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The Second City Launches Victor Wong Fellowship for AAPI Voices in Comedy


CHICAGOMay 2, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Legendary Chicago comedy institution The Second City is proud to announce the creation of The Victor Wong Fellowship, a program to train and mentor up-and-coming comedians. Named after The Second City’s first Asian American performer and funded by Peng Zhao, CEO of Citadel Securities, and his wife, Cherry Chen, the fellowship will focus on developing the next generation of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) talent.

Beginning this fall, 16 fellows a year will be selected through auditions and granted a ten-week, tuition-free master program in improvisational comedy taught by The Second City’s top professional instructors and directors. The fellows will also have access to the theater’s executive creative team and alumni, including AAPI mentors. Following the training, the fellows will present a mix of their original comedy, improvisational games, and classic scenes from The Second City archives in a showcase event on a Second City stage in Chicago.

“Beyond professional success on stage and screen, the skills of improvisation are a kind of super-power for life,” said Parisa Jalili, COO of The Second City.  “We are thrilled that this gift will allow us to train emerging AAPI talent to both hone their comedy skills as well as their skills to be deeply collaborative, resilient, and creative individuals.”

“Comedy connects us by validating our shared experiences and opening our minds to new ones,” said Mr. Zhao and Ms. Chen. “Further diversifying the comedic community will help move this important medium—and the society it serves—forward. We are excited to help bring the unique perspectives of AAPI talent to the stage.”

The Victor Wong Fellowship is the first program by a major comedy theater to exclusively endow AAPI talent. The Second City has also been home to the NBC-backed Bob Curry Fellowship since 2014, which annually grants performers from varying diverse multicultural backgrounds a tuition-free master program.

The Victor Wong Fellowship builds on Mr. Zhao and Ms. Chen’s longstanding commitment to accelerating opportunity and prosperity for the 23 million members of the AAPI community in the United States. Mr. Zhao is a founding board member of The Asian American Foundation (TAAF), which has become a catalyzing force for improving AAPI advocacy, power, and representation across American society. Mr. Zhao and Ms. Chen have convened and funded a variety of other initiatives focused on supporting Chicago and the AAPI community, including most recently The Peng Zhao and Cherry Chen Fund for AAPI Voices in partnership with Kartemquin Films.

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

About Victor Wong

California native Victor Wong (1927-2001), moved to Chicago in the 1950s to study theology at the University of Chicago before becoming involved with The Second City. Mr. Wong joined The Second City at the encouragement of his close friend and famed theater academic, Viola Spolin. A fixture in the San Francisco Beat Scene of the 1950s and ’60s alongside Jack Kerouc and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Mr. Wong’s acting credits included notable roles in the films “The Joy Luck Club,” “The Last Emperor,” “Big Trouble in Little China,” “The Three Ninjas” series, and “The Golden Child.”


Meet The New Hires Joining SNL For Season 44

SNL’ announced the latest additions to their roster, and three of the names joining the show for its upcoming 44th season are are headed to New York by way of Chicago.

Before the season premiere with Adam Driver and Kanye West on September 29th, get to know these talented performers & writers.


Alison Gates – The Second City

Born and raised in Massachusetts, new SNL writer Alison Gates is an alumna of The Second City Touring Company. She has also performed with with Virgin Daiquiri (iO Chicago), Glass Basement (iO Chicago), Trigger Happy (The Annoyance), and with her bud Garrett in The Fallen Elegant.



Alan Linic – The Second City

Before being hired as an SNL writer, Alan Linic has co-wrote and appeared in two Second City e.t.c. shows, “Gaslight District” and “Fantastic Super Great Nation Numero Uno.” Prior to joining the e.t.c. company, he performed at the Kennedy Center as a part of The Second City and Slate collaboration “Unelectable You” and toured with The Second City Touring Company. He teaches, too! Alan taught writing, Improv for Actors and Second City Conservatory classes as a faculty member at The Second City Training Center.

In 2016, he and  Claire Linic released a workbook for couples called Our Perfect Marriage. Follow Alan on Twitter @AlanLinic.


Eli Mandel – The Second City

Eli Mandel is a comedian, improviser and actor hailing from the small foothill community of O’Neals, CA, just outside Yosemite National Park. He studied theater at UC Santa Cruz before coming to Chicago, where he understudied for The Second City Touring Company and The Second City Mainstage. Now he’s a writer for SNL. (He also voices “Rip Stipley” in the award-winning Improvised Star Trek Podcast.)

Tune in to the Season 44 premiere of SNL on September 29th, because you know Kanye’s gonna do something real weird.


Tina Fey & Jeff Richmond High-Fived Their Partnership And Also Talked About ‘Mean Girls’ On ‘CBS This Morning’

Newly-minted Broadway baby Tina Fey talked to Jane Pauley about bringing Mean Girls to the Great White Way, pounding the pavement in Chicago, and the longevity of her partnership with fellow Second City alum (and her husband), Jeff Richmond.

Watch the clip from CBS This Morning:


Gilda Radner Documentary To Premiere At Tribeca Film Festival

The 2018 Tribeca Film Festival is set to open with “a loving look at the life and legacy of an enduring comedy heroine,” Second City alumna and trailblazing comedian Gilda Radner.

