Taran Killam T/00
LACHSA is fortunate to have a plethora of successful alumni excelling in diverse careers.  Taran Killam is no exception.  His credits include Saturday Night Live (SNL), MADtv, How I Met Your Mother, Scrubs, 12 Years a Slave, Community, Wild ‘N Out, and Ted 2 just to scratch the surface.  His celebrity impressions, viral YouTube videos, and original comic “The Illegitimates” are just a few examples of Killam’s incredible talent and immense creativity. 

Few can say they have had the opportunity to be a cast member on the critically acclaimed sketch comedy show MADtv.  Killam is the only person who can say he was cast at the budding age of 19, which makes him the youngest actor ever to be cast as a regular on that show.

Working on MADtv was the most intense learning experience of my life…because it was a learning curve of zero to ten. I had never performed in any sketch, never done any improve and almost no comedy training before Mad TV… But people were kind to me there. Will Sasso, Mo Collins, [and] Michael Hitchcock were just some of the people who looked out for me.”

Click to see Killam as Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
(Copyright Saturday Night Live)

As a Musical Theatre student at UCLA, going on to MADtv was a change of direction for Killam.  “[T]he idea of being an ensemble member on a sketch comedy show wasn't really on the radar. But it was incredibly exciting. And nice to know I wouldn't have to go back to school. I was never one to thrive in a classroom environment.” 

The environment he has thrived in is on screen.  From MADtv to Saturday Night Live, Killam has worked on the same shows as comedy greats such as Bill Murray, Phil Hartman, Mike Meyers, Kristin Wiig, Amy Poehler, Bill Hader and Gilda Radner just to name a few.

Moreover, Killam has proven to be a master of impressions that span actors (Brad Pitt, Seth Rogan, Tom Hanks, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ashton Kutcher); Politicians (Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Martin O’Malley); and various other celebrities/personalities like Mark Cuban, Peewee Herman, and Eminem.

Like all great artists Killam has never stopped working on his craft. After his time on MADtv he attended the prestigious Groundlings School (Will Ferrell, Kathy Griffin, Tracy Newman) in Los Angeles, CA. Groundlings and MADtv were great springboards for SNL “and where [he] was performing when SNL found [him].” 

“Things I learned at Mad TV [have] helped me immensely in my time at SNL. But SNL is another level. Certainly as an institution but also just in the energy and stamina required to make it. The biggest thing Mad TV had that SNL doesn't is time. Six days is all you get for SNL. You can try to plan ahead but it rarely works. It's important to stay open and present at SNL.” 

“On SNL we have masters in every department. Sets, lighting, hair, makeup, wardrobe etc. And I have the unbelievable good fortune of being able to utilize those talents to help make absurd concepts come to life.”

Click to watch a short clip of Killam as Jimmy, the Overly Touchy Orderly from Scrubs
(Copyright ABC)

Killam’s characters are extremely fun and likeable.  Though he clearly takes his art seriously, he never appears to take himself too seriously.  Instead he seamlessly allows his inner light of fun, joy, and humor to shine through every character.

One character we can highlight is Jimmy, the Overly Touchy Orderly from the 9-season, award winning comedy-drama Scrubs.  Jimmy’s well-meaning yet uncomfortable and almost always inappropriate invasion of personal space made for absolutely hilarious comedy.  While watching his co-stars react to his over the top physical attention, you can’t help but break out into uncontrollable laughter.  If the words “Jimmy! Heel!” and “Here, breathe on my face!” insight involuntary chuckling, you are a true Jimmy, the Overly Touchy Orderly fan.

Does any of Killam’s success stem from his time at LACHSA?  He delves into some moving moments during those formative high school years.  “My time at LACHSA was a crash course in culture. I grew up in Big Bear which is a small, protected, mountain town. So to come to a high school in East LA, on a college campus, with kids who seemed very ‘grown up’, incredibly diverse all with similar interests was overwhelming. Like with most things, I have [a] much better perspective on it now. It really was a college experience in high school.”

He goes on to say that the closest thing he had to studying comedy prior to his professional career was former LACHSA faculty Norman Cohen’s stand up Friday elective class.  He even credits Mr. Cohen with being his favorite teacher.  “Norman Cohen was smart, hilarious, insightful, and always treated his students as equals. He is my favorite teacher [of all] I've ever had. He was and is a huge influence on my process. One of his philosophies was ‘keep asking questions.’ And I apply that to all of my creative endeavors as well as life in general.”

He also credits another former LACHSA faculty member with a life-long positive influence on his life.  “I also loved David Schwartz' [saying] ‘People who say yes have adventures. People who say no play it safe. And people who say maybe spend the rest of their lives saying maybe.’ I don't know if that's true about the maybe people. I think you can say maybe every once in a while. Anyway, it's a fun thing to say.” 

In addition to working alongside great comedic actors Killam also comes across fellow LACHSA artists as well.  For a time he “roomed/lived with fellow LACHSA graduate Aaron Garcia for two years… When Haim played on SNL, Este chased me down the hall and yelled ‘Taran! I went to LACHSA!’ That was a fun connection. I see Josh Groban every now and then but we haven't worked on anything together. And my wife worked on a film with Clea Duvall last summer.”

Like any artist, Taran ends his interview by leaving a mark: “[E]very now and then I cross paths with a LACHSY. Is that a thing, LACHSY? Should we make it a thing? It's a thing. LACHSY: Noun; Someone who was a student at LACHSA. Created by Taran Killam.”