This simple webpage is a diary of my experience completing the Second City Training Center's Writing Program. It will chronicle our writing class putting up a 75 minute sketch comedy show at Donny's Skybox Theater in Pipers Alley in Chicago. I hope to add more pictures and graphics in the coming days.
How did we get here?
Our group of comedy writers started back on January 5, 2000 at The Second City Training Center. We were a group of 18 people who came together to breathe life into our comedy writing ambitions. Our instruction would consist of 6 levels of classes, each 8 weeks in length. We would learn the basic comic premises, some theatre history, mix in viewing some sketch comedy videos - and a lot of writing. In level 5 we would create a show and put our best material in a sketch comedy revue. Level 6 we learn the business of becoming a working, paid writer and create our writing portfolio.
What do you do in a comedy writing class?
"Ok kids, here is how to write funny material. First..." Sorry it's not like that.
What was the first thing you had to write that first meeting?
We were given twenty minutes to write about a mugging at the airport. No guidance as to the format, or characters, or story - nothing. Just write. Didn't have to be funny, just write.
Ok, pencils down. We had our twenty minutes. Now what? Our instructor, a fine teacher and hell of a writer himself, Glenn Earich asked us to read aloud what we had written. Read? ALOUD?! Good God! The room suddenly was 10 degrees hotter. One-by-one we went around the room. People reading their first official comedy piece. And you know something? It wasn't bad!
Some people had funny stuff. Many pieces were exposition with no dialogue. Some short, some long. The most amazing thing was how many different angles there were on a mugging at an airport. No two were alike. Lesson one - you can make completely different scenes from the same basic premise. Homework assignment one from that class was to turn our in-class writing into a scene with dialogue. We were on our way.
As the weeks passed our group dwindled. For whatever reasons, people chose not to continue through the program. Was it the constant writing? We all had real lives outside the group, yet we had to have that sketch for class on Wednesday night. And re-writes too. After four months, you had to really want to write to keep going. We had to submit sketches aftet the first three levels for review to be accepted to the next level, so there is some judging of our writing going on as we progress through the program.
The class jelled together. We soon were bringing copies of our sketches and passing them around to be read aloud by other class members. Our writing came alive in other voices. Very different comedy styles were emerging. We were all testing and stretching our comedic points of view. Some were bad, some good - and a few pieces were very good.
Onward the weeks marched by. The class would get smaller. We were now meeting in a room with no windows, poor ventilation and served as storage for The Second City. Ahh yes, this was to get us used to a true writing environment for a television show.
Our fourth level we were down to seven writers. In this level we wrote few new sketches and did many re-writes of earlier material. We were putting together our best stuff for our level 5 comedy revue. A Second City style sketch show with a director, piano player, lights and sound technician all at the Skybox theater.
We were to audition the actors/actresses and work with the director on refining our material to create this show - written by our group. The director is in control. He picks the final sketches, makes the running order, has the final word on cast choices and generally tolerates the writers.
This is where we are today - fifth level and we lost one more writer. Our writers are;
Our director is: Josh Funk
Our head writer: Mary Scruggs
We learned how auditions would be run the next week. We as writers would man the check-in, answer questions, and usher the auditionees in and out. We were to keep quiet and remain in back during auditions. We were to laugh at the appropriate points, even if it was forced, to help ease the nervous people who were on stage. Next topic, introduce our director and head writer to our material.
Our group, ever prepared, had put together a book of what we considered our best sketches. We then read two sketches from each writer to give our director and head writer an inkling our material. We then agreed to meet a half hour early the next Wednesday for the auditons.
A few words about auditions. I (Jerry Krull) have never auditioned for a stage show in my life. (Hint - take my opinions here with the proverbial grain of salt) When I was ninteen, I audtioned for two different theme parks as a singer. That was what seems like a lifetime ago and it did not leave a very good impression with me. I completed a year-long improvisation program through The Players Workshop of the Second City in 1999. I had no audition there. Just get through the program and at the end, your group writes and puts up a sketch revue show. Side note, when I asked my wife how she liked my performace in the show, she suggested I try writing instead. Behind every great man...
Back to the audition. I stayed out with Joe to sign-in the first and second group of auditionees. We were going to have 10 people audition each hour from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM. Some how we managed to get 12 - 15 people each hour. Our director Josh also directs one of The Second City's touring companies. I think word got out about Josh and we had an overflow of auditionees. Either that or word got out about the quality of material from our group - hmm...
It was amazing to see the group of people who came to audition. I recognized a few from other shows I have seen. There were some people who were outgoing and gregarious, some brooding art types, a couple of nervous, wide-eyed neophytes, and the occasional scary looking human.
As the actors waited in the lobby, we handed them "sides" to read. A snippet of two of our sketches. One side, by Joe Kelly, was a two person sketch with a man and woman. The woman part had a long speech near the end. The other sketch, by Mike Hoffman, was for two men with very few words - a lot of back and forth, three and four word sentences. The folks waiting to audition were reading through the sides trying different inflections and characterizations. Some knew each other and worked in groups, some spoke alone. The occasional question came forth - "will we do any improvisation?" A quick check with Josh - yes there will be improv.
I was able to watch the second and third group audition. Josh would explain a little bit about the show. Explain how we, as writers, had written sketches and they were auditioning to be part of the cast. Rehearsals would be Wednesday nights from 7:00 to 10:00 and performances were scheduled for Fridays December 1, 8 & 15th at 8:00 PM in the Skybox theater (where the auditions were taking place).
