Second City To Offer Asian American Pacific Islander Fellowship In Improv Comedy

second city opened its doors in 1959 as a small comedy cabaret. It has since become the world’s most influential name in improv comedy, with prominent alumni such as John Belushi, John Candy, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Keegan-Michael Key, Eugene Levy and many more.

Now, the Chicago troupe is giving back with its Victor Wong fellowship for AAPI Voice in Comedy is the first workshop of its kind funded by Citadel Securities CEO Peng Zhao and his wife Cheri Chen.

second city

The fellowship will award a tuition-free master’s program in Improvisational Comedy to 16 fellows annually.

California native Victor Wong (1927–2001) moved to Chicago in the 1950s to study theology at the University of Chicago. He joined The Second City on the encouragement of his close friend and renowned theater academic, Viola Spolin. A fixture in the San Francisco beat scene of the 1950s and ’60s with Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Wong’s acting credits included roles in films The E Joy Luck Club, The Last Emperor, Big Trouble Inn Little China, The Three Ninjas series, and The Golden Child.

Beginning this fall, 16 teammates will be selected a year through auditions and a ten-week program in improv comedy taught by The Second City’s trainers and directors. Fellows will also have access to the theater’s executive creative team and alumni, including AAPI patrons.

After training, Fellows will present their mix of original comedy, improvisational games, and classic scenes from The Second City Archives at a showcase event at the Second City Stage in Chicago.

“Beyond professional success on stage and screen, improvisation skills are a kind of superpower for life,” said Parisa Jalili, COO of The Second City. “We are thrilled that this gift will allow us to train budding AAPI talent with their comedy skills as well as their skills to become deeply collaborative, resilient and creative individuals.”

“Humor connects us by validating our shared experiences and opening our minds to new ones,” said Mr. Zhao and Ms. Chen. “Bringing further diversity to the comedic community will help propel this important medium—and the society it serves—forward. We are excited to help bring the unique perspective of AAPI talent to the platform.

The Second City has also been home to the NBC-supported Bob Curry Fellowship since 2014, which offers a tuition-free master’s program annually to artists of varying multicultural backgrounds.

Auditions for the inaugural Victor Wong Fellowship will be held in August 2022.