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Comedy troupe celebrates

BY SARAH LARSON | FEBRUARY 04, 2010 7:30 AM

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Mötley Crüe seem tame? For Second City comedian Ross Bryant, it’s true.

“Think of the most deranged, indicative thing that Mötley Crüe did on the road and double it,” Bryant said. “That’s what we did.”

When the actors aren’t outdoing Crüe’s rock-star road antics, they perform sketches created through improvisation and other written pieces that begin as audience suggestions. Second City is a legendary comedy theater now celebrating its 50th anniversary. One of its touring ensembles will perform at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday in the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St. Admission ranges from $22 to $27.

Second City has two theaters in Chicago and Toronto, three training centers, and 11 touring ensembles.

Bryant, 28, auditioned for Second City twice before being hired. Performing in the comedy group for three years, he described his experience as a positive one.

“They throw you right in, and you do a lot of learning on the fly,” he said. “But luckily, [all the actors] you are surrounded by are super-talented people and really supportive people also. It’s pretty great to be in awe of everyone that you perform with on a day-to-day basis.”

Besides working with talented performers, Bryant noted the impressive list of Second City alumni, including Steve Carell, John Belushi, and Tiny Fey. “Ridiculous” is the way he described it.

To celebrate its longevity, the troupe will perform a 50th-anniversary show. The performance includes sketches dating back to the 60s, brand-new scenes, and improvisation.

“It’s a good retrospective of what Second City is all about,” Bryant said. “And even though some of the scenes are 30 to 45 years old, it’s still a sensibility that’s contemporary and should satisfy any kind of audience.”

He found a knack for improv at Appalachian State University, in Boone, N.C., performing a show similar to “Whose Line Is It Anyway.” After graduation, he moved to Chicago. He has learned a great deal during his time at Second City, he said, and he has a deep fondness for the troupe teachings.

“This place is such a great performance experience and a great learning experience,” Bryant said. “I feel like it makes you such a better performer and such a better comedian.”

Englert CEO Sean Fredericks has high expectations for the show.

“I get inspired by the level of talent that’s on the stage — their ability to be so quick-witted, smart, and unafraid to fail,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Daily Iowan. “This year’s show should be particularly funny because they’re taking a look back at 50 years of classic Second City comedy sketches, first dreamed up by people who have gone on to become comedy legends.”

Bryant said he is also excited about the show.

“I think it’s a great way to take a look at what Second City has been all about for the last 50 years and where it’s going in the future,” he said. “When you get right down to it, it’s just a really funny show that I think anybody would enjoy.”


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