Each group was split in two and then the first group was lined up on stage ready for the audition. Josh started them out with 30 second improvs. Josh would shout a location and the group on stage would then have 2 people jump forward and start a scene based on that location. He explained he would be looking for good characters from the people. Nerve-wracking for the actor! You have no idea who will jump out with you or what they are going to say or do. All you know is the location you both are in. But you better jump out and do a scene.
Some were very good and funny, some were awful and went nowhere, but the group kept right on trying. I had been through this with my improv class. You really have to listen and work with your partner. You have to understand their character. Don't deny! If your partner says "Look at this delicious vat of pudding" as they mime taking a handful and shoving it in their mouth, don't deny them and say "That's not pudding, it's shit!" No, no no! You are going for a laugh at the expense of your castmate - not a good thing for an audition.
But the key was given to them in the beginning. Josh said he would be looking for good characters. Don't be the same character in each 30 second improv. And please, be a character. You may only get to jump out 2 or 3 times. Be someone different each time and show a little stage presence - move around, mime actions doing something.
When it came time for reading the sides, we writers had to act just like the actors. We were about to hear the same two scenes about 20 times each. We had already stopped laughing at the scenes in class since we read them after each re-write. Now we had nervous actors who needed to hear laughter. Some made it easy, they grasped a character and added that magical acting touch to written words. Laughs came freely and naturally. For others we had to force a laugh a little to give them feedback. Others, well, I swear I saw Joe about to cry a couple of times because his words, his sparkling, crackling words had been butchered on stage. Just part of being a writer I guess.
One final comment for people audtioning for a comedy sketch show. Remember it is comedy - this is not the time to show the director your dramatic acting skills. If you can't get a feel for the material - should this be read fast, or deadpan, or what - choose one, just don't choose straight drama.
By the end of the night we had our cast. Josh let us know who he had chosen and we were told which sketches of ours were currently being considered. Each writer had two sketches. Mary gave us a few words about re-writes and told us to do any re-writes we had in mind and bring enough copies for the whole cast next Wednesday. We writers had a little discussion outside under the movie marquee at Pipers Alley that night - and I would say we are all psyched. We like the cast, the director and the head writer. I just hope my material holds up.
The rehearsal room is actually backstage of the Skybox Theater. There is no stage and it is all one level. This could prove interesting since the Skybox stage has different levels. But I am sure our cast can adapt to the multi-level stage come performance time. We will have a few rehearsals on the stage the week of the first show.
The cast did some readings of the sketches, and I was again amazed at how in a first reading, these talented people could add so much to our written words just by their choice of accent, cadence and expression. It is really a talented group of people. Josh tells the writers to start thinking about a title - he sees a theme of a skewed view of Americana. A dysfunctional America.
Hearing many of the sketches read aloud by people outside our writing group also pointed out where some re-writes are necessary. At the end of the rehearsal, we talk as a group and Josh lets me know he would like one of my sketches to be split in three smaller pieces to be used as a runner. He also wants there to be more characters in the scene. Oh God, my first re-write and it has to be major. Cool! This is what I really want to experience - can I be creative and satisfy the director with my re-writes? This is a challenge I want to tackle.
Nyima gives us the tentative running order. Interesting - I had re-written the one sketch to two separate mini-sketches. The problem is, it is listed as three sketches in the running order. Instant re-write is coming. Idiot, look at the diary from last week - Josh said to make it three parts!
The cast has studied their scripts. Even though this is only the second rehearsal, I see some great characters and added actions that make our written characters come to life. How do they do it? For my sketches, I am seeing one cast member take her three simple lines (which she saw for the first time tonight) and create a woman character that now gets the best laughs. And most come from her reactions to what is being said to her or about her. This was a character that was added only because Josh wanted me to include the full cast - the sketch was one character short and it had to be a female character. So I took out my trusty pen and added "Sally" - who previously had only been mentioned as the "bitch" Fred married. I gave her three lines and - Wow - what a character was born. I am going to like this...
Nyima was fantastic. She explained a choice Josh made for staging the show. All the cast members will be constantly on stage. If they are not in the scene, they will sit towards the rear of the stage. This way we can quickly go from scene-to-scene and get in as many sketches as possible in our 75 minute show.
The re-writes of my fellow writers were also awsome. I think we were all inspired by having our material read by the cast the week before. Sketches that we all knew still needed work suddenly were sharper and better written in the past week. Since our class had been reading these scenes for weeks among ourselves, we were limited to how "we" read them. Now our real actors had added their talents and suddenly new life was born as we could see more possibilites for the characters.
The whole show was blocked knowing it would change, but we only have four weeks to put this show together. At a break, the writers talk with the cast - yes we are not supposed to talk about the scenes - and we really don't. A quick exchange of compliments does take place, and then we just talk about what we do for our day jobs. A great group of people.
The writers meet at the bar across Wells Street from Second City. We talk about ideas for the name of the show and give each other notes on some re-write possibilities. Everyone's excitement about the show is growing. We still need to have a song added and we disucss other writing projects we want to do. I am really digging this.
The writers have turned in more re-writes including me. I have made one of my sketches into three mini-scenes and Mary says it is now a tight concept. I must admit, I like this writing to a deadline and meeting the goals of the director - how he needs to fit it in the show. I can still be creative, but I can solve his problem with my writing if asked. After that particular piece is performed, Josh lets me know he really likes the new three part version. No rewrites are asked for that one! (for now at least)
The cast goes through the many scenes and Josh performs his magic of directing. Just by positioning the cast differently for one sketch, a line that originally was flat, becomes a real nice laugh. We spend a lot of time blocking one scene that is very physical for the actors. I am not sure they can get to my sketches before the end of the night. We do, and both go over great. No re-writes are asked for my second sketch either.
