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The Second City: Backstage at the World's Greatest Comedy Theater (book with 2 audio CDs)

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9781570715617: The Second City: Backstage at the World's Greatest Comedy Theater (book with 2 audio CDs)
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"The entire recent tradition of American theatrical satire can be summed up in three words: The Second City."
--New York Times

Many of comedy's biggest stars cut their teeth at The Second City. Learn all of the backstage details--the laughs, loves, struggles, successes, fights and failures that have made Second City such a fertile ground for comedy over the years. And hear Second City's most outrageous and hilarious live performances on two audio CDs narrated by Robert Klein.

Hear:
--John Belushi try to bluff his way through an oral exam to avoid the draft
--Mike Myers as a Canadian border guard who "closes" Canada
--Bonnie Hunt singing "Up, Up And Away" as an annoying "on-hold" entertainer
--John Candy playing Dan Aykroyd's rebellious, hockey-hating son

And read about:
--Bill Murray demonstrating the proper way to deal with a heckler
--Alan Arkin's pre-Second City days as a troubadour with The Tarriers
--Where Gilda Radner first came up with "Emily Litella"
--How Second City alum Martin Short "discovered" Mike Myers

Since 1959, The Second City has been producing cutting-edge satire and wickedly funny improvisation, while keeping countless individuals of questionable character off the streets for a couple of hours each night. It has also trained thousands of young performers in the art of improv-based theater.

The Second City recounts the early years of the comedy troupe's biggest stars, including John Belushi, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Mike Myers, Gilda Radner, Alan Arkin, Joan Rivers, David Steinberg, Robert Klein, Chris Farley, Martin Short and John Candy, as well as some of today's hottest directors, like Harold Ramis (Analyze This), Mike Nichols (The Birdcage), Betty Thomas (Private Parts) and Bonnie Hunt (Return to Me).

Author Sheldon Patinkin, one of Second City’s founding fathers, tells the story of Second City like no else can--with rare photos, profiles and backstage stories you were never supposed to hear. The Second City is both funnier and more poignant than you could have imagined. The book includes two full-length audio CDs containing hilarious classic scenes like:
--"Football Comes to the University of Chicago" (with Alan Arkin and Severn Darden)
--"Brest Litovsk" (with John Belushi and Joe Flaherty)
--"Motivational Speaker" (with Chris Farley, Tim Meadows and Bob Odenkirk)

Plus new, never-before-heard material that will leave your sides aching.

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About the Author:

Beginning as a hundred-seat cabaret on Chicago's North Side, The Second City has grown into a comedy empire. It now boasts resident theatres in Chicago, Toronto, Detroit and Cleveland; five touring troupes that bring Second City comedy worldwide; a training center with enrollment of more than 2,500 students a year; Second City Communications, a division that brings comedy into the corporate sector; and film and television pursuits that have included the classic television series, SCTV.

Sheldon Patinkin has been part of The Second City family since the first seeds were planted at the University of Chicago in the early 1950s. He was a member of the Playwrights Theatre Club (a predecessor to Second City) and was one of Second City's first directors, getting handed the job when Paul Sills stormed out of the theater in 1963, saying, "See what you can do with them, Sheldon." He has remained a part of Second City in Chicago and Toronto as director, teacher, advisor and an associate producer for SCTV. He currently serves as Second City’s artistic consultant. Sheldon has been a theater director and teacher of improv in Chicago, Toronto and New York, as well as co-writing several screenplays and teleplays. He's even acted in a few commercials (for the money). Sheldon earned an M.A. in English literature from the University of Chicago before devoting himself to Second City full-time. He is now the chair of the Theater Department at Columbia College Chicago, the director of Steppenwolf Theatre’s summer workshops and the acting faculty of the Chicago Lyric Opera Center for American Artists.

