phil Hartman, Chris Kattan and father Kip King, Mindy Sterling, Helen Hunt, Paul “Pee-Wee Herman” Reubens, Jennifer Grey, Lisa Kudrow, Will Ferrell, Kathy Griffin, Cheryl Hines, Jon Lovitz, Cheri Oteri, Maya Rudolph, Julia Sweeney, Phil LaMarr, Ana Gasteyer, Paul Feig, Helen Slater, Lindsay Crouse, Helen Hunt, Lillias White, Jack Soo, Donna Summer, Loretta DeVine, Keith David, Mark Dacascos, Robert David Hall, Danielle Panabaker, Kay Panabaker, Casey Wilson, and Pat Morita. Reubens created his famous Pee-Wee Herman character while with The Groundings.

The Oklahoma native got his show business start as a stage manager for an improv comedy group called The Committee after graduating from San Francisco State. He also performed his own stand up comedy routines and worked with the Comedy Store Players. Austin has also worked with the Deaf West Theater in North Hollywood.

In 1972 Austin created the Gary Austin Workshops and two years later he formed The Groundings.

More than just a teacher, he was one of the director’s on Lily Tomlin’s comedy special. He turned down an offer to direct “Saturday Night Live” which would have included moving from Los Angeles to New York City.

He was born Gary Moore on October 18, 1941 in Duncan, Oklahoma.

Austin is survived by his wife Wendy, daughter Audrey, a grandson, three great grandchildren, a sister, and two brothers.

photo courtesy of: By Own work Gary Austin – Gary Austin, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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