Second City to hit Englert


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Chicago’s Second City improv and sketch group has taught some of the world’s most successful comedians, including Chris Farley, Joan Rivers, Steve Carrell, and Stephen Colbert, to name a few—and will soon bring its latest crop of talent to Iowa City.

“Second City is a really great cornerstone of improvisational comedy,” said Jocelyn Coffman, the captain of the Iowa City improv troupe Paperback Rhinos. “They’re been around since before people started paying attention, and since then, they’ve really legitimized improv as both a source of entertainment and a craft to hone and master.”

Second City will perform the show “Second City Hits Home” at the Englert Theater, 221 E. Washington St., 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

“This is a show in which we get a lot of students as well as a lot of people who live around here,” said Englert Executive Director Andre Perry. “[It’s] not all the time are we able to cross those two cultures.”

Megan Gogerty, a lecturer in the University of Iowa Theater Department, said Second City’s origins are humble. They started in 1955 as a few University of Chicago “smarty pants” who wanted to make a social and political satire group they called the Compass Players.

“They had these scenarios they would enact, and to pad the show, they would take suggestions from the audience and improvise a play around that suggestion,” Gogerty said. “It turned out their improvisations were more popular than their plays.”

In addition to shows, the Second City offers classes and workshops on everything from improv and sketch comedy, to physical theater and directing.

Coffman took an intensive workshop from Second City taught by Kevin Reome, whose first big improv team featured Amy Poehler and Tina Fey.

“At my intensive, they retaught me foundational elements of improv: Always say yes, love your partner, how you can say yes but actually be saying no, and vice versa,” she said. “It was really interesting because my class was composed of not just fellow college improvisers but lawyers, aspiring politicians, people who’d never tried improv but wanted to take a leap of faith.”

The Paperback Rhinos won the Upper Midwest Regional of the College Improv Tournament in December 2014 for the fourth year running, and it will head to the national competition in Chicago — Second City’s home town — on March 13.

“Second City has definitely become the Harvard of improv,” said Paperback Rhinos member Benjamin Kasl. “It is very hard to find a performer these days who is not somehow connected to Second City or some form of improv.”

Second City
Where: Englert, 221 E. Washington
When: 8 p.m. Friday & Saturday 
Admission: $33.50 adult reserved seating
$28.50 student and senior reserved seating

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