The Second City: Chicago’s Funny Urbanism
John McMorrough, Julia McMorrough, Joseph Rosa
Cities are funny things. Both equation and caprice, they are testaments to, and limit cases of, “big plans,” and nowhere more so than in Chicago. To understand this condition, the research posits the idea that “The Second City” comedy troupe offers a model to understand Chicago’s urbanity. In this undertaking, we not only explore a specific organization within Chicago but also use it as a model for the city’s particular urbanism as one of improvisation, collaboration, and humor. Since the 1960s, the Second City has been training countless performers, and the extended field of its alumni’s efforts (in television and film) has projected a vision of Chicago onto the national and international imagination. Following this lead, the research proposes Chicago as an ongoing site of opportunity and innovation.
The study begins with a theoretical undertaking of analyzing and re-describing the productions and procedures of the Second City troupe as a form of urbanist practice (a practice of the city and its potential). A further analytical investigation mobilizes this concept of “Second City Chicago” to describe the urban particularities of Chicago, in both its historical and contemporary circumstance. The result is a book (and exhibition) titled “The Second City Guide to Chicago’s Funny Urbanism,” which summarizes the research findings and disseminates them to a wide audience of urban actors (politicians, planners, architects, and citizens).