The Groundings’ Chris Guerra finds laughs in everything
The Groundlings’ Chris Guerra shares the process he went through to become a Main Society member, as well as the inspiration he finds in everyday life and his two children.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Chris!
So what convergence of creative forces brought you into the world of The Groundling?
My sales agent Stephany Burns, who is now my manager at Bohemia Group, told me to take a Groundlings course as it would help me with my sales auditions. I had no idea that I would continue throughout the program. It was the best training and decision of my acting/writing career.
Can you describe your history with The Groundlings, step by step to reach your current status as a member of the main society?
Groundlings start with an audition to get into basic level classes. If you pass Basic, you move on to Intermediate Improv, Advanced Improv, Writing Lab 1, and finally Writing Lab 2. Then, if you pass all of these, you may be invited at Sunday Company where you write/launch sketches every week and do those sketches every Sunday. After three months, you do your best with an opening show. The Main Company has probably come to many of your shows over the three months and opening night is your time to shine. After that, you do another three months, same process, but this time it takes you to your closing party. After that, yes there is more, your time is up or you are asked to do another six months, then another six months. I spent a year and a half in the Compagnie du Dimanche then I was invited to the Principal Company. I think it’s the best acting education, whether or not you take the whole program.
When did you start teaching at The Groundlings school?
About a year ago I started giving improv lessons online since the school was closed due to the pandemic. Online improv sounds weird, but it really works and students love it. I will continue to teach online, so come take a class!
What is the lesson you learned in your Groundlings training and are teaching your current students now?
Be you. Nobody 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 that you go through when you are inducted into the Main Company?
Just normal things like rolling down a hill in a barrel, opening up a holy rock on Mount Zizikuasizas, you know, basic things… No, but really, they throw you a party for you and that’s a great welcome.
Did you know in advance that you were going to be promoted to a member of the main society?
I do not have. You just do your best and keep moving forward.
What’s your favorite sketch you’ve written?
It should 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 skit about a director who teaches Elsa how to perform “Let it Go”. I believe it been the sketch that got me into the Sunday Company.
What’s your favorite sketch that you haven’t written?
I’ve always wanted to write a skit about my son trying to get out after 8 p.m. (I’ll be the kid). He’s doing this thing where he’s standing in the doorway showing only half of his body and I think he’s assuming I can’t see it. It’s creepy and hilarious at the same time. I would 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 avoid breaking up when another Groundling really hits their punchline or action?
It is a developed skill. The Groundlings are hilarious. Sometimes I’ll think of something really sad to keep me from breaking down. That said, an audience loves a good break, if you’ve earned it!
What’s the craziest thing your kids have done to inspire a skit?
My children are my inspiration. Kenna (8) and Clyde (5). Children are direct and honest and they don’t care what effect their words will have. I put that in my characters. One time my daughter was upset and said to me (and I’m quoting) “Just go, go bye, go bye go, go, go bye go.” I wrote a character after being insulted by something and told his friends to “Go Bye Go”.
Would you like to credit your Groundlings training for booking so many ads (Wayfair, Verizon, Kayak, Coca-Cola) as you have already done?
I credit The Groundlings training for helping to boost my confidence. Everyone should do some improvisation. It teaches you to be okay and not shut something down. Building on an idea rather than pushing your idea/agenda. When a sales manager says, “Try this again…” You do it, you don’t plan it and you don’t think about it. You just hit the ground and walk away. Improvisation trains you to jump into any moment. Also, there are no mistakes in improvisation. There are happy accidents that you can use to advance through a scene. I consider errors as GOLD.
What motivated you to create your TikTok “Nightmares” videos?
This time I was giving away a free wooden pallet on Facebook Marketplace. A lady answered 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 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 palette, it’s free!” I showed the messages to my wife Kelsey Cooke, and she said I had to go film it. I created a TikTok account and filmed the video – and because I do comedy sketches, I had the perfect wig.
What did you want to grow? Actor? Writer? Director? Puppeteer?
I actually wanted to be a video editor at first – which I do a lot now – but Kelsey encouraged me to become an actor. She saw something in me and gave me the boost I needed. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for her.
What brought you to 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. Later he performed it again at the Gateway Playhouse in New York. It was an incredible experience.
Who is the puppeteer you idolized?
Rick Lyons. He was the first Nicky in Avenue Q. I was blown away by how he could make it look like a puppet was breathing. When I booked Avenue Q, he was the one who trained me in rehearsals and made me a better puppeteer. Thanks, Rick!
What is your ultimate goal? Star in a Broadway show? Directing an award-winning film? Being cast in a long-running TV series?
I want to write and star in the next big comedy TV series like The Office. I like comedies with the heart. I have already started working with my writer/producer partner, Kelsey Cooke, with our company thisishardtoread productions: www.thisishardtoreadprod.com.
What future for Chris Guerra?
My film RE-OPENING, www.reopeningmovie.com won Best Feature and Best Director at the Sunscreen Film Festival, Best Feature and Best Comedy at the Beaufort International Film Festival, Best Comedy at the Montreal Independent Film Festival and a Remi Award at the WorldFestHouston. RE-OPENING is an entirely improvised lockdown mockumentary following the cast and crew of a struggling theater (All Voice IS Theater) in Pigeon Valley, Tennessee. They are trying to prepare for the theater to reopen to the public after months of confinement, encountering setbacks along the way.
We filmed this during lockdown because we wanted to have a creative outlet. With Matt Koppin and Kelsey Cooke, we made a completely improvised comedy feature. I’m so proud of this movie. We are still in the process of a festival, so if you would like to see the film, we will be at the Fine Arts Film Festival (www.veniceica.org/fineartsfilmfestival) and Movie Invasion LA (filminvasionla.com/) coming.
As well! I just learned that I’m going to the Cannes Film Festival, if you’re there, come say hello!
Thanks again, Chris! I look forward to seeing you practice on The Groundlings stage soon.
For tickets to live performances on The Groundlings stage, click the button below: