When visiting Chicago this August, there were endless sights to be seen. But for a momentary escape, Exec Digital ventured outside of the bustling streets of Michigan Avenue into Chicago’s Old Town district, where boutique shops and the occasional underground Irish pub caught our eye. It was there that we had the privilege of viewing one of two shows performing at the legendary Second City stage – South Side of Heaven.
An improv novice, The Second City was attractive for reasons beyond its comedic laurels – as today’s comedy legends like Tina Fey, Bonnie Hunt, Jim and John Belushi are among hundreds of famous alum. The small theater seemed to be your run-of-the-mill comedy stage, as rickety floorboards gave away any movement and young wait staff whipped through a mangled seating arrangement to hand out bottles of beer and greasy grub. The legend isn’t in the theater’s tangled design but what appears on stage – and in South Side of Heaven, written and performed by Edgar Blackmon, Holly Laurent, Timothy Edward Mason, Katie Rich, Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson, actors paid little attention to the guests’ constant murmur and stuck to a professional routine.
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Though slightly formal – I continued to question why all the actors were wearing suits – each inventive skit was light-hearted (with a few political slanders), relative and generally got a good giggle out of the audience. As typical for most improv houses, the real show was during the final hour when special guests and alumni – in my case, Jason Sudeikis of “Horrible Bosses” and SNL writer Michael Patrick O’Brien – took the stage for the real comedy hour. The skits were entirely on-the-spot and shook the audience to its core. As one instance, the Second City’s main stage cast took to viewing an imaginary neighbor who had caught on fire, and as the cast reveled in his failure to “stop, drop and roll,” Sudeikis wittingly cut the scene by heralding “And this was the first Burning Man!” Needless to say, the crowd erupted.
The Second City is legendary, and deservingly so. For tourists of Chicago, it’s a getaway that entices new discoveries well beyond the laughter found at Second City’s main stages. It’s my guess few take the plunge outside of Michigan Avenue’s typical tourist traps, but if you’ve got the time, this hub of character is well worth an outing.