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Remembering Fred Willard, 1933-2020

by The Second City

MAY 16, 2020

The Second City is devastated by the loss of one of comedy’s most beloved icons and a true master of improvisation, Fred Willard, who passed away May 15th in Los Angeles. An Ohio native, Willard auditioned for The Second City in 1965 alongside Robert Klein despite having no prior experience with improv comedy. He spent a year with the company in Chicago, developing his unique talents and helping create and perform in the theater’s 18th and 19th revues, Off the Road and This and That.  Willard called his time at The Second City “really one of the best years of my life artistically” because “at Second City, you can do something during the day, have an idea, and have it up on-stage that night.” Always a lovable oddball, one of his favorite characters at Second City was a clumsy vampire whose fangs were two cigarettes hanging out of the sides of his mouth.

Although his time with The Second City was short-lived, Willard remained a steadfast supporter of and friend to the theater for the rest of his life. He was always happily on hand to help celebrate Second City’s milestones, a fixture at nearly every anniversary event and award presentation commemorating his former comedy home. He also graciously made himself available to continue collaborating with new generations of Second City talent, appearing on stage and on camera at benefit performances and in digital shorts, where his quick wit, generosity, and beguiling smile always stole the show.

“Fred was one of the kindest, most generous souls I have ever met and one of the funniest humans to ever grace that Second City stage, always game. It was no accident that he was always working; he was adored by both audiences and the industry alike. We lost one of the greats,” says Second City CEO and longtime friend Andrew Alexander.

It is an honor to include the name “Fred Willard” on The Second City’s list of alumni. Our condolences go out to his daughter Hope Mulbarger and her family, as well as to Fred’s millions of fans.

Fred Willard (r) examines Robert Klein in this 1965 photo from The Second City archives.

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Thereʼs been plenty of advice offered up on this site for the Under-30 set. Die now, live later, you say? That might be all fine and dandy, but what about the rest of us? Those sad saps who were born before 1983? Whether you like it or not, here are the hard and fast truths about aging that you need to face right now. If you are doing– or are about to do– any of the following, STOP IMMEDIATELY. You are too old, my friend.

Attend a Music Festival That Involves Camping/Swedish Electronica/Side Braids

You saw all those awesome Instagrams your friends posted from SXSW. Youʼre pumped for this summerʼs Lolla lineup. Coachella is just a few weeks away… maybe youʼll try to figure out a way to get there? NO YOU WONʼT. Itʼs crowded. Itʼs sweaty. The foot- pump-y hand washing stations outside the porta potties are always out of non-potable water. Admit that a nice brunch with good friends sounds a hell of a lot better way to spend a weekend.

Apply to Medical School

Remember that one time you so knew you had blepharitis? For years, your superior symptom-Googling gave you a certain… I dunno, air of medical quasi-authority. Donʼt pretend like applying to medical school never crossed your mind… because you still had time to consider a career change. So letʼs see. If you start now, you should be a full- fledged M.D. when youʼre about 47 or so. Or maybe marketingʼs not so bad, after all.

Get a Nose Job

Speaking of doctors…. Elective plastic surgery is only fun to fantasize about until a certain age. Then you have kids, and the thought of risking something going wrong for a smaller bump doesnʼt seem (as) worth it. Youʼre just going to just have to be satisfied with the mocked up “before and after” photo you got at that appointment you had a few years ago when you were really, really worried about that potentially deviated septum. On the bright side, once the kids get married, the window opens again– and you can get a whole new face, if youʼve invested your funds wisely.

Flirt with Guys Who Look Like Johnny Depp

Let me save you on this one. Hereʼs what you donʼt want to have happen:

YOU

(breathy whisper, to dirty-hot barista)

Wow. You look just like Johnny Depp.

BARISTA

Thank you, maʼam.

Also, donʼt forget the part where “You” are 9 1/2 months pregnant and are literally out of breath from the human in your gullet sitting on your lungs.

Change Your name to Samantha

If youʼve been holding on to this dream past the age of nine and/or the cancellation of Gimme a Break!, weʼve really gotta talk. Unless your name right now is Arnold, Ralph or Joshua, in which case, I totally support you and want you to know I just want you to be happy. Everyone deserves to live their all of dreams. Mostly.

 

Liz Kozak (Editor) is a writer in Chicago who would take commas and hyphens over cake and ice cream any day. She also contributes regularly at The Huffington Post and blogs about stuff at poseypieproductions.com. Follow Liz: @LizKoz

 

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BY THE SECOND CITY | APR 5, 2013

Your Father’s Approval, and Other Things You Should Stop Striving For.

