“North Central High School is the best place for exploring creative careers. It was very supportive of the arts.”
Patty Guggenheim’s love of sketch comedy came about in middle school while traveling in an RV heading for the ski slopes. A friend popped in a VHS of Saturday Night Live and Patty knew that’s what she needed to do for the rest of her life.
She didn’t have the confidence to pursue it until around her junior year at North Central. “Junior Spec was what really convinced me because it was so much fun with absolutely no pressure. Your friends were all there to help you and that experience was probably one of the things that got me in a more comfortable place where I agreed to do rep.”
She got involved with speech and debate and repertory theater at NCHS. Through the NCHS theater program she took an introduction to sketch comedy course and was hooked. For Patty’s audition she did a monologue from SNL that Mr. King then made her perform over and over again for the class because it made him laugh so hard.
Her fellow classmate, Josh Dinner (NCHS ’02), who now lives 10 blocks from her in LA, was her speech and debate partner.
“We went to nationals for speech and debate and though I still thought it was kind of far-fetched to think I could do this for a living, I still felt it click. It was a really amazing group my senior year and I felt so much support for my sketch comedy that I knew that’s what I wanted to do for sure.”
Patty graduated from NCHS in 2002 and went on to Indiana University where she participated in IU SCAP, a sketch comedy troupe and was featured her senior year on IUSTV doing an SNL-type show every week. After interning with David Spade on the Showbiz Show her senior year, Patty moved to LA after graduation in 2006 to pursue her love of sketch comedy.
“My transition to LA and to the actor’s life was easier because of Washington Township. It was such a unique experience to be around so many different kinds of people. It was very similar to real life and I was never sheltered by believing I didn’t have to work for this. Though I felt safe at NCHS, I was also taught I had to work for it.”
Patty started taking classes at The Groundlings Theatre and School, an improvisation and sketch comedy theatre that has been around for 40 years and includes famous alumni like: Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Lisa Kudrow, Cheryl Hines, Maya Rudolph, Kathy Griffin and more.
She spent over eight years taking classes and was asked to join the Sunday Company in 2014, before being asked to be a main company member in 2016. A “Groundling” is one of the 30 company members who write and perform in the theatre’s shows and teach classes at the school. Patty has had the fortune to perform with many of the famous alumni listed above who come back regularly to hop in on the Friday or Saturday night performances.
A Groundlings show typically runs for about two months but before something is produced you write new sketches and try them on stage for about a month in front of a live audience.
“I’m so grateful to NCHS alumni Jill Layton-Hartman (’01) who encouraged me to participate in Groundlings. She literally dragged me to the classes when I first moved to LA. The Washington Township network is huge, and you should use it! Everyone from NCHS is so happy to help and connect you with the right people.”
Patty says she moved to LA on an off-chance meeting with another NCHS alumni Hugh Fink (’79) who wrote for SNL. Patty ran into him at the Indianapolis Nordstrom in the shoe department and struck up a conversation.
“I approached this guy that I recognized, who was a friend of a friend who wrote on SNL and went to North Central. I just approached him and asked if I could come help out. He was excited that someone knew him. Taking chances and getting out there is extremely important, as is accepting help.”
Patty’s recent appearances on major network TV shows like Splitting Up Together and LA to Vegas have landed even more opportunities for her. She’s been featured on Nobodies, Mary & Jane and wrote and acted in Barely Famous. Patty is heading to Savannah, GA in the fall to shoot a new show called Florida Girls, which will air on the POP channel starting in early 2019.
When asked about her most “LA experience” Patty recalls a chance meeting while an intern on the Showbiz Show in which she was wearing a “KISS and Tell” tee that had the KISS band’s logo featured on it. Patty says she was walking in between lots when Gene Simmons from KISS stopped and told her he liked her shirt. The only problem? Patty had no idea it was Gene Simmons.
“Some guy stopped me and said, ‘nice shirt’ and he said, ‘that’s me.’ And I didn’t know who he was. Gene Simmons literally said to me, ‘you don’t even know who I am!’ He even took a picture with me.”
Her advice to NCHS students now? “I would say – if it’s something you really want to pursue – the best thing that happened for me was being so passionate about it in my everyday life that then when someone offered to make a connection for me, I took it. The NCHS network is big enough, be ready when it presents itself.”