Jessye McGarry '16 and Carrie Solomon '16

While many students in the class of 2016 are either abroad or at Hamilton programs in New York City and Washington, D.C., both Carrie Solomon ’16 and Jessye McGarry ’16 opted for an alternate city experience. This fall, the two students have pursued their passion for comedy in a semester-long program, straight from the source at The Second City’s Chicago-based comedic headquarters.

Name drop “Second City” to any lover of comedy or popular culture in the last 50 years, and it’s likely to elicit an animated response. Along with its status as one of the most successful comedy troupes in the country since the 1950s, having produced many of today’s most esteemed comedians in the entertainment industry, Second City also remains a staple in the improvisational theatre community. For Solomon and McGarry, both members of Hamilton’s improv group Yodapez, the name takes on new meaning as they immerse themselves in the theatre’s prestigious Comedy Studies program. 

Both students follow in the footsteps of Wynn Van Dusen ’15, who studied at Second City during the spring ’14 semester. As a “friend, mentor and fellow donut lover,” McGarry explained, Van Dusen inspired the duo to attend. Also, as a “prospective comedy writer, I knew this was my chance to finally study all aspects of comedy,” McGarry said. A creative writing major, McGarry said that although Hamilton professors, such as Tina Hall and Craig Latrell, were supportive when she almost exclusively wrote comedy in their classes, she doesn’t need to look far to find the same support at Second City. “At Hamilton, comedy is what I do outside of class, but here I get to study comedy all day,” she said.

Solomon, with a double major in creative writing and theatre, also cites the influence of Hamilton professors such as Hall, Mark Cryer and Steven Yao. Their classes gave Solomon a diverse skillset in theater, writing and an appreciation of the classics, she said. With the knowledge that she wants to pursue some type of career in the entertainment industry, the Comedy Studies program gives Solomon the resources to help “figure out exactly what it is that [she wants] to do.”

At Second City, the students take six comedy-oriented classes, each with a different focus: acting, improv, sketch writing, history of comedy, movement and an independent study of their choice. On Fridays, the program holds special workshops that range from “writing jokes in the style of late night monologues and drafting headlines for the Onion, to doing musical improv,” said Solomon. In addition to their collaboration-based classes, the group of students—which consists of 21 other students from various colleges—will conclude the semester with a showcase of their work on the Second City Stage.

While Solomon says the constant stimulation can be “exhausting at times,” their proximity to comedic greatness keeps them motivated. “Yes we’re writing sketches, analytical papers, and studying monologues,” she said, “but the feeling of waking up every morning and going to a theater in which some of the funniest people in the industry have studied and performed is truly incomparable to anything I've ever experienced.”

McGarry echoed Solomon’s sentiment, mentioning her awareness of Tina Fey, Tami Sagher and Aidy Bryant’s time at Second City.  “Studying here is like the line in Bruce Springsteen’s song “Candy’s Room,” where he says ‘In Candy’s room, there are pictures of her heroes on the walls,’” McGarry remarked. “Because there really are pictures of my heroes on the walls.”

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