Thursday, February 28, 2013

Offstage with Jesse Case

For the Jeff award-winning e.t.c. revue "We're All In This Room Together" the musical director, Jesse Case, focused on music that was thematic throughout the entire show, that helped smoothly move one scene to the next and resonated a familiar feeling with the audience. He may not always be seen on stage, but he is definitely heard.

After moving here from Boulder, CO, "the place exists inside this sort of snow globe," he says, Jesse never thought he would find a place where he could combine his musical abilities and his theater degree so well. A musical improviser in his own right, this is his last revue with The Second City and his natural talent will be missed. We sat down with Jesse to talk about how he got to where he is today, what else he's worked on and how "after a while a point came where I realized that I'd inadvertently built something for myself out here that was durable enough to keep Boulder from pulling at me quite so intensely," he says.

You've been the musical director for three Second City e.t.c. revues. How did you get to this point? Tell us the process.

Well I was a Theatre Major at the University of Colorado and acted all through High School, but I've also played piano and written music since I was four or five. So it was always a "which one do I pick" type of situation. And then, a few months after I moved to Chicago, I was in a real rut - working at Borders and deep into my first winter here - and I happened to be looking at the Second City Training Center site and discovered they were accepting applications for this Musical Director internship. And when I read the description of what an MD did, this light went on because it was like exactly what I did, this perfect blend of music and theater. So I wrote this insanely enthusiastic email to Mike Descoteaux (the head of the music program at the time) who brought me into an audition, and shortly afterward I found myself on a cruise ship accompanying archive scenes and improvising. After that I just sort of moved up the ladder, another ship and then a year of touring and then they brought me on to the stage in February of 2010.

What's the difference between musical direction and sound design?

Nothing anymore, at least in the way that Second City defines musical direction. I think it's safe to say that MDs here have pretty much completely taken on the role of sound designer in addition to their accompaniment and compositional duties... which is great because that role used to be non-existent. The theater was originally a lot more of a straightforward cabaret-style revue where live music was the only music, and that helped give those first shows this really subtle, intelligent, subversive vibe. But as audiences and comedy in general and the aesthetic of the theater has grown and changed, the musical direction here - at least up until recently - has been notoriously slow about adapting to new technology accordingly. And today you can't be just a background piano player with some quiet-ass mix CDs anymore. You control everything the audience hears. That is an insane amount of power, and there's too much creative potential in it not to take full advantage.

How would you describe your style?

Well that's exactly it. What I really tried to do here was knock down whatever parts of the wall were left that separated those Sound Design and Musical Direction worlds. Over the three months that it takes to write a new show I try to build a detailed world for the show to exist in, and everything I do - my composition and arrangements, the way I play, the way I have the actors sing or guide their songwriting, the instruments I pick, the sounds and songs and genres of music I use - all is meant to help build that world in a unified way.

What are you listening to right now?

Dubstep. 24/7.

Tell us about your collaboration with The Second City and Lyric Opera.

It is seriously the coolest thing ever and I'm insanely lucky to be a part of it. The short story is that [famed Soprano and Lyric Opera creative consultant] Renee Fleming came to see an e.t.c. show in which I had sampled her voice singing parts of Verdi's Requiem and a couple of Handel arias... and instead of getting pissed about it she got in touch with me through the people at Lyric and suggested some kind of collaboration. So I brought the idea to Kelly Leonard and the rest is history.

Basically the other writers and I learned everything about the world of Opera that we could, talked to everyone and went to everything, and then we went and wrote a thousand jokes about it and plugged them in to a two-act revue. It's been amazing. I'm composing and arranging for these absolutely top-notch singers and musicians, and performing my music in this gorgeous theater where some of the best music of all time is also performed, and it's been totally incredible, not to mention completely terrifying.

What are some other projects you've worked on outside of The Second City?

I've generally tried (with limited success) to venture outside the comedy world, mostly working as a designer and composer for other theaters like Single Carrot in Baltimore, and I write my own music (usually not funny) and music for other people (usually funny). I love scoring movies and producing beats, and about a year and a half ago I produced a 41-track hip hop album for TJ Miller that came out on Comedy Central Records. It's called the Extended Play E.P. and I'm proud to say we earned that title.

Out of all the instruments you play, which one's your favorite? Why?

Gotta be the piano, yo! It's what I write on and how I think about music. After that probably drums. I'm a very percussive piano player as it is, so it's nice to occasionally ditch all the chords and theory and whatnot and just beat the crap out of something.

Whether it be lyrics or poems, what do you often find yourself writing about?

I think I approach comedic and non-comedic writing in pretty much the same way - I try to find a specific element of the subject at hand that I can relate to personally and expound on that, because I find that if I can relate to that particular element, and I write about it in an honest and direct way, other people usually can relate to it too. And I think that's the ultimate goal of any type of creative work, comedic or not - relatable self-expression. So the pretentious answer is that I write about the common human experience, and the better answer is that I write about a lot of different things but I try to be honest about them in whatever way I can.

When you're not writing, improvising, acting or playing music, what are you doing?

