If you were looking for something to do on December 16, 1959, you might have snagged a ticket to see The Music Man at the Shubert or West Side Story at the Erlanger. If a movie was more your style, Porgy and Bess, The Best of Everything, The Tingler and The Mouse That Roared were playing in neighborhood cinemas. But, if you were really lucky, you would have found your way to 1842 N. Wells Street to a new little cabaret-style theater to see the first set of improv sketches at The Second City.
The Second City opened 60 years ago in the former Wong Cleaners and Dyers. An advertisement promoted "Chicago's first coffee house-night club presenting an original musical satire." Tickets were $1.50 during the week and $2 on weekends. The first cast included Severn Darden, Barbara Harris, Mina Kolb, Roger Bowen, Andrew Duncan, Eugene Toobnick, Howard Alk and Bill Mathieu.
Over the past six decades, The Second City has served as a launchpad for a who's who cast of comedy greats including names like Alan Arkin, John Candy, Rachel Dratch, Bonnie Hunt, Bill Murray, Bob Odenkirk, Catherine O'Hara, Joan Rivers, Horatio Sanz and Martin Short, among many, many more.
Read up on the history of The Second City in the theater's new book, or dive into another read about this iconic comedy home.
While you're at it, you can learn more about The Second City and other theaters in the Chicago Theater Collection in the Special Collections and Preservation Division at Harold Washington Library Center.