This Day in Death

6.16.13: Second City Co-Founder Bernie Sahlins – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 8:26 pm July 1, 2013

BERNARD_SAHLINSSahlins poses with lighthearted 70s comedy troupe Zanytown, whose playful skewering of societal norms inadvertently resulted in the wrongful imprisonment of more than 400 legal immigrants. It’s a pretty funny story, I’ll tell you guys about it another time.

 

Over its 54-year history Chicago’s Second City theater has given birth to countless brilliant and talented comedic legends, as well as Rachel Dratch. It’s become a comedy lynchpin, like pushing a diabetic down a staircase. It’s just something all us comedy folk go through at some point. Sadly, Bernie Sahlins, co-founder of the theater, died last month of pancreatic cancer. You know, they say the best humor comes from real life, so if cancer gets your sides all asplittin’, congratulations: You’re not actually a cruel human being with no sense of empathy, you’re a cruel comedy visionary with no sense of empathy.

“This was still the Beat generation, and we started out to found a coffee house where we idlers, including the actors whom we had with for years, could loll around and put the world in its proper place.”

But The Second City caught on within months of opening, despite some early money problems and other issues, and it became instrumental in the growth and development of improvisational and sketch comedy.

“Improv.” We in the industry just call it “improv,” as we don’t have time for a bunch of extra syllables nobody’s gonna read anyway. Improv combines the visual thrill of watching people knock on doors that aren’t there with the narrative cohesion of just flat-out making shit up on the spot. It’s like watching a five-year old trying to get out of trouble for knocking over a houseplant. I mean, sure, I don’t preplan anything around here either, but that’s because of good old sturdy, tried and true American laziness, not some kind of postmodern experimental fartsniffing. Way too heady, if you ask me. What was the problem with slurs against the Irish and a simple spinning bowtie? That was comedy everyone could get behind. Except the Irish, I guess.


Source: Variety

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