Not much. I'm one-track-minded to an unhealthy degree about what I do. If I'm not doing it I'm reading about it or trying to find someone who will pay me to do it. In my down time I guess mostly you can find me on the couch with my lady watching movies, or at the gym halfheartedly lifting whatever weight the last person left on the machine.

You're leaving us on February 28th! What are you going to do instead?

I have no idea. Which is kind of the point of leaving, I think.

By Pamela Birchard

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Team StarKid Adds Performances at UP Comedy Club

UP Comedy Club is proud to announce added performances for Team StarKid's "Airport for Birds (and Other Great Ideas)" on Sunday, March 24, and Sunday, March 31, 2013, at 7:00pm at UP Comedy Club (230 W. North Ave, 3rd Floor of Piper’s Alley). Tickets go on sale on Friday, March 1 at 11:00am.

"Airport for Birds (and Other Great Ideas)" is Team StarKid's sketch show debut and has received rave reviews from critics and audience during their sold out run in UP Comedy Club. "Airport for Birds (and Other Great Ideas)" is written and performed by StarKid regulars including: Chris Allen, Jaime Lyn Beatty, Jeff Blim, Denise Donovan, Brian Holden, Lauren Lopez, Meredith Stepien, Nicholas Strauss, and Joseph Walker. They are joined by StarKid newcomers Pat Rourke and Daniel Strauss.

The production is directed by Corey Lubowich, with music direction by Nick Gage. The lighting designer/stage manager is Sarah Petty. The show is produced by Brian Holden and Corey Lubowich, with associate producer Daniel Strauss.

About Team StarKid
Formed at the University of Michigan in 2009, StarKid represents an ensemble of writers, directors, actors and designers. Now based in Chicago, StarKid has garnered over 140 million views and 275,000 subscribers on YouTube, 200,000 Facebook fans, and over 120,000 Twitter followers worldwide, had its albums chart on iTunes and Billboard, and captured the attention of national media such as The Chicago Tribune, Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, Billboard, Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, NPR, VH1, and MTV.

StarKid first invaded the internet in July 2009 with "A Very Potter Musical" – a fan-made parody that premiered on YouTube and immediately went viral. Filmed during a live performance through University of Michigan's Basement Arts, the show was an instant hit with fans of the Harry Potter franchise and quickly garnered nearly 2 million views. The group then followed with "Me and My Dick" (2009), "A Very Potter Sequel" (2010), "Starship" (2011), "Holy Musical B@man" (2012) and 2 national concert tours, The SPACE Tour (2011) and APOCALYTPOUR (2012).

For more information about Team StarKid or "Airport for Birds (and Other Great Ideas)" please visit For the most up-to-date news follow StarKid on Twitter (@teamstarkid) or on Facebook (StarKidPotter). To view productions and other video content, visit

Show Information
Tickets for "Airport for Birds (and Other Great Ideas)" can be purchased online at or by phone through the UP Comedy Club Box Office at (312) 662-4562. Regular tickets are $18 and reserved VIP seats at select performances are $40. Performances are at UP Comedy Club, located at 230 W. North Ave on the third floor of Piper’s Alley in Chicago’s Old Town. Shows are at 7pm on March 24 and 31. Seating is first come first serve, with doors opening an hour before curtain.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Chicagoist picks the Donny's Skybox and de Maat Theaters as best bets for Chicago Comedy

Want to see big comedy at a small price? Take the Chicagoist's recommendation and check out our upcoming shows in Donny's Skybox and de Maat Theaters, with over 20 shows a week!

See the Chicagoist's full article here:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Did You Miss Chicago Live Last Week? Download it Here

If you weren't able to attend last week's sold out Chicago Live! show hosted by Rock Kogan at Ravinia featuring Billy Corgan, Curtis Duffy, Amy Dickinson, The Second City and Lyric Opera, you can download the podcast here.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Teacher Spotlight: Nancy Fast interviews Writing Program Teacher David Wolinsky

Listen in as Nancy learns all kinds of interesting information about one of The Second City’s newest and most sought after Writing Program teachers, David Wolinsky. (Teaser: David wrote for Rolling Stone and The Onion and dressed up as a professor in his band.)

About David

David Wolinsky is an internationally published writer, critic, and the co-author of a book from The Onion's A.V. Club, the straight journalism side of one of the nation's biggest and most respected satire publications. He's also part of the management editorial teams at NBC Chicago and His degree is in music business (not writing) from Middle Tennessee State, which is why he also thinks anyone who wants to write for a living can, if they're determined enough. He's also co-authoring another book, a web series, and writing a handful of scripts (including an hour-long drama pilot about 9/11). Between all that, he freelances for publications as far-flung as Wired and Maxim to Funny or Die and @GAMER. You can follow David on Twitter @davidwolinsky.

David teaches 'Humor Writing For The Internet' and 'Across The Finish Line' at The Second City Training Center. For more information, call 312.64.3959 or visit

Listen to the Podcast!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Join Us for a Comedy Mixer

On Thurs, February 28, learn to have more fun in group settings using improvisation with Bela Gandhi from Smart Dating Academy and Jeff Gandy from The Second City Training Center.

