Thursday, December 31, 2009

Second City to debut Rush Limbaugh musical

Second City will debut Rush Limbaugh: The Musical in February.
It’s the new project from Matt Hovde, director of the Second City hit “Rod Blagojevich Superstar!,” and its writers, Ed Furman and T.J. Shanoff. Local improv veteran Mark Sutton (of Annoyance Theater and “Bassprov” fame) will sing the title role.

“Limbaugh” will run Tuesday and Wednesday nights in Second City’s e.t.c. space.

Like his WLS-AM (890) colleague Blagojevich, El Rushbo is leading a volatile life full of stage-ready drama; on Wednesday, the radio star went to a Honolulu hospital after suffering chest pains on vacation.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Interview with Matt Hovde

Danielle Solzman: Thanks for joining us today. How are things in the Windy City?
Matt Hovde: It’s freezing and wonderful.

DS: I understand that you've been named as the new artistic director for the Second City Training Center. What exactly does that entail?
MH: I’ll be steering the philosophy of the various programs. I’ll also be working to strengthen the connection between the artistic side of Second City and the educational side. I think it’s a great opportunity to take all the great things that happen in the Training Center and make them even more focused and relevant.

DS: What led you to discover improv and sketch comedy? And what have you done to get to where you now?
MH: I’ve been a comedy junkie all my life. I used to memorize Monty Python Sketches and perform them at school, and even in junior high I would stay up late to catch Johnny Carson. Also around that time I caught a Kid’s Show at Second City, and was pretty much hooked. I studied theater in high school and college, and came right to Chicago after I graduated so I could start classes at Second City. Then I just worked on a ton of independent shows, including Galileo Players. And Brad Morris and I did a two man show briefly called Schlitz und Bagels – this was before the internet, mind you - which helped shape my comedic point of view.

DS: You are a founder of the Galileo Players. How did that come to be in existence?
MH: Tom Flanigan, Ron Feldman, and I started Galileo right after we graduated the conservatory together in 1998. We felt like a niche would help distinguish us so we chose to focus on science. For the first few years we focused on writing original sketch revues and put them up in various venues, including Donny’s Skybox, Victory Gardens, and Live Bait.

DS: You directed both America: All Better and Studs Turkel's Not Working. Which production had more pressure? What is the process like as far as transitioning from one revue to another revue?
MH: It’s hard to discuss pressure, actually. There is inherent pressure on any resident production, of course, because you’re trying to uphold the legacy of all the shows that came before you, and you know that your work will get lots of attention from the press, the community, etc. And with this year being the 50th Anniversary of Second City, there was an added amount of scrutiny. But on the other hand, you have to be immune to pressure, because you want the process to be creative, and fun, and spontaneous, and if you’re too worried about he external pressures you may end up suppressing your mojo. I remember once Andy St. Clair coming up to me after a show once – he was upset because he felt too much pressure so I just told him to be like a samurai and block out all external stimuli. He laughed and the very next day created a killer monologue about African politics. Classic St. Clair.

As far as transitioning between revues, Second City shows never close – they simply morph into a new show. When we start developing new material, we slowly start blending it into our current show until eventually there is nothing left of the old show and we have an entirely new revue.

DS: How are the revue names determined?
MH: Lots of fighting, bickering, and pulling teeth.

DS: What was your experience like during the 50th anniversary festivities at Second City being around all these famous alumnni?
MH: The 50th was a humbling and inspiring party. It made me feel deeply connected to the entire Second City family, and motivated me to try and keep doing the best work I can. I had the pleasure of working first hand with some of my idols – Scott Adsit, Richard Kind, Brian Stack, Rachel Dratch, while also the irritation of dealing with crotchety Shelley Berman.

DS: Thanks again for joining us. Is there anything else you would like to plug?
MH: You guys were great – best of luck!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Comedypalooza is this weekend!!

Fred Willard has an ambivalent relationship with improv.

Bob Odenkirk was on the radio earlier this week.

Comedypalooza, as Andy calls it, is this weekend.

IO event sold out

Friday night is going to be a great night at iO!
At 9:30pm Beer Shark Mice with Neil Flynn, David Koechner, Pete Hulne, Pat Finn and Mike Coleman are playing. Opening for them is iOld School with Joel Murray, Mark Beltzman, Joe Liss, Cindy Camponera, Isabella Hoffman and accompanied by the master, Fred Kaz.

Afterwards, other alumni will be joining the casts for an Armando including Brian Stack and Kevin Dorff from The Tonight Show, as well as other surprise guests.
It's sold out so if you didn't get tickets, oh, well.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The 50th...

Andy St. Clair compares Second City to the New York Yankees.
On a blustery fall afternoon, Andy St. Clair slips into an empty club, with rows of tables, wooden chairs and a bare stage awaiting its next bit of comedy magic.

It doesn't look like much, but the stage is something of a shrine.

This is The Second City, the place where legions of comics — among them Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Mike Myers, Chris Farley, John Belushi, Bill Murray and John Candy — sometimes killed, sometimes flopped, but always tried to make 'em laugh.

This weekend, the theater marks its 50th anniversary, a milestone that's even more impressive in the ephemeral world of show business. Second City has survived and thrived for a half-century with the same formula: small, youngish casts; parody, satire and improvisation; and hip, irreverent, topical, often political humor.

Decades ago, it was Alan Arkin in a rain hat and slicker phoning God — "That's N-O-A-H," he tells the divine — and auditioning ark candidates. Thirty years later, it was Carell (Arkin's cast mate in "Little Miss Sunshine") as a job applicant ordered to stomp his foot and disguise his voice so a blindfolded personnel manager can guard against biases.

From one generation to the next, Second City has cranked out talent with clockwork regularity. "It's a comedy factory," says Harold Ramis, a former cast member turned director-writer-actor-producer.

Now it's Andy St. Clair's turn. He's at the Wells Street theater this day for rehearsals for the 97th main stage show, "The Taming of the Flu."

Tall with a Midwestern geniality, St. Clair, 34, made it to the main stage after working his way up the ranks over six years, much like a rookie moving from the minors to a championship team. So his description of Second City is apt.

"I call it the comedy Yankees," he says with an easy grin. "When it's not funny, people are going to be, 'What's wrong with the Yankees?' But when it is funny, they're going to be, 'Well, they're SUPPOSED to be funny. They're the YANKEES.'"[...]

"The reason it's successful is because we stay relevant," says Andrew Alexander, co-chairman and chief executive officer since 1985.

Shelly Gossman, a current cast member born nearly 20 years after the troupe was founded, elaborates.

"Unlike any other theater, it will always be new and different," she says. "It's younger people writing what they think. ... It's always current. It can't get antiquated. It's not a script from 20 or 30 years ago. It's theater in the now."

Monday, December 7, 2009

News articles...

The Sun-Times has a fascinating story on the musical direction for shows at Second City.

How Second City has fed SNL and Hollywood

Opening night!

Congrats to the Second City Mainstage cast and crew on a successful opening of the 97th revue, Taming of the Flu.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Michael McCarthy talks about his Second City experience

Michael McCarthy, an alumnus of both Second City Mainstage and ETC, shares his experiences.