Last week I visited the Windy City to take a writing class at the famed Second City, and, wow, what an experience! Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Lauren, I always knew you were funny, but I didn’t know your talents extended into thespianism. What’s next? SNL?” And who could blame you for thinking that!? But no, as fate would have it, I believe the similarities between Chris Farley’s career trajectory and my own stop at “Second City’s Writing 1.”

So, a little about the class. The class’s official title was “Writing 1: 5-Day Intensive” and it was just as it sounds – a week-long intensive intro to sketch comedy writing. I didn’t have to apply or send in writing samples; anyone with a dream and a handful of vacation days to burn can sign up. Of course, a suggested acting/improv experience prereq would have been nice. That’s right, everyone had to do cold reads and improvisation during, and I can’t stress this enough, a WRITING class. Actually about 70% of class time was allocated to “acting out” our sketches we were assigned as homework the day prior. The other 30% of class time was spent learning about genres, character dialogue, scene setup, etc.

Enough about the stuff you’d find in a course brochure, here are three things I personally learned from my week with Second City.

  1. Ask “why” more. Everything should have a purpose and a reason to be – your storyline, characters, props, etc. While this may seem obvious, asking myself “why” throughout my writing process helped me to stay true to my characters, storylines and point of view, the latter being a major theme throughout the class.
  2. Act confident and no one will question you. Did I have any improv experience going into this? No. Do I like being in front of an audience? No. But I had fun with it because that’s all I really could do! No one doubted my improv ability, because I didn’t let myself doubt my ability (aside from my questionable Italian accent). And for me, that’s a powerful takeaway.
  3. Everyone has stories to tell. In our class of 9 we had an Aussie, a Canadian, a mom, a dad, a counselor, a pizza delivery guy, some students, some wanderers and only one writer by trade – me. We all told our own provocative, weird, original stories in our own hilarious ways. In advertising we often say, “everyone has a story,” but it was amazing to witness those stories being told organically, firsthand.

There you have it, some lessons you won’t find in my class notes, but ones that I surely did take away from my experience. If you ever find yourself in Chicago with a few hours to burn, you should absolutely check out a Second City show. I highly suggest seeing She The People. And if you’re at all curious about taking a class at Second City, I say go for it! Chances are you’re funnier than you think.

See more pics from the trip on the BMA instagram.

Lauren Barrett
Copywriter, Excursionist, Amy Poehler Wannabe