In yesterday's post, I mentioned that Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara were alumni of The Second City Theatre of sketch/semi-improv players (Chicago and/or Toronto) - but did you know that the owners of the first and base Second City Theatre in Chicago put the theater up for sale in October of 2020?!?
They had been struggling already, but COVID lockdown nearly did them in :(
Since then, The Second City and Saturday Night Live (considering most of their their talent has been provided by SC, over the years) have reportedly teamed up in collaboration to save it, to hopefully create a new training ground for talent.
Today, The Groundings Theatre and School in LA, which began in the 1970s, has since gained traction and nearly taken the training-ground crown for sketch/semi-improv comedic actors (and includes such notable alumni as Will Farrell, Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Phil Hartmann, Jon Lovitz, Lisa Kudrow) - but the legacy of Second City still endures :)
As for the history of Second City, the sketch-semi-improv skits were first called the "Playwright's Theatre Club " in Chicago in 1953, then reformed into the "Compass Players" in 1955, and then finally, on to "The Second City Theatre" in its current location from 1959 to 2020.
Chicago was their first and main theater, and became the pinnacle theatre, after you trained in the Toronto and LA training theaters (although Toronto gave Chicago a run for their money, despite still be considered training ground).
Other training venues were added around the country, such as Detroit and Las Vegas, and SC also began a touring cast.
The sketch-comedy/semi-improv acting alumni you'll likely at least recognize the faces of (if not the names), are in chronological order below - I think this is a comprehensive list of notable names and faces you'll recognize?
* - Canadian actors on both Chicago and Toronto lists
Chicago (Base/Main Theatre)
Ed Asner (Playwright's Theater/Compass/Second City)
Mike Nichols (Playwright's Theater/Compass/Second City)
Elaine May (Playwright's/Compass/Second City)
Alan Alda (Compass/Second City)
Barbara Harris (Compass/Second City)
Jerry Stiller (Compass/Second City)
Anne Meara (Compass/Second City)
Linda Lavin (Compass/Second City)
John and Jim Belushi
John Candy *
(He also does the voice of Homer Simpson, btw.)
Toronto (Second Main Theatre/Training Theatre)
Dan Aykroyd* (photo above)
John Candy* (photo above)
Eugene Levy * (photo above)
Mike Myers * (photo above)
Dave Thomas* (photo above)
Toronto - SCTV (Second-City Television, broadcast late night, in Canada and the U.S.)
Harold Ramis (photo above, Chicago)
Dan Aykroyd* (photo above, Chicago and Toronto)
Eugene Levy * (photo above - Chicago, Toronto)
Dave Thomas* (photo above - Toronto)
Catherine O'Hara (photo above - Toronto)
Andrea Martin (photo above - Toronto)
Joe Flaherty (photo above - Toronto)
Robin Duke (photo above - Toronto)
Other Training Regions (LA, Detroit, Las Vegas) and/or SC Touring Ensemble
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Touring)
Jane Lynch (Touring)
Amy Poehler (Touring)
Jason Sudeikis (Las Vegas)
Colin Ferguson* (Detroit)
Jordan Klepper (Touring)
Here's to hoping they survive COVID with SNL's help and keep us laughing for another 60 years :)