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Comedy school that launched Mike Myers, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler comes to Islington

PUBLISHED: 11:03 17 April 2015 | UPDATED: 18:36 17 April 2015

Will Ferrell and Steve Carell (pictured appearingon  the New Year's Eve Graham Norton Show) are just two Second City alumnis. Picture: PA/Yui Mok

Will Ferrell and Steve Carell (pictured appearingon the New Year's Eve Graham Norton Show) are just two Second City alumnis. Picture: PA/Yui Mok

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Second City has built a reputation in America for producing its best comedians for over 50 years. Now, it is making its UK debut at Angel Comedy Club, finds Alex Bellotti.

Tina Fey, Mike Myers, Amy Poehler and John Belushi – these are just some of the names that have graduated from Second City, America’s number one comedy school for over 50 years.

As Islington comedian Barry Ferns remarks, it’s “like the Oxford and Cambridge” for stand up comics, so he could hardly be more thrilled that it is coming to Britain for the first time next month for a limited run of classes and workshops.

Setting up shop in Angel Comedy Club in association with Comedy Blogedy, Second City courses will run from May 4-8 and 11-15, with a special festival of improvisation taking place from May 10-16.

For Ferns, who runs Angel Comedy Club every week in the Camden Head pub, the courses will provide a valuable opportunity to work on core improvisation skills under tuition from industry experts.

“Often you’re onstage and you’re trying to be safe and not fail, because it’s so high stakes that if you mess up, you’re seen to have messed up in front of everyone. So this is a way of teaching people to take risks, but at the same time being creative in that situation.

“Instead of being onstage and knowing exactly what you’re going to say and being frightened of making a mistake, it’s almost saying if a mistake happens, agree with it and carry on.”

Considering Angel Comedy Club recently picked up the UK’s Best Small Club award at the Chortle Awards, the conditions for Second City’s UK debut could hardly be better.

As opposed to their American format of stretching five sessions over five weeks, the London format will consist of an intensive week long course at a cost of £350. There will be four levels of courses available: the first teaches comedy fundamentals for beginners; the second focuses on character and scene work; the third on advanced scene work; and the fourth on improvisation into sketch.

While Ferns agrees that the best way to learn is simply getting up on stage and doing it, he believes Second City provides a more nurturing way to do so and he will be among the many established comedians attending the advanced classes.

“It’s the same bit of advice in Second City – to go up and do it – except they’re going up and doing it in front of a class of other people; they’re not doing it in front of a live audience for the first time. That learning is happening behind closed doors, you’ve not got 50 drunk people jumping on you for not being as good as they’d hoped you would.”

He adds: “If you look at the writer’s room of anything like Saturday Night Live or 30 Rock, everyone came through Second City. It’s amazing.”

For more information about the courses, visit angelcomedy.co.uk or secondcity.com


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