This cast is great. They improvise on a few scenes and I see how really talented they can be. I realize I am writing this diary with kind of an "Oh golly gee whiz" point-of-view, but that is how this whole event is playing out in my mind. Cue Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, "Hey everybody, let's put on a show!".
Our group of writers are also talented. I am so proud to be working them. We are solidfying plans for written and performance work of our own, once we finish this Second City program.
At the end of rehearsal, Josh talks with the writers. We may have to do some serious cutting after next week. Many of the sketches are running 5 minutes and longer. He may move my single sketch from the show closer because another sketch has better potential for ending on a song. That's cool with me, the other sketch would fit better as a closer anyway.
We decide on a title for our show. Since we kicked around different titles last week we throw out a few to see what Josh and Mary think -
and several other like sounding titles. Josh and Mary like "American Booty". "It has better potential for getting people to come see the show," says Josh. It's hints at sex, fun and is a good play on the American Beauty movie title - which itself was about a very dysfunctional family. The writers agree and Julia will have a friend of hers come up with graphics for posters and programs. We agree to get those done in the next two weeks.
The only writing I have to do for the show this week is a four line "bio" for the program. I think I'll look at my sketches and see where I can make cuts in case I am asked to shorten them. We rehearse twice next week - Wednesday and Friday. I can't wait.
Up to this point I haven't said what my sketches were about - for fear they would be cut. What the Hell, it looks like they'll stay now. The three part runner sketch is about two cannibals hosting a cooking show. The other sketch is about a white trash wedding reception.
We started on the wedding sketch first thing today and spent almost an hour blocking out the actions. Nyima has added quite a few movements and it took awhile to get these down. Mary suggested some line cuts and I agreed. The other writers are concerned we are taking too long working on some of the scenes. We have only three more rehearsals after tonight and we have yet to run-through all the scenes more than once.
After the wedding sketch, the cast spends time blocking out another scene and it too takes a good 45 minutes. The cast is talented and Adam, a cast member, has a lot of physical action in several scenes. In one scene Nyima asks him to do pushups, but not your ordinary pushups, she wants him to do the kind where you clap your hands between each pushup! Go Adam!
We end up going over about 6 sketches total and end the night back on the wedding sketch. Two of the writers did not have any of their sketches rehearsed tonight. There is some nervousness among the writer group that time is running out.
Julia has brought in two samples of artwork for the posters and programs based on the "American Booty" title. One is a picture of an old small trailer at night. The other is a cartoon showing the rear of an overweight man from the chest down. His loose pants show the top of his crack and there is a small American flag and a rose in his back pocket. I like the second graphic, but now there is talk that we may have to change the name. Seems "American Booty" is also the title of a porno movie - or could be - nobody knows for sure. Mary tells us we have to have the name and artwork approved by Second City anyway, so she drops it off in the office. We should know by Friday's rehearsal if the name is ok.
I had sent out a reminder to the writers to write a short bio for the program. Mine was written in about two minutes and the group tells me they like it. We ask the cast to write their own bios and everyone needs to bring them Friday so we can put the program together.
I have mentioned the show to a few people at work and they have been asking me to give them a flyer when we have them made up. If this works out like the improv show I did last year, then only 10% of the people who say they will come, will actually come to the show. We hope to have sold out shows since one of the other writing classes had sold out three nights. The theater only holds 70 people so we're told to have our friends and family reserve tickets in advance just in case.
A few of the writers head to the bar across the street and talk about the show. We are still excited and Joe tells us we are way ahead of the writer show he acted in earlier this year. No worries then - well, not many anyway.
I mentioned on November 1st how Sally was added and the actress just took the three lines and ran with it. Well, Josh decided she was doing such a great job miming actions, that we should cut her three lines and just give her one big line to end the sketch. And oh yeah, Jerry could you come up with that line? Hmm...
The cast re-did the scene after the cuts and I am amazed at how much better and tighter it is. Remember kids, keep the dialog tight and crisp. I am even more impressed with the cast and Josh now. But that big laugh line at the end has me worried. How do I come up with that?
Julia shows me a song she came up with based on my wedding sketch and characters. It's a square dance, high-energy type number. I love it and she shows it to Mary and Josh. Josh does a quick read-through and says it will work as a show closer. So my wedding sketch is back to being the closer that ends with the song - for now.
The other writers get their work put up and many more cuts are taking place. The show is really long with most sketches being 5 pages. We get mine down to just over three pages and I am happy.
Josh tells Alan that he likes Alan's blues song better than Alan's Prince "1999 "parody sung by Bill Clinton. It's at this point we find out Josh will also be playing the piano for our show. God this guy is talented.
Adam, a cast member, has brought his guitar and Josh and Adam work out a fast blues riff. The cast gathers round and they rehearse the blues song. This is the first time Josh has to yell at the writers to be quiet. Josh has been extremely patient with the writers up to now. I would have told us to shut up a few weeks ago. I decide to step in the hallway and the rest of the writers follow over the next few minutes.
Julia has brought an updated flyer and poster artwork. The show will stay named "American Booty" as Rob Chambers thought it was great. The artwork we decided to go with has a silhouette of an old trailer against a striped sky of two shades of blue. A silhouette of a man with a big belly and butt stands outside the trailer and there is a cluster of stars. It looks really great. The writers decide to pay extra for having the flyers made in color.
