The Committee was the improvisational comedy theater that brought the counterculture of the 1960s to mainstream America. Born in 1963 in San Francisco, The Committee’s no-holds-barred approach to their subjects was a breath of fresh air for the youth of America, hungry for entertainment that spoke to the quickly-evolving values of a new era. As resident sketch players for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and a constant presence on the variety shows and late night talk shows of the late sixties and early seventies, the men and women of The Committee provided television audiences across the country with the humor of “the now”, preceding and influencing George Carlin, The National Lampoon, Cheech & Chong, and Saturday Night Live.

Though its cast had an oversized influence on the entertainment landscape of the 1970s and 80s, including Howard Hesseman (WKRP in Cincinnati), Carl Gottlieb (Jaws, The Jerk), Peter Bonerz (The Bob Newhart Show), Barbara Bosson (Hill Street Blues), and Larry Hankin (Friends, Seinfeld, Breaking Bad), The Committee’s story has never fully been told, in print or on screen.

Directors Jamie Wright and Sam Shaw, themselves improvisers, first began their work with The Committee in 2010, hosting company members for a panel discussion at The San Francisco Improv Festival. Wright and Shaw’s work with the company continued with a co-production, with The Marsh Theater, of Larry Hankin’s solo show Street Stories. Production of the documentary officially began in 2013, after Wright and Shaw produced a reunion/party to celebrate The Committee’s 50th anniversary and their proposed documentary project was given a “green light” by The Committee community.

The Committee: A Secret History of American Comedy not only will document the secret history and hidden influence of these pioneering satirists, it will also be a call to arms for civic-minded art, as the need for individuals’ engagement with the affairs of the world has never been greater.


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