The Second City Blows In, Hisor-Improvisation

The most astounding thing about improvisation is that there are is such a rich history behind the art; despite, what at the surface, some critics don’t warrant as its own art – that’s another discussion. The roots of modern-day improvisation have many cities to be gracious to, but the windy city is the mecca of improv.

As we talked about in past blogs, there were vital people in the construct of this form of comedy, including Viola Spolin, Keith Johnstone, Del Close – and later, others – Charna Helpurn, Mick Napier among many other leaders in Chicago’s improv landscape.

Arguably the most famous is the acclaimed Second City in Chicago – also, Toronto and Los Angeles. First, Spolin, therefore Sills’, therefore countless others – impacted the scene in Illinois, moving south – we will highlight the impact the windy has had west to east coast; and even north – not to mention globally. Before we get there, let’s talk The Second City.

Some of my biggest idols have roots to not only Chicago, but the world famous The Second City. Here is a brief, and I mean quite brief history of the most famous improv/sketch stage. Such a rich history in such a short amount of time – 50 years of funny.

1959
The Second City
 opens its doors!

1960s
First workshops begin, Del Close joins the squad, first performance in London, first performance in Toronto, air on television, begin to to tour nationally, Bob Curry joins the team, they moved, performed their 28th revue and Harold Ramis joined. Holy. shit.

1970s
John Belushi joins The Second City, show opens in Toronto, Second City Toronto opens, new ownership in Andrew Alexander, SNL debuts with many notable alumni, SCTV aired on American television.

1980s
Sheldon Patikinn joins The Second City, SCTV wins Emmy, revue opens in Manhattan, New York – New York City, The Second City training center opens officially with curriculum, Amy Sedaris and Mike Myers join The Second City, as well as the return of one Del Close.

1990s
Chris Farley joins the party at The Second City, debuted in Scotland, began outreach, opened Second City Detroit, Horatio Sanz joins the cast, the shows format take a new spin, Mick Napier directs a show, and the 90s close with the death of guru Del Close.

2000s and on
The small place where many notable actors, directors and, well, famous folks, have roots in The Second City. With all of that history¹, the Second City inspired what we will call the “attitude” era of improv next.

Jon Jon Lannen is a best-selling author of the Giraffe children’s book series. He is an instructor, performer and writer for the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse. More on him here.

¹ The Second City (1950 to 2016). History – 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s. Retrieved by The Second City website.