Scene from a class at Second City's Training Center
Are we funny yet? Students improv-ing their hearts out in a recent class at Second City’s popular Training Center.


This one’s for the aspiring Bill Murrays and Tina Feys among us.

COMEDY "I don’t feel that nervous until the theatre starts to fill up . . . and then I start to panic," said my friend, who wrote two of the sketches in "Wait, It Gets Better," a show that recently played at Donny’s Skybox Theater, one of the venues for Second City’s Training Center. I saw the show a couple Fridays ago, and, watching him greet friends in the ticket line, I felt his pain. But, then again, I get nervous posting a status update on Facebook.

You have to admire these comedic hopefuls (students of the program who have completed their coursework, earning them the chance to see their work produced on stage) for baring their ideas—a super-expensive garage sale, a funeral for a guy who choked on a meatball, a spoof of Glee—in front of a packed audience. It’s not easy being judged by office acquaintances and people who really wanted mainstage tickets.

Anxiety levels were considerably lower 12 hours later at the Saturday-morning performance by my four-year-old’s ImaginAction class, also part of the training program. "But I want to go to Starbucks," he whined as I coached him on the importance of making eye contact with all the members of the audience—not just Daddy—during his performance. "But I want a scoooone!!!!!!"

Just as the theatre had been the previous evening, the kids’ training room was packed—this time with a friendly crowd balancing lattes and video cams. It was amazing. Not a single sketch flopped. No joke went flat. Ten runts running around like freaks—and they all killed.

On our way out, we passed some adults sitting around a table in the training center’s lobby area, most likely students waiting to take their own acting or sketch-writing classes. "Writing is f—ing hard," one of them said.

It’s so unfair, I thought to myself. We grow up, lose our magical ability to make people fall all over us just because we are so damn cute, and then in our 20s, 30s, 40s, or older—perhaps after being laid off from a job or simply because we finally just have to scratch that itch—some of us bravely put ourselves on the line in hopes of making a room full of strangers laugh. Seeing how grueling it can be, I appreciated the previous evening’s performance a little more. And felt a little sad that eventually my kid, too, would understand the sting of other people’s judgment.

Then it was off to Starbucks for that scone.

GO: Check out a student-produced show at Donny’s Skybox Theater or sign up for one of Second City’s many Training Center classes. 

Photographs: Bob Knuth; (thumbnail) Courtesy The Second City