What do Bill Murray, Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert have in common?
They got their start at the nation’s original improv theater group, Second City. No comedy joint in the world has produced so many superstars over the years, and to celebrate that legacy and its 55th anniversary, one of Second City’s many troupes is bringing the laughs to the Acadiana Center for the Arts on Tuesday night.
Fifty-five years in the comedy biz means that current Second City member Adam Schreck and his five fellow troupe members have a lot of great material to draw from for this “greatest hits” show.
“The 55th Anniversary Tour is heavily influenced by our history, so you’ll see some older scenes that maybe we don’t do as much anymore. In this show in particular there’s a scene from the second Second City show ever… we want to show where we came from and how far we’ve come in these 55 years,” Schreck said.
Schreck’s career path was decided for him by a chance encounter with a traveling Second City group, which opened his eyes to improv and live comedy.
“I saw them for the first time at like 19, and just thought it was the most amazing show I’d ever seen in my entire life. I couldn’t get over how funny it was. It felt like magic watching it, because at that point the only improv that I’d seen was on ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’”
Schreck explained that Second City shows usually feature a less frenetic pace than audiences might be used to from sketch comedy on TV, like “Saturday Night Live” or “MADtv.”
“Second City’s scenes tend to be a little slower, a little more patient. A bit closer to real life in terms of how we play characters and things like that…but sometimes we do these little blackout pieces that are only 20 seconds long and it’s one joke and then you’re out.”
A slightly slower, more organic pace doesn’t mean less variety, however. In fact, one of Schreck’s favorite things about the show is that it lets him stretch his legs, literally and figuratively.
“I’ll be playing a number of characters, some close to myself, some wildly different. I’ll be doing a fair amount of singing in the show. And we’ll all be doing a little bit of dancing. So it’s a fun show, and I’m pleased with what I get to do and that I get to have a fairly well-rounded plate of acting.”
Part of the fun of a live comedy show starring half a dozen performers with a mania for improv is that they’re not afraid to get the audience involved and see where the night takes them.
“It’s interactive at times, if you’re an audience member. Not to scare anyone away, but if you sit close to the front there’s an opportunity for you to be involved in the show… there’s an interactive feel to a Second City show. You’re in on the fun with us.”
Schreck knows that while everyone loves comedy, not everyone knows how “the funny sausage” is made, or that live shows like these are where tomorrow’s stars prove themselves today.
“Whether or not you’ve ever heard of Second City, I’m sure you’ve heard of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Bill Murray, John Candy and John Belushi and the list goes on and on and on… if you like any of these people, this is where they got their start… it’s where they got to create their voice and find out who they were as performers.”
“It is a daunting thing to think about. It’s something that I try and be very grateful for and never forget that however far I get within my Second City career that I’m part of an institution where those names have come from, and that it’s been a dream of mine to work here for a very long time.”