The rehearsal goes on past 10:00 PM. We have gone through a good part of the show and with the cuts in dialog there seems to be a new energy. Josh tells the cast they can commit the sketches to memory at this point. There will be no more major cuts. We have two more rehearsals before the first show and they will go very late as they finally get a chance to rehearse on stage and get lighting down. We are into the home stretch...
Josh explained we would go through the complete running order, but probably only the beginnings and endings (tops & bottoms) of the scenes to get the lighting, music cues, and scene transitions down. The cast was in a very good mood. They actually did rehearse and block the complete first sketch. It was great to see the cast work without scripts. I was amazed at how few times lines were actually missed. Josh's directing brought even more life to the sketch.
Josh gave the running order as of now. My Cannibal 3 - part sketch is slated to start about 5 scenes into the show. Josh hadn't decided at which points he would insert the other 2 parts. The wedding sketch is still the closer plus Julia's hoedown song at the end. I came up with a couple of lines to end the wedding sketch. I show them to Kate (the actress) and then give them to Josh and Mary. We never get to rehearse the wedding sketch so I still don't know how the last line sounds.
Rehearsal goes to midnight and the writers are released. The cast stays with Josh for what is supposed to be a half-hour more. We'll see how late they stayed...
Julia has brought in the larger color poster of our show for display outside the theater. It has the same trailer/man graphic and lists the cast members names, and then the director and writers. It looks good. I have sent out several of the flyers to friends and Chicago writer agents. Who knows, maybe an agent will come - the worst that can happen is they don't.
I also sent information about the show and the writers to some local TV programs. I receive email from one producer who states a television piece on writers is probably not visually exciting enough - but he has been thinking of adding a sketch segment to his show. Would I like to talk with him and bat around some ideas? I've always wanted to say this - "We're doing lunch".
American Booty rehearsal tomorrow 7:00 PM til ??? We hope to get through the whole show and have the cast learn the hoedown song - yes, learn the song two days before the first performance! Glad I get to sit in the audience.
I show up a little early and talk with Josh and Mary. They both are excited with the show. Josh tells me he wants to combine the Cannibal sketch into 2 scenes. He also asks for a different rewrite of the third part. He wants to use it to transition to my Wedding sketch. He would like the rewrite before the night is over so Marz can memorize the last line which will describe the setting of the wedding reception sketch. I wanted to write to deadline? Well I got my wish!
Nyima (now married to Josh) has been picked to join the Second City mainstage cast! She is quite a talent and deserves the honor. I now know a Mainstage actress...cool.
Rehearsal goes pretty well. The writers are a little nervous about changes. I, unfortunately, am re-writing the Cannibal ending and going over the changes with Josh who seems to really want some specific words used. I keep trying. I finally hit on the combination Josh likes and get to watch an entire run through of the show with lights and music.
It goes fairly smoothly. The actors have taken a hard job of learning lines, including last minute re-writes and committed them to memory. The writers see many instances of dropped and botched lines, but I give the cast credit for really trying. Poor Adam is in so many scenes that I am amazed he remembers any lines. He has a few lines in the Cannibal sketch and has not really nailed those lines down. He asks for "Line!" on almost every one in the rehearsal.
I have seen the show so many times now, that I wonder if it is funny at all. My sketches alone have been with me since I created them in March and April - and now it is December. The Cannibal sketch is completely different from the first draft and the Wedding sketch has had major changes also.
The cast has been great. They have gotten a little away from the actual written lines, and they tend to throw in the old "F" word if they forget a line. Josh reminds the cast at the end of the long night to get back to the original lines for the show, and try to refrain from throwing in the "F" word if they "go up".
I hope that doesn't piss off the cast.
Showtime Friday 8:00 PM. We are to meet at 6:00 to go through the show one more time. See you there!
My family and some friends are coming next week. I arrive at 6:00 and talk with Mary and Josh. Some of the actors are there and going through lines. I offer to run out get drinks for them and head over to the Walgreens across the street. Out I walk with several bottles of water, and a Gatorade and Frappuccino for Josh. There is a homeless guy who always sells "Streetwise" outside the Walgreen's and because I am feeling pretty lucky about my place in the world tonight, I slip him a buck and tell him to keep the paper and keep warm.
The cast begins the run-through of the show. The other writers show up about around 7:00 PM and ask how the rehearsal is going. I let them know the cast has gotten back to the original lines (in my opinion) and looks good. The writers are asked to go in the lobby and we are instructed on our usher duties. I get to greet and seat any latecomers. Woo-woo!
The ticket office tells us we have a sold-out show. I said earlier in the diary the theater holds 70 - well we jam in over 90 people! Hot damn! Oops...sorry hot darn!
Just before we let in the crowd, the writers are asked to come back in the theater. Josh tells us that after the cast bows at the end of the show, they will gesture to Josh (who will be down front playing the piano), then they gesture to the Jason, the lights and sound dude extraordinaire, then they will gesture to US - THE WRITERS! We will then run up on stage in front of the cast and take a bow. Then one final bow by both the cast and the writers and guess what...everyone bows when JERRY bows. I have a moment in the show! We rehearse this all important moment. I think I got it down pat.
