By Brian Dann
When I was nine years old Saturday Night Live went on the air and because my parents were usually out late on Saturday night, I got to stay up late and watch it. Sure at nine years old some of the humor may have gone right over my head but I still knew that this was something different, some thing that we had never seen before. Watching John Belushi do his Samurai character, or Dan Aykroid try to sell us a Bass-O-Matic, Or Gilda Radner endear us with the sweet but always somewhat confused Miss Emily Litela, who ended every commentary with, “Never mind,” was an absolutely magical experience. At nine years old it became my dream to one day be in the audience at SNL. A few years later I learned something amazing. I learned where most of these remarkable actors came from, and it was practically in my back door, The Second City. I was so excited when I got to go to my first Second City show because to me it was the closest I would get to SNL with out actually going to New York. After all, this was the place that it all began. In short, for me The Second City was incredible. I watched the talent on stage trying to remember each one of there faces so that when I eventually would see them in movies or on SNL I could say that I saw them at The Second City first. I honestly don’t recall who was on the stage that night but I remember that I could not wait to go back. I watched the improv sets and marveled at how these actors could invent dialog right on the spot. I never imagined that I could do that my self.
Then in my early twenties, just to do something different I decided to take an improv class at The Players Workshop. It was one of those, lets go jump off a cliff and see what happens, moments. I had no acting experience, except for playing a munchkin and the Tin Man in a forth grade production of
I was lucky because I graduated from the Players Workshop the last year that The Second City Training Center accepted Players Workshop graduates to their conservatory program with out having to audition to get in. I knew that ever becoming an actual cast member of The Second City was a long shot, so if that ever did happen it would just be icing on the cake. Hell, I got to study improv at the Harvard of comedy! What I learned at Second City, in the training center was invaluable, but the classes were not where I learned the most. It was the improv sets at Second City ETC and the Main Stage, where for me as a young kid it had began, where I knew this was something different, this was something special. It was through watching the talents of the cast at the time, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Paul Dinello, Scott Allman, Ian Gomez, Jackie Hoffman, Jenna Jolovitz, Dave Razowsky, and Amy Sadaris, in short, the most incredible group of improvisers and actors that I had seen in my life, that I learned my craft. Watching these performers bring an idea to life and each night, tweak it and improve it, and take chances, and not be afraid, and know how to give, and know how to receive, and know how to be real, and not go for the joke, but instead find the humor that exists in life… is where I learned how to Improvise. But most of all I learned that when you jump off a cliff, it’s ok if sometimes you don’t land on your feet, because sometimes that’s where the real magic happens.
So on this week that marks the 50th anniversary of an institution that changed the way the world laughs, I say thank you. Thank you for this journey, thank you for bringing all of us, all of this talent that has enriched all of our lives, and while I may have never made it as a cast member of The Second City, thank you for teaching me the art of, “Yes And…”
Happy 50th Anniversary to The Second City.