After spending time in Europe and graduating college, I was kind of drifting around trying to figure out what I had done all that for. I lived at home and it was in a very quiet, dry town, far away from big city life which I rather enjoyed.
At one point I got a job through a guy I met in college, which turned out to be selling insurance. I had to work waitressing to make ends me. It was a kind of bizarre existence. I lived in an apartment in a place that was half way between where I went to school and where my family lived.
I used to work at a place called the Chateau Louise, when I needed extra money. There was a actually a kind of theater in the place and there was a Second City Tour Company there for a bit. I talked to one of the guys in the cast and decided that after seeing this show that I could probably do better. I thought I just might be funnier than he was.
After everything in my life at that point, why not? I asked him how he got in this group and he told me. He auditioned. So I asked him how he got the audition and he went through some mumbo jumbo and I decided to just send a letter to whomever I needed to talk to.
I sent a handwritten letter on notebook paper that was full of you know what and basically had the premise that I was funnier than this guy I had met.
I was back at home on the south side one day and someone called my house. My dad answered and it was someone from Second City. He took a message. I got that strange, excited feeling that said, "Is this real?" and I called back. It was someone telling me when and where to come for an audition and to bring my resume. Of course they meant acting resume, of which I had none. I also had no head shots, no nothing. Just chuzpah.
When I got downtown for the audition, I found my way into the theater. It was like a red carpet on the way, with red walls, as I remember. There were pictures of famous people dotting the walls. Bernie Sahlins and a woman, Joyce Sloane, she was like his partner or something, were there. The house lights were down and the stage lights on. We were all sitting in the audience. A person then passed out little note cards, bigger than the ones I used to use on the debate team years earlier. He asked us to put some information on those and turn them in with our resume. I realized at that moment that I was really the odd person there. I had no professional stuff to turn in for them, just a typed resume with my most recent work experience, selling insurance.....
Bravely I carried on. After all, this was improv wasn't it?
So a group of us lined the edge of the stage and they asked each person to demonstrate their abilities according to a question they asked. When it came to my turn there was a noticable chuckle when reviewing my resume, they even asked me if I had anything else. Then it was my turn to wow them, they listened to me and they laughed. No clapping, but I took them where I wanted them to go. They did not laugh for anyone else that I recall.
I did receive a call back. They thought that with some classes or a bit of work they might be further interested. I chalked it up to one more thing that I couldn't "just do" and at that time I lived nowhere near where these classes might have been held and had no money to do anything like that. So I just moved on. I was getting really good at that...
There was something about classes being held near Pipers Alley at that time, but it would be a few more years before they had the Second City school thing going.
When I think of it all in retrospect, I think that they wanted to give me a chance. I think they did give me a chance.
Bernie Sahlins was running the show. He knew what he was doing.
Many years later I auditioned once again for a news program in Chicago. This time is was an open casting call and I went with a girlfriend. It was a good experience. They talked to me after my piece on film, and asked me to continue with something I had said. I had some on camera experience by this time, but I did not get this job either. I did enjoy the experience though.
Around this time I did some radio and some cable stuff but none of it was my show. I often think that I would have enjoyed that. I have used my humor a great deal in my life and my boldness served me well, more than once politically.
Since my meeting with Bernie was over 30 years ago I barely remember what I saw beyond those foot lights but for years after I did follow his Second City legacy and felt a certain amount of pride in saying I met him.
" For so many of us, Bernie was the brains, Fred was the soul, but Joyce will always be the heart."
Only in Chicago.
Copyright 2013 by SheilaTGTG55