Master the skills of sketch comedy writing in this program designed for writers and actors of all experience levels. Learn basic scene structure, character development, establish action, and learn the styles and genres of comedy. Weekly writing assignments and in-class exercises generate material and establish a regular writing schedule.
Writing 1 is for any student who is looking to start the journey of writing to and for a Second City-style revue. This class is the foundation for scenic comedy writing, a guide for utilizing an improviser’s skill set for rapid creation, and learning writing refinement. The concepts and tools provided in Writing 1 are the building blocks for being able to quickly and creatively write to and for a Second City-style revue. Every comedic writer must have the knowledge and skills that are offered in this course.
Writing 1 teaches students how to write comedic scenes that could be found in a Second City-style revue by exploring different scenic set-ups, character dialogue, genres and point-of-view. Students use improv as a tool for character and dialogue generation.
Writing 1 class time includes a combination of solo exercises and collaborative exercises to build skills in brainstorming, comedic structure and character development. Students also gain a Second City perspective on theatrical writing – including observation, idea generation, dialogue, and character creation. Feedback focuses on ‘what works’ in terms of the structural building blocks. Class time is active, positive and encouraging. Students practice concepts through a series of weekly homework assignments.
Any student interested in creating Second City-style comedic writing or interested in extending their improvisation abilities and experiences into writing should take Writing 1.
Writing 1 meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term.
Writing 2 builds on the foundation for scenic comedy writing established in Writing 1 by expanding on scenic types, writing to cast and running order, and writing through collaboration. Writing 2 focuses on the construction of a sketch comedy revue running order. Students who understand the structure of a show are able to better write to the needs of a show and its cast.
Writing 2 provides students with understanding of the different types of scenes found in a Second City-style sketch comedy revue. The lens of the course is focused on the Cast and the Characters. Understanding scenic formulas, writing to cast size, and character point-of-view. Students practice creating simple structures with relatable characters as they learn the building blocks of a sketch revue.
Students in Writing 2 develop variety in their comedic scene creation by watching and analyzing a Second City-style revue and work on in-class exercises to write towards the need of a Second City running order. Students also work with one another to develop scenes as collaboration is a cornerstone of the Second City creation process.
Writing 2 meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term.
Writing 3 builds on the exploration into a Second City running order established in Writing 2 by focusing on the various sources of scenic inspiration and delving deeper into satirical writing. Writing 3 addresses the satirical needs of a sketch comedy revue running order as well as the skills and needs brought on by the varied talents of the cast. By filtering the lessons acquired in previous Writing levels through the lens of satire, students get better acquainted with the style and asks of a Second City-style show.
Students examine various sources of inspiration such special skills of the whole cast, other cast members, and personal experiences. As students sharpen the picture of the elements and source of Second City material, they deepen their exploration and understanding of satire and practice several formats that support strong satirical premises.
Students in Writing 3 continue developing variety in their comedic scenes by focusing on the needs of the cast and/or the running order. Students continue to work with one another to develop scenes by collaborating on varied satirical premises.
Writing 3 meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term. Writing 3 culminates in a 30-minute collaborated in-class “show”.
Writing 4 completes the writer’s toolkit with advanced skills for achieving strong point-of-view and applying scenic writing skills to custom writing opportunities. Writing 4 is a culmination of the skills acquired through The Second City Writing Program. It is with this class that a student will be prepared to move into the final levels which focus on writing an actual Second City-style revue for an actual cast.
Students are challenged to heighten their jokes while deepening their satiric point of view. Songwriting and other theatrical conventions are explored. At the end of the term, students apply their skills to typical Second City writing challenges in adapting material for special audiences. Additionally, students gain a greater understanding of writing opportunities available at The Second City.
Students in Writing 4 focus greatly on writing to need. Class time will be used on writing with a partner, rewriting, writing towards specifics projects, joke construction, and heightening.
Writing 4 meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term. There is no performance associated with Writing 4; however, in week 8 there is an in-class reading of material.
Please note that admittance into Writing 5 is based on acceptance of a writing submission from Writing 4. Submissions are due in week 4. This submission should be a new scene, and should not be revised as part of in-class work.
Writing 5 focuses on generating and refining written satirical material that results in a fifty-minute sketch revue script. Writing 5 puts into practice the skills acquired from previous class levels to create and produce a Second City-style revue.
Students in Writing 5 learn how to complete a script for a Second City-style revue through comedic writing generated from individual contributions and group collaboration. Students take on production roles to better experience what it takes to mount a comedy show.
Writing 5 has students write a Second City sketch revue with considerations to running order, cast, variety, theme and other aspects investigated in previous Writing levels. Students hold auditions to cast their final scripted sketch show, which is produced and performed after Writing 6. In addition to completing a final script, students take on production roles to ensure that the show is mounted efficiently and effectively.
Writing 5 meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term. While there is no performance at the end of Writing 5, a script is created with the intent of being performed by actors after Writing 6.
Writing 6 is the culmination of the Writing Program guaranteeing the production and theatrical run of a Second City-style revue. Writing 6 focuses on producing a staged comedy sketch show by fulfilling production roles, writing to show and cast needs, and working with a director to mount a show properly and on time.
Students in Writing 6 continue to refine material produced in Writing 5 while continuing to generate material based on the needs of the cast and running order. Students learn how to work with actors and a director as class time is used as rehearsal for the creation of the show. Students experience production meetings to ensure that their show is produced efficiently and effectively.
Class time is used as rehearsal time geared towards creating and producing a final show. Students work directly with the cast and director to hone existing material and to provide additional sketches as needed. Students schedule and attend production meetings to make sure that the show is created and produced in an organized and expedient fashion.
Writing 6 meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term. After Writing 6 is completed, the show created in class will enjoy a 4-5 week performance run in a Second City Training Center theater.
The Second City has partnered with The Onion to present this four-level program outlining The Onion’s unique system of generating comedy ideas and stories. Learn how to create winning premises, essays and one-liners, but also find your unique comedy voice and learn to trust it to produce reliably successful humor writing. You’ll work through The Onion’s multi-step process in a workshop environment.
The first level is an introduction to The Onion’s unique top-down approach to comedy writing, and how to implement that approach to craft successful comedic premises and concepts. This class focuses on the most important element: the art of the Onion headline.
Basic Writing with The Onion meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term.
Writers will learn how to write a successful comedic story, hone their prose to a fine edge, and apply The Onion’s style of comedy creation to cultivate their own voice and style. In hands-on workshops, students work with the instructor and with other students to develop foundational comedy-article writing skills.
Intermediate Writing with The Onion meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term.
The laugh-potential of students’ writing turns up exponentially in this exploration of comedy writing in groups. In Advanced Writing with The Onion learn to navigate the egos and politics of a writers room to create the most successful possible comedy using The Onion’s counter-intuitive ego-less creation process, resulting in an end product that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
Advanced Writing with The Onion meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term.
This class mimics the real Onion writers’ room, giving students an experience very similar to working at The Onion. By applying all techniques learned in the first three levels, students produce publish-worthy humor stories, articles or features. This course features intense hands-on work with the instructor, as well as group projects.
The Onion Master Class meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term.
These workshops may not be offered every term. If you would like to be informed when a class becomes available, please click here.
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Youth & Teen Coaching
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Sketch Production (Coaching a group through their first production)
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