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Second City Alumni

Movies, Arts & Lit, Television | By A.J. for The Top 13 on January 25, 2010

Late this past year, the legendary Second City comedy troupe celebrated its 50th anniversary in Chicago. After fifty years of laughing the heads off of thousands of Chicagoans and tourists, the theater celebrated with a massive reunion show. The one-off show sold out in fifteen minutes with a lineup of many of the legendary performers the troupe has featured over the years. Without this historic theater, many of these people may have never hit their break, and that inspired us to count down the Top 13 Second City Alumni.

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Bill Murray

1

Bill Murray

1973

Second City alumnus or not, this man is probably the Top 13's favorite funnyman of all-time. He may have never even gotten into comedy if not for his brother, Brian Doyle-Murray, who invited Bill into Second City to study under the legendary comedian Del Close, who taught the craft to almost everyone on this list. From unforgettable roles in Caddyshack and Ghostbusters to dramatic roles in films by Wes Anderson, Jim Jarmusch and Sofia Coppola, Bill Murray has proven himself a fine actor as well as a top-notch comedian.


Murray in Caddyshack
Tina Fey

2

Tina Fey

1996

The youngest comedian on our list is already one of the most accomplished. In 1999, she became the first female head writer at Saturday Night Live. Soon, she was also performing in sketches, most notably Weekend Update, writing and starring in Mean Girls, and creating the Emmy-winning show 30 Rock. But returning to SNL to do a spot-on impersonation of Sarah Palin may be her biggest hit yet, as the parody seemed to strike a nerve with society and hurt Palin in the polls. The last episode in which Fey appeared as Palin role gave SNL its best ratings since 1994.


Fey talks Palin on Letterman
John Belushi

3

John Belushi

1971

Despite having acted for less than ten years before his untimely death, John Belushi is more memorable than most comedians, on this list or otherwise. Animal House may have been released over thirty years ago, but Belushi’s role as “Bluto” Blutarsky remains as funny and iconic as it ever was. As his friend Dan Aykroyd said when went to present the Oscar for Best Visual Effects by himself in the year following Belushi's death, “My partner would have loved to have been here to present this award, given that he was something of a visual effect himself.”


Belushi auditions for Saturday Night Live
Stephen Colbert

4

Stephen Colbert

1991

Colbert started at Second City as an understudy to Steve Carell, who would later become his fellow writer on The Dana Carvey Show and fellow correspondent on The Daily Show. That show gave Carell his foothold to make the leap to superstardom and allowed Colbert to refine his comedy and launch his own show, The Colbert Report. Four years later, Colbert's parody of right-wing pundits like Bill O'Reilly remains fresh and he has repeatedly demonstrated his enormous influence on pop culture. And as Colbert proved by skewering George W. Bush to his face at the 2006 White House Correspondent's dinner, few comedians have more balls.


Colbert at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Association dinner
Chris Farley

5

Chris Farley

1989

Another comedian that died too young, Farley performed in some of the most memorable SNL sketches to date. Who can forget Matt Foley, the motivational speaker who lived in a van down by the river? Or his legendary film roles, however minor, like the bus driver in Billy Madison, or lead roles in Tommy Boy and Black Sheep? Farley had recorded dialogue for the lead role in Shrek, but when he died in 1997, the role was given to Mike Myers.


Farley on SNL
Steve Carell

6

Steve Carell

1989

Carell had been working in comedy in the shadows long before he really started gathering attention on camera. For The Dana Carvey Show, he voiced one half of the infamous “Ambiguously Gay Duo” along with Stephen Colbert. He was a correspondent on The Daily Show from 1999 until 2005, then left to steal the show in Bruce Almighty and Anchorman. After a slow start on The Office, his lead role in The 40 Year-Old Virgin made him a star and probably saved the show from cancellation.


