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Theater Comedy

Second City Co-Founder's Legacy Lives on Through Laughs

June 20, 2013 by Allison


Second City co-founder, Bernie Sahlins, passed away at the age of 90 earlier this week, but his contributions to the world of comedy have already stood the test of time. In first setting out to launch The Second City in the 50s with Howard Alk and Paul Sills, the trio likely couldn’t have imagined the impact they’d have on the future of American comedy and all the heralded performers that would one day reap the benefits.

The laundry list of talent that first got their start at various Second City locations across North America continues to grow year after year. Two of the most famous, John Belushi and Chris Farley, both went on to star in “Saturday Night Live,” as did many who followed similar career paths such as Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, David Koechner, Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, and Mike Myers.

But not all Second City members go on to become comedians— Second City alumnus Andrea Martin recently took home a Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role for her part in “Pippin the Musical.” “Pippin” is currently at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway, and is currently slated to run through the end of the year. Jane Lynch, although well-known for her comedic part playing a harsh high school teacher in “Glee,” has also taken on a more serious (yet still fun) role playing Miss Hannigan in the Broadway production of “Annie.” Her part is just a temporary role, and the EMMY-award winning actress will be replaced after her last performance on July 14.

Others have taken a different route as well, diverting from the stage at Second City to the TV screen as actors, comedians and even late-night hosts. Steven Yeun was one of the alums that made the leap straight to the screen as Glenn in AMC’s hit series, “The Walking Dead,” while Chicagoan Lamorne Morris hit it big with his supporting role on the Zooey Deschanel-fronted comedy, “New Girl.”

Former star of “The Office,” Steve Carell, has become one of the most famed comedy actors today with big-screen hits like “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” His first big break came via the Second City stage in Chicago where he also met his wife, Nancy Walls. Another television great, Stephen Colbert, became Carell’s understudy while at Second City, and from there, worked on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” before hosting his own spin-off news-parody series, “The Colbert Report.”

Currently, some of the members of Second City are taking a short road trip to Chicago’s Civic Opera House, where they will be performing a reprise of their sold-out collaboration from January titled, “The Second City Guide to the Opera.” Audiences sit on the Lyric Opera stage for the show, and the performance features two opera singers and an ensemble from Second City. Second City Guide to the Opera tickets will be available through the month of June. 

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