By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J.
There’s a fellowship for young aspiring artists created to honor Bob Curry. Curry was the first Black member of The Second City, whose members also include the great John Belushi—who along with Dan Aykroyd, another member, made the joyous film set in and about Chicago, “The Blues Brothers.” Curry joined The Second City in 1966 and passed away in 1994 at the age of 51.
His membership in the club was trailblazing in that he was welcomed into a sea of creatives who looked nothing like him but who knew that Curry had skills that added to an already productive company.
In 2014, Second City launched the Bob Curry Fellowship program to honor Curry’s contributions and encourage diverse voices to pursue careers in comedy at Second City and beyond.
This is just one offshoot of this groundbreaking comedy incubator that began 60 years ago in 1959. Press materials state: “The Second City has transformed the state of comedy as we know it, creating a wickedly funny culture of improvisation and training thousands of artists—who now dominate popular entertainment—in the art of improv-based theater.”
A coffee table book from Evanston-based Agate Publishing titled “The Second City: The Essentially Accurate History” is a newly revised and expanded edition of “The Second City.” The book tells the story of the legendary comedy institution and the Emmy-winning sketch comedy classic SCTV, folding new material and commentary in with tales of The Second City’s storied past.
The giants who got their start at The Second City in its earlier years—including Alan Arkin, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, John Candy, Chris Farley, Eugene Levy, Tim Meadows, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Joan Rivers, among others, are joined on these pages by more recent alumni like Aidy Bryant, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Keegan-Michael Key and others.
This book is lush with interesting history, along with iconic photos, of what I view as a training ground for many comedians who went on to be hired as cast members when NBC’s Saturday Night Live first premiered.
“The Second City: The Essentially Accurate History” takes you behind the scenes of the world’s leading improv theater. Now spanning six decades, the story of The Second City is both funnier and more poignant than anyone could have imagined.
The Second City began as a pioneering improvisational theater in Chicago in 1959. It has grown into one of the world’s largest and most influential entertainment institutions, with theaters and Training Centers in Chicago, Toronto, and Hollywood. The comedy club is located at 1616 N. Wells St. in Chicago’s Old Town area and offers a rotating lineup of performances.
For information about the book, written by Sheldon Patinkin and Liz Kozak, visit https://www.secondcity.com/book. For information about performances at The Second City that include “Deck the Hallmark” and “Grinning from Fear to Fear,” visit secondcity.com.