Second City - 50th Anniversary
Second City Stage
The Second City is an amazing comedy institution. Founded in Chicago in 1959 by Bernie Sahlins, Howard Alk and Paul Sills, it was a live theater where scenes and story were created improvisationally in front of an audience that grew out of the innovative techniques of Viola Spolin (Sill’s mother). This soon attracted a very talented group of smart, funny performers – Elaine May, Mike Nichols, Barbara Harris, Alan Arkin and Del Close – name a few of the early ones. Subsequent casts consisted of a virtual who’s who in the world of comedy: https://www.secondcity.com/people/alumni/.
But when Second City opened its doors in Toronto in 1973, that’s when I finally saw what I wanted to do more than anything in the world.
The first Second City Show opened in Toronto in a small room on Adelaide Street. It had an amazing cast – Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Valri Bromield, Joe Flaherty, Brian Doyle Murray, Jayne Eastwood and Gerry Salsberg. Gilda, Jane and Jerry were all Toronto Godspell alumni and there was a strong connection between the Godspell casts and future Toronto Second City Companies. Since I had been in Godspell before my stint in advertising, I knew everybody in the Second City cast and looked for an opportunity to audition. I knew I’d have to quit my lucrative job in advertising but Second City was something I really wanted to do. But my hopes were dashed to the ground when the Adelaide Street show closed after a few months – primarily because Toronto’s very restrictive liquor laws prevented the Second City producers from getting a liquor license. And the Toronto cabaret theater audiences loved to drink.
Second City opened again in Toronto in 1974, this time at the Old Firehall on Lombard Street and this time with a liquor license.