‘The Second City’ enters the Brooklyn comedy scene

Legendary improv institution announces plans for new Williamsburg establishment

October 6, 2022 Evan Rosen
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WILLIAMSBURG — It’s a momentous day for the comedians and improvisers of Brooklyn. The Second City is announcing the opening of a brand new entertainment complex in the borough’s hippest neighborhood. Up until now, the institution has operated exclusively out of headquarters in Chicago and Toronto, where it has established an iconic alumni base. 

Bill Murray, John Belushi, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Steve Carrell, Jordan Peele and Aidy Bryant are just a few of the great comedians to have trained with the company. 

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Now, New York will get a taste of what The Second City is cooking – literally. The 11,900-square-foot Williamsburg space is set to open in Summer 2023, and will feature a newly built mainstage, theater, seven training classrooms, and a full service restaurant and bar. It’s the first physical location in New York City operated by the company in its 63-year history. 

The announcement comes over a year after the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) officially closed its doors amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the People’s Improv Theater (PIT) following suit in the closure of its own main stage – moves that left many aspiring and professional comedians bereft in the city that has come to be known as the epicenter of American humor.

“New York City is renowned for its talent and culture, and we could not be more thrilled to bring The Second City’s unique brand of improv-based entertainment and education to the city as we continue to foster the next generation of comedy,” said The Second City CEO, Ed Wells. 

The space will open in summer of 2023. Photo: The Second City Entertainment

But even when UCB and the PIT were thriving, they operated out of theaters and training centers in Manhattan. This move from The Second City, marks an unprecedented and bold shift towards Brooklyn. 

Comedian Sam Poznak, a Brooklyn resident and UCB alum, said “It’s great to see that Second City is coming to New York. It seems like improv is coming back stronger than ever after a few years where the larger institutions have been absent.”  

Christine Covode, who you might remember from her hit one-woman show “Dear Mom” (which returns to the Soho Playhouse next month), is a Brooklyn resident but Chicago native. “Guess I don’t have to move back to Chicago just yet! Woohoo!” she said. “I wish iO was coming but Second City is great. I hope improvisers flock and it’s diversified a lot more!” 

Not all Brooklynites are as excited about the news, however. Writer and performer Graham Techler, who graced the UCB stage before its closure, had much to say on the subject.

“While New York’s live sketch and improv scene could certainly use a post-2020 shot in the arm, it doesn’t need another theater hostile to the idea that its staff and performers are the people whose labor and talent keeps its lights on. The Second City received a lot of criticism for the way it treated its workforce even before it was purchased by a private equity firm, so this is a development I think some performers in New York will be wary of as much as they’re excited by it. Any institution potentially trying to take advantage of this crowd’s enthusiasm for stage time and opportunities should expect to be held to higher standards than they may have been held to in the past. There’s just not a lot of patience for that here anymore.”

So whether excited or wary, there’s no denying Brooklyn is getting a heavy-hitter in the country’s comedic landscape. With six-plus decades of making its mark in Chicago and graduating some of the most famous performers of the stage and screen, Summer 2023 is set to be a big-one for the borough’s boisterous scholars of the blague. 

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