Arts & Culture » Book Review

Fall Books SpecialThe Second City Unscripted: Revolution and Revelation at the World-Famous Comedy Theater

Mike Thomas | Villard



The history of Second City has been ably chronicled over the years in books by Jeffrey Sweet, Sheldon Patinkin, and others. But given the comedy club's continued importance—not to mention its 50th anniversary coming up in December—an update was merited. Correctly identifying "a symbiotic actor-audience relationship and ensemble-based satire created through improvisation" as hallmarks of the Second City style, this new tome by Chicago Sun-Times writer Mike Thomas explores the social context, artistic innovation, professional pressures, and personal friendships and feuds that shaped America's premier satirical cabaret. Thomas quick-cuts among candid interviews with a long list of Second City people past and present, including luminaries like Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Alan Arkin, Steve Carell, Harold Ramis, Martin Short, Jeff Garlin, and cofounder Bernie Sahlins. This is both an entertaining read and an essential addition to the literature of Chicago theater history. —Albert Williams


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