Sherpa is a longform improv comedy group that performs in New York City. They have a website at http://sherpaimprov.com. Sherpa is an independent improv group, but all members were trained at the UCB Theatre, and some also at the Magnet Theater. Sherpa regularly hosts a show twice a month-- usually at Under St. Mark's Theater, and occasionally at The Red Room-- where they introduce two other improv groups and then perform their own set.
Sherpa had its beginnings in a practice group consisting of Mike Cavanaugh, Damian Chadwick, Terri O'Reilly, Hal Phillips, Steve Slate, and Joe Spellman. This group met twice in late 2006, with Zach Woods coaching the first time and Bobby Moynihan coaching the second time. The second time, a series of funny scenes about sherpas led Steve Slate to announce that he was quitting the group, but that they should call it "Sherpas" (leading to a lengthy debate among "Sherpa", "Sherpas", "The Sherpa", and "The Sherpas").
The group called itself The Military Industrial Complex for about a day, before settling on some sherpa variation, and finally just Sherpa. Taking a break for the holiday season, Sherpa replaced Steve with Beth Cartier, Aubrey Plaza, and Craig Rowin. Thus was born Sherpa's original lineup: Aubrey, Beth, Craig, Damian, Hal, Joe, Mike, and Terri. After a highly successful first rehearsal, Sherpa performed at School Night and then two nights later at Gotham City Improv with Bombardo. Sherpa's coach during this time, and longest-running coach to date, was Bobby Moynihan.
Sherpa performed throughout 2007, with a notable highlight being its May 2007 Cagematch victory against the Jawnee Conroy Allstarz. Around that same time, Terri moved to Boston, and Sherpa replaced her with Paul Welsh.
Late in 2007, Sherpa rented Under St. Marks for the first time, drawing a large enough crowd to afford two more dates. Those dates also drew large crowds, and before long, Sherpa had settled into a groove of doing two shows a month at USM. With occasional breaks, this tradition has continued to this day.
Also late in 2007, Aubrey left the group. She was later replaced by Rory Panagotopulos. When Bobby eventually stopped coaching, Sherpa's semi-regular coaches for periods of time included Ben Rodgers, Erik Tanouye, Adam Pally, and Jon Gabrus. Sherpa also invented the warmup Sherpa Tag, which has spread to other groups.
Sherpa has continued to perform regularly throughout 2008 and 2009, mostly at their twice-monthly USM show. They appeared in the Cagematch tournament early in 2008, losing to Derrick, and later performed in Cagematch again, losing to Death By Roo Roo. They continue to perform twice a month at USM.
Every January, Sherpa hosts an anniversary show at Under St. Marks. Traditions at these shows include inviting former members to perform, getting a guest-host instead of hosting the show themselves, and everyone wearing ties.
Sherpa had their first anniversary show in January of 2008. In addition to performing with two other groups (one of which, Twelve Thousand Dollars, was the first UCB Harold team to include members of Sherpa), Andy Rocco hosted, and Sherpa played with several guest-performers: former members Steve Slate, Terri O'Reilly, and Aubrey Plaza, and past coaches Erik Tanouye and Ben Rodgers.
At their second anniversary show in January of 2009, Will Hines hosted. Will's hosting bits included a song about Sherpa set to the tune of "Downtown", and a call-and-response audience chant about Sherpa. One of the groups was UCB Harold team Bastian, also celebrating their second anniversary. Current member Paul Welsh and former member Aubrey Plaza couldn't make it, but Paul wrote a hilarious and occasionally racist letter to the audience, which was read aloud before the show.
Bobby Moynihan coached Sherpa for about the first eight or nine months of its existence. Ben Rodgers, Erik Tanouye, Adam Pally, and Jon Gabrus have coached them a bunch as well. Other people who've coached Sherpa once or twice include Sue Galloway, Jim Santangeli, Dominic Dierkes, Eliza Skinner, Gil Ozeri, and Kevin Hines, among others.
Other Groups (as of May 2009)
- Beth performs with the Magnet Megawatt team The Boss.
- Craig performs with the UCB Harold Team Badman, writes and performs with the UCB Maude Team Gramp's, performs with the Upright Citizens Brigade Touring Company, and performs with the indie team Prado.
- Damian writes for the UCB Maude Team Gramp's.
- Hal performs with the UCB Harold Team Scootch and indie team The Pill.
- Joe performs with the UCB Harold Team Penthouse Riot and writes and performs with the UCB Maude Team Stone Cold Fox.
- Mike performs in the UCB show Hot Lather.
- Paul performs in the UCB show Hot Lather and with indie team Daddy.
- Rory writes for the UCB Maude Team Gramp's, and performs in the UCB show Oscarbait and with indie team Daystallion.
- Contrary to popular belief, Craig is heterosexual.
- Sherpa once took a trip to Connecticut to do a show at Connecticut College (Craig and Rory's alam mater). On that trip, while Hal Phillips was passed out drunk, Joe Spellman took out one of his balls and dangled it above Hal's head. The photo is out there somewhere.
- One practice, a puppy that Beth Cartier was dog-sitting, joined the group. The dog memorably shit during the practice.
- Many of Sherpa's self-created warm-ups and pre-show traditions involve one another's nuts.