The Second City, Chicago's historic comedy club, has a new executive producer: Jon Carr who previously served as the artistic director for Dad’s Garage Theater in Atlanta, Georgia. According to his official bio, Carr is a seasoned improviser, performer, and award-winning playwright with nearly 20 years of industry experience. He has been part of Atlanta’s creative community for more than 15 years, where, among his many creative accomplishments, he held the position of audience development manager at Alliance Theatre and founded United Atlanta Improv to help improv theaters around the city come together through collaborative works.
With his all-Black improv group at Dad's Garage, “Dark Side of the Room,” Car has worked with the Center for Civil and Human Rights, performing across North America. His original play Black Nerd was awarded the 2018 Suzi Bass Award for Best Original Play. Originally from Los Angeles, he holds a degree in marketing and business administration from Georgia State University, and he says he looks forward to making homeschooled kids like himself proud.
As noted by Jerald Raymond Pierce in his April 2021 interview with Carr in American Theatre Magazine, Carr became Second City's new executive producer on December 15th of last year, soon after the club began facing allegations of institutional racism. Carr has stated that his goal is to honor the legacy of Second City while taking its signature blend of sketch and improv comedy in new directions, including virtual opportunities spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to the closure of such iconic clubs as Chicago's iO Theater and New York City's Upright Citizens Brigade.
“At the end of the day, I want to put artists in the best possible place to succeed,” Carr told Pierce. “So it’s not so much, ‘I’m Jon Carr and here’s my beautiful artistic vision and how I’m going to shape Second City.’ It’s me coming in and saying, ‘What are the skill sets of the artists that we have? What are they passionate about? And how can we build opportunities and platforms around them to express themselves?’ I think that’s how you keep this fresh, because there’s always another class and another generation coming down who have their own unique skills and abilities.”
Carr hopes to uplift diverse voices through such partnerships as the one Second City has forged with Black Improv Alliance to provide the 100 Black Improvisers scholarship, providing opportunities for Black performers to participate in Level 1 of Second City’s improv program. Earlier this month, Carr told Darel Jevens at The Chicago Sun-Times that he's combing through the Second City archive, a massive storehouse of recordings and scripts sometimes repurposed as material for touring companies or classes. The process is helping him identify outdated bits that could be used for educational purposes, as a contrast with the diversity Second City is currently striving for.
For more information on The Second City's upcoming shows and safety protocols, visit the club's official site.