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Second City Improv To Perform on Sunday

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When Second City improvisers ask for audience suggestions, there’s always the risk of a descent into the scabrous, with shout-outs like “hookers” or “toilets.”

“You can kind of steer them away from that,” Second City’s Michael Kosinski said in a telephone interview from Chicago. “Some of them are dirty, so you probably couldn’t print them. No one wants to see a show where everything is dirty. People think they do, but they really don’t. You can ask for a location that isn’t the bathroom at Starbucks.”

Kosinski is part of the Second City National Touring Company’s “Laugh Out Loud” show that will perform in the Railyard at 7:30 p.m. Sunday as part of the Santa Fe Winter Fiesta. The troupe that incubated stars such as Tina Fey, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert and a firmament of comedic talent will bring improv sketch comedy from Chicago’s most famous theater.

If you go
WHAT: Second City’s “Laugh Out Loud Tour”
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Farmer’s Market Pavilion in the Railyard
COST: $30/general; $20/with Winter Fiesta pass
CONTACT: 988-1234 or www.ticketssantafe.org

The Santa Fe show will encompass a collaged version of 52 years of the company’s best sketches and songs with improvisation. Second City’s cutting-edge satiric revues contain both scripted and improvisational parts, with the audiences lured in as part of the show. Some sketches come ripped from the morning’s headlines; others are classics mined from the half-century vault. Their comedy skewers subjects such as health care, politics and relationships, serving them ripe enough for everyone to relate to, Kosinski said.

“They’re all kind of mixed together,” he said. “It’s sort of like a hybrid between ‘SNL’ and ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ You never really know what’s going to happen. It’s like laughing with your friends when you have an inside joke.”

Kosinksi turned to comedy after majoring in biology at Lake Forest College near Chicago. Amazingly, his parents didn’t panic when he veered from his original course of going to medical school.

“They actually were very supportive,” he said with a laugh. “My parents worked very hard (even though they) didn’t love their jobs, because they had a family. I think they love that I’m doing something I really enjoy. Plus, I’ve never had to ask them for money.”

Kosinski discovered Second City during a freshman field trip to Chicago. Soon, he was signing up for training courses there and at other theaters across the city.

“To me, there’s no better feeling than being able to make someone laugh,” he said. “I was like, ‘This is what they do for a job!’ ”

Soon, he was crossing the ocean with the Second City aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines and touring with its national program.

“Improv is sort of like an addiction,” he explained. “You have that great show where the audience is really into it. So you’re constantly chasing toward that high.”

Second City opened its doors on a snowy Chicago night in 1959. With its roots in the improvisational games of Viola Spolin, the group developed a unique way of creating and performing comedy. Spolin created directional techniques to help actors be focused in the present moment and to find choices improvisationally. Her contributions were seminal to the development of the improvisational theater movement in the U.S.

At a time when mother-in-law jokes were the norm, Second City railed against a conformist culture with satire that spoke to a younger generation. The Broadway success of Mike Nichols and Elaine May, members of the troupe’s Compass Players predecessor, focused attention on the fledgling company.

Soon, alumni such as Alan Arkin, Barbara Harris, Robert Klein, David Steinberg and Fred Willard cemented the theater’s reputation. The troupe spawned the original “Saturday Night Live” cast and continues to serve as the training ground for some of the finest comedic talent in the nation.

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