TORONTO – Bob Martin did not want to do a second “Second City Television.”
When the Second City improv comedy troupe asked the Toronto comedy writer/performer to develop a sketch show as “SCTV 2,” his reaction was: “‘SCTV’ was great, let’s not do it again.”
“It was developed by a group of sketch performers at that time,” Martin says, referring to the seminal series that aired from 1976-1981 with a cast including Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Catherine O’Hara and the late John Candy.
“It’s the idea they came up with, it was appropriate for that time in history, so let’s bring together the best sketch performers we can and see what they come up with, see what idea they have that’s rooted in their sensibilities.”
The result was “The Second City Project,” a collection of sketches that launched on Globaltv.com and the Global Go app in March. A broadcast special airs on Sunday at 8:30 pm ET/PT on Global.
Current Second City performers from Chicago, Los Angeles and Toronto are featured in the sketches, which can also be seen on social networks including Vine, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
“It’s a 50-50 cast of Americans and Canadians but it is a Canadian television show and all the crew is Canadian,” says Martin, the showrunner whose other credits include “Slings & Arrows” and “The Drowsy Chaperone.”
Sunday’s TV special will feature existing sketches as well as never-before-seen ones.
Martin says the project began as lab for demo material, but Shaw Media got wind of it and wanted to develop it as a multi-platform release.
Says writer-performer Marty Adams: “I think the best part about it was, it was very organic.”
“We all spent a good week just sitting there talking about comedy, watching comedy, sharing our ideas.”
Martin says they looked to popular sketch websites like Funny or Die to figure out what works.
“Generally speaking, we were trying to create evergreen, more universal things, more character-based comedy and that tends to last.”
This isn’t the first time the Second City has created online material.
The comedy troupe also has a series of web videos on the Second City Network website and YouTube channel.
“They’re changing with the times,” says Adams, a Parry Sound, Ont., native.
But Martin hopes the future of Second City will still always be about live performance.
“When you think about it, how many theatres, especially cabaret-style theatres, have survived for this long anywhere?” he says.
“It’s an amazing success story and it’s become now a kind of school for comedy, I mean literally a school for comedy, and some of our best comedians come through that system.
“I hope it always exists as a place where people can go out (onstage) every night and just have nothing. It really changes you when you go out in front of an audience with nothing and then manage to create a show.”