Comedy institution The Second City is going up for sale, according to a report by Variety, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take a damaging toll on performing arts in Chicago and around the world.
The iconic Second City stays closed during the “stay at home” order amid the COVID-19 pandemic on April 21, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois.
Variety reports that this is only the second time in The Second City’s 60-year history that the company has gone up for sale.
The originally Chicago- and Toronto-based improv theater was an early training ground for “Saturday Night Live” players including John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner and Chris Redd, among other comedy stars such as Keegan Michael-Key, as well as the company-produced “SCTV” TV series in the 1970s and ’80s.
The Second City’s offerings have grown over the years to include online classes, a collaboration with Columbia College Chicago, a collaboration with The Onion and the creation of the Harold Ramis Film School, which the company calls “the world’s only film school dedicated to comedy.” That’s not to mention a full rotation of performances that are now on hiatus in Chicago and LA during the pandemic.
All Chicago performances were suspended beginning in March.
Earlier this year, claims of racism were leveled at The Second City, and in June, the theater’s CEO and co-owner stepped down.
In a lengthy letter posted on the company’s website, Andrew Alexander said in June he “failed to create an anti-racist environment wherein artists of color might thrive. I am so deeply and inexpressibly sorry.”
His announcement followed online criticism from Second City alumnus Dewayne Perkins, an actor, comedian and writer (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), who said the company had refused to hold a benefit show for Black Lives Matter unless half of the proceeds also went to the Chicago Police Department, and it also created obstacles for performers of color.
A Second City statement in June laid out steps the company planned to take regarding the hiring and training of artists of color, along with diversifying its theater audiences and making donations to fight oppression and support black-owned businesses and schools.