Second City’s a big stage in their lives

Marketplace Staff Sep 25, 2009

Second City’s a big stage in their lives

Marketplace Staff Sep 25, 2009


Tess Vigeland: Chicago’s important for a lot of reasons. The Cubs. Poignant. Hot dogs with pickles and celery salt. Brilliant. And WBEZ. A special shout out this week to the newest member of the Marketplace Money family. You’re our kinda town!

Oh, and one more piece of Chicago we’d like to make a nod to, the Second City theater was founded in the 1950s. It’s launched a staggering number of comedic careers — from Alan Arkin and Gilda Radner to Bill Murray and Tina Fey, to name a few. We wanted to hear stories of the comedy and, yes, tragedy of financial life as a performer.

And so we are joined by Amanda Blake Davis, currently on stage in Second City’s e.t.c. show. And Brian Gallivan, a Second City veteran who recently made the leap to Hollywood.
Amanda and Brian, welcome to our stage.

Amanda Blake Davis: Thank you very much for having me.

Brian Gallivan: Thank you.

Vigeland: Maybe both of you could tell me what it means to be cast as a Second City player, what it’s meant for you, in terms of your career. Amanda, why don’t I start with you?

Davis: It meant the world to me. After college, I moved to Chicago to be a part of Second City. It was my dream to do it. So I really am living my dream. I just forgot to pick another dream, because this isn’t going to last forever.

Vigeland: Brian, what did you do before Second City?

Gallivan: I was a middle school teacher for five years.

Vigeland: Middle school, that must’ve provided some fodder for a comedy show.

Gallivan: Yeah. Amanda can tell you, every show I did had some scene about learning disabilities or a parent conference. But I also, it was my dream job and any of the big celebrities that came back to visit while we were working there would tell you, that this is the best time of your life.

Vigeland: Like who?

Gallivan: Like Dan Aykroyd or Bonnie Hunt. They’ll say, “This is so great, you get to do whatever you want here. You get to write your own material and perform it.”

Vigeland: Well, you did make the choice to leave, what was particularly for a show business, a stable job.

Gallivan: I think I just realized at a certain point I’ve done everything I wanted to do. I was becoming the old man of the cast. You’re kind of a big fish in Chicago and you get a lot of opportunities and auditions, you know, you kind of have to start over in L.A.

Vigeland: And how’s it been?

Gallivan: Tess, I don’t need all this pressure from you about succeeding. I’m really trying.

Davis: It can’t be all that bad, Brian. Because I was at the movie theater last night watching you on the big screen.

Vigeland: Oh, what movie are you in?

Gallivan: I appear in “The Informant.” I give a Holly Hunter-in-“The Piano”-style performance, where I don’t speak at all.

Davis: But it’s you. It’s so clearly you.

Gallivan: But I say a lot with my physicality.

Vigeland: Amanda, how about you? As you watch fellow cast members decide that perhaps it’s time to make another jump, what are your thoughts?

Davis: My thoughts are, I have my claws in so tight to that stage that they will have to pull me off. If I could stay forever, I think I would. But it’s also not necessarily lucrative. So while I do get benefits and I am able to pay my rent, it’s certainly not a salary that you’d want to stay living on for the rest of your life.

I think the biggest thing for me now is to say, if I want to go somewhere else for my career, I have to leave. I have to make that leap and I have to see if I can make it outside of this comfortable world I’ve created for myself in the last 10 years.

Vigeland: Yeah, but I lived in Chicago for several years and boy, the Second City cast, they were the stars. There must be to that versus Brian, I don’t know in L.A., unless you’re Julia Roberts walking down the street, it’s a little different, isn’t it.

Gallivan: And I’m not Tess. I am not.

Vigeland: No, you’re not, your hair is shorter.

Gallivan: It is different.

Davis: I don’t know that… That might be the perception from people who aren’t on the stage. I don’t ever — and you might speak to this Brian — I never feel like anybody recognizes me anywhere I go or knows who I am. Maybe across the street after the show if you’re having a beer, somebody might be like “Oh yeah!”

Gallivan: “Hi, I’m Amanda. I was just in that show you were watching.” You know where you need to go is downtown on Michigan Avenue. Whenever my parents visited…

Vigeland: They would just walk the Miracle Mile?

Gallivan: Yeah. And actually one time, my dad and I were walking, some guy said, “Oh, Second City!” And my dad told my mom and my mother said, “I want to be with you when you get recognized.” So the next day, I saw a guy kind of glance at me and then start to look away, and I held his gaze — like staring at him until he recognized me. And then he goes, “Hey! Second City!” And then my mother’s like “Thank you. That’s what I wanted.”

Vigeland: Did you pay this gentleman?

Gallivan: No no.

Vigeland: Amanda, you’re currently in a show there called “Studs Turkel’s Not Working.” Of course, after the famous Chicago writer and historian. There is a reason he’s not working, of course. But tell us a little bit about the show, any financial crisis bits here?

Davis: You know, we did a lot of financial crisis bits in the last show we opened. So this one is a lot more social issues rather than hitting the economic crisis per se.

Gallivan: It’s over, right, the economic crisis? Isn’t it over?

Davis: As far as I’m concerned.

Vigeland: That’s what Ben tells us, yes.

Davis: It felt like the audiences were ready to laugh about something else other than be reminded about their financial crisis that they were in.

Vigeland: Fair enough. You guys,it’s been fun. Appreciate you coming in. Amanda Blake Davis joining us from WBEZ in Chicago and Brian Gallivan here in our studios in Los Angeles. I look forward to seeing both of you on stage.

Gallivan: Thanks.

Davis: Aw, thank you very much.

Vigeland: And to take us out today, a brief clip from Second City’s take on the financial crisis, by way of Bob Barker and Rod Roddy.

Host of “Government Bailout”: Contestant number three, final bidder!

Contestant number three: What should I bid? What should I bid?

Audience: One dollar!

Contestant number three: OK, OK… $700 billion.

Host: $700 billion is correct! Washington Mutual you are the next contestant on “Government Bailout!”

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.  

😱 Halfpriced hoodies! 😱 

This weekend only, when you donate $90 or $8/month, you can snag our cozy new Marketplace zipup hoodie. Don’t wait– this offer ends Sunday at midnight.