Some people spend their entire lives chasing their fathers’ approval. From choosing which college to attend to deciding whether or not mom would like that box set of Cheers for Christmas, dads influence our every decision. Well, I’m here to tell you now: stop. Your dad is one of literally billions of people on the planet. The only thing that connects you to him is the fact that he graciously spilled his DNA in your mother one day. If you really can’t live without other people’s approval, at least make a thoughtful selection. Find a community of people that you respect and then push each other to be better, like a cult or a high school wrestling team. Here are some other things that you should stop striving for:

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-A Stress-Free CTA Ride. Yes, the CTA sucks. But looking in the direction of the next train doesn’t make it arrive faster, and working yourself into a quiet rage while squeezed between a DePaul student’s backpack and a lunatic pissing his sweatpants doesn’t get you to work any faster. Instead, force a smile and accept the CTA for what it is: a poorly-run public service.

-That Million-Dollar App Idea. You know that simple-yet-amazing iPhone app idea you have? Someone else developed it last year. Just play Powerball.

-A Full Understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Even International Relations professors don’t know what is going on over there. Read some Wikipedia articles and call it a day.

-A Productive Day Off. So you have MLK Day off, and you’re planning on knocking out that laundry list of chores? Your bottle of Lubriderm, box of tissues, and web browser have different plans. Don’t forget to turn on “private browsing.”

-A Drinkable Beer with Fewer Than 100 Calories. No number of ads featuring giggling gal pals on a night out can change the fact that Miller64 tastes like carbonated cat urine.

-The Perfect Fedora. If Justin Timberlake looks silly wearing something, rest assured you look even sillier.

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-A Use for Your Philosophy Degree. It’s not that you’re unemployable. After all, there are lots of customer service and retail jobs available. Plus, college wasn’t a total waste of time. I’m sure you had a great time debating Ayn Rand with your buddies in the student union.

-A Valuable LinkedIn Profile. LinkedIn is an extra-boring Facebook. “I would like to add you to my professional network” might as well read “I have nothing to do today and, well, why not?”

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-Writing the Next Great American Novel. After a decade of writing sessions, all you’ve accomplished is getting the Starbucks barista to memorize your order. And she totally hates you.

-Fame. The odds of achieving this are so low it’s laughable. Just have a good time and push your kid into piano classes at age 3. You never know.

-Fortune. The odds of achieving this are so low it’s laughable. Just have a good time and push your failed musician of a child into an MBA program. You can live off him.

-Convincing People That Disagree With You On Something That You Are Correct. This sounds defeatist, but it’s really intended to save you time. You are not Noam Chomsky or Christopher Hitchens, so you don’t stand a chance. Just hang out with people who already agree with you and high-five each other constantly.

-Flossing Everyday. Every… day…

-Being Cool. Coolness is overrated and silly. You know those brooding quiet guys at the party who look super badass and complicated? Me neither, because they’re boring. Unless you’re Johnny Depp or a main character in a nouveau vampire movie, just be energetic and emotionally open. It’s way more fun.

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-An Occupy Movement That Accomplishes Anything. I like camping too, but come on.

-A BMI in the “Healthy Range.” Diets are boring and so are conversations that revolve around them. Just put a belt on it or something if you want to feel different. You’re beautiful.

-World Peace… Ah, what the heck, we need dreams. Keep striving for this one.

 

Asher Perlman performs with iO, Second City, and Comedysportz. He also writes and performs comedy with ATV and is a winner of the Gimme 5 solo sketch competition at The Playground.

 

 

BY THE SECOND CITY | APR 4, 2013

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A Word on Marriage

I didn’t change my facebook profile picture to a pink equal sign.  Don’t get me wrong I support empty gestures as much as the next guy; and there’s nothing like a picture of Ernie and Burt superimposed over parallel lines to legitimize a serious political issue.  I’m just not entirely on board with gay marriage or heterosexual marriage either.  Sure, I’m a married man (very happily if my wife is reading this) but marriage is an institution that blurs the line between Church and State.  A couple can get married in a church or a courthouse by a reverend or a judge, where else does this crossover exist?  You can’t serve your jury duty in a church choir (although that could make for an hilarious Jack McBrayer movie).  You can’t pay your taxes with prayers (I tried).

This whole debate could be clarified if the government left recognizing marriage to the churches, temples, synagogues, and covens and simply let two people of whatever gender, race, or religion merge like corporations do.  That’s basically what marriage is in the eyes of the government, isn’t it?  Two people combine their assets, tax responsibility, and such.  Taking the word “marriage” out of the equation eliminates any questions of morality and then people who did oppose gay mergers would have to come out and say, “I oppose this because I’m a hateful, ignorant, prick”.  The U.S. does not need to legislate morality, leave that to the Taliban.  So if your church is progressive and approves of gay marriage, great; if your church opposes gay marriage, fine but the male prostitute your pastor visits is free to legally spend his life with the person he loves.  That’s win-win.  I hope the day comes soon when any U.S. citizen can get down on one knee and ask the person they love, “Will you file jointly with me?”

Ed Furman is a Second City alumni and a co-founder of the Annoyance Theater. He is a playwright and co-authored the hits Co-ed Prison Slutsand Rod Blagojevich: Superstar.

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