7:50 and we open the doors. It is obvious the audience is made up of friends and family of the cast and writers. The theater fills up and about 8:08 PM the show begins! I am still in the lobby of the Skybox since my job is to usher in any latecomers. I can hear the show through the doors and sneak a peek. The music is loud and the audience is a little shy in laughing at the opening sketch. The cast seems a little tight and talking quickly but that soon changes. I hear the transition music to the second sketch - I peek in again.
Then two couples walk in to the lobby. They are friends of one of the writers and drove in from the suburbs. The snow made them a little late. The ticket booth tells them - sorry sold out. They are shocked a little. But they came in from the suburbs! They know one of the writers - please they'll stand! Mary gets them in and gives them the writers' seats against the wall.
I sneak back in at the end of the second sketch. The crowd is still a little nervous. By the third sketch, the audience is comfortable with the cast and they start loosening up. God, I wish they all had a few drinks in the lobby first - but hey, third sketch laughs are fine.
I shoot some looks to Mike and Scott standing near me as the audience laughs, or the cast misses a line. This is exciting. We are hearing spontaneous laughing and getting nervous ourselves as our sketches come up. My cannibal sketch isn't until the middle of the show so I watch as the other writer's bite their lips when their material goes up.
A few blown lines here and there, and a shy audience, but overall pretty good so far. The audience really gets going at the end of Alan's "Ladies Night Out" sketch. The ending has the women beating the shit out of the guys in slow motion to the music of the 1812 overture. It goes over well.
Pastor of Disaster is next and has Marz as a black southern preacher in a Wisconsin, uptight church. The rest of the cast is in the audience so Marz "preaches to the crowd and asks for some "Amens!" we thought the crowd may respond to him, but they were dead silent. That was OK because the premise of the sketch is that the Wisconsinites were uptight and wary of this black preacher. The sketch ends with cast running on stage and dancing and gyrating to a gospel piano riff. We get the audience back at that point. Scott has stepped into the lobby later explaining he was too nervous to be in the theater while his sketch was going on. Hell, they'll have to drag me out when mine come up!
The next couple of sketches go well. A few dropped lines in Joe's 'Ole Sergeant sketch throw off the timing but it does well. Next up is Alan's second sketch which is the stay at home Dad blues song. Again a nice job. The audience is settling in, but I think the overall timing of the cast is a little off - opening night jitters I presume. Scott and Alan have seen both of their sketches performed - they can relax until our final bow. But next up is my work. It is time for the comic genius that is Jerry Krull...
Some Marley music plays and the offstage Allison gives the "TV" introduction of the Culinary Cannibal Show - live from the Pacific Isles. Here's your hosts Zoemaht and Toongaya!
Lights up stage right on a shirtless Marz and Jim. Oh, did I not mention that Marz and Jim decided to go shirtless for the cannibal scene? This stage picture alone brought out some laughs- my stomach relaxed - I hadn't realized my stomach had tightened until the laughs loosened it up. The boys performed great with their smarmy yet weird accents of the cannibals. The first few funny lines got a couple laughs - I had hoped for more. The sketch has some dark lines about how to prepare a dead relative for dinner. It received the groans I wanted, so to me it was a success.
Then Adam came in for his part. A few blown lines threw off the timing so some laughs were lost as the lines were lost. Oh well - this was still fun. The scene ends with no laugh (kind of expected since we will see it continued later) and my first scene is over. I was happy it received a few laughs and the groans. Poor Jim is also in the next sketch and he barely gets his shirt on in time before the lights go up. There are four sketches again before Cannibals come back and that leads directly to the closer - my Wedding in Sauk Village sketch.
Accidental Therapist, Buck Fitty, and Prissy Prude go over warmly - timing seems to still be off a little. The line at the end of Buck Fitty delivered by Marz gets the biggest laugh of the night - as expected. Joe's "Grace" sketch gets some really good consistent laughs. Then we lead back to Cannibals...
Marz and Jim again are shirtless and the crowd giggles again. There really is only one funny line delivered by Jim instructing the audience to choose Midwesterners for their roasts since they tend to be well-marbled and quite tender. Then Marz delivers the four lines about Midwesterners that describes the backyard scene for the wedding sketch. The rest of the cast has taken their places for the Wedding sketch and they slouch on cue as the lights center stage come up.
What's this? Jim is still shirtless! He kicks off the scene with his lines in his white trash southern-tinged accent. The audience is laughing and I think it actually helps the scene. The scene plays out as this white trash dysfunctional family stumbles through this backyard reception. Laughs are coming pretty good and I feel quite proud.
Marz does not come into the scene for a couple of minutes and when he does he brings Jim's shirt out to him and ad-libs a line justifying the shirt delivery. The scene ends with Kate's one line and then the cast goes into the Hoedown song "American Dysfunction". The song is high energy and the crowd gets into it.
There was no time for the audience to react to Kate's line - so I still don't know if I wrote a killer line for her. I was sorry that Josh had asked Kate to just slouch drunk on stage until her last line. The reactions she was giving in rehearsals had been cracking us up, and they were needed in the show. Regardless, it still went over very well.
As the song progressed, the writers made our way to the side of the stage for our bow. The show ends and the cast bows, the gestures come and soon we the writers are running on to the stage. I distinctly remember hearing an enthusiastic "Yes!" from one audience member as the writers ran up on the stage. Julia led the writer bow, then the cast stepped up and I waited for the cue for all of us to take the final bow.... Waiting...waiting...oh SHIT; I'm the cue! One damn thing to do in the whole show and I blow it! We take the bow and scurry of the stage to applause from our gracious audience. Show one - DONE!
