If you live in Chicago, chances are you’ve been on too many awkward first dates at The Second City.

Known as the first ever on-going improvisational theater troupe in the United States, The Second City chose its self-mocking name from the title of an article about Chicago by A. J. Liebling that appeared in The New Yorker in 1952.

Improvisation, or improv, is a form of live theatre in which the plot, characters and dialogue of a game, scene or story are made up in the moment. Often improvisers will take a suggestion from the audience, or draw on some other source of inspiration to get started.

Most comics follow a set of rules when performing improv. Del Close gives his Eleven Commandments below:

1. You are all supporting actors.

2. Always check your impulses.

3. Never enter a scene unless you are NEEDED.

4. Save your fellow actor, don’t worry about the piece.

5. Your prime responsibility is to support.

6. Work at the top of your brains at all times.

7. Never underestimate or condescend to your audience.

8. No jokes (unless it is tipped in front that it is a joke.)

9. Trust… trust your fellow actors to support you; trust them to come through if you lay something heavy on them; trust yourself.

10. Avoid judging what is going down except in terms of whether it needs help (either by entering or cutting), what can best follow, or how you can support it imaginatively if your support is called for.


12. Improv is a very difficult style of comedy — just ask Liam Neeson

Informal, on-the-spot humor is not for the faint of heart – which is why this list of notable alumni from Chicago’s Second City is unexpectedly astonishing.

We’ve ranked the 26 most notable alumni of The Second City. The order of this list has no mathematical scale or reason, and is merely based off of our staff’s extremely shitty sense of humor.


1 2 3 4 5 6