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(2016 - Fall/Winter Issue)


Andrew Alexander, CEO and Executive Producer of The Second City, pulls no punches when he attributes the influence his parents had on him and his success. “In my case they gave me my neurotic drive for approval and deep sense of insecurity and somehow I converted that into the drive to succeed.” 

Succeed he has since taking over The Second City Toronto operation in 1974 after a series of eclectic jobs that included tree salesman, waiter, cab driver and magazine editor. In the 1970s, Second City generated incredible comedic talents such as John Candy, Gilda Radner, Andrea Martin, Dan Aykroyd, Eugene Levy and many more. In 1976, Alexander created a partnership with Len Stuart (now deceased) and formed The Second City Entertainment Company, which produced the popular SCTV television show. Later in 1985 they took over Second City Chicago and have since expanded to Hollywood. At first though, Alexander didn’t have any empire-building expectations. “At that point in my life I didn’t create lofty expectations, it was more about fun and a great lifestyle and hanging out with very funny people.”

The company grew over the decades into a comedy empire producing television shows and movies, developing and producing revues in its comedy clubs, as well as operating training programs and schools for improvisation. Through the years Second City stages have featured such comedy icons as Tina Fey, Bill Murray, Jim Belushi, Bonnie Hunt, Shelley Long, Chris Farley, Steve Carell, Mike Myers and Stephen Colbert.

Born in England, Alexander’s family moved to Toronto in 1951. He now divides his time primarily between Los Angeles and Chicago. He loves the weather in L.A. and the sense of community in Chicago.

Who were your comedy idols and influences growing up?

Jackie Gleason, Your Show of Shows (a 1950s NBC network variety show hosted by Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, etc.), and Wayne and Shuster.

Are there differences in how humour is presented and between American and Canadian humour?

Obviously political correctness influences comedy in a major way so it’s all in the approach and nuance of sensitive subject material. We do not censor our casts. Humour today is about a character’s behaviour and far less jokey. Canadians respond more to physical humour while Americans love political humour.  

What type of humour appeals to you?  

I have a very dark, dark sensibility, so death has a very strong comedic appeal to me. I do love physical-based humour—that’s the Brit in me I guess.

How has comedy changed since you first entered the business?

It’s a lot more diverse in its offerings. You can pretty well find any style and type of comedy that fits your tastes, from the silly to the cerebral. 

What’s your favourite place to visit and what was your favourite trip?

Paris and meeting my wife in Paris.

What would be a dream destination?


What bizarre or embarrassing thing happened to you on a trip?

I was jailed for a night in Buffalo for hiding in a trunk of a car coming across the Canadian border as a prank when I was 18.

What is your must-have travel item?

Anxiety medication and backup phone.  

What three things do you most love about Canada?

Multiculturalism, gun control and the political system.

Best Western
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