THE SECOND CITY

1616 N Wells St Chicago

City of Writers/THE SECOND CITY
American Writers Museum
Written By American Writers Museum

The American Writers Museum celebrates American writers through innovative, state-of-the-art exhibitions and compelling programming.

​Bernard Sahlins, Howard Alk, and Paul Sills founded The Second City as an incubator for exploring improvisational theatre. Rooted in the groundbreaking theatre games of Chicagoan Viola Spolin, Sill's mother, The Second City developed techniques that transformed American comedy and satire. Many gifted actors and comedians are alumni of The Second City troupe.

A Chicago-based improvisational comedy enterprise that opened in 1959, The Second City has become one of the most influential and prolific comedy theatres in the world. It has produced programs out of Canada and the United States, including Second City TV (SCTV), Second City Presents, and Next Comedy Legend. The Second City has been a consistent foundation for many comedians, actors, directors, and other award-winning members of show business, such as Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Bill Murray, and many others. Many Second City alumni have gone on to perform for "Saturday Night Live," produced by NBC.​

The name was pulled from an article in "The New Yorker" written by A. J. Liebling about Chicago in 1952 and coined as a self-mocking title. The first Second City show premiered in 1959 at 1842 N Wells Street. Eight years later, in 1967, the company moved only a few blocks away to 1616 N Wells St., where it remains today. Paul Sills, the son of the Hull House Improvisational Theatre in​structor Viola Spolin, founded the theatre with Bernard Sahlins and Howard Alk as a place where scenes and stories came together in improvisation, through the use of Spolin’s self-developed techniques. The theatre style was geared towards satire and current social commentary based on political norms, figures, and events. The Second City pioneered many styles and techniques used in theatre and television, as well as writing and performance, that are still used today.

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