New book about Second City: The Second City Unscripted

second_city_unscripted2Hey Zoners! Yes, it’s me again. I’m enjoying a little “staycation” this week, which is giving me plenty of time to pester everyone catch the Colbert news as it lands in my inbox and get it up on the blog in pretty quick fashion.

Thanks to Jennie for bringing this one to my attention: a new book about the first fifty years of Second City, and the talented alumni who have had such an influence on the entertainment we see on the big and small screens today. The Second City Unscripted: Revolution and Revelation at the World-Famous Comedy Theater, written by Chicago Sun-Times journalist Mike Thomas, is the result of 170 interviews and provides an unvarnished look at Second City both onstage and behind the scenes. The Sun Times is featuring an article about the book with excerpts from some of the interviews, including Stephen Colbert and Amy Sedaris.

Stephen Colbert

I was very actorly, because I had gone to theater school. And I was very controlled. I was all about planning. And Paul [Dinello] was sort of a wild, chaotic, impulsive energy comedically. Much sillier, much stupider behavior. And I’m happy to say he won that battle. He said my tie was tied a little too tight, and he was absolutely right. And he opened me up to a little bit of a wilder side, and so did Amy [Sedaris]. And then the three of us became pretty inseparable, and I was very lucky and grateful to have those two people to love and be loved by, for the next few years, because it’s not easy to be a lady-in-waiting there at Second City, while you’re on the road all the time. You get to be on the road, which is great, but waiting for your work is an exhausting experience. Even waiting for a touring company. They keep you hungry.

(A keen observer of mortal foibles and life’s grotesqueries, Sedaris had a penchant for getting ugly. Playing it pretty, she decided early on, just wasn’t her thing.)

Amy Sedaris

I just don’t find it interesting. I think there are enough girls out there who can do that, and look the part. I just didn’t pay any attention to it. I don’t remember wearing makeup onstage. I could do the different characters and wouldn’t have to worry about that. I wanted a blank slate. You can just add one thing and you become that character, but if you’ve got cat-eye eyeliner on, then you’re going to look like Sophia Loren in every scene.

It looks like a fascinating book. We all know how much Second City meant (and still means) to Stephen, but there are so many other talented, funny, creative people who benefited from their time spent there and went on to successful careers in film and television. The number of Saturday Night Live cast members alone who started out there is almost mind-boggling. The article also includes a link to a photo gallery: Second City: Before they were stars. At the end of the gallery is a 1987 picture of Stephen looking very cute and ridiculously young (although the pic itself isn’t the best quality).

The book’s official publication date is tomorrow.


  1. This looks so interesting! It is amazing how many people have been associated with Second City. This will have to go on my list of books to check out while wasting time at Barnes and Noble! (And the pics at the end of the photo gallery of Carell and Colbert are adorable and look so young…I remember when I was 20-something, too!)

    This book is also referenced in the new edition of Entertainment Weekly (w.Jim and Pam from The Office on the cover) towards the back. There is a nice picture and quote from Stephen as well.
    Thanks for the info.

  2. Love that 1987 pic of Stephen and the one of Steve Carrell next to it! It does sound like an interesting book.

  3. It was interesting to see what Joan Rivers actually looked like.

    Looks like a fascinating book.

  4. Thanks for letting us know! Now I’m really excited to see that book. Is it out now? My mom and step-dad were huge fans of the original SCTV show and they like a lot of the other people that came out of there so I might get them the book for Christmas.

    What a cute picture. I look at it and still wonder which one of the two Steve’s was a ladies man, as Tina Fey said.

  5. MaryLovesColbert says:

    Wow! I’d be interested to see if I can find this at the store! I always love reading about Stephen being all actorly – as he put it – and wound really tight because I find it so hard to believe!

  6. I’m going to look for this when I go to B&N, and Stephen looked so cute in that pic from ’87. I so loved the pic.

  7. Spoon at a Spork Fight says:

    Did any of the official No Fact Zoners see Allison Silverman’s interview in Here’s the Kicker by Mike Sacks? It just came out in July and is deeply awesome. You can read an excerpt Silverman’s interview on the book’s website here:

    The rest of the interviews in the book are great reads too (including Larry Wilmore of the Daily Show! And David Sedaris!), but I found the interviews with the older comedians to be especially compelling; Irving Brecher’s story about getting a gig writing for Milton Berle circa 1933 is a wower.

    Allison’s is my favorite though. She really comes of as the Ultimate It Getter. Which you’d think would be Stephen himself… but I now have my doubts. ;-)

    • Spoon at a Spork Fight says:

      “of” should be “off” in the penultimate sentence there. Sigh.

    • ColbertGirl27 says:

      Great tidbits about Allison I’ve never read before. Loved reading about her childhood and her gradual change from liking short-form to long-form. Thanks!

      Did you notice the picture? She’s got Stephen in a jar. Love it!

  8. I went to Barnes and Noble today just to browse and as I wandered, I saw a cart stacked with new books ready to be put out and on top was the new Second City book. I don’t know if I was supposed to, but there was nobody around, so I grabbed it and sat down with some Starbucks and read through the entire chapter that had to do with Stephen’s era. I won’t spoil it but everyone HAS to read it! Great tidbits, not only from Stephen but from others about him as well. Basically the whole book looks great and I’ll definitely be buying it soon. *there’s that whole money issue lol*

    Slightly off topic but I also looked over “Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Me” by Ben Karlin again, mainly Stephen’s essay and now I realize part of what was blacked out actually is. He talks about his “woman who dumped him” getting him to stop playing that game where you take a knife and _____________ etc. What’s funny about that is I’m almost positive he’s talking about the thing he did in the recent Colbert Report episode where he was stabbing a knife between his fingers really fast. I guess she didn’t get him to stop completely! :)

    • Ms Interpreted says:

      It’s called “5-finger fillet” or more … originally, the “knife game”. Seriously.

      I suppose better that than mumblety-peg.

      • laughing at nothing says:

        Where I grew up in Chicago the “knife game” was known as mumblety-peg. Perhaps they used that phrase for all games involving knives because it was so funny to say.

        Thanks for the clarification.

    • ColbertGirl27 says:

      Oh! Thanks for the early recommendation Erika…and kudos to you for snagging the book before its release date! You should have sneaked it onto one of the bookshelves as Stephen would with I Am America;)

  9. ColbertGirl27 says:…gosh. Just saw the picture at the end of the photo gallery. What a HANDSOME man! He still is, but I’ve never seen him that young and handsome.

  10. Hmm…. I still have a day or 2 left on my teacher’s discount @ Borders. I think I’ll be making a trip there tomorrow. I wasn’t going to go this time, but you’ve given me a wonderful reason. Thanks.

  11. i cant help but notice that despite all the other famous pictures on the book stephen’s pic is the biggest. as it should be.

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