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The Funny Business

The delays are over: Second City is set to hit the stage.

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It took three years for Second City Cleveland to open its doors, which has given its six-member comedy troupe plenty of time to practice being spontaneously funny. "I started training with the first class in June 1999," Colleen Doyle says. "We're ready."

With a new home in the theater district, Second City, not so surprisingly, offers a more theatrical take on the club ha-ha scene: no drink minimum and no age requirement. That, Corell believes, is what makes it stand out. Well, that and the fact that it's Second City, after all -- the birthplace of the funniest Saturday Night Live cast members and the originator, courtesy of its Toronto offspring, of the best damn parody TV show ever (that would be SCTV, in its various guises in the '70s and '80s).

Second City's pedigree is as honored as they come. The original, four-decade-old Chicago company spawned comic luminaries such as Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Gilda Radner, and local players are sensitive to the legacy. "The Cleveland [venue] is designed just like the original," explains producer Maria Corell. "This really is theater for the people, by the people."

Second City Cleveland plans a regional mix of improvisational and sketch comedy. "This is a good fit," says director Ron West. "Because it's Cleveland theater, we will be doing Cleveland-specific [comedy], but not exclusively."

It helps that all involved in the newest edition of Second City (there are also troupes in Detroit and Las Vegas) have local ties. Most of them were born in the area, and all of them live here now. "We're a funny town," Corell says. "You never know where you're going to find the next big star.

"And here is just as good as anywhere."

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