Back stage we all gather and share cheap Champagne. Josh toasts us all, compliments abound, and all is happy and healthy. The cast starts talking about their mistakes and we all find different things to laugh about. Hugs, back slaps and occasional male dry humping abounds. Is it wrong?
Most of us head over to Corcorans after and we drink the night away. Nyima stops in between shows on the mainstage and congratulates the cast and writers. Josh seems really pleased with the show and tells me he forgot how dark the Cannibal sketch really is until he heard the audience reaction. But he picked it because it was really the only dark humor sketch in the show.
I didn't get a chance to talk with my friend from work after the show, so I have to wait for a week since she is going on vacation the next day and will not be back at work. But at the bar I am introduced to several friends and family members of the cast and writers. Several are quite kind and congratulate me on the Wedding sketch. At the same time they give me weird looks trying to describe their feelings about the cannibal sketch. Just the reaction I expected. One person says the best writing of the night was my biography in the program. Hmm, I'll take that.
No rehearsals until the night of the second show next week. I get home about 2:00 AM and slowly drift to sleep thinking of what a great life experience this is.
I do my run for the drinks for the cast and Josh. Josh has a friend with him and tells us this will be our piano player next week. Josh is going to fill in on the Mainstage for the week for Craig Cackowski who is doing a guest shot on the new Joan Cusack sitcom being filmed in Chicago.
The cast begins a run through of the show for Josh and the piano player. There are many lines that are dropped. Scott and I discuss that the cast did not have any rehearsals since the first show. Could this be a bad sign?
I decide to hang out in the lobby of the Skybox Theater since my wife and father are coming tonight. Also several friends are supposed to show up. We again have 90 people with 10 of them being people I know. Kim Clark the director of the writing program shows up with a small group of Second City people.
I talk with my wife and father in the lobby. He makes a crack about seeing his granddaughter's school show on Tuesday, then seeing his grandson's school show on Thursday, and now he is seeing one his sons' school show on Friday always the support. And with that I give you my program "bio":
Jerry Krull's father would like to point out Jerry has an MBA he is throwing away... THROWING AWAY... pursuing this comedy writing crap. This is NOT how he brought up Jerry. There are five other good kids in the family. They took honors math, but not Jerry, oh no. He could have if he applied himself. He just didn't try...
My father's reaction to that bio? He laughed and said, "Oh, so you agree with me now."
I stay out in the lobby until the crowd is let in. Then Alan, Scott and I hang out near the rear of the theater and watch the show start. The crowd gets into the show a little quicker than the crowd the week before. But lines are being dropped left and right by the cast. Alan, Scott and I look at each other after each mistake I hope this is just first sketch jitters.
The second sketch starts and Scott, like last week, steps into the lobby since it's his sketch. Lines get mangled again but the audience is still a little livelier than the previous week. Scott re-enters near the end and comments on the missed lines that he heard through the doors.
The third sketch begins and lines are again missed. The cast is rolling with it and they work their way back to the script, but it is throwing off their timing big-time. When a cast member jumps about five lines ahead in the Joe's Ole Sergeant sketch, Joe makes his way to us, tears off his sweater and slams it against the wall.
The crowd doesn't know all the lines are being blown only the cast and we the writers know that. The audience actually is laughing more than last week's audience. As each new sketch starts, the writers look at each other which line will be blown in this sketch? We even start to laugh ourselves when the mistake ultimately happens.
My Cannibals sketch gets its share of flubbed lines. Mercifully, we get to the end of the show. Even the Wedding sketch has dropped lines and miscues. Jim does have his shirt on for the whole sketch this week. Time comes for the bows and we head backstage.
A little more tense tonight after the show. No Champagne, no high fives. The cast remarks that the audience seemed a little "off". They start to talk about blown lines. Adam quickly gets dressed and he apologizes to me for blowing so many lines in my sketches.
Kim Clark comes in and comments favorably on the show. He asks the writers what we thought, and after some nervous side glances, someone mentions it seemed rough. Kim stated he thought the audience reaction was great, and that he felt it was one of the best Writer's shows he had seen. Joe leaves quickly and does not go to the bar across the street afterwards. I make my way to the lobby, but my wife and father have already left. Some friends from my improvisation class had stayed around to talk. They give some nice compliments and tell me it was a very good show.
I wander over to the bar and meet up with the remaining writers and cast members. The cast realizes Joe was really upset, and they decide to have a rehearsal on their own before the next show. The comments from the audience were positive so maybe the writers made too much of the mistakes.
When I talk with my friends and family over the next few days I find they liked the show. My wife and father liked Joe's "Grace" sketch the best. My wife thought my wedding sketch was 'OK'. She didn't care for the Cannibal sketch at all. My father said it seemed like the cast's timing was off. I was shocked he picked up on that.
Friends from work thought the show was hilarious. They tell me my wedding sketch was the best of the show and one woman keeps repeating lines from the sketch. Another friend of mine, from my high school days, gives me a rundown sketch by sketch of the show. He too tells me he liked the Wedding sketch the best. What are my friends going to say, "I like the other writer's stuff better"? That kind of comment can only come from one source - relatives. So I guess the show was a success. Next week a new piano player.
The cast is rehearsing lines and they seem relaxed. They run through the tops and bottoms for the whole show. They rehearse the songs with the piano player. They run through a couple of scenes and no lines are dropped. This is a good sign.
