Since 1959, The Second City has been churning out such comedic genius as John Belushi, Bill Murray, Steve Carell, and Tina Fey (among others). And they’re in town to celebrate.
They play nightmarish bosses, satirize cable news talking heads, and imitate Vice Presidential hopefuls. You may recognize them on TV hawking our favorite products. You get excited when you catch them in the background of a new movie trailer, and then feel a sense of pride when they are featured prominently in their own film six months later.
Over the past few years comedy has consistently gained a larger presence in pop culture. Faces that may otherwise be relegated solely to comedy clubs and sitcom bit-parts are now taking top billing in sitcoms, movies, commercials, and are even responsible for delivering a large portion of young America’s daily news. Some may argue that this upsurge in popularity is all part of a natural cycle that may die off soon as rock-stars, child-actors, or reality stars fight to reclaim the limelight.
However, none can argue the impact that The Second City has had in shaping the comedy landscape for the past 50 years. In the 70’s and 80’s much of Saturday Night Live’s memorable cast spent time as members of their troupes, including John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Gilda Radner. The Toronto Second City outpost launched it’s own TV Channel which helped build the careers of John Candy, Rick Moranis, Harold Ramis, Martin Short, and Eugene Levy.
When Second City started the The Second City Training Center in the 80’s they developed a new set of future stars: Mike Myers, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Chris Farley, Jason Sudekis, Tina Fey, Jack McBrayer and Amy Poehler. Die-hard comedy fans will know that Del Close, who is considered a major influence in modern improvised theater spent much of the 60’s and 70’s involved with The Second City as a performer and director and is credited as a major influence to many of the more recent performers, including members of the Upright Citizens Brigade who took his inspiration and started their own schools to further spread the art of comedy.
The troupe’s 50th Anniversary Tour celebrates this rich history and aims to introduce new audiences to their unique comedy style. As their website describes it, “The Touring Company produces a two-act review of The Second City’s celebrated brand of topical sketch comedy, hilarious songs, and on the spot improvisation that changes with every performance. ”
The tour should be an inspiration to Richmond, which continues to develop it’s own comedy identity. Hopefully it will encourage a new set of aspiring (and local) performers to seek the existing comedy groups (such as the RVA Comedy Coalition and The Superfriends Camp) and further assist in establishing Richmond as a notable source of comedic talent.
Catch The Second City’s 50th Anniversary Tour Friday and Saturday night at the Modlin Center. Admission is $8 for UR students, $28 for UR employees, $34 for seniors, and $36 for adults. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Modlin Center box office. (May not be suitable for younger audiences.)
And if you’d like to see more on The Second City, take a look at this little promo spot – you’re sure to pick out some familiar faces…