You may not be familiar with Chicago’s venerable comedy institution The Second City, but I’ll bet you’ve had your funnybone tickled by some of its famous alumni. Many of those folks will be returning to the scene of the crime in December to celebrate the company’s 50th birthday.
The Midwest hotbed of all things comedic, which opened its doors in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood in 1959, grew out of a cabaret show begun by students at the University of Chicago.
From those humble beginnings, the improv comedy company has grown to encompass satellite companies in Toronto, Detroit, Las Vegas and Cleveland, as well as spawning a number of television shows, including cult favorite “SCTV.”
Over the past half century, the original Chicago location of Second City has been instrumental in helping to launch the careers of dozens of well-known comedians, including Alan Arkin, Joan Rivers, Barbara Harris, Avery Schreiber, Jack Burns, Robert Klein, Fred Willard, Peter Boyle, Joe Flaherty, Brian Doyle-Murray, Harold Ramis, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Eugene Levy, Dave Thomas, George Wendt, Shelly Long, Jim Belushi, Mary Gross, Andy Dick, Dan Castellaneta, Bonnie Hunt, Mike Myers, Jeremy Piven, Chris Farley, Tim Meadows, Bob Odenkirk, Steve Carrell, Amy Sedaris, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, Amy Poeler, Horatio Sanz, Stephanie Weir and Keegan-Michael Key.
The alumni list for SC’s other companies is just as impressive and features comedy greats like Gilda Radner, John Candy, Catherine O’Hara, Andrea Martin, Martin Short, Scott Thompson, Kevin McDonald, Dave Foley, Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the original venue in Chicago, Second City alumni will descend on the city the weekend of Dec. 11-13 for a series of panels examining the company’s history and its impact on the comedy landscape.
Highlights of the event include a discussion of “The Colbert Report” featuring some of the show’s writers and its co-executive producer; an “SCTV” panel with Martin Short, Andrea Martin, Eugene Levy and others; a “30 Rock” discussion with cast members Scott Adsit and Jack McBrayer and writer Kay Cannon; an examination of Second City’s role in the film world hosted by Jim Belushi, Betty Thomas and Bob Odenkirk; a “Saturday Night Live” panel featuring former cast members Horatio Sanz, Rachel Dratch and Tim Kazurinsky and others and a look at Second City in the ’60s with participation by Alan Arkin, Robert Klein, Fred Willard, Mina Kolb, Bernie Sahlins and Sheldon Patinkin.
Tickets are priced at $25 per panel and are available at SecondCity.com.