Home #Hwoodtimes Writers Jonathan Stark, Tracy Newman, and Jay Kogen “So You Want To...

Writers Jonathan Stark, Tracy Newman, and Jay Kogen “So You Want To Write For Television”  The Groundlings 50th Anniversary In Conversation Series. 

By: Cathy Carlson

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 05/18/2024 – As the legendary Groundlings Theatre celebrates 50 years of cutting-edge comedy, the big takeaway from Tuesday night’s panel discussion was the number of successful writers who have emerged from the theatre company.

So, You Want To Write For Television, part of the Groundlings In Conversation Series, was hosted by alumni Jonathan Stark, Jay Kogen, and founding member, Tracy Newman.

They shared experiences, gave advice, and shed light on the lesser-known fact that the number of successful writers that have come from the Groundlings is a higher number than the number of successful actors.

Jonathan Stark started with acting and wanted something more.  “Improv is everything.   If you can improvise, you can write.”  And he has an Emmy and a Peabody Award to prove it.  He and Tracy Newman have written on several successful shows together over the years.   That partnership started at The Groundlings.  You can keep up with Jonathan Stark’s creative adventures here:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/instaplay/

Jay Kogen started going to the Groundlings shows as a teenager and was mesmerized.  He didn’t understand how people did it.  So, he studied it until he got a handle on it, or as he puts it, got kicked out, and it started his writing career.  So far, Kogen has 4 Emmys, a podcast, and he teaches comedy writing.  He encourages you to be specific when picking a writing partner.  Kogen “Write with somebody who really makes you laugh.”

You can find out much more about Jay Kogen on his podcast:  https://www.youtube.com/@dontbealonewithjaykogen

Tracy Newman appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson as the world’s foremost female playing card manipulator and is also a successful songwriter.  Newman, “When The Groundlings was founded, the goal was to create a place that belonged to the actors.  Where the actors were in charge.  The passion everybody has who goes through here, they know that this is where they belong.”  She also has an Emmy and a Peabody Award, and you can find her songwriting here:   https://www.youtube.com/user/thetracer2.

Between the 3 of them, they have credits on The Simpsons, School of Rock, Frasier, Austin Powers, Scooby Doo, The Nutty Professor, The Cat in The Hat, iCarly, according to Jim, The Drew Carey Show, Ellen, Bob, Cheers, Hardball, and The Nanny.  They have podcasts, teach writing classes and still perform comedy and music.

They formed their friendships at The Groundlings and encourage everybody who has a passion for writing to make friends, get writing partners who understand your voice, and do it because you absolutely love it.

Newman said, “They say show biz is about who you know, but it is also about how you know them.  And you’ll probably meet them at The Groundlings.  And you will have a core group of people who are truly talented and might become incredibly successful.  And you just might be referred to a job”.


  • The Groundlings are celebrating a 50th anniversary this year
  • The milestone year includes themed shows, a monthly In Conversation panel series featuring celebrated alumni, an original podcast series, as well, of course, as their 50th season of Mainstage sketch comedy productions
  • Proceeds from these events support the 50th Anniversary Fundraising Campaign which will go towards making improvements to the beloved theater.
  • The Groundlings was founded in Los Angeles in 1974 by Gary Austin. The Groundlings School officially began in 1979 with only 17 students and original staff members Gary Austin, Tom Maxwell, Phyllis Katz, and Tracy Newman as its teachers
  • One of the biggest imprints that the Groundlings have made on pop culture is through the work company members have taken from the Groundlings stage to television, films, or the internet.
    • Groundlings Company members have been nominated for over 100 Emmy nominations
    • Dozens of Groundlings have gone onto “Saturday Night Live” and “Mad TV”
    • The character Pee-Wee Herman was famously created by Paul Reubens and originated at The Groundlings
  • The Groundlings is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Donations help us continue creating unique sketch comedy, hilarious improv performances, and excellent education opportunities!
  • Our most recent donations were a driving force in the Grand Opening of our new school facility and have helped fund diversity scholarships for hundreds of unique, talented recipients.

The Groundlings will continue its celebration of 50 years with more events throughout the year

The Groundlings theater is located at 7307 Melrose Ave.

Photo credit: Groundlings