During a film noir comedy sketch for The Second City, Daniel Strauss met an improvisational actor’s nightmare, and sometimes dream — his volunteer from the audience decided to do his own thing.
“We have a series of beats that we’re supposed to hit, but he was not allowing us to do it because he was like trying out his own material,” Strauss said, who has been acting for The Second City for roughly three years.
In a way, the actors already had prepared for the otherwise unexpected plot twists. The Second City is a comedy sketch group that frequently employs improvisation and satire, churning out such comedic heroes as Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert.
In improvisation, actors make the script up as they go along, rehearsing only general themes and characters beforehand. Strauss compares such rehearsing to preparing for a standardized test.
As he described, you can take practice tests to familiarize yourself with information before the real test, but you will not know the exact questions. By employing this mentality, the actors were able to go along with the previously mentioned volunteer and successfully finish the scene.
“Stuff like that is a challenge, but in some ways we kind of love when that happens because it’s totally different, and no one’s expecting it,” Strauss said.
The Second City’s easygoing attitude motivated Marc Arciaga, The Lyric’s production manager, to select them to perform at The Lyric on Feb. 1.
“Comedies are easy because they just come in, they’re always pleasant, they never require a lot of hospitality fuss — they just chill and do the show,” Arciaga said. “It’s kind of a no brainer because they’re easy. It’s easy for us and everybody likes it.”
Their use of improvisation further helps The Second City by enabling their sketches to constantly evolve. While some shows may contain similar material, such as their current “NPR” theme, each show presents new jokes and dynamics. In this way, each audience they perform for enjoys their own custom, one-time exclusive version of the show.