Something Wonderful Right Away

The Birth of Second City—America's Greatest Comedy Theater


Discover the behind-the-scenes story of how The Second City theater created a generation of world class great actors, directors, and writers.

In the late Fifties and Sixties, iconoclastic young rebels in Chicago opened two tiny theaters—The Compass and The Second City—where they satirized politics, religion, and sex. Building scenes by improvising based on audience suggestions turned out to be a fine way to develop great actors, directors, and writers. Alumni went on to create such groundbreaking works as The Graduate, Groundhog Day, and Don’t Look Up. Many of them also became stars on Saturday Night LiveSomething Wonderful Right Away features the pioneers of the empire that transformed American comedy.
This new edition tells even more of the story. Included for the first time is an interview with Viola Spolin, the genius who invented theater games that were the foundation of improvisational theater. Also included are dozens of follow-up stories about Mike Nichols, Barbara Harris, Del Close, Joan Rivers, Alan Arkin, and Gilda Radner, plus “You Only Shoot the Ones You Love,” the story of how this book’s author, playwright Jeffrey Sweet, became so involved in the community he covered that he was captured by it.



“Jeffrey Sweet’s history of improv has been a primary source for anyone serious about comedy. It chronicles a time that changed how acting and sketch comedy performing coalesced and influenced generations. It’s also as authentic as you can get. For anyone who wants to understand modern humor, it’s essential.”
—Ben Stiller
Something Wonderful Right Away is the Rosetta Stone of modern comedy. Nearly every comedian, actor, show, or movie that’s made you laugh in the last fifty years can trace their roots somehow to the crazy magic that Jeffrey Sweet captures in this book.”
—Thomas Dyja, bestselling author of The Third Coast and New York, New York, New York
“For anyone who wants to understand the birth and development of improv as told by its brilliant, contentious creators and innovators, Jeffrey Sweet’s book is the bible. He talked to everyone; he got everything. And the addition of essen­tial new material makes Something Wonderful Right Away even more vivid and valuable now than it was the day it was first published.”
—Mark Harris, bestselling author of Mike Nichols: A Life
“Intriguing! Shop-talk—with its mixture of practical philosophy, anecdotes and just plain gossip—is always interesting. But Something Wonderful Right Away has all that and something else besides. A fascinating story of creativity and conflict.”
Chicago Tribune
“If you are interested in the theater, films or television, or if you just like to laugh, don’t miss it.”
“An important book about the most important American theatrical endeavor since the Group Theater. Plus, it’s fun to read.”
—David Mamet
“I could not put it down. It brought back all the sweet, tender, funny, horren­dous, angry and exhilarating moments that I still have concerning Second City.”
—Joan Rivers

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