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A brief history of the Second City

A timeline of Chicago's temple of satire reveals plenty of highs and lows.

1/10
Paul Sills, son of improv pioneer Viola Spolin, and producer David Shepherd found Second City precursor Compass Players in Hyde Park, delighting chain-smoking U. of C. intellectuals.
2/10
Joan Rivers joins the cast with original face.
3/10
A cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger-eating Albanian-American named John Belushi makes his Second City debut.
4/10
Bill Murray joins the company.
5/10
SNL, featuring alumni Belushi, Gilda Radner and Dan Aykroyd, debuts and convinces generations of young comics that Second City will make them famous.
6/10
SCTV debuts in the U.S. and launches the careers of alumni John Candy, Rick Moranis, Andrea Martin and Catherine O�Hara, among others.
7/10
Mike Myers makes his debut at Second City Toronto. Yeah, baby, yeah!
8/10
Del Close returns (again) to direct The Gods Must Be Lazy featuring newcomers Chris Farley and Tim Meadows.
9/10
Stephen Colbert joins the Mainstage
10/10
Barack Obama visits Between Barack and a Hard Place

1955
Paul Sills, son of improv pioneer Viola Spolin, and producer David Shepherd found Second City precursor Compass Players in Hyde Park, delighting chain-smoking U. of C. intellectuals.

1958
Compass Players folds.

December 16, 1959
The Second City opens at 1842 N Wells St; its name references a snide article written about Chicago in the New Yorker.

1961
Del Close joins the Second City, beginning a 30-year tenure as resident guru to improvisers (and wanna-bes).

September 1961
Joan Rivers joins the cast with original face.

August 1967
The Second City moves to its current location at 1616 N Wells St, edging two blocks closer to its South Side roots.

1968
The 28th revue, A Plague on Both Your Houses, runs the night of the Democratic Convention. Only one event incites a riot.

1968
Rioter Abbie Hoffman hangs out at and performs onstage at Second City during his Chicago Conspiracy trial.

1971
A cheezborger, cheezborger, cheezborger-eating Albanian-American named John Belushi makes his Second City debut.

1973
The Second City Toronto opens, finally offering something fun to do in Canada.

1973
Bill Murray joins the company.

1974
Using Canadian money, entrepreneur Andrew Alexander purchases the financially ailing Second City Toronto.

1975
The Second City opens a theater in Pasadena, but it can’t take the heat. It closes after nine months.

October 11, 1975
SNL, featuring alumni Belushi, Gilda Radner and Dan Aykroyd, debuts and convinces generations of young comics that Second City will make them famous.

1977
SCTV debuts in the U.S. and launches the careers of alumni John Candy, Rick Moranis, Andrea Martin and Catherine O’Hara, among others.

1978
Tim Kazurinsky joins the Mainstage.

1980
The Second City opens in Edmonton, Alberta.

1982
After receiving a chilly reception, Second City Edmonton closes.

September 1982
The Second City e.t.c. opens, giving Chicagoans a place to go while tourists visit the Mainstage.

March 1985
Longtime SC owner and cofounder Bernie Sahlins sells the theater to Andrew Alexander and Len Stuart.

1986
Mike Myers makes his debut at Second City Toronto. Yeah, baby, yeah!

1987
The Second City Northwest opens in Rolling Meadows, saving suburbanites 40 cents each way in tolls.

1989
Unaccustomed to scenework involving real people with normal-size breasts, the Second City Santa Monica opens but soon fails.

1989
Del Close returns (again) to direct The Gods Must Be Lazy featuring newcomers Chris Farley and Tim Meadows.

1993
Stephen Colbert joins the Mainstage and introduces truthiness in comedy.

1993
The Second City Detroit opens and widens the bench of African-American improvisers.

1993
Nia Vardalos joins the e.t.c.

June 1995
Second City shatters format (the first long-form show, no blackouts) with the cult-classic Piñata Full of Bees—which underperformed at the box office.

1996
Mick Napier directs Citizen Gates with one of the first gender-equal cast in Second City history. Dudes feel the sting.

1996
The Second City Northwest becomes a Motorola cafeteria.

March 4, 1999
Tired of “always being the funniest person in the room,” Del Close dies.

November 2001
The acclaimed Holy War, Batman!, addressing the events of September 11, opens at the e.t.c.

December 7, 2007
Presidential hopeful Barack Obama is impressed by Between Barack and a Hard Place (but still more impressed with himself).

2008
Second City Detroit closes.

December 2009
The Second City celebrates its 50th anniversary with a weekend of panel discussions, screenings, reunion shows and—oh, who cares, celebrities will be there!

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