One night earlier in 2012 leaning between us at bar, Julie asks Michael and I, “When does it begin? When do they start boxing us in?” Someone, or something particularly predictable had irked the conversation. With us at the bar is Michael Glazer, Assistant Director of their new show, Who Do We Think We Are. The Second City’s 100th Mainstage revue was two weeks from opening. The Second City is known for destroying expectations and consistently and provocatively innovative. The formula, or process, as they call it works. Over a few months six or so actors, a director, musical director, assistant to the director and producers put together a revue that runs the next several months. They hammer the material nightly in improv sets. They argue over the intonation of single syllables until they get the show just right. They open it to the press and the world.
The lineage of Julie and Mike’s show can be traced through this process back to the first Second City show a few minutes ago in 1959.
I’m calling Michael tonight to ask him to speak to his relationship with laughing, destroying, anticipating, etc. He is at home on the Northside of Chicago waiting on his couch with bottles of red for his other love, Lindsay. Because I’ve been there, I know that across the wall from his back is their own private theater in the second bedroom of their house. Tonight they’ll drink the red before she “goes away for a very long time.” Four days.
What did you wake up for today?
“I saw Prometheus this morning, wasn’t for me, not my cup of flavor.”
I tell him I saw the last show he worked on just before it opened, Who Do We Think We Are, directed by Matt Hovde.
I love in the middle, and felt the show entirely hinged on that scene, and of course I haven’t seen the final version… the idea of the modern world having been built by the suitabilities of men, which were built, and then the sustainability of the world they built requiring the supposedly inherent skills of the fairer sex.
What show was that?
The fucking Mainstage show.
Ah that’s a great scene. Poolhall. You know what? Who do We Think We Are… the way they knocked it out of the park… it’s such a broad, it doesn’t hit you over the head with anything and it’s just funny comedy, where if you want to think about it you can. That shit is awesome. It’s the opposite of (previous show) South Side of Heaven.
If Southside was a Rock and Roll hymnal, what’s this? If that’s possible?
…you’re watching Tim and Eric while watching jazz at four in the morning in the Green Mill Yeah that sounds right.
The Green Mill is famous for jazz, poetry and tunnels made to carry Capone away in the middle of a fight. His table faced the bar so he could keep tabs on pours and his gunmen, eyes on doors. North up the block is the famous Annoyance Theater.
Before Chicago, before Second City, Mike had been at Truman, Kirksville, MO finishing school, the talented goalie of a the roller hockey team.
“I was born to be a goalie in the NHL.”
Did your mind share your physical condition’s desires, or did you change your mind, or did something outside your mind change you… why aren’t you goalie-ing now?
I got asked to start playing roller hockey. Got to travel all over the US and Toronto. We were sponsored all year around, I got to see America. Ice hockey to roller hockey.
As Michael rose in rank, roller hockey, ” took me to Olympic training centers, took me as far as roller hockey could take me within America before I graduated college and so it led my path towards playing roller instead of ice, and I loved every second of it.”
One afternoon after graduation and on a couch in Kirksville, Mike turns to his roommate and tells him “I’m done” with Kirksville. He’s moving to Chicago. Somewhere on the path of hockey Mike had come through Chicago. He’d spent time on his aunt’s couch and more importantly alone. Wandering Chicago he inevitably heard of the Second City and once re-arrived after graduation, took a summer intensive program at the theater’s Training Center.
It shattered my brain. He says.
Is there a part of the artistic experience you’re currently living that exhilarates the part of you that brought you out to the field to play roller? Where are those moments where you are not only genuinely blissful in your work, but above that like, “Shit yeah, this is why I do this.” Where are those?
You know what man? That’s crazy cause I was thinking about that the other night. That’s fucking awesome. Here we go again, that’s awesome. I’m given permission by an institution to turn my defense mechanism into comedy, into an appreciation.
Appreciation for what?
Laughter, instead of me being defensive, or making jokes out of being defensive or being…
Yeah. It’s me, a net and everybody else against me, or with me, and that armor and a mask and.. uh yeah. Comedy…Instead of having a defense mechanism, that’s my way of getting through the world, it can become appreciated because other people can laugh. The whole goal is laughter and comedy.
Not rank, but justify for me what you do and how does it fit into being human for you, and where it fits in the human experience.
It’s the best form of brainwashing there is, and rolling laughter is the best form of brainwashing on Earth. Cause you just can‘t control it and it is just sooo good. So to give people that, and have it be as universal as saliva, that’s pretty cool.
Where do you think laughter played in our evolution as a species? Where do you think it came from?
Otherwise I don’t think we’d be here today without it. I think that life is way too hard and insane to have… like when somebody makes a mistake, you laugh, if instead you cried or you were angry, you’d never get through it.
HA! So it developed as a way to get through it.
Yeah, it’s for me as a defense mechanism and as a way to get along with people, I don’t know about anybody else, but I do know if it wasn’t invented there would be alot more of… I mean how could you live down tripping over your own shoelaces if instead of laughing at it you sobbed uncontrollably?
That’s probably anxiety. To what degree you live that version of Michael’s reality. The difference between being more prone to temporaries of the day vs a more macro outlook, where Holy Hell! I stubbed my toe, but did you know that stars explode?
So Comedy enabled evolution.
You seem to create more than destroy, are you drawn to creation?
I think I disagree with that. I think I’m incredibly drawn to destruction, but not in a way that would hurt somebody, not in the way of like an earthquake, or ruining somebody’s life, I don’t want to ruin anybody’s lives and that’s not the kind of destruction I’m interested in. But I think that it’s not comedy if it’s not hard left and right turns and the only way to do that is to dispel what you think is going to happen. You have to like…destruct? Is it destruct?
Otherwise its one of those you-had-to-be-there stories, if you never laughed, then you probably had to be there, so you probably saw where it was headed. Or I’m terrible at what I’m doing. Like in that show we did together where your spine got ripped out and everyone went Holy Shit! Nobody saw that coming and everybody gasped because we destroyed their minds. We blew their minds for that brief second and that’s important. Wait no, you ripped out Taylor’s spine. That’s destruction, but it’s in a way that… it’s entertainment.
“When do they start boxing us in, when does it all begin?” Julie finishes asking at Corchorans. Michael instantly, “Ruled paper. The first day they give you ruled paper.”
Michael once tried to rent a Yak for an evening. He’d hitch her to a tree outside of Zanie’s in Old Town to round out a joke he would have told an hour earlier onstage. It was too expensive, for now. Speaking of now, you will see Michael walking North and South in Chicago with a small red wagon beneath 100lbs of roller hockey gear in a giant black duffel, or you will see him defending in the roller hockey league up near Montrose. You will be in a class of his, or an audience of his. You will laugh harder because of him. You will question what’s real when you’re near him. You will be eager to know what he knows.
Who Do We Think We Are
The Second City
1616 N. Wells
Chicago, IL 60661
For more information visit: secondcity.com