Calling Second City an incubator for comedic talent is an understatement at best: Bill Murray, Stephen Colbert, John Belushi and Tina Fey are just some of the names that have graduated from the famed Chicago institution. For those who don’t have the opportunity to head to the Windy City, the Second City Touring Company travels throughout the continent, bringing laughter to every city they visit. Here we talk to two performers from the troupe (Shad Kunkle and Sayjal Joshi) about Second City, comedy in general, and punching people in the face…
French Davis: How hard is it to get into Second City?
Sayjal Joshi: Overall I would say it’s extremely competitive for performers. It’s not unusual to audition five or six times over the course of several years before being offered anything.
Shad Kunkle: I auditioned once a year for about 10 years. They took me on the 10th try.
FD: Is there a major difference between the home team and the road people? Do you have rivalries with each other like on Road Rules vs. Real World? Or is it all one group that wears multiple hats?
SK: Most of our time is spent with our ensemble so we don’t get to see much of each other once we start to get work. However, we do all assemble once a year for a “Greek Games” event much like the end of Revenge of the Nerds.
SJ: There’s no rivalry in my opinion because being on a resident stage is a promotion from being on a touring company…Also, I’d say it’s more like Mad Men than Road Rules if there is any pertinent TV comparison.
FD: Who’s your favorite SC alum?
SJ: I like Rachel Dratch a lot. I like people that are a little out of the ordinary in an underdog kind of way.
SK: Overall I’d have to say Bill Murray. He’s the first person to ever make me laugh so hard I needed to change my pants.
FD: Are drugs as big a part of the SC scene as they were in the old days?
SK: Drugs! I don’t make enough money to have drugs! I’m interested in healthcare if that’s what you’re asking. I think Second City is a reflection of America. Drugs were a bit more widely used in the days of Belushi, before Nancy Reagan’s apocalyptic war took its toll on the American Drug Scene.
SJ: Honestly, I wouldn’t really know as I do all my drugs outside of work with people who aren’t actors, but I suspect no. I think alcohol plays a much bigger role today (sure, alcohol is a drug, too…).
FD: Who are some of your favorite comedians?
SK: I’m not obsessed with other comedians only because each comedian has to find their own voice, and I don’t need any more voices in my head. Chris Rock has always floored me. Rickey Gervais is great. Gene Wilder makes me laugh. Tom Hanks in Philadelphia—that was a hoot. The movie Troy.
FD: You’re having dinner with three famous people, living or dead. Who are they and why did you invite them for dinner? And what are you having?
SK: First of all, dinner at my house is toast or Kraft Mac’n Cheese with cut up hot dogs in it, so the first person would be a pizza delivery guy. Also, I don’t like secrets so anybody I invite would lead to answers about conspiracies. That leaves Lee Harvey Oswald, Sasquatch and Jesus Christ.
SJ: I’m not a huge fan of having the dead over for dinner…besides they probably have way better plans.
FD: Is there a comic out there today that you watch and wonder, “Why is this guy/girl more popular than me? (S)He’s a hack!” If so, who is it, and why do you believe this to be true?
SJ: I think there’s something or someone out there for everyone no matter how inane or idiotic I think that person might be. Even the guys from Jackass speak to someone.
SK: Everybody thinks they’re funnier than the other guy only because they’ve never done anything other than make jokes in a comfortable setting surrounded by friends. Actors “making it,” are just people paying the bills, and I applaud them for it. That being said, have you ever noticed how Ben Stiller always casts himself as a super buff leading man so that he can make fun of other leading men. Yet at the end of the day he’s just another super buff leading man? Sometimes comedians lose their vulnerability and that kills the funny for me.
FD: If there was one person you could punch in the face, who would it be and why?
SK: It’s a tie between Donald Trump and Rod Blagojevich, mostly due to the hair effect. Trump’s would fly off into a corner, but Blagojevich’s would fall to the ground like one big Lego piece.
FD: Who’s your celebrity crush?
SJ: I’m pretty in love with Amanda Palmer right now. If you don’t know who she is, you should. (Amanda Palmer is the lead singer of The Dresden Dolls—and she is pretty hot —ed)
SK: I’m authorized by the state of marriage to say my wife, but Anne Hathaway (who I met at a party and was great) or January Jones who plays Betty Draper on Mad Men.
FD: Do you have any irrational fears or phobias?
SK: I have an irrational fear of postal workers who get to know you and want favors.
SJ: Too many to list here. I’ve been trying to be present since it seems irrational fears come from an unhealthy obsession with living in the future. It’s hard, but I’m