Second City Touring Company
The company first began in 1959. The opening night was particularly memorable for it was a cold December night when the entire city of Chicago was snowed in. The company began as a cabaret theatre on a very small scale. But since then, it has worked its way up to become one of the most innovative and influential comedy theatres of the world. Even when it first began, spontaneity was their core. Their games caught on fairly quickly and they began to attract more and more people every day. They took inspiration from Viola Spolin, but built upon it to create a completely different style. Today, they have their own methods to create a completely different genre of comedy. Their performance style is also unlike any other.
The comedy club was started by none other than Viola Spolin’s son himself, Paul Sills. He took the help of Benie Sahlins and Howard Alk to begin this journey. When he started the project, he wanted to test the waters first before embarking on anything large scale that he would regret later. Thus, the company began as largely experimental. Its approach was unconventional, no doubt, but one could also not deny that it was beginning a new era in both comedy and theatre. While it put some people off, who preferred a more orthodox method to the genre, it excited and inspired others who loved that something new had emerged. Most comedy clubs during the time would crack mother-in-law jokes, which seemed to be in fashion. But one thing wrong about being in fashion is that you are in danger of being predictable and boring. The Second City thus took no such chances and did not conform—they took on to speaking to the younger generation instead, keeping their jokes current and interesting.
Amongst the earliest reason for the theatre’s success were the two performers, Elaine May
and Mike Nichols
. They had both performed on Broadway and therefore knew how to work a crowd. They also had enough knowledge on how to run the production end of the show. They were also members of “The Compass Players”, another comedy club, and so knew how to run the business. They brought a good amount of attention to the Second City upon its opening. Soon friends of people affiliated with the comedians began to visit the club as well. Amongst them were important names like Alan Arkin, Robert Klein, Fred Willard, and others like Barbara Harris and David Steinberg. It was around this time that NBC began its television series that is a hit even today, “Saturday Night Live”. The cast was populated by former workers of the Second City; Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi and Gilda Radner led the pack. This is how the club received worldwide fame. Their roster of incredible comedians kept on multiplying.
In today’s world, Second City has continued to excel in all genres of comedy. They have become known for investing in new talents. Up and coming comics always approach them if they wish to premiere their talent in the industry. Superstars like Mike Meyers, Tina Fey and Steve Carell have also worked with them and have often cited the club as the reason why they have made it so far. The club’s imprint is everywhere in the comedy world, be it on Broadway, other comedy clubs, or in television. It is in “Saturday Night Live” and it is in “The Office”, as it is in New York Theatre and cabaret. They have also become a variety entertainment company; quite an achievement for something that began as a single stage on a snowy December night.
They have begun their own training centers as well to nourish young talent. But more importantly, they continue to tour the world to perform their sensational improvisational comedy sketches. The Second City Touring Company tickets
thus continue to sell with just as much vigor as they did before.