Hundreds of young aspiring comedians move to Chicago every year to learn to improvise from Chicago’s renowned comedy institutions. We have heard it for years and justifiably so: Second City and iO are the stages where future stars go to play.
In recent years as new generations of Chicago comedians attain national recognition, the number of performers joining the Chicago improv scene has grown by leaps and bounds. The growth of the improv community has lead aspiring performers to smaller, locally recognized comedy institutions to hone their craft. In many cases, before performers ever step on the iO or Second City stage they perform at theaters like the Playground, pH, Annoyance Theatre, or Chemically Imbalanced Comedy (CIC).
The recent hires at Saturday Night Live are a testament to the growth of the comedy scene. Paul Brittain (cast), Vanessa Bayer (cast) and Tom Flannigan (writer) all were regular contributors to teams that performed regularly at the Playground Theater. Paul and Tom performed on Playground member team Malice, while Vanessa performed on Playground team The MISSfits. Paul, Vanessa and Tom joined former Playground member Jason Sudeikis who performed on Playground member team Black Sheep.
The commercial success of any performer is dependent on the person working tirelessly to build their comedic skills — the skills that show casting directors, writers, and producers who they are and what they can bring to a higher profile opportunity. To understand the work it takes, the day after being flown to New York for her Saturday Night Live call-back, Vanessa Bayer was in Chicago doing a stand up set at a local open mic.
This tireless work ethic and commitment can be seen across Chicago’s stages on a nightly basis. Of course it is seen on the big well-known stages, but so much great work is being created at the places many might not know such as the Playground, Annoyance Theatre, CIC, pH, the Lincoln Lodge, Chicago Underground Comedy, and open mics across the city.
Congratulations to all the Chicago hires! We know how hard you have worked.