We sell out once again and have 90 people in the audience. I have no friends or family at this performance. Too bad
The show starts off and swings into action smoothly. The crowd is loose and the cast's timing is right on target tonight. We writers are near the back and almost giggling. Lines that were never getting laughs the previous nights are going over big. Mike Hoffman is recording the show on video and asks me to spell him from time-to-time by sitting in the front row and taping a scene or two.
Each scene goes over well. I happen to be taping when the Cannibals scene comes up. It absolutely kills tonight! There were laughs and groans at every turn and the delivery was perfect. Mike takes over the taping after that sketch and I make my way back to the other writers. Alan and Scott are as excited as I am. Alan comments on the good audience reaction to the Cannibal sketch tonight. Must be a flesh-eating kind of crowd.
The show moves along and all too soon we are near the end. The Cannibals come back up and they get laughs before they even say a word. It quickly goes into the Wedding sketch and, if I do say so myself, it ROCKS! Perfect timing, no dropped lines, crowd laughing throughout. Adam even remembered a little joke that he had always dropped in the previous shows. It too got a big laugh. The hoedown song completes and we get called up for our bows. We take a nice long bow even I remember my cue to lead the final bow and we "feel the love" for a minute before leaving the stage.
Smiles, hugs, etc. are plentiful back stage. Damn, this is how every show should be! Pictures are being taken, and we head over to the bar once again. Friends of the cast and other writers comment on my work and I too compliment my fellow writers and actors. Around midnight I head for home. It is over.
I am continuing writing sketches. I have another meeting with the producer of a local show on the possibility of having sketches aired on his show. I am also working on my own show for a small theater. I may put this show up in late 2001 if I can pull it together.
I look forward to your comments if you have any. Drop me an email. And visit back I hope to add video clips of the show when I get a tape of it, and any updates on other projects I complete.
I have written several sketches that have been performed by various sketch/improv groups across the country. This page sure has been viewed by a lot of people! I have submitted my writing samples to agents and producers. I also have been consulting on comedy movie scripts.
The Second City writing group sketch tape was edited and submitted to the Chicago television executive producer. He offered to consider our material if we made it more local in content and if we paid for broadcast grade taping/editing ourselves. A quick group meeting proved we could not raise the cash to do that with no guarantee. The positive comment was that the producer pointed to the sketch I wrote as being the type he would broadcast. It was local, funny, and tight in concept. Validation - yes!!
As time moves away from my Second City Writing experience, I now realize what a truly talented group of individuals I was fortunate to work with. Here are some updates:
Allison Bills (actress) is now a member of a Second City Touring Company
Marz Timms (actor) - Marz has landed a couple of commercials.
Josh Funk (director) has directed Second City Etc. and Mainstage shows. He won a Jeff award for his direction of the Second City Etc. show "Holy War Batman! or The Yellow Cab of Courage"
Joe Kelly (writer) spent two years in Amsterdam with Boom Chicago. Now Joe has joined the Second City Las Vegas Mainstage!
Julia Svoboda (writer)- continues to write and perform around Chicago. Mike Hoffman (writer)- Has written several scripts and co-directed on short films. I highly anticipate talking with Mike after his recent return from LA and his meetings regarding his scripts and projects.
Kim Clark (teacher) - Is now heading up the writing program at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts
and me... well, I have scripts floating around and sketches being used by comedy troupes. An interesting writing success of the last six months resulted in a half page article in the Chicago Tribune on my business. Nice to know my writing leads to recognition!
Some more movements with the talented people involved with our writing show.
Jim Woods (actor) is a member of Boom Chicago in Amsterdam.
Brian Shortall (actor) Ok, Brian was not part of our writing show cast, but he should have been. Josh Funk said Brian is going to be big someday anyway... Well Brian, good friend of Mike Hoffman and Joe Kelly, has joined Joe on the Las Vegas Second City mainstage.
Mike Hoffman (writer) My good friend Mike is making the move to L.A.! At some point you either get serious and go to L.A. or not. Mike is going to L.A.
Julia Svoboda (writer) Julia also completed the acting classes at Second City and has appeared in her own stage show around Chicago and New York. She also can be seen as the dental office nurse in a short film on the internet at Root Canal. Julia is also one of My Naked Friends. (ok that is the name of her Improv Olympic show directed by Jimmy Carrane)
ME - (writer) I just live the suburban life of a dad with a wife, 2 kids... and a dark secret. I was an altar boy in the 1970's and NO priest abused me. Why oh why?? Wasn't I cute enough? The rejection and hurt I deal with 30 years later will drive me to do something mad I tell you...
Actually Kim Clark asked me to join a writing group he teaches. Unfortunately I had to turn down his invitation and hope I can join when the stars align a little better for me.
Joe Kelly has been hired to be a writer for Saturday Night Live! Joe heads to New York shortly to begin his new job as a writer on the NBC classic show. I am so happy for Joe to have his amazing talent recognized. You can see the Second City announcement here. Congratulations Joe!
I was asked to write a spec script for a producer of a new sitcom. I recently completed the script and delivered. It is great to be able to be in Chicago and submit work via email! I also have been picking up small work writing comedy material for local people. Not bad for a guy who has no agent.
