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Comedians band together to help a friend

July 15, 2010 12:30:17 AM PDT
The improvisational troupe The Groundlings has served as a jumping off point for many of today's comedy stars. ABC7's David Ono attended special event where alumni of the group banded together to help a friend in need."This is what you do for people, and that's why we're placed on this earth to help other people," said Mindy Sterling of The Groundlings.

The Groundlings was formed in 1974. In its 26 years, the group has produced dozens of Hollywood's top actors. Now, the man who founded The Groundlings is facing a tough battle with cancer, and Gary Austin's friends are rallying around to offer their help.

"We're all family, The Groundlings, he was part of something that I became a part of, so when a phone call comes to say that someone is in need or somebody needs your assistance or help or support, you just do it," Sterling said.

Groundlings past and present have joined together to perform at a special benefit for Austin and his family.

"We have stories. We could write books about things we've experienced dating back to 1972. Everybody who's here has spanned my teaching career, which started in '72, the entire time up until today," Austin said. "If I were to draw a line from '72 until now, somebody here would have been with me during any of those months or years."

Comedian Paul Reubens said Austin game him his first Pee-Wee suit - a suit that belonged to Austin.

"It's crazy how many people have come out of here. We're really here just to kind of give back in some way to somebody that we love and who helped us all," said comedian Paul Reubens.

Will Forte, also of The Groundlings, attributed his career to things he learned at The Groundlings.

"If it wasn't for Gary starting The Groundlings, I probably would be doing something else," said Will Forte of The Groundlings.

And according to benefit organizer Steve Stockman, Austin continues to teach classes despite his sickness. "He's taught a generation of actors how to approach their work in a freer, more real way, and he continues to do that today," Stockman said.

Austin teaches a basic philosophy that bodes well for anyone.

"Just have fun, don't worry about it, be the best that you can be, and I think that that is a good lesson as a person, whether you are an actor or not," Sterling said.


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