Second to None

Fact Sheet

  • The first national TV appearances of Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Scott Adsit and Kevin Dorff
  • HMS was the first and only documentary crew allowed behind the scenes at The Second City as a show was being created
  • The DVD release features new commentary tracks from the entire cast

Back in the mid-90s, HMS was tapped to archive shows at Chicago's legendary comedy theater The Second City, and during that time captured classic early performances from future stars like Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Scott Adsit, Jack McBrayer, Andy Cobb, Samantha Albert and Keegan-Michael Key.

After shooting the stellar view Citizen Gates, HMS approached The Second City about creating a documentary about how the theater uses improvisation to create its revues, and the result was the first and only behind-the-scenes look at how the best comedy theater in America makes its work.

A critical hit when it debuted on PBS in the '99-'00 season, this new version is, dare we say, even better – not simply expanded but completely re-imagined. Unhampered by time constraints and intent on creating the "feature film" version of the doc, HMS' creative team started from scratch, telling the story of the making of the classic Second City revue Paradigm Lost by including never before seen sequences of now-legendary American comedians, including Tina Fey, making some of the best and funniest work of their careers.

On top of that, the DVD includes a new commentary track with the surviving original cast, along with deleted scenes and outtakes. This is a rare glimpse at the process of writing and performing comedy that is not to be missed.

Related Information

  • In 30 Rock, the walls of Liz Lemon's office include photos from the cast from this documentary, as if those people were the ones Liz worked with in Chicago before coming to work in New York
  • The "Sully and Denise" characters from Saturday Night Live originated during the process captured and seen in Second To None, in a scene improvised by Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch.
  • The DVD commentary track features moving tributes to cast member Jim Zulevic, who died in 2006. You can order it at Amazon

Notes and Quotes

"A documentary about The Second City ought to be, first and foremost, funny, and Second To None meets the test... it captures on video a very elusive thing: the birth and growth of comedy... artful... with skillful editing and what seems a dogged pursuit of the subject... it is fascinating throughout."
—The Chicago Tribune

"Astonishing... Fascinating as a peek into the workings of comic minds... There's poignancy, too."
—The Chicago Sun-Times

"(This is) The Second City process caught for the first time, and a hell of a lot of lightning has been caught in a bottle."
—American Theater Magazine