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Comedy icon Second City visits March 3

In December 1959, a revolution in comedy began in front of a small crowd in a former laundry building in Chicago.

An improvisational group called Second City gave its first performance, satirizing the Eisenhower era.

Since then millions of people have attended Second City shows or watched the group’s many alumni on television or in movies. It has been called the “Harvard of humor,” and among its former members are Alan Arkin, Joan Rivers, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Mike Myers, Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert.

Local audiences will have the opportunity to experience Second City’s brand of comedy when the touring troupe gives a performance at California State University, Monterey Bay’s World Theater on March 3. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. The show is recommended for adult audiences.

At CSUMB, the group will perform a show called Fair & Unbalanced, which takes unbridled comic pleasure in the foibles of politicians, celebrities and even our significant others through sketch comedy, songs and on-the-spot improvisation.

World Theater executive director Joe Cardinalli’s decision to book an improv comedy show was easy once he heard that Second City was available and touring the West Coast.

“This is definitely an evening to enjoy and to laugh out loud,” Cardinalli said. “Everyone tells us that laughter is the best medicine, so come and enjoy a dose of laugher.”

Unlike other forms of comedy, improv isn’t about the solo performer; it’s the ensemble that counts. Rarely is there a dramatic opening or musical fanfare, sometimes no scenery or props. Against a black backdrop are simple chairs and sometimes a piano.

No institution escapes their satiric eye – from the blowhards of the Beltway to the Hollywood elite. It’s a ride through present day America.

Since those early days, Second City has added a theater and training center in Toronto, training centers in Chicago and Hollywood, 11 full-time touring ensembles and television and film operations. But what brought national attention to the company was “Saturday Night Live.” The TV program’s original cast included three Second City alumni – Belushi, Dan Akroyd and Gilda Radner. Since then, more than two dozen performers and even more writers have made the move from Second City to SNL.

Perhaps a future SNL cast member or TV star will be on stage when Second City performs at the World Theater.

Tickets range from $10 to $40 and can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 582-4580. Driving directions and a campus map are available here.