Friday, April 26, 2013

Offstage with Margaret Hicks

The Second City has been giving walking tours of Chicago's historic Old Town neighborhood for five years. When Margaret Hicks returned to Chicago from New York in 2001, she told herself "I will never take Chicago for granted again." She started as a docent for the Chicago Architecture Foundation and now uses her improv skills to give tours with her company Chicago Elevated. We talked to Margaret about comedy in Chicago, her tour and her connection with The Second City.

Tell us about the process of writing your book Chicago Comedy: A Fairly Serious History.
That was a process. It's funny, when we think of comedy in Chicago, for a lot of us improvisers, it usually starts with Second City. So my want was to go all the way back, to the beginning. When I give Second City tours I always ask myself and the tourees, "Why Chicago?" What is it about this city that was a perfect womb for The Second City? So I started there. I started with what entertainment and comedy looked like in 1837. Then through Vaudeville and radio and TV and that Chicago naturalness, it's always there, even in the beginning.

Tell us about some of the highlights of your Second City Neighborhood Tour.
So the highlights of the walking tour are varied, which is why it's such a neat tour. Old Town is one of our most historic neighborhoods. There are these houses that are from right after the fire. So there's this really historic feeling with St. Michael's church and the balloon-frame houses, but then there's Old Town Ale House and the gentrification of Wells Street. And everyone at Second City has been so great, so I have some really great gossip I let fly.

Are you doing any writing/acting/improvising right now?
I am writing a show with my friend Sabrina Harper! She's the Second City box office manager and my best friend! We're writing Sweetie Maude - it's an all-lesbian version of Sweeney Todd. It will go up in September. I'm really excited about that! And I'm constantly writing new tours and learning new information about the city and trying to figure out new ways to connect the information.

What plans do you have for the summer in Chicago?
My plans are to work. It's a busy season which I think is excellent. My winters tend to be sort of quiet and introspective, so it's fun to get out and work in the summer.

What are some of your other hobbies?
I go to the movies a lot. I like the movies. I read. I ride my bike and run a little. Hang out. Dinner. I'm really big on dinner.

Who are some of your biggest comedic influences?
My comedic influences were definitely all of Whose Line. That's when I thought "I can do that." Honestly? My high school friends. Stand-ups like Dennis Miller. Oh man, back in the day he was so good! Almost more the people around me, my family and friends were so funny, they sharpened my brain as I grew up.

What you’re not acting, writing or walking, what are you doing?
I'm probably at home with my pup and my husband. Probably eating dinner.

By Pamela Birchard

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