HomeContact UsBlogBooksHollywood Ocean NightLenticularsLinksNewsOP-EDPartnersSB StoriesSlide ShowThe TeamVideos

Comedy ContestGroundlings FilmsSB Comedy connectionOcean SymphonyRotten Jellyfish Awards

"Shifting Baselines" basically means "lowered standards." From the beginning of our project, those of us behind this campaign have talked about how "lowered standards" is such a common theme among stand-up comics. So, in the interest of reaching a broader audience, we decided to test the comic waters of Hollywood and see if we were right, by conducting a little experiment.

On March 31, 2003 we held a contest in which 42 up-and-coming comic performers brought in their best material on the subject of lowered standards/shifting baselines. Some made films, some sang songs, some read poems, and some chickened out....

The event was organized by Randy Olson and Jeremy Rowley of the L.A. comedy group The Groundlings.

It was hard to pick the best, so we didn't. We handed that job over to our celebrity judges:

(Click photo to view bio)


Julia Louis-





They did a great job, and here's who they chose. You can see a sample of each performer on the WINNERS REEL, or watch their entire performances below by clicking the links.

Aron Kader
"The Old Joke Book"

Larke Miller
"Dating Old Men"

Guy Stevenson
"The Lion Bouncer"

David Storrs
"I Hate IKEA"
And a couple more ...
Two more performances were so good we had to include them as Runners Up.

Greg Benson
"The Dating Film"

Stephanie Courtney
"The 99 Cent Store"
We don’t want to get too analytical, but there are two winning performances that provide material deserving further thought in relation to our themes of "shifting baselines" and ocean conservation.

Aron Kader's now-flaccid joke book from his grandfather illustrates something, though it's not entirely clear what -- maybe shifting baselines, maybe reverse-shifting baselines, maybe shifting thresholds for making people laugh -- who knows, but it's clear that mustard isn't as funny as it used to be.

Ifeanyi Njoku's short film illustrating a lack of awareness about ocean conservation in South Central Los Angeles is an important piece of commentary for environmentalists who dream of having a more unified constituency. When we held our Roundtable Discussion in January one participant said, "I stand here tonight in a very white room …" There exists a seldom-mentioned fact about environmentalism in the U.S. -- it is mostly peopled by middle-aged white folks. And at the same time, it's not as if the lack of awareness of ocean conservation is specific to the people in this film. As one of our judges, Tom Arnold, said, "I think you could go to Iowa and find the same sort of comments."


Tom Arnold is a writer, producer, and actor who has appeared in such movies as "True Lies," "McHale's Navy," "Cradle 2 the Grave," and is currently co-host of, "The Best Damn Sports Show Period," on Fox Sports Network.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is best known for her Emmy and Golden Globe winning performance as "Elaine," on the legendary sitcom, "Seinfeld." She was also a cast member of "Saturday Night Live," and is currently the star of the NBC sitcom, "Watching Ellie." Julia is an active environmentalist on the Executive Committee of NRDC, helping out Heal the Ocean, and a member of the Board of Directors of both Heal the Bay and the Environmental Media Association.

Bill Maher was the creator of the 90's cultural landmark show "Politically Incorrect," which aired for nine years on Comedy Central and ABC, and was nominated for an Emmy. He is now the host of "Real Time with Bill Maher," on HBO.

Peter Mehlman was a co-creator of and writer for a little TV show called, "Seinfeld." He is perhaps most famous for writing the "Yada Yada" episode, and is also the author of such classic Seinfeldisms as "spongeworthy" and "shrinkage."

Jeremy Rowley performs regularly as a member of the GROUNDLINGS and has appeared on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, CHARMED, ACCORDING TO JIM, STRIPMALL on Comedy Central, and RUNNING WITH SCISSORS on Oxygen. Film credits include Jerry Bruckheimer’s COYOTE UGLY and the soon to be released SELF MEDICATED.

Mindy Sterling appeared in the Austin Powers trilogy as "Frau Farbissina". Her improv experience with The Groundlings has led her to star in the new WB show, "On The Spot". Her film credits include "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" and "Drop Dead Gorgeous".


Greg Benson has guest starred on many TV series and films, appeared in over 100 commercials, and created his own sketch comedy TV series "Skip TV." He currently writes and performs live every Sunday at 8 PM at the ACME Comedy Theatre in Hollywood.

Stephanie Courtney is an LA actor, stand up comic, and member of the Groundlings Sunday Company. She starred in, "Melvin Goes to Dinner", directed by Bob Odenkirk / written by Mike Blieden, which premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival this year.

Aron Kader has appeared on "The Shield" and as a stand-up comic on "Comedy Central's Premium Blend." He can currently be seen at "The Comedy Store" on the weekends, and "The Groundlings" on Sunday nights doing sketch comedy.

Larke Miller performs all over L.A., from the LA Improv to youth hostiles and AA meetings. Her dream is to have her own HBO special.

Ifeanyi Njoku
is a director and producer for MTV, as well as music videos for such artists as Nelly, Eve, and Snoop. He directed the recent Showtime comedy special, "Straight Clownin'" featuring Will Smith, Tyra Banks, Jamie Foxx, Shaq, and Dr. Dre, and starring the host of this film, Alex Thomas.

Guy Stevenson, before trying his hand at comedy, was a U.S. Marine, a bouncer at a strip club, banned from the Philippines, and his application was rejected by the most corrupt police force in the country, the L.A.P.D. He is currently with the Groundlings Sunday Company and recent television appearances have included, 'The In-Laws', 'Grounded for Life', and 'The Parkers'.

David Storrs is currently performing with the Groundlings Sunday Company and has just completed Co-star work on NBC's pilot "Come to Papa".

For questions or comments contact: info@shiftingbaselines.org