Comedy pioneer Bernie Sahlins passed away Sunday in his Chicago home at the age of 90. Sahlins, who co-founded Chicago's Second City theater in 1959, had a vast influence on the careers of the dozens and dozens of brilliant comedic minds that passed through the theater's doors during his tenure there and upon the American comedy landscape as a whole. Sahlins spent three decades at Second City before selling the theater to Andrew Alexander in 1984 and stepping down as artistic director in 1988. During his time at Second City, Sahlins hired a long list of iconic performers that includes Alan Arkin, Joan Rivers, Fred Willard, John Belushi, Dan [...]
Michael Patrick O'Brien is well into his fourth season as a writer for Saturday Night Live, a job he landed after spending years honing his comedy skills at Chicago's iO and Second City theaters. In addition to SNL and working on an upcoming sketch comedy album, O'Brien also hosts the popular web series "7 Minutes in Heaven," where he does bits and locks lips (or awkwardly tries to, at least) with stars such as Ellen Degeneres, Tina Fey, and the Insane Clown Posse. We had a chance to catch up with him about this season of SNL, specifically his appearance in the recent "Five Timers Club" sketch and [...]
Over the years, The Onion has branched out into TV, film, web video, and books, and now the franchise is taking on another piece of new territory: live theater. The folks behind the revered satirical news entity just announced they'll be teaming up with The Second City, another Chicago-based comedy institution, for The Onion Live!, a stage show that will tour the country this fall. In a statement, The Onion said the show will teach audiences "The Onion’s journalism secrets through a series of presentations from the same news and lifestyle experts who train The Onion’s handsome, knowledgeable staff. Audiences will learn everything from how to chase a scoop [...]
Interviews by Matt Visconage.
Improv was doomed with a semantics crisis from the start.
When long-form improvisation began to flourish as its own art form under comedy guru Del Close in Chicago in the 1980s, “improv” referred to The Improv, a popular chain of stand-up comedy clubs in dozens of cities around the country. The Palm Beach Improv, for example.
When I used to intern at an improv theater in Hollywood, it wasn’t uncommon to find a couple who wandered in from the street, expecting to see a guy with a microphone, telling jokes. Television shows like Whose Line Is It, Anyway? helped audiences distinguish improv from stand-up, [...]
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Performing comedy for the first time – whether it’s improv, sketch or standup – can be an intimidating experience, which keeps a lot of would-be first-timers from taking a stab at it. Luckily for panicky novices, though, there are several well-regarded programs that hold your hand through the getting-your-feet-wet process. While conventional wisdom seems to dictate that with standup, it’s best to get started by performing at an open mic instead of taking standup classes, sketch and improv lend themselves more to curriculum and classes, and several well-regarded [...]