The Second City first opened its doors in Chicago on a snowy night in December 1959 and has grown into the world’s most iconic comedy club and school of improvisation. The organization boasts five theaters, nightly shows, a touring company, a world-class training center with dozens of courses for kids and adults, the first film school dedicated exclusively to comedy (The Harold Ramis Film School), and the comedic marketing acumen of the Second City Works. From its humble beginnings, The Second City has grown into the most renowned improvisational comedy enterprise on the planet, and with locations in Chicago, Hollywood and Toronto—they’re just getting started.
Founded by Bernard Sahlins, Howard Alk and Paul Sills as a theater where scenes and stories are created improvisationally, The Second City has spent nearly sixty years honing and refining the innovative techniques developed by legendary acting teacher, Viola Spolin. “Everyone can act. Everyone can improvise. Anyone who wishes to can play in the theater and learn to become ‘stage-worthy,’” said Spolin, typifying her open and playful breed of pedagogy responsible for inspiring so many performers and audiences over the years.
For nearly four decades, Andrew Alexander and the recently-passed Len Stuart have led the organization into an extraordinary period of growth and exploration. Borrowing from a basic tenet of improv, the two translated the philosophy of “Yes, and…” into a hugely successful business model. “I am always thinking forward and not as much backward,” Alexander said in a 2009 A Drink With interview, and considering his and Stuart’s trailblazing attitude, that’s not difficult to believe.