Chicagoans are rightfully proud to boast that the city’s renowned improv and sketch-comedy theater, The Second City, birthed the careers of John Belushi, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Mike Myers, Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey — to name just a few.
Behind the scenes, The Second City is equally successful as a growing and thriving business, with $50 million in yearly revenue. The 55-year-old theater company and its business-to-business unit, Second City Works, together employ 1,000 people. In addition to running the Main Stage, the operation has four touring companies, year-round road shows, a thriving theater in Toronto, training centers in Chicago, Toronto and Hollywood, and custom-designed shows and leadership training sessions for businesses. The company is expanding its square footage by nearly one-third at its Pipers Alley headquarters in Old Town, taking over a former movie theater space to accommodate more offices and classrooms.
The men who oversee these operations noticed that the keys to improv’s success were dovetailing more and more with the ways that people achieve success in today’s knowledge and innovation economy. So they’ve written a book, in stores Feb. 3 and online for pre-ordering, explaining the seven principles of The Second City’s success and incorporating specific examples of how readers can boost their so-called “soft skills” to improve their ability to be smart listeners, team players and adaptable innovators.
Kelly Leonard, 48, executive vice president of The Second City and the son of Roy Leonard, the late WGN-TV and radio icon and entertainment critic, and Tom Yorton, 51, CEO of Second City Works, played out their own advice as they joked and bantered while telling Sun-Times reporter Sandra Guy about the two years of work they put into the book, “Yes, And . . . How Improvisation Reverses ‘No, But’ Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration.”
Read the full interview here.