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Second to None

Question: What do Bill Murray, Chris Farley, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, George Wendt, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Martin Short, John Candy, and Mike Myers have in common? Answer: All of them got their start with the Second City comedy troupe. Taking its name from the title of a New Yorker article by A.J. Liebling that derisively described Chicago, the Second City was founded in the Windy City in 1959. The sketch-comedy group enjoyed almost immediate success with both critics and audiences and has been turning out performances ever since.

Nowadays the Second City boasts its own theaters in Toronto and Chicago as well as four touring comedy troupes, three based in Chicago and one in Toronto. One of the Chicago squads makes an appearance in South Florida this weekend, happily exchanging a gloomy lake for a sparkling ocean.

The concept behind the Second City's acclaimed performances is simple and effective. The actors put on a comedy show filled with skits and songs, then finish with an improvisational set based upon audience suggestions. The really juicy bits that are born in these improv sessions are fleshed out after the show and become sketches for future shows. In this way the Second City ensures its continued freshness and relevance, which are almost as important in comedy as being funny. The touring show is somewhat different, offering a comedy program of the best of the Second City's sketches, songs, and scenes from the 1960s to the present. Given the depth of the company's back catalog, this greatest-hits approach will deliver plenty of surprises to any viewer.

The touring show has proved to be a training ground of sorts for the resident stages in Chicago and Toronto; more than a few of the comedians who get to the main stage go on to bigger and better things. The list of names mentioned before is only a brief one when compared to the complete list of folks who have graduated from the Second City to TV (particularly Saturday Night Live) and movies. The lineup coming to South Florida features Katie Caussin, Celeste Pechous, Gillian Vigman, Robert Dassie, Stuart Ranson, and Al Samuels. Remember those names.

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Dan Sweeney
Contact: Dan Sweeney

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