One could say that without The Second City, a lot of our current pop culture wouldn’t exist today. There would be no such thing as Austin Powers, no Ghostbusters and certainly no cries about “living in a van down by the river.”
Based in Chicago, this legendary comedy troupe has jumpstarted the careers of many favorite comedians, including Mike Meyers, Bill Murray and Chris Farley. With their successful tour visiting Madison this Saturday at the Overture Center for the Arts, The Badger Herald recently spoke to one of the cast members, Joey Bland, who let us know what to expect from the show.
“Expect a variety,” said Bland. “We’re known for two things primarily: sketch comedy, and we’re also known for improvisations. … There’s a lot of music in our show, there’s dancing — anything you can imagine seeing theatrically somehow pops up in our show somewhere.”
The show also boasts a wide selection of topics and sketch styles as well, said Bland.
“Any subject that you could imagine is going to be potentially covered in our show: politics, sex, religion. Anything. Sometimes we come close to the line of taste, so to speak.”
Yet he also noted how the show fluctuates to accommodate current cultural events.
“Because it’s obviously a political time now, we make an effort to have some politics in there.”
This political commentary also has something to do with Second City’s reputation as the “Temple of Satire.”
“Somewhere along the line that name got hooked to Second City, and Second City really welcomed it,” said Bland. “We do satire, so we’re able to kind of make fun of anything. But the show that we currently have running is pretty much a free-for-all.”
With such a long history behind Second City — according to Bland, it’s been around for 50 years — there must be something special about the show that has made it thrive for so long. Bland explained, “I think our show, more than other stage shows, is an event. There’s some interplay between us and the audience, the audience helps craft some of what’s on stage with the improvisation, and I think it’s a cool evening.”
When asked if there is any pressure working for the institution which has produced so many celebrities, Bland responded with a confident “no.” “It’s really just an excitement about it,” Bland said. “It’s fun to walk around the building at Second City and say ‘Oh yeah, any number of people, like, you name them, potentially rehearsed in this room.’ So, no pressure, but it’s certainly part of the excitement of being in that building.”
But despite Second City’s history, the cast doesn’t try to emulate the group’s famous alumni.
“Second City does a really good job of encouraging you to find your own voice. I think people think ‘Oh, there’s another Chris Farley.’ I think Second City does a good job of helping Chris Farley find who Chris Farley is and get that voice across. That’s part of the point. It’s fun to have six actors on stage who all have a different, unique point of view from each other than anyone who has come through the building before.”
Joey Bland and the other cast members of the Second City troupe will be appearing at the Overture Center for the Arts this Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the ticket office or online at Overturecenter.com.