Workshop at The Second City Training Center (4th Floor of Piper's Alley) - 5:30-7:00

Cocktails and Networking at The Second City e.t.c. (2nd Floor of Piper's Alley) - 7:00-8:00

Watch The Second City e.t.c.'s hilarious Jeff Award-Winning show "We're All in This Room Together" - 8:00-10:30p

Tickets are $35.00 and can be reserved at Select "A Comedy Mixer" under "Tell us how many tickets you'd like." You can also call The Second City Box Office at 312-337-3992. Tickets include the workshop, one cocktail at The Second City e.t.c. and a show ticket.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Teacher Spotlight: Nancy Fast Interviews Training Center Music Director and Teacher Amanda Murphy

Think you’re tone deaf or can’t sing? You’re wrong! Listen in as Nancy and Amanda talk about Second City’s Musical Improv and Vocal classes, Carol Burnett, guinea pigs and much more!

About Amanda:
Amanda has studied and worked in comedy and musical theater throughout Toronto, Chicago, and New York. She is a composer and lyricist for several groups, including the award winning musical four play which she also co-wrote. She music directs at iO, ComedySportz, the SCTC, and the Annoyance, and freelances for several groups around the city. She is also a performer, playing in both MIHE and SongCo, and in BattleProv at CSz. She has many musical theater credits and sings professionally with both choirs and big bands.

Work with Amanda in Vocal Basics: Song and Character! - (Click Here for more info) Focus on vocal technique, both sung and spoken. The curriculum includes group study as well as substantial individual attention. Perfect for those who want to strengthen their singing and speaking voice, improve range, flexibility, and power.
$150, 4 weeks, 3 hours

Listen to the Podcast!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Valentine's Day - Enjoy It or Avoid It

We get it - Valentine's Day means many things to many people. Let us help you find the best way to deal with it.

In Chicago: What Do You Need to Celebrate?

We Need: Romance
2 Splits of Champagne and 2 slices of Eli's Cheesecake $22.99

We Need: A Good Laugh
12" Pizza and Pitcher of Beer $33.99

We Need: To Forget This Holiday Exists
Sampler plate featuring a selection of finger foods and a Bucket of Beer $27.99

All food and drink packages are available on the night of the show and prices do not include tickets.

Ticket reservations are recommended. Click here to reserve your tickets.

In Toronto: Make a Whole Night Out of It!
We've got sweetheart restaurant and hotel deals to make your Valentine's extra special!

Performance tickets are available online

To book a dinner and/or hotel package, please call The Second City box office at 416-343-0011

Performances every night!
Enjoy a preview of our Spring 2013 Mainstage Revue, (Tues - Sun nights)
or catch The Best of The Second City, (Fri at 10:30pm)

Tickets (performance only): $24 - $29, plus tax.

Pre-Show Dinner. Enjoy a delicious meal at one of our neighboring restaurants

King Street Social: dinner for two, including sparkling wine. $125 + tax. Download menu
Fred's Not Here: three course meal. $35 per person + tax. Download menu
Red Tomato: three course meal. $25 per person + tax. Download menu

Hotel Rooms $149 + tax (offers valid Feb 14 - 17):

Residence Inn: room includes complimentary sparkling wine and heart-shaped cookies for two, plus breakfast and late check out!
Hyatt Regency on King: complimentary upgrade to a King guestroom with spectacular view.
To book a dinner and/or hotel package, please call The Second City box office at 416-343-0011

Monday, February 4, 2013

"R.E.A.C.H." Opens This Sunday, February 10

The Second City Outreach & Diversity is proud to present the inaugural performance of "R.E.A.C.H. in UP Comedy Club (230 W. North Ave., 3rd Floor of Piper’s Alley) beginning Sunday, February 10, 2013 and continuing each month through December 8, 2013.

Join us at the kick off event for REACH - Risky, Eclectic Artists Comedy Hour.

February 10th - 2nd Sunday at 9:30PM.
"R.E.A.C.H." is hosted by local stand-up and WBEZ Vocalo Radio host Brian Babylon, with featured acts including Latino female duo Dominizuelan, Paul Thomas of Comedogenic, Martin Morrow of Lincoln Lodge, Lookingglass Theatre Artistic Associate and stand-up Kevin Douglas, burlesque performer Tamale Sepp, Angela "Anjee-O" Oliver of Sweet and Sour Poetry Hour, Congo Square actor Anthony Irons, and Second City performers Punam Patel, Sarah Shook, Chris Redd, and Brianna Baker. Second City alum Aaron Freeman will also appear as a special guest. Additional performers to be announced throughout the year.

Bringing together some of the city’s most diverse voices in comedy and performance each month, each performance of “R.E.A.C.H.” showcases diverse material representing a specific theme. Themes include:

• History and Race (February)
• Women (March)
• Sex and Violence (April)
• Latin Culture (May)
• LGBTQ (June)

Tickets for "R.E.A.C.H." are $13 and can be purchased by phone at 312-662-4562 and online at For more information, visit

A portion of ticket sales support scholarships by Second City Outreach & Diversity.

Enter or mention "VIPREACH" for a $3 discount on tickets.