Go inside the hot new comedy venue The Second City New York

First established in Chicago, this celebrated institution is where many now-famous comedians got their start — discover what to expect at its Brooklyn location.

Allison Considine
Allison Considine

Walking into The Second City’s first New York outpost — on North 9th Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn — is like entering a time capsule from when the neighborhood had more entertainment venues than luxury stores. The 12,000-square foot venue, once home to the beloved record store Rough Trade NYC, now houses a full-service restaurant and bar, two theatres, and seven comedy classrooms.

The Second City was established in 1959 in Chicago, the name being a cheeky nod to the city being in New York's shadow as a comedy hub. Its training center is built on improvisational theatre games, like word association exercises, developed by educator Viola Spolin.

The storied institution significantly influenced modern comedy, and the Chicago center remains a launchpad for comedians. You might be familiar with some Second City alumni: The star-studded group includes Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Steve Carell, Bill Murray, and many others.

In NYC as in Chicago, there’s always the chance you’ll experience an up-and-comer at The Second City before they hit it big. Discover what else to expect from the celebrated comedy venue and its shows.

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What to expect at The Second City in Brooklyn

On any given night, you can experience revues, sketches, and improvisational shows featuring The Second City ensemble, visiting comics, and comedians in training. The 200-seat mainstage theatre is a cabaret-style comedy club with both table seating and balcony seating. Even from the balcony, the cavernous space feels very intimate and cozy, with its warm lighting and brick walls.

Intimacy is key for any show at The Second City since — fair warning! — many performances rely on audience participation. You might be called on to give a suggestion of a person, place, or thing to shape an improvisational scene. It all adds to the excitement, promise.

The Second City also stands out by offering food and drinks. Who doesn’t love in-theatre dining? I prefer shows where I can eat french fries. The menu offers a smattering of New York and Chicago fare, like Brooklyn brews and Chicago-style hot dogs, and the servers crouch in the aisles before the show and at intermission to take your order. It’s very fun.

If you’re feeling inspired (and brave), you can sign up for an improv or comedy writing class. The Second City offers a range of drop-in classes, conservatory training, and even corporate workshops to boost team building and communication.

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Inside a Second City show: Ruthless Acts of Kindness

The Second City's first Brooklyn revue, Ruthless Acts of Kindness, is a love letter to New York, with comedy acts about riding the subway, seeing Broadway shows, and living in small apartments. Consisting of skits, songs, and improvised bits, the show introduces audiences to various types of comedy they can expect at Second City in general.

At my performance, an improvised song mashed together The Music Man and MJ The Musical. In another standout skit, ensemble member Yazmin Ramos sported a trash bag and collected garbage from the audience while singing about trash. How New York is that?

Like many shows at The Second City, audience participation is part of the fun here, and the talented ensemble — Jackyln Uweh, Ashley Blair, Ben Rameaka, Yazmin Ramos, Drew Reilly, and Jordan Savusa — weave suggestions of people, places, and things into alphabet games and freeze-tag style improv. My friend was called on to give a suggestion for an improv scene in which the troupe solved a murder mystery. He had to respond in a British accent, and he crushed it.

After an evening of side-splitting laughter, my friends and I spilled out onto the street just in time to see the sunset over Manhattan. The Second City is certainly a welcome addition to the First City. (Yes, I firmly believe New York is number one.)

Get tickets to Ruthless Acts of Kindness off Broadway

Ruthless Acts of Kindness is about the difficulties of dealing with other people. The Brooklyn ensemble’s revue features New York-centric skits, songs, and improv scenes. Bring your friends, bring a date, but maybe leave your parents and young kids home for this R-rated show with innuendos and swear words. Come hungry and ready to laugh!

Check back for information on Ruthless Acts of Kindness tickets on New York Theatre Guide.

Photo credit: The Second City New York. (Photos by Timothy M. Schmidt, Gregg Delman, and Carlos Perez)

Originally published on

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