Did You Hear the One About the Grad Who Went to Comedy School to Get a Job?

comedy schoolThe job market is so competitive it's not funny, but some college graduates hope that comedy school can give them an edge in finding employment.

Take The Second City: It's legendary as a proving ground for comic talent, but training at the Chicago-based theater and school of improvisation can work offstage too.

Beginning in 1959, The Second City sought to be the leading brand of improv-based comedy worldwide. With more than 50 years of success, training centers located in Chicago, Toronto and Hollywood, and after producing thousands of the world's funniest people (including Robert Belushi, pictured), it's achieved its dream. But how can The Second City help its students achieve theirs?The Second City offers lessons for actors, writers, musicians, directors, teachers and others which go beyond improv and writing to include such subjects as acting, working on-camera, music, body movement, voice and speech. It also offers courses specific to the business world.

"We have a large variety of students from many different backgrounds," said Jeremy Dabbs, Second City's communications manager, who says that an introductory sketch writing course at Second City in Chicago has seen "growth in our student numbers" and "a large part of that would be those out of work."

While professional courses are available for students who plan to use their training to obtain a job in comedy, many students attend classes to develop skills that can apply to public speaking and sales and, according to Dabbs, continue on because it's fun.

The average cost for an eight-week course is $300. No previous training is required and payment plans are available for students on a tight budget. Scholarships are available for summer week-long immersion courses.

The Second City starts students off with the basics of writing and improvisation while simultaneously teaching the creation of sketch comedy through improvisation.

"The misconception is that people have to be funny. We teach the skills of being an improviser. The funny will come later," Dabbs said.

In an introductory sketch-writing course, over half of students ages 18 to 50 had a bachelor's degree or higher.

The class studies the use mnemonics to remember names, arriving at decisions in a group, partnering, interviewing, brainstorming and building upon others' ideas.

A subdivision of The Second City called Second City Communications is designed specifically for business atmosphere development and aims to improve performance by helping clients get noticed, win audiences, and develop talent to gain business. Using humor to make dry or difficult information more relevant to learners, Second City Communications promotes building upon others' ideas by utilizing their "yes and" methodology.

Many Second City alums go on to teach the very method they've learned. According to Dabbs, all of the instructors are still active in their fields: They're also performers, writers and directors. And while it's not guaranteed, those who go through the programs and show that they know the method well may be invited to teach.

The next term for Chicago begins April 26 and registration begins April 1. Two hour-long drop-in classes are also offered on Sundays at 6 p.m. for $15.

The next term for Toronto begins April 30. Registration begins April 8 and two-hour drop-in classes are offered Mondays from 6 to 8 p.m. for $5. The next term for Hollywood begins May 3 with registration beginning April 3 for two-hour drop-in classes on Thursdays from 4 to 6 p.m. for $20.
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