Chicago’s Famed Second City Comedy Theatre Issues Strict New ‘Safe Space’ Rules

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By Emily Zanotti | 9:09 pm, December 11, 2016

Signs at the famed Chicago’s Second City comedy theater, which produced such greats as John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert (and some not-so-greats, like your humble reporter), is issuing rules for audience participation in its famous improvisation shows until its audience knows how to behave.

Or, at least, how to keep Second City, where supposedly no joke is off limits, a “safe space” from Trumpism.

Over the weekend, signs went up on Second City’s doors warning that the company “has a zero-tolerance policy and does not allow hate speech of any kind whether it’s directed toward our artists, employees or patrons,” and that anyone “verbalizing any homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic, racist or prejudiced comments will be asked to leave.”

A taped message before Second City’s e.t.c. stage shows now tells audience members, “If you have to yell something like that, go home, shout it into your pillow and suffocate yourself with it.”

It’s not clear what Second City views as “hate speech,” (or whether the ban on such jokes extends to the troupe itself) but recent comments by its current owner, Andrew Alexander, seem to connect “hate speech” with Donald Trump. Alexander says that he “absolutely” believes that audiences have been growing “more obnoxious” over the last several years, and blames the change on “certain demographics on the Trump side.”

He says the “threatening” behavior is behind the recent departure of several cast members, one of whom said that Second City’s surrounding Old Town neighborhood, which is predominantly liberal, straight, white and upper middle class, is now rife with “a lot of racism.”

The new Second City efforts also include stylized programs designed to help their audiences “confront racism,” which includes a skit poking fun at Trump’s sons Eric and Donald Trump, Jr.. While we haven’t seen the show, it sounds about as funny and intelligent as a microaggressions lecture at a public university.

The new system might protect modern students of comedy—most of whom mix liberal ideology with their set lists—but it flies in the face of Second City’s proud tradition of taking on and skewering cultural trends, sacred cows and even loudmouths emboldened by a two-drink minimum.

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