“The Second City, the world’s premier comedy theatre and school of improvisation, specializes in sketch comedy and has been delighting audiences for over 50 years. The Second City has resident companies in Chicago and Toronto consisting of six actors/writers each and three National Touring Companies with five actors each. We have shows seven nights a week on our resident stages in Chicago and Toronto; the shows consist of short scenes, songs, and improvisations ranging anywhere from 10 seconds to 10 minutes long.”
“The Second City opened its doors on a snowy Chicago night in December of 1959. No one could have guessed that this small cabaret theatre would become the most influential and prolific comedy theatre in the world. With its roots in the improvisational games of Viola Spolin, The Second City developed an entirely unique way of creating and performing comedy. Founded by Spolin’s son, Paul Sills, along with Howard Alk and Bernie Sahlins, The Second City was experimental and unconventional in its approach to both theatre and comedy. At a time when mother-in-law jokes were more the fashion, The Second City railed against the conformist culture with scenes that spoke to a younger generation.
“The Broadway success of Mike Nichols and Elaine May – members of The Second City’s predecessor, The Compass Players – put attention on the fledgling company. Soon, alumni of The Second City – such as Alan Arkin, Barbara Harris, Robert Klein, David Steinberg and Fred Willard – began to cement the theatre’s reputation for developing the finest comedic voices of each and every generation. With the debut of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, populated by Second City Alums John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner, the theatre became internationally known for its ever increasing roster of comedy superstars.
“By the 1980’s, The Second City had become much more than a small cabaret theatre on Chicago’s North Side. In the middle of the decade, The Second City would begin a new era as Second City Toronto proprietors Andrew Alexander and Len Stuart would buy out Bernie Sahlins’ interest in The Second City Chicago and set in motion a new era of innovation for the company.
“Today, The Second City continues to produce the premiere comic talent in the industry. From Mike Myers to Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert to Tina Fey – The Second City imprint is felt across every entertainment medium. Additionally, The Second City has grown well beyond a single stage to become a diversified entertainment company. Second City Training Centers in Chicago, Toronto and Los Angeles teach thousands of students every week; four touring companies perform Second City revues all over North America and abroad; Second City Communications has become an industry leader in bringing improv-based methodologies to the corporate sector; and Second City continues to create unique media in television, film and the digital realm.”
Production history available here.
Leadership (Past and Present)
Andrew Alexander, Chief Executive Officer & Executive Producer Andrew Alexander is an innovative and influential theatre, film, and television producer, known most widely for his leadership of The Second City theatre company and the hit television show SCTV. Alexander was born in London, England. He studied at Tri-State College in Indiana and Ryerson University in Toronto. In 1974, he took the reins of The Second City in Toronto. At the helm of the Toronto theatre, he produced and developed content for live theatre shows working with the legendary casts of the seventies: Gilda Radner, John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, Andrea Martin, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Joe Flaherty and others. Two years later, he joined forces with Len Stuart in starting The Second City Entertainment Company, whose first production was the landmark television show SCTV. After almost a decade of developing the Entertainment Company, Alexander and Stuart became owners of The Second City Chicago in 1985, and he has actively led The Second City in Canada and the US since then. Alexander has produced or executive produced over 200 Second City revues in Canada and the United States. Over the past 35 years, The Second City has operated resident theatres and/or improv training facilities at one time or another in Toronto, Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Edmonton, London Ontario, New York, Cleveland, and at one point operated three resident theatres in Chicago. Most recently, he has expanded the Second City TV and Film Division to include offices in Los Angeles and Toronto. Recently, Alexander was Executive Producer for Second City’s Next Comedy Legend on CBC (2007). He was also executive producer of the Canadian feature film “Intern’s Academy” (2004) written by Dave Thomas and featuring Canadian greats Dan Aykroyd, Dave Foley, Dave Thomas and Maury Chaykin. Mr. Alexander was a founding shareholder of the Pay Television service Super Channel and also served on the Board of Directors. Mr. Alexander serves on the Columbia College Board of Trustees. He is Chair of the Gilda’s Club Toronto Honorary Board, an Honorary Member of the Chicago Gilda’s Club Board and has also served on the the Board of the League of Chicago Theaters and the Canadian Walk of Fame. In 2008, he facilitated a reunion of the cast of SCTV in Toronto launching The Alumni Fund, a fund that in its first months raised over $200,000 to assist actors and support staff during times of illness or economic hardship. Mr. Alexander has received numerous awards including the Canadian Comedy Awards Chairman’s Award, Gilda’s Magic Award from Gilda’s Club, The League of Chicago Theater’s 2009 Artistic Leadership Award and named Chicagoan of The Year by Chicago Tribune.
Kelly Leonard, Executive Vice President, The Second City, Inc. Kelly Leonard has been with The Second City since 1988 where he oversees all the company’s live theatrical operations. He has produced such seminal stage productions as “Pinata Full of Bees,” “Paradigm Lost” and “Holy War, Batman.” Mr. Leonard co-founded Second City Theatricals, the division of the company that has produced a diverse array of entertainment including the North American tour of “Sex and The Second City,” “Second City’s Romeo and Juliet Musical” at The Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, “The Pajama Men” at The Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He also has collaborated on original comedy productions with The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, The Pittsburgh Public Theatre and the Tony-Award winning Alliance Theatre in Atlanta. Mr. Leonard brokered the deal that brought Second City to the high seas in a partnership with Norwegian Cruise Lines. Currently, Second City maintains seven full-time ensembles aboard NCL ships. Additionally, Mr. Leonard works with Second City’s television and film division, developing a variety of content for broadcast television and new media. He has been named by Newcity magazine as one of the top theatrical figures in Chicago and Crain’s Chicago Business named Mr. Leonard to it’s “40 under 40” list. Recently, Time Out Chicago identified him as one of the 40 leading cultural figures in the city of Chicago. He has consulted with groups such as Gilda’s Club and the Chicago History Museum. Mr. Leonard lives in Chicago with his wife Anne Libera and their children Nick and Nora.
Productions of Note
Welcome to the renaissance of Chicago comedy
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Artists of Note
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1616 N. Wells St.
Chicago, IL, 60614
Unless otherwise noted, all biographies and quotations are from the theater’s website.