Alumna Follows Familiar Script to Comedy Fame by Joining Groundlings

Editors’ Note: This feature appears as it was published in the summer 2019 edition of UT Dallas Magazine. Titles or faculty members listed may have changed since that time.


Emily Joyce BA’15 has taken her penchant for comedy and improvisation to Los Angeles, where she is honing her craft through classes at The Groundlings Theatre & School.
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, Lisa Kudrow and Laraine Newman.
“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.
“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.”
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, clinical associate professor in the School of Arts and Humanities.
“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. “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.
The goal of most participants is to get paid for doing what they love.