The Man Behind Improv

The names are familiar, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Shelly Long, Mike Myers. Saturday Night Live, that great NY phenomenon got much of its best talent from Chicago–especially from The Second City. Long before the rise and fall of comedy clubs there was this improv club in Chicago. By the time I started going and seeing and laughing with Belushi, Murray and Long in the 1970s it had been a Chicago institution for almost 20 years. Thanks to Paul Sills. Paul was a co-founder of The Second City. He was the man behind the curtain and the wind beneath the wings of dozens of comic players who later went on to far bigger and better things.

His was not a familiar name to me when I read about his death a couple of days ago at age 80. Del Close, a performer and improv teacher was much better known. (There was a rumor that after his death a few years ago that Del’s skull was on stage in several local productions.) Yet none of this would have started without Paul Sills. Click on this list of Second City alumni. A large number of amazing talents trained on that stage.

I appreciate the quite people who are content to be the people behind the scenes that make things happen. In this case, an uncountable number of uproariously funny things.

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