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The basic building block of improvisational comedy is known among the form's practitioners as "Yes, and ... ." It's a process when every new piece of information added to a scene by the audience or actors is accepted without question and built upon by the actors, making the scene progressively wilder.

Chicago's Second City, which turns 50 years old next year, is a comedy empire built on the process of "Yes, and ... . " The company, which produced SCTV and inspired TV shows such as Whose Line Is It Anyway?, started manufacturing laughter in 1959 in a converted Chinese laundry on the north side of Chicago. It now has branches in Michigan, Toronto, and Las Vegas, with a training center in Los Angeles. To understand its cultural impact over the last half-century all you have to do is scan a list of Second City's famous alums, who include (deep breath): John Belushi, Mike Meyers, Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Bill Murray, Martin Short, Gilda Radner, Joan Rivers, Fred Willard, Peter Boyle, Harold Ramis, Alan Arkin, George Wendt, Dan Aykroyd, Eugene Levy, Shelly Long, Andy Dick, John Candy, Dan Castellaneta, Chris Farley, Tim Meadows, Amy Sedaris ... and that's only the tip of a very funny iceberg.

The Second City will perform an evening of music and comedy at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre on Friday, February 29th.

The Second City at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre, Friday, February 29th, 8 p.m. Tickets are $35.

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