Second City’s Andrew Alexander tells us his favorite prank and why he fired Mike Myers
Who: Andrew Alexander, CEO and co-owner, Second City
Where: Old Town
The take: More than 275,000 tickets sold in Chicago last year at $16-$28.
Locals/Tourists Ratio: 55/45 “It’s not a bad balance.”
Did you ever perform?: “The only time I ever tried that, I did an improv set with Dan Aykroyd, John Candy and Gilda Radner, and I was awful and I never did it again. It was horrible. I found my role way behind the camera.”
Chicago comedy scene: “I have to say that, particularly in the world of what we do, it’s the biggest and deepest in the world. In terms of improvisation and sketch comedy. I can’t think of a city that even comes close. Toronto has a bit of a standup scene but it doesn’t have the depth that we have in Chicago. You’ve got IO, you’ve got The Annoyance, you’ve got thousands of kids taking improvisational classes.”
Biggest problem? “We’re expanding at such a rapid rate, managing that expansion so we’re not getting ahead of ourselves. It’s becoming a really big company.”
Merchandise: “I’m not a big fan of swag. Frankly, I play it down. I don’t like it being that prominent. I’m just not a big fan of cups and T-shirts. We have them available, but we don’t really push it. I don’t like to see the lobby merched up.”
Best prank: “The one that I do the most, but I do it sparingly, is the fake heart attack when I’m in a board meeting with everybody. I’ll fall over on the floor and then see how fast they respond. And generally they don’t respond very quickly. Which means, you know, they don’t care. I’m not that important to them.”
Comedy right now: “Comedy seems to have, the last 5 or 6 years, a huge renaissance. It’s reminding me of the late seventies, early eighties where comedy was sort of like rock and roll. That energy seems to be coming back.”
What do you watch? The Office, 30 Rock, Shameless and Girls
Best discovery: “I’d love to say someone stood on the stage and I said, oh my god that’s a star. It just generally doesn’t work that way. When Mike Myers was 18, he finished high school, his mother grabbed his arm and took him down to our theater in Toronto and signed him up for classes. And he took classes and we put him into one of our touring companies. And he was not very good. And we fired him. And he went to London for a couple years and came back and was much improved and then we put him into one of our main stages in Toronto and then moved him to a mainstage in Chicago. So it’s a process. When you’re starting out you’re learning a craft. It’s not like somebody jumps out right away and that person is a star.”
Biggest bomb: “Chevy Chase, when he had his talk show. He had a talk show and you literally get under the bed and cringe. It just wasn’t his medium. It was a trainwreck.”
Read more about Chicago comedy here.