Directed and produced by Lisa D’Apolito, “Love, Gilda” “is a true autobiography of a pioneering woman, told in her own voice and through her own words,”says the official Tribeca website. “It weaves together audiotapes, rare home movies, diary entries, and interviews with her friends and those inspired by her,” including Amy Poehler, Cecily Strong, Radner’s long-time friend Martin Short and Second City CEO and executive producer Andrew Alexander.

Gilda Radner and Andrew Alexander circa 1974.

Gilda Radner joined The Second City Toronto when it opened in 1973 before becoming the very first cast member Lorne Michaels hired for “Saturday Night Live.” The Emmy and Grammy winner’s indelible legacy lives on through Gilda’s Club, a place where men, women and children whose lives have been impacted by cancer, as well as their families and friends, can feel they are part of a welcoming community of support.


Jordan Peele Talks Great Improv & Meeting Actor Keegan-Michael Key

Jordan Peele has enthralled movie audiences with NOPE, Us, and Get Out (a film that earned him several Oscar nominations). Though Jordan Peele movies are known for their Twilight Zone vibes, his entertainment career all started with improv comedy.

Before he had the public asking, “When is the new Jordan Peele movie?” Peele met actor Keegan-Michael Key at The Second City. Peele has since been a frequent collaborator on multiple Keegan-Michael Key movies and TV shows, including the Comedy Central sketch show Key & Peele and the side-splitting movie Keanu. Here are some interview highlights from Peele’s talk with The Hollywood Reporter.

Jordan Peele talks Improv Comedy

“I like to think that any one of us can train and become a great improviser. It’s almost like if you would imagine being born with a musical instrument that’s unique to you, that no one’s ever seen before. You know, someone can train a bunch of people how to play music, but you can only learn what your specific technique is and your style is…The really good improvisers, and there are some really amazing ones out there, are listening, are engaged with their partner and are really trying to craft something beautiful in its spontaneous collaboration.”

Jordan Peele talks Meeting Actor Keegan-Michael Key at Second City

“…all of a sudden, I am performing in the next room from Keegan-Michael Key, who I had heard about, but I had never met. And all I heard is you have to see this guy….he just has this energy like no one I had ever seen and since in all of comedy. It’s like, you know, there’s a couple people who have that kinetic energy that somehow still feels true. And he had that. And, I was just in awe, and you know, maybe a little bit of like, ‘Oh, this motherfucker is good.'”

Learn more about Second City at https://www.secondcity.com/courses/chicago/adult/.

Watch Peele & Key compete in the workplace long before they were “Key & Peele”:


Curious City Asks, ‘What Makes Chicago A Destination For Improv?’

When a WBEZ Curious City listener asked, “Why did Chicago become such a destination for improv?” eight improvisers who got their start right here in Chicago answered, including Second City alumni Horatio Sanz, TJ Jagodowski, Chris Redd, Susan Messing, David Pasquesi, and new e.t.c. cast member Emily Fightmaster.

Read/Listen to the full story here.


The Second City’s Second Takes: January Edition

Ryan Asher is an ensemble member in The Second City’s 106th Mainstage revue, Dream Freaks Fall From Space. Follow her on Twitter & Instagram: @Reen_Machine.

Gillian Bellinger currently appears in Trump in Space at Second City Hollywood’s Studio Theater. Follow her on Twitter @GillianBellz, and the show @TrumpInSpace.

Allana Reoch is an ensemble member in The Second City Toronto’s Party Today, Panic Tomorrow. Follow her on Twitter @allanacreoch.

Edgar Blackmon is an alum of The Second City Mainstage. Catch him in Freeform’s new original series Alone Together and follow him on Twitter (@edgarblackmon) and Instagram (@edgar430).


Previous Second Takes:

December’s Second Takes

November’s Second Takes


Shrink’ Is Now Streaming At NBC.com

Second City alum and “Citizen Journalist” Tim Baltz is the co-creator and star of “Shrink,” the original series that’s crammed with more improv talent than you can shake an invisible pretend stick at.

The show’s pilot episode won Baltz and Second City Touring Company alum and former Daily Show producerTed Tremper Best Comedy and Critics Award at the New York Television Festival in 2012, and the series earned rave reviews when it premiered on NBC’s streaming service SeeSo (RIP).

Good news, psychologically unbalanced comedy fans–all 8 episodes are now streaming on NBC.com.


The Second City’s Second Takes: November Edition

Jeffrey Murdoch is an ensemble member in The Second City’s 106th Mainstage revue Dream Freaks Fall From Space. Follow him on Twitter (@jsmurd) and Instagram (@jmurdoink, @whatcanisayimafoodie).

John Thibodeaux is a two-time Emmy Award-nominated writer for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and an alum of The Second City Touring Company. Follow him on Twitter (@john_ThiBOdeauX).

Jillian Welsh is a Dora-nominated actor, comedian and storyteller who can currently be seen in Second City Toronto’s The Good, The Bad & The Ugly Sweater.

Jacklyn Uweh is now appearing in Live Rude Girls at Second City Hollywood. For more, check out her website.


Previous Second Takes

July’s Second Takes

June’s Second Takes


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