THE SECOND CITY: A Backstage History of Comedy's Hottest Troupe by Donna McCrohan

THE SECOND CITY: A Backstage History of Comedy's Hottest Troupe

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A ragged compendium of oral history, rÉsumÉs, encapsulated skits, and bombastic tributes to Second City, which, despite all its artistic failures, manages to collect an irresistible group of entertainers and anecdotes. From humble beginnings as a garage improv club to current success with a network of theaters, roadshows, TV, and star ""graduates,"" the Second City has maintained an unusual intellectual vigor. The roster speaks for itself: Mike Nichols, Elaine May, Shelley Berman, Alan Arkin, David Steinberg, Joan Rivers, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Catherine O'Hara, John Candy, Marty Short, Shelley Long, and a host of others. This is the comedy pantheon, and it is generally fascinating to listen to those of their observations included here about cast chemistry, the uses of improvisation, the balance of gags and character, etc. There are plenty of good stories, but one can almost see the index cards in the prose. McCrohan offers a rough chronology, but no real development. In between the quotes and anecdotes are hard-boiled staccato observations on the co-evolution of comedy and social mores. Philosophizing about comedy and translating it to the page are admittedly difficult tasks, but they are herein taken up with little verve and less humor. The main problem is the overwrought praise, whether to the glories of ensemble acting, this withering satire, or that inventive mind; of Second City's first record album, McCrohan writes: ""Age has not staled, nor custom withered, its infinite impiety."" A poorly crafted volume, elevated to respectability by an unsinkable supporting cast.

Pub Date: Aug. 4th, 1987
Publisher: Putnam