Carell in Anchorman
Harold Ramis

7

Harold Ramis

1969

Like Dan Akroyd, Ramis also wrote and starred in Ghostbusters, shortly after writing Animal House, Meatballs and Stripes. He also wrote and directed Caddyshack, Vacation, and Groundhog Day, which he unfortunately followed with a series of missteps. Recently, Ramis confirmed that he will rejoin Ghostbusters costars Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd and Ernie Hudson for a third installment, which he will also co-write.


Trailer for Ramis' Caddyshack
John Candy

8

John Candy

1973

Candy was a major figure on Toronto’s Second City stage, especially when the troupe created Second City Television (SCTV) in 1976. Starring with folks like Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, who each barely missed this list, the show was a hit once NBC picked it up in 1981. Candy died too soon, in 1994, but we remember him fondly with old VHS copies of Stripes, Splash, Uncle Buck, Planes, Trains & Automobiles, and many other serviceable comedies.


Candy in Stripes
Dan Aykroyd

9

Dan Aykroyd

1976

If it weren't for the pig that Aykroyd dressed up as the Pope and brought to Catholic school for show and tell, he may never have been expelled so that he could go on to write and star in both Ghostbusters and The Blues Brothers. Thank goodness for that. Along with John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, and others, Aykroyd was a member of the original cast of Saturday Night Live, and played a huge part in ensuring its success.


Aykroyd in The Blues Brothers
Mike Myers

10

Mike Myers

1986

Love him or hate him, this Canadian Scot perfected several unforgettable characters while at Saturday Night Live, such as Wayne Campbell and the Barbara-obsessed Linda Richman, as well as his many characters in the Austin Powers series. Sure, he has missteps in his filmography - including several recent examples where he had too much control and not enough editorial oversight - but we urge you to revisit the vastly underrated So I Married an Axe Murderer. Myers even took a leap into drama this past year, with a small part in Inglourious Basterds.


Myers in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Amy Poehler

11

Amy Poehler

1993

In addition to touring with Second City, Poehler was simultaneously a member of the Upright Citizens Brigade. That group was a brainchild of another famous comedy theater in Chicago formerly known as ImprovOlympic, now referred to as iO Chicago. Soon after a short-lived UCB TV series on Comedy Central, Poehler was hired at SNL, where she joined Tina Fey to create the only female pairing of Weekend Update co-anchors in the history of the show. Now you can see her on the Office-inspired Parks and Recreation.


Poehler on SNL
Alan Arkin

12

Alan Arkin

1959

Next to Joan Rivers, Alan Arkin is probably the most well-known and successful of the earliest Second Citizens. The training he received there surely worked out, as he soon became one of a only a handful of actors to be nominated for an Oscar for his very first major film role, in 1966's The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming. Two years later, in 1968, he was nominated for another, for The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. Nearly forty years later, he became the only Second City alumnus to win the award (for Little Miss Sunshine).


Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine
Adam McKay

13

Adam McKay

This is the man who wrote and directed The Top 13’s favorite comedy of the decade, Anchorman, as well as Talladega Nights and Step Brothers, so it was unlikely that we would leave him off of this list. Previously, McKay had written for SNL from 1995 to 2001 and was head writer for three of those years. Since then, he has proven himself to be box office gold and teamed up with Will Ferrell to create the awesome video website “Funny or Die.”


Adam McKay's Step Brothers
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Comments Leave a comment

jasun 

Tough list for sure, simply because of the volume of quality alumni.
I would have probably ranked Eugene Levy, Fred Willard, Bob Odenkirk, Philip Baker Hall, Joan Rivers, Catherine O'Hara, Robert Klein and Richard Kind over Adam McKay and probably Amy Pohler, but good list overall.

8:40 AM   Jan 25, 2010

jason ★★

Good call, particularly on Odenkirk. Love that guy. It's a tough one to rank, that's for sure. And if anyone is in/visiting Chicago, check out a show at Second City - it's great.

2:48 PM   Jan 25, 2010

PulpAffliction ★★

A Groundlings alumni list could be fun too.

5:41 PM   Jan 25, 2010

ajay ★★

#1 Conan O'Brien

5:54 PM   Jan 25, 2010

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