When you say “Second City” to Canadians, like me, who grew up in the late seventies and eighties, the first thing (only thing?) that comes to mind is SCTV. SCTV stands for Second City Television and it was a hit from the get go. The show consistently came up with hysterical sketches made even more hysterical by the talented cast. People like Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, John Candy, Andrea Martin, Joe Flaherty, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, Martin Short. Mention “Bob and Doug McKenzie” to any Canadian of a certain age and be prepared to be hit with a shrill “Ku ruck ku ruck ruck ku ku”.
But it turns out that The Second City has a history predating SCTV. Who knew? The show grew out of Toronto’s Second City comedy troupe. But Toronto’s Second City, itself, was an offshoot of the original Second City comedy club in Chicago. The Chicago Second City has been going for almost 60 years (!), since 1959. At first, the sketch comedy was strictly improvisational and improv still plays a central role in Second City shows.
The Second City is one of the leading comedy clubs in the world with shows every day. Many Second City cast members have gone on to join Saturday Night Live and to enjoy stardom in their own right. I’m talking Tina Fey, Bill Murray, Chris Farley, Amy Sedaris, Dan Akroyd, Steve Carrell, the Belushis, Mike Meyers, Joan Rivers. No small potatoes, these.
The last time we visited Chicago, Fahbio really wanted to go see a Second City show. I was more lukewarm. What if we shelled out a bunch of cash and it wasn’t funny? I’m pleased to report that there is NEVER any danger of a Second City live show not being funny. In fact, you are more likely to die when your drink goes down the wrong pipe because you’re laughing so hard than to leave the show muttering, “That was lame…”
Years have gone by and I still remember how hard I laughed that night. I also remember that we stumbled upon “Hottix”, a non-profit organization that offers half price theatre tickets from the League of Chicago Theatres.
This time around, a Second City show was on my list of absolute must-dos. We headed right down to Hottix and had a difficult time choosing between the various different Second City shows. In the end, we went with “Unelectable You” as it seemed timely, what with the presidential race going on and all. Any slight misgivings we had about not getting the jokes as a result of our Canadian citizenship were unfounded.
OMG – the show was hysterical. A blend of scripted scenes and improv, it had us rolling. Audience member Jackie (retired middle school teacher) if you’re reading this, you were an amazing sport when they dragged you on stage and turned you into a presidential candidate. I’ll remember those shenanigans until the day I die and I swear it will always make me break out in laughter.
If you find yourself in Chicago, be sure to take in a Second City performance. If you can’t get here, get onto YouTube and watch some vintage SCTV.