The big news for me is that I will be on television this coming January or February 2005! Ok, it is for my custom area rug business. In my business I specialize in Prairie School custom rug designs. A producer in North Hollywood, CA asked me to be interviewed for a show on area rugs. The show is called "The Insider's List" on Fine Living Network. Fine Living is owned by Scripps - the same company that also owns HGTV, Food Network and DIY Network. They came out and shot an interview segment at my home, a client stopping in to discuss ordering a rug, me working on the computer designing, working in my basement studio carving a rug, various shots of rugs. Then we went to one of my client's original Prairie style home and they interviewed him on why he chose me for his rugs and then shot a little video of he and his wife with sitting in their den with one of my rugs prominently on the floor. A long 11 hour day of shooting, but it could lead to some big business. The nicest thing the director said was that I "have a natural, comfortable way with the camera." All I saw on the quick review of the interview tape they showed me was my forehead the size of Montana and a couple of spare chins. Oh well...
Updates for our team... Director Josh Funk and his very talented wife Nyima Funk are now regulars on MTV's show "Nick Cannon presents Wild 'N Out". Josh is also listed as Improv Coach and Creative Consultant. Nyima has had guest roles on TV shows.
Joe Kelly has finished his first season with Saturday Night Live. Loved his "Harry Potter" sketch when Lindsay Lohan guest hosted. It received quite a good response on website boards.
Mike Hoffman and Julia Svoboda are plying their trade in LA. You can see Julia pop up at IO West from time to time.
Jerry Krull? You can see me about every six weeks on Fine Living's "Insider's List with Julie Moran when they rerun the show about Area Rugs. I am also going to be in Old House Interior's November issue (no they don't have a centerfold - thank God). I was interviewed for my classic Prairie School and Mid-Century Modern custom rug designs.
Joe Kelly is now in LA writing scripts and becoming a mover and shaker.
Julia Svoboda is also working aroung LA and performing in sketch shows.
My own foray into sitcom spec script came up a bust. No big deal. That means I am one script closer to selling one. Looking at creating some comedy podcasts these days. Watch for more news on that here.
Joe Kelly has moved out to LA and is doing script writing, acting, etc.
Josh and Nyima Funk continue to appear on the MTV show Nick Cannon's "Wild N Out"
Julie Svboda and Mike Hoffman continue to ply their entertainment trades in the LA area. Kim Clark is running for Congress Kim Clark for Congress Campaign I have some more sketches being used by sketch comedy groups. So I keep writing...
Joe Kelly is a writer on the CBS sitcom "How I Met Your Mother".
Julia Svoboda is doing great with her improv and has a very funny character "Citizen Kate" who is following the 2008 election. She is getting press credentials and is getting to ask questions of the candidates. Her interviews with other people on the candidates are pretty funny. Citizen Kate Website
K8 Gallagher is out in LA doing standup. You can see her on YouTube.com here: kgallagher66 on YouTube.
I have decided to kick start some fun projects. I have been writing stand-up material and when I have 10 minutes of great material and I have my delivery down pat, I'll hit the open mic nights. Feels good to have a goal again!4/10/2010
Doing some corporate comedy shows. You can make a month's worth of comedy club night gigs in one corporate show. Plus my being older with business experience makes for an easier sell to the corporate planners. I was able to take a lot of my sketches and turn them into stand-up material. Writing stand-up immensely improved my sketch writng as well. I get more laugh lines faster in my sketches and keep the word count to a minimum.11/02/2010
Got an email from David Fink & Kim Clark. Kim is teaching screenwriting and ethics in media at DePaul and they operate the Acorn Theater and Acorn Wine Shop in Three Oaks, MI these days. Kim is also making films. Great to hear from them! I last ran into both of them at a Wrigley field rooftop during a Cub's playoff game several years ago.01/14/2011
Very sad news to hear that Mary Scruggs passed away on January 12th. Mary was only 46 and running the Second City Writing program. Mary was our head writer for our Second City class writing show. She was extremely supportive and a funny writer herself. She encouraged me to keep writing and pursue it for a career even though I felt I was too old (late 30's at the time). My prayers to her husband, son, family and friends.9/3/2011
Just reconnected with my Second City writing classmate and friend Mike Hoffman on Facebook today. I get inspired to write every time I talk with Mike. He is really a talented and fun guy to be around. He's living the dream in LA. Me? I still write and sell the occasional stand-up and sketch material. I decided this year to help others pursue comedy writing. There are a lot of courses on writing comedy. But too many of them are very expensive and you have to commit several weeks or months without knowing if you like that type of comedy - be it Sketch or Stand-up or movie or TV etc. So I created a beginners writing course where you can learn the basics of each type of comedy writing via written lessons. Each month via email, you get a lesson on using your own funny stories from life and turn it into the different types of comedy. These are the stories that other friends always ask you to tell new people you meet. There are couple of lessons of turning them into Stand-up, a lesson on adding them into a speech, a couple of lessons on Sketch writing, TV sitcom, movie, etc. The idea is that you can learn the basics and determine if you want to pursue comedy writing with more expensive courses, without having to pay for the expensive course up-front. A lot of young and even boomers feel they could be funny and funny writers, but they don't know how to start. My course let's them find out by learning the basics using their own funny stories. You can join the Facebook Fan page for the course here: Learn Comedy Writng Facebook Fan Page You can "Like" the page and we can chat about comedy writing there. You can also get the first lesson for only $5 with a link on that page on the left. You can also vist the website LearnComedyWritng.comDrop me an email.
More to come....
Email me Jerry Krull, for comments/questions.
Craig Cackowski's diary of The Second City mainstage show "Slaughterhouse 5 Cattle 0"
Jack McBrayer's diary of The Second City etc. show "Better Late Than Nader"
Mick Napier's diary of The Second City Mainstage show "Paradigm Lost"
John Ducey's diary of going to LA and starting his acting career. Click on the Ducey Chronicles for his diary entries.