The world’s most influential comedy troupe is coming to Traverse City. The Second City blends topicality and timelessness in its satirical presentations and improvisations. MyNorth’s entertainment writer Ross Boissoneau introduces us to the troupe, which has alumni such as John Belushi and Bill Murray. Come laugh with America’s favorite second city at Hooking Up with the Second City” on Saturday, January 9. 


The Second City comedy troupe 

How It Got Its Start

Though it really came to fame with in the 70s as alumni such as Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, John Belushi and Bill Murray became mainstays of Saturday Night Live, The Second City actually dates back to 1959. It was founded as an improvisational theater by performers from the Compass Players, a group of writers and cabaret performers in Chicago. Early performers included Alan Arkin, Ed Asner, Valerie Harper, and Alan Alda. It skewed toward commentary on societal norms of the time as well as satirizing political figures and events.

In 1961, it sent a troupe to Broadway, which earned ensemble member Severn Darden a Tony Award nomination. That year it also released its first comedy album.

Over the years it spawned a second troupe in Toronto, which generated the television program SCTV, a sketch comedy show seen on Canadian and American networks from 1976 through 1984.


Sketch comedy, improv comedy

Influences and Inspirations

Viola Spolin, mother of Second City founder Paul Sills, created directorial and improvisational approaches for theater actors. Sills and co-founders Bernard Sahlins and Howard Alk used her “Theater Games” techniques to foster creativity and satirize pop culture.

Additional Background

Over the years, the Second City has generated a huge list of comic alums, such as Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Rick Moranis, Martin Short, and Andrea Martin.

It now also offers classes and its own YouTube channel.

In addition to the shows in Chicago and Toronto, there is now both a Second City touring troupe and one based in Hollywood. This touring show is entitled “Hooking Up with the Second City.” As you might guess, it’s all about the adventures and entanglements of love and romance, from missed connections to girls’ night out.


The West Coast premiere of “The Art of Falling” brought some uproarious sketch-comedy supplemented and occasionally eclipsed by first-rate contemporary dance. This collaboration by two major Chicago performing ensembles left the fearless Second City satirists in command and the versatile Hubbard Street dancers providing a witty movement complement.” – Los Angeles Times

The single most requested class we have is presentation skills and storytelling because it’s the one that invokes the most fear and loathing.” – Second City exec Tom Yorton on the reaction to his offering improv techniques to businesses


Milliken Auditorium at the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City

Date & Time

Saturday, January 9 at 8 p.m.

Ticket Information

$35 in advance, $40 at the door, $30 for museum members

For More

Purchase tickets to the Traverse City event 

Hooking Up With The Second City


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Photo(s) by Todd Rosenberg