TORONTO — The Second City comedy theatre — where comedy stars such as Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, John Candy, Bill Murray, Martin Short, Steve Carell, Mike Myers, Tina Fey and others got their start — has been put up for sale.
In a statement released Tuesday, co-owner Andrew Alexander said a sale presents the opportunity for Second City to succeed well into the future.
“What we are seeking is critical re-investment in the business that will allow us to continue to grow in the right ways and with the right resources while remaining an oasis of speaking truth to power and providing vital human connection in an increasingly complex world,” Alexander said in the statement released by Los Angeles investment bank, Houlihan Lokey, which is advising Second City’s owners on the sale.
The investment bank did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how the plans will impact operations in Toronto.
Levy and O’Hara appeared on the theatre’s television show, SCTV, long before sweeping this year’s Emmy awards for their work on Schitt’s Creek. Saturday Night Live trailblazer Gilda Radner is a Second City Toronto alumnus, as is Dan Aykroyd of The Blues Brothers and Ghost Busters fame, Wayne’s World and Austin Powers star Mike Myers, John Candy of Cool Runnings and Uncle Buck, and Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles of Whose Line is it Anyway?
Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company announced plans to open a new location in 2020 for its Toronto mainstage — touting the Second City as “a 100 per cent Canadian-owned company,” given its owners’ ties to Canada. The company has also held workshops in London, Ont. Developer Menkes Developments Ltd. was not immediately available to comment on the future of the Toronto mainstage move.
Privately held throughout its 61-year history, Second City suspended all its shows and classes in early March until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Second City also faced controversy in June when Alexander stepped down from the training and performance troupe due to allegations of racism within the company.
Second City is co-owned by Alexander and D’Arcy Stuart, although its president, Steve Johnston, also has a small equity share. When he stepped down, Alexander said he was going to sell his half of the theatre. The two decided rather than try to sell about half of the institution, it makes more sense to market the entire operation. The theatre was sold once before in the years after Bernie Sahlins, Howard Alk and Paul Sills launched the comedy theatre in 1959.
The theatre has several arms beyond its mainstage theatres, including a long-standing comedy training school, a film school and a corporate division that has maintained much of its revenue by offering online training and education to clients.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 7, 2020.
— With files from the Associated Press.
The Canadian Press