Newswire: R.I.P. Gary Austin, Groundlings founder

The Groundlings founder Gary Austin has died at the age of 75, following a battle with cancer. His legendary improv troupe memorialized him on Facebook, posting: “Thank you for giving us a dream, a voice, a legacy and a family. You will be missed.”

Austin established The Groundlings in Los Angeles in 1974. That enterprise yielded comedy stars ranging from Laraine Newman—Lorne Michaels caught on early, and recruited her and others over the years for SNL—to Melissa McCarthy. Paul Reubens was also an early member. In a tribute on his website, the man best known as Pee-wee Herman, explained how Austin was instrumental in helping create the famous character. “My Pee-wee suit was originally his,” he wrote. “He loaned me a custom-made suit the first time I performed as Pee-wee Herman, and I kept it.” He went on to call Austin “my teacher, mentor and friend,” and added …

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