The Secret Joy of Comedy Writing

While you know The Second City as a world-famous comedy institution, you might not be aware they also offer comedy classes ranging from improv to storytelling. And for about a year, I took weekly classes in their writing program. 

I signed up for my Second City classes as a way to force myself to write something new each week (as well as to meet new, funny people). And that paid incredible creative dividends. But one benefit I didn’t anticipate was how much the experience taught me about collaboration. 

The courses ended up with me casting six (intimidatingly talented) actors, and spending months of preparation to stage four performances of a show written (and stage-managed) by my colleagues and me at the famous de Maat Studio theater

Humble brag—every show sold out.

Whenever we create something, we instinctively want to take ownership of it. But when that creation becomes public, it can mean something different to everyone observing it. Recognizing the value in these different points of view is the crux of a positive collaboration, even if instinctively, it might be hard to do.

So when I wrote my sketch that closed out our show, I had a (silly) vision in mind (an insecure “troll patroller” who burst through walls to yell at rude teen online commentators). But I wasn’t the only one responsible for this comedy bit.

I may have written the sketch, but the actor we cast (the incredible Aadam Keeley, now of ComedySportz) made his own decisions, interpreting my words in a way that met his own comedic sensibilities. And he nailed it.

a man in a red blazer and gold chains lying on the phone next to a man in a shirt and tie

Aadam’s (on the left) costume choices were inspired

Every performance, the audience laughed. A lot.

I can’t fully put into words the feeling of hearing a full audience laugh at words you’ve written, performed by someone else, but if I had to choose a word for it, I’d say, it’s awesome?

It’s a unique feeling, and both a validation of your own work, as well as the work of your collaborator and their performance. 

And it highlights the trust the author and performer put into each other. 

For all the reasons I took Second City classes, it was the unexpected lessons that were the most valuable. Collaboration is about putting in the work, and trusting those around you. In different hands, or if I had been demanding by saying, “It has to be this way,” “Troll Patrol” could have been a dud. 

Instead, I trusted our actors, and we all worked together as a team. The end result was a comedic creation that was more broadly successful than it would have been without that level of trust and teamwork. And yeah, now I also get to brag about having written a show for Second City to all of you. 

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