Committee Doc Trunk Show in San Francisco, November 30th.

Committee Invite 2018 Nov 30 - FINAL2

On Friday November 30th, we’re presenting a show and tell of choice material from our project The Committee: A Secret History of American Comedy in San Francisco. The Committee Doc Trunk Show will include a display of photos and poster art by Jerry Wainwright & Howard Hesseman and John Byrne Cooke and a slide show and silent film roll featuring favorite finds from our multi-year deep dive into The Committee, their comedy, and their influence.

This is a casual “happy hour”-style event for supporters of our doc and friends of The Committee, and if you are in the Bay Area, we hope you can come by. The event takes place in the bar at PianoFight, our favorite independent theater and bar megaplex. PianoFight has a full dinner menu and an evening of performances (we recommend Fuck Tinder if you want to make a night of it). Max Chanowitz, Jazz Banshee will be ticking the ivories all night long. See you there or see you soon!

Committee Doc Trunk Show
With Sam Shaw and Jamie Wright
Friday Nov 30th
PianoFight, 144 Taylor, San Francisco


courtesy of The Digger Archives.

It’s been a week since we presented a five minute sneak-peek of our film to a live audience. It was the first new material that we’ve presented in a while that shows off the depth of the material that we’ve uncovered, in addition to choice interviews, including interviews with Committee co-founder Latifah Taormina and Howard Hesseman. As we have said in the past, we are between production and post-production, editing the material that we have assembled into a rough story, while still looking forward to interviews that are outstanding and crucial to our story.

Since we are not focussed on edits that will be presented to the public online, we can now truly play with our sandbox, including the vast amounts of material that we’ve identified that we will need but for which we have not yet secured the rights. This project has been a joy from day one, but now that we’re getting into the edit, it’s getting really fun, and our subject’s broad, deep appeal is becoming more and more evident.

The clip that we showed at The San Francisco Improv Festival was edited by Jamie Wright as part of an application process that we were in the midst of. The edit focussed on The Committee’s activism and the difference between The Committee and The Second City. We chose material that was super-timely, both to issues in the culture like Black Lives Matter and a certain Presidential candidate’s shameless demonization of immigrants. The edit was edgy (trigger warning!) but well received by our audience. We will continue to shape this story and will show material regularly in the Bay Area and beyond as we identify funding sources and continue to build awareness. To keep posted on our progress, follow us on Facebook or watch this space.


Who Says Satire Has a Limited Shelf Life?

Forty-Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal, in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, to stand for the National Anthem reminds us of how The Committee depicted a similar instance of non-violent resistance. As spot-on today as it was almost 50 years ago, The Committee’s “Star Spangled Banner” scene is emblematic of their vision of American nationalism, the militarism at the heart of our national identity, and what happens to protesters who won’t stand up and salute the flag. This clip is from 1969’s “A Session with The Committee”, but the scene goes back with the company to 1966 at least.  Featuring Peter Bonerz, Barbara Bosson, Carl Gottlieb, Christopher Ross, Garry Goodrow, Howard Hesseman, Jessica Myerson, and Mel Stewart. #respect #Kaepernick #nationalanthem

“Doctober” Trip to Los Angeles: Sturdy and Austin in the Can.

Gary Austin

pictured: Gary Austin

This month we’ve made a lot of progress: we located and secured an amazing trove of rare Committee-related photos and just this weekend wrapped up two more interviews, with Howard Hesseman aka Don Sturdy and Gary Austin.

Howard, of course, was an important member of The Committee’s ensemble – his work was captured both in The Committee’s feature A Session With The Committee and in numerous late night television appearances, from Dick Cavett to The Midnight Special. With a limited window of time available to us (many thanks to IO West for allowing us the use of the Del Close Theater on short notice), Howard was concise, comprehensive, and hilarious. We discussed Howard’s introduction to The Committee, the birth of “Don Sturdy”, seminal Committee sketches such as “Acid” and “20,000 Came Home”, the ABC/”Music Scene” deal and its fallout on the company, and the influence The Committee’s cast played on “WKRP in Cincinnati”.


Pictured: Justin Chin (DP), Sam Shaw (Co-Writer, Co-Director), Howard Hesseman, Jamie Wright (Co-Writer, Co-Director)

On Sunday we met with Gary Austin, Committee castmember and founder of the The Groundlings. The Committee introduced Gary to improvisation and the pioneering work of Viola Spolin, and he carried this influence through The Groundlings to help shape generations of performers, scores of whom have swelled the ranks of Saturday Night Live.

Gary traced for us the path he took from Committee stage manager to performer, and helped us paint a picture of Committee performer Chris Ross, an improvisational genius who died from a drug overdose at the age of 25.

While we plan on another trip to LA in early 2016, we’re starting the winter in the editing room. Stay tuned.

Jerry Wainwright’s Trunk


There are two separate strands of inquiry that lead us to this trunk.

The first was inspired by Larry Hankin’s reference to a Tarot Card deck that featured members of The Committee. He couldn’t remember the name of the photographer. We chased this around for a while, but hit dead-ends and abandoned the search.

Our second, more direct, route was revealed via the tapes that we received from John Brent’s son Jeremy Paz. These tapes consisted of recorded interviews conducted by Peter Elbling in 1985 with members of The Committee, in remembrance of John Brent, who died that year.

Elbling’s interview with Howard Hesseman shed light on a production company that Howard ran with photographer Jerry Wainwright in 1970-71. Dubbed “Narcissistic Purposes Productions”, the company’s output included a series of theatrical still-lifes, featuring Committee members, that were used as artwork for the theater lobby. (We already had an example of this work on-hand: an 8×10 image of John Brent as mad scientist Dr. Servo de la Lune which was provided to us by Ruth Silveira. For some time we mistakenly took this image as an ad for a John Brent solo performance. This link from a year ago also shows how off the mark we were.)

Jerry Wainwright (1926-1997) was a prolific photographer who documented The Committee extensively. Wainwright later helped to bring to life the ethnic/hippie fashions trends of the day with his and Alexandra Jacopetti Hart’s book Native Funk and Flash.

To make a long story short, after a great visit with Jerry’s widow Ann, we left with the trunk pictured above.

Ann has entrusted us with a significant piece of history.

The trunk holds an overwhelming amount of negatives, a few printed photographs, a few contact sheets here and there. All are from the late 1960s/early 1970s.


Most of the negatives are 35mm, in paper sleeves. A few  negatives are 4×5, and one appears to by 7×9. After crudely separating Committee-related material from his other work, here are some highlights.

  • 19 4×5 negatives of Narcissistic Purposes stills, featuring Don Sturdy, John Brent, Ruth Silviera, Gary Austin, Julie Payne, Morgan Upton, Alan Myerson, and many more. The stills read like silent movie posters, with titles, loglines, etc. These are from 1970. (example)
  • The Tarot Card photo series, featuring members of The Committee.
  • studio portraits of John Brent, Larry Hankin, Morgan Upton, Ruth Silveira, Diann Hendrickson from the early ’70s.
  • Action shots of The Committee 1983 reunion/Bread and Roses benefit.
  • Action shots of The Committee at 622 Broadway
  • Country Joe and the Fish photographs, including Narcissistic Purposes Productions album cover
  • Congress of Wonders photos.
  • fashion photography


We took the Narcissistic Purposes negatives to the lab to be scanned immediately.

For the archive, our priority to make sure the material is safely stored (smaller boxes, new sleeves). We are determining the cost of developing the Committee-related negatives to contact sheets, but will soon start developing the material that intrigues most.

We intend to work closely with Ann and Wainwrights’ estate as we move forward to make use of the treasures in this trunk. If you have question or tips email