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Writing Program

Master the skills of writing sketch comedy in this writing 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.



  • Writing Levels 1-6
  • 3 Hours, 8 Weeks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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Writing with The Onion

Writing with The Onion

  • Basic - Master
  • 3 Hours, 8 Weeks

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.

Basic Writing with The Onion

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.

Intermediate Writing with The Onion

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.

Advanced Writing with The Onion

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.

The Onion Master Class

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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Comedy Writing

Accelerated Writing

Accelerated Writing is for experienced writers and performers and Conservatory grads who want to improve their writing skills without immersing themselves in the Writing Program. It could be good for people looking to submit writing packets or those who are planning to move to one of the coasts to pursue…

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Creating Cartoon Stories

Bring your story ideas to life in cartoons. We’ll explore the creative process, cartoon drawing fundamentals, character development, and more! In-class writing and drawing exercises help you discover new possibilities in developing and expressing your ideas and point of view. These exercises help you generate the ideas for your own…

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Humor Book Writing

Writing the Humorous Memoir 1

Writing the Humorous Memoir is for anyone considering writing their memoirs. It’s also for anyone who wants to learn to tell the stories of their life in a concise and entertaining way. These are your stories. They are unique to you and no one else can tell them. This class…

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Writing the Humorous Memoir 2

In Writing the Humorous Memoir 2, students will read excerpts from humor memoir writers as prompts to generate our life’s material. What’s different in this level is that revising is added to the mix. Second draft writing in humorous non-fiction is chiefly focused on where to place scenes with dialogue….

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Writing the Humorous Memoir 3

Memoirists in this class draw upon their personal, generated, material and take it into other genres and publishing markets through intense revision. Skills in this class include third draft writing, personal document research, audible publishing analytics, translation study, and forays into prose genres via an online publishing on Story Street…

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Making Your Book a Reality

Have a killer idea for a book or three chapters that have been sitting around since 2013? In this class students will learn how to make their book a reality. Students will learn how to create book proposals, pitch a lit agent, and how to make social media benefit your…

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Plays and Shows

One Person Show Workshop

The best way to get work is to make work! Ever fantasized about creating your own one person show, but weren’t sure where to start? This is the course for you!

In One Person Show Workshop you can act in the best role, the one you wrote for YOU! Find your…

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One Person Show Workshop 2: More Writing and Story

You know what your one person show is. You’ve got an outline, the title, the poster (even if it’s just in your head). Now you just want the actual script! This workshop is designed for writing, writing, writing.

Specific writing exercises will give you the key points of your show: the…

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Writing Comedy for Business Clients

Comedy and Advertising

Comedy and Advertising is a writing class designed to help students learn how to evaluate a brand’s tone and style. Students will figure out a brand’s advertising strategy, then pitch an ad idea for that brand using advertising elements such as scripting, storyboarding, and mood boards. Students learn to dissect…

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Writing for TV & Film

Intro to Writing for TV & Film

In Intro to Writing for TV & Film you will learn how to write quickly and improvisationally while applying the stylistic and format requirements of film and TV to discover the key moments of your story. You will explore visual storytelling, screenplay format, story structure, and character development. You will…

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Screenwriting 1

Screenwriting 1 is for serious screenwriters looking for help turning a jumble of ideas into a sharp script that will turn heads. The screenplay can be an unwieldy beast without proper understanding of structure, pace, tone and character arcs. This class helps you tame the beast.

You will learn the specifics…

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The Sitcom Writers Room

The Sitcom Writers Room is for improvisers who want to get a feel of what it’s like to work in a professional writers room. It is good for anybody who is considering moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in writing. This class provides life experience working in an…

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Writing the Sitcom Pilot

Writing the Sitcom Pilot is for serious writers who want to develop an original sitcom pilot script. It is also for people who feel they have a great premise for a sitcom but don’t have a lot of writing experience. Selling a pilot for development to a studio is a…

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Writing the Sitcom Spec Script

Writing the Sitcom Spec Script is for serious writers who want to get into writing television sitcoms as their career. It is valuable for those planning to move to Los Angeles to become a working television writer and those looking to have a professional writing sample packet. A spec script…

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Writing the Comedy Screenplay with Scott Dikkers

A spec-comedy screenplay is a great calling card for any screenwriter—and it’s indispensable for a comedy writer. In this course we’ll tee you up to achieve this goal. Students will learn the tools professional comedy writers use to create funny screenplays and how to use those tools to get started…

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Writing for the Web

Writing Humor Pieces for the Web

Learn the craft of writing long-form humor pieces for sites like McSweeney’s, Shouts & Murmurs, and the Second City Network. Whether you’re looking to get your work published online or just want to push yourself as a comedy writer, this class will help you find and polish your comedic voice….

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Private Lessons

Private Lessons

One-On-One Coaching

The Second City Training Center offers individual, customized coaching in a variety of areas including, but not limited to:

Monologue prep
On-camera audition prep
Dialects Accent Coaching

Youth & Teen Coaching
Audition Prep
Monologue Prep

Advanced sketch critique
Screenplay & Sitcom coaching
Sketch Production (Coaching a group through their first production)
Sketch generation & critique…

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