Famed comedy institution Second City has been going for over half a century on the other side of the Atlantic. Now, the enterprise that boasts Tina Fey, Bill Murray, Amy Poelher, Will Ferrell and Mike Myers among its former students, will debut in London this May.
With learning, mentoring and improv at its heart, Second City has found the perfect home for its fortnight-long stay here at the Angel Comedy Club in Islington. In fact, just yesterday the club picked-up a Chortle award for best small venue.
Comedian Barry Ferns runs the place and both he and Sara Shulman, the creator of Comedy Blogedy, have been instrumental in bringing Second City to London for the first time. Speaking to Londonist, Ferns explained Second City's importance to the comedy scene:
"There are so many brilliant comedians who don't get the stage-time or the kind of support they deserve... The ethos of both Angel Comedy and Comedy Blogedy is to support and nurture new acts — and Second City has a similar ethos, with a lineage of over 50 years and an emphasis on mentoring and training."
An important part of the reason for Second City's success is that it builds learning around improvisation. As Ferns explains, "Improv is about learning through taking risks. This is what we do at Angel. Any comedian will tell you to challenge yourself to learn — you can't rest on your laurels."
In the past, when British comedians have wanted to sample Second City, they've had to travel to either Chicago or Toronto. Not that this has stopped some: Luisa Omielan made the long trip Stateside to study both clowning and improv. Naturally, it's easier for home comedians to make the trip to Camden Passage than across the pond.
Ferns adds, "The top Second City alumni are flying in, all of whom have all graduated and know the programme inside out."
"It's open to everyone. We have different levels of courses so everyone can take part, whether you're a complete beginner or part of a TV show. Though it'll only run at the start of May we'll be finding out how it's received and, like improv at the Angel, we'll go with what works."