Thursday, May 31, 2007

Why Are You Here?

At the beginning of most writing classes at Second City, I will ask the students if anyone saw a sketch revue since the last class and what did they think about it.

Almost always no one has seen one.

Not even the mainstage or etc show, for which they get a free ticket a week through the training center. Many of them will make it to Writing 5 without having seen a Writing 5 show or, for that matter, ANY show in the Skybox.

This strikes me very odd.

It's certainly not for lack of opportunity. There are almost as many sketch revues in this town on any given night as there are improv shows. The Reader devotes a section of their theater listings to improv and sketch and isn't able to list them all.

The Second City Writing Program is a great writing program. I'm one of it's biggest proponents. I think Second City makes it very clear that the thrust of the core program is to learn to write sketch comedy for the stage. Every week, I tell students to go see shows, and often give them recommendations. So, last night, when I asked my Writing 1 students who saw a show last week and received the typical response of "no one," I asked them...

Why are you here?

Improvisers go see improv shows. Quite often, they are the audience! Actors go see theater. Playwrights go see plays. Why don't sketch comedy writers go see sketch comedy?

Turns out, only one of them was really interested in improving his skills as a sketch comedy writer.

Other answers included...

"Seemed like a good creative outlet."

"I write short stories (or screenplays or insert-any-medium-other-than the stage) and I thought this would help."

"I thought it would help with my improv." (The person who said this, by the way, is only in Level C of Second City's Beginner's Program. The writing program can be helpful to an improviser, but probably only if the improviser has some chops.)

"I wanted to see if I could write."

"Somebody told me to."

"Somebody else is paying for it."

Now, these aren't wrong answers, not by any means. It's just not what I expected. I expected people in a sketch comedy writing class to be there to learn how to write sketch comedy. So, no wonder they don't go see sketch revues. They could care less about sketch comedy.
By the way, the writing program can be helpful to these folks and whatever their goals are - but only as a by-product.

My hope, is that they will go see sketch comedy - good and bad - and that it starts to get under their skin. I believe to grow as an artist, you have to see what's out there. And you have to challenge yourself to be as good or better. And there's a lot of bad sketch comedy out there, so hopefully it's the better.


I worship the ground these guys walk on. Help them out, if you can. They are doing God's work...

Dear Friends,

In under two weeks, the Yes Men will speak on behalf of what may well
be the world's nastiest company at a very important conference. We've
got foul plans - but we need your help.

The last time we asked for your money, your gifts enabled us to
present the Halliburton Survivaball to insurance industry lawyers. This time, our
plans are about three times as tasteless, weird and elaborate. And
they're about as expensive: two hundred stinky-poo props don't come

If you can help, please visit


(ignore the part about shipping and sales tax).

You'll hear what you've done very soon.

The Yes Men


RoboWriters is tonight at the Uptown Writer's Space. The start time has changed from 6pm to 6:30pm, to give people coming from work a little more time for dinner. See you tonight!