The Second City, the famous Chicago-based improvisational comedy club, is bringing its touring company to the Midlands this week with a special show tailored for the area.
The Second City has established itself as a comedic powerhouse over the past 50 years, producing notable alumni including Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert, as well as current “Saturday Night Live” star Cecily Strong.
The troupe returns to Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College Friday. Second City performed a sold-out show there in 2013, and there are precious few tickets left for this week’s performance. In addition to the show, the cast members are offering improv comedy workshops for middle-school aged improvisers and a master class for adults.
“For our fifth season, we invited back a few audience favorites from previous seasons,” Executive Director Katie Fox said. “What I loved about Second City was the diversity of audience it brought in. There were people of all ages and from all parts of the city laughing and having a good time together.”
This time around, the “Hits Home” show will emphasize jokes about South Carolina and the Columbia area.
“They send us a survey to fill out in advance to help them learn about the Midlands region,” Fox said. “We pointed them in the right direction of stuff to look at – things in the news, or people who are from our area. Then they do their own research and figure out how to fit it into the structure of some of their different sketches.”
Before the show, we spoke with Second City performer Emily Fightmaster about what to expect from these improv masters.
Q: How long have you been with Second City and why did you join?
Fightmaster: I’ve been with Second City for three years, including training. If you’re interested in doing comedy, Second City is where you go.
Q: When did you know that you were funny?
Fightmaster: I think I knew I was funny when I was the captain of all my sports teams even though I was never the best. I was always in this position of rallying the troops and boosting morale. I guess bringing people together through laughter became something that made me feel whole.
Q: What can you tell me about the show for Columbia, which I understand is tailored for us here?
Fightmaster: This show is a mix of improv and things specific to South Carolina. We always do our best to learn facts about the city we’re in and its vibe.
Q: How much of the show is improv vs. prepared skits?
Fightmaster: It’s different for every show, but I’d say twenty five to thirty percent is improv with other material being set. But even set material has improv within it. Sketch is very rewarding and a lot of fun, but the element of surprise in an improv scene is unlike any other facet of our work.
Training for improv is doing as much improv as you can. And failing a lot. After you’ve failed a good amount, you learn to trust yourself and know what’s going to work.
Q: Second City has produced a lot of stars, including some famous female comedians like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Do you have a Second City role model or a comedian that you particularly admire?
Fightmaster: There are so many, it’s hard to say. Sue Gillan. She is an amazing writer and an amazing actor and what is unparalleled is her energy on stage. She is so dynamic and the way she teaches younger actors to let things roll of your shoulders is a teaching moment we don’t get a lot.
Q: What’s your favorite TV comedy show to watch?
Fightmaster: I really loved “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Another (non-comedy) one I love right now is “Stranger Things.” I’m not done with it yet, but I haven’t been so enamored with a show in a really long time.
If you go
The Second City Hits Home
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Second City is offering a workshop for middle schoolers and an advanced class for adults for $35. Both are at 6:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College, 7300 College St., Irmo