Robert Klein is a native of the Bronx who earned a B.A. from Alfred University and went on to study drama at Yale. He debuted at The Second City in 1965 with a cast that included David Steinberg and Fred Willard. This led to roles on Broadway such as The Apple Tree and They're Playing Our Song (for which he earned a Tony nomination). He won an Obie for his performance in The Sisters Rosensweig. Robert achieved national recognition as a comedian, releasing four albums, two of which received Grammy nominations, and starring in seven HBO concert specials. He has acted in several films, including The Owl and the Pussycat, Hooper and Primary Colors, and appears regularly on such TV shows as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with David Letterman. He was a regular on the series Sisters and has guest starred on many sitcoms, including Mad About You and King of Queens. He has also hosted Saturday Night Live twice and starred in the original "Cheeseburger" sketch with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction by The Second City

"[Second City is] the comedy empire that has made North Americans laugh for forty years." --New York Times

On December 16, 1959, a 125-seat cabaret on the Near North Side of Chicago opened its doors for the first time. The space itself was nothing special. The theater was housed in a reconverted hat shop, with a former Chinese laundry storefront for a lobby next door. Eight performers--all young, all unknown--debuted a new form of theater. Using only a few small props and costumes, the cast presented comic and satiric scenes, blackouts, parodies, musical numbers, and on-the-spot improvisations. How could the cast have known that they would be creating the template for thousands of actors, comics, writers, and directors who would move from this simple stage to America's theaters, nightclubs, radio, television, and movies? They called themselves The Second City.

It only takes a sample list of Second City's alumni to recognize the tremendous influence this theater has had on the American entertainment industry: Alan Arkin, Dan Aykroyd, James Belushi, John Belushi, Peter Boyle, John Candy, Severn Darden, Rachel Dratch, Chris Farley, Aaron Freeman, Barbara Harris, Bonnie Hunt, Richard Kind, Robert Klein, Shelley Long, Andrea Martin, Tim Meadows, Bill Murray, Brian Doyle-Murray, Mike Myers, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine O'Hara, Gilda Radner, Harold Ramis, Joan Rivers, Paul Sand, Horatio Sanz, Avery Schreiber, Martin Short, David Steinberg, Ryan Stiles, Betty Thomas, Dave Thomas, George Wendt, and Fred Willard.

No other theatrical institution in the world can claim to have nurtured such an impressive number of successful and influential comic performers over such a long period of time. The Second City--the name taken from the title of a snotty New Yorker magazine piece about Chicago--is that rare place where commercial success has not meant the sacrifice of artistic integrity. Indeed, very few organizations can boast a foundation based on risk-taking, blind trust, and rebellion. At the heart of Second City lies improvisation. It is the root from which the talent is trained, the shows created, and the business conducted. The history of improvisation can be traced to The Second City and its predecessors, but Second City is improvising history itself--as generation after generation of Second City performer takes on the burden of making us laugh at ourselves.

The influence of The Second City, though celebrated by audiences in the millions and critics from all over the world, cannot be fully understood through sheer numbers. It is an influence that has permeated the skin of our culture. If you were collecting a list of the most significant films and television series in the last four decades, you would surely list The Graduate, Young Frankenstein, M*A*S*H, Saturday Night Live, SCTV, Animal House, Hill Street Blues, Ghostbusters, and Cheers. When you consider that each of these programs carries an important connection to The Second City, you understand the unique breadth of its influence upon not only the entertainment industry, but on North American culture in general.

The question may be, then, why The Second City? While there is no easy answer, the truth may lie in the unusual blending of highbrow and lowbrow culture that is developed by the theater. It would not be unusual, while attending a show at The Second City, to encounter references to Mike Ditka and Soren Kierkegaard--sometimes in the same breath. It is the marriage of these two types--a blue-collar, workingman icon and a figurehead of the intelligencia--that provides the most visceral example of this concept. The Second City has made its living on the unshakable belief that the audience is as smart as you let them be, that the actors need to work at the top of their intelligence, and that there is nobility in goofing off. How else does one explain how the audiences at The Second City have stayed the same age, even as the theater nears its middle years? The work speaks to the youth in each of us. It is laughter with bite and importance, and it reminds us how the value of that laughter becomes more vital with each passing year.

Over time, The Second City has become synonymous with a certain standard in comedy. Audiences, critics, and performers have all come to expect that The Second City will and must produce thoroughly funny work of the highest quality. While intimidating, it is a standard that inspires. It is not unusual for alumni of The Second City to look back on their years with the theater as the most fulfilling of their lives. This book provides a glimpse inside this thoroughly unique and original enterprise, where the line between business and family has been consistently blurred; and where life-long friendships have been formed; where the individual voice is celebrated, as is the sacrifice of the individual spotlight for the greater good of the ensemble; and where so many success stories were born. It is not just the story of The Second City--it is the story of American comedy in the last half of the twentieth century.

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