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Growing up in the Chicago area, I was first introduced to improvisational and sketch comedy more years ago than I can remember. Sometime in the 1970s my parents started taking me to The Second City's shows for little kids. As I got older, I attended The Second City's Main Stage shows.   I remember attending quite a few during my high school and college years in the 1980s.  I also saw shows at Second City ETC and Second City Northwest (while it was still around).

I never really considered actually getting on stage and joining in -- even when they asked for volunteers. While I never have had a problem with public speaking, I just never thought about performing.  Sure, I had the lead in the First Grade Thanksgiving play, and I took a minor role my Senior Year of high school in Inherit the Wind (Jesse H. Dunlap, farmer and cabinet maker, the guy with the big line "Cates, you sinner!"), but I was always content either watching a show or playing clarinet on stage with the band or orchestra, or being in the pit for musicals.

As with just about everything else I’ve posted on the web, a trip to Walt Disney World made the difference.  In the fall of 1996, I was busy working away at my actual career.  I had been working way too many hours for about four months in a row. When a break came along, I booked my first solo trip to Walt Disney World in November 1996.   Back then, Disney offered what I (but, apparently, few others) thought was a GREAT adult experience: The Disney Institute.  DI offered lots of adult "enrichment" experiences ranging from a good number of classes I did not take (like cooking, gardening, and rock-wall climbing) to a whole host of creative classes that I did take like radio (where I co-wrote and recorded a spot and I got to be a DJ for a half hour), TV news (where I got to anchor a broadcast), TV commercials (where I participated in producing one), Animation (painting cels), and a bunch of others -- including a three hour introduction to improv class (see that coming?).

It was also this trip that I first visited The Comedy Warehouse at Pleasure Island (watch my 1996 Video of all of PI, but no shows).  I did not become a multiple-show "regular" viewer until 2000 (more about that later). It was on this trip I also visited the Disney Vacation Club membership pitch.  It took me more than three years after that pitch before I bought my first membership points (real estate interest).

Anyway, I really enjoyed the improv class at DI. It gave me insights about what I was enjoying when I watched improv. I continued to go to shows at The Second City and enjoyed them all the more -- and was more free in shouting out suggestions during the improv sets. I started to find that I really enjoyed cracking up the cast and audience with a good suggestion.

During 1997 and the first part of 1998, I went on a couple of blind dates where we went to The Second City to see a show. The names of those women are long since gone from my memory. What I do remember, however, is at the end of the sketch portion of each show, a cast member would tell the audience about the other shows The Second City had going on as well as about The Second City Training Center. Having enjoyed the shows (but not the dates) I thought, "Gee, maybe I should give this a try..."

So, I signed up for The Second City Training Center, Level A. It was a blast! As the levels proceeded through the alphabet, after completing Level C, I got my first chance to perform with my class on the Main Stage (in the afternoon for a non-paying audiance)! It was incredible! The live audience, the historic Main Stage, etc., etc. (Watch a video of my first performance game from this very first show!)

Next up was Level D with lots of the folks from Level C and some new folks. At the end of Level D was another show on the Main Stage -- this one was less fun, but it taught an important lesson: don't let your ensemble get cocky! Also, it taught that it's not so much fun to perform when you can hear a baby crying the whole time -- so, folks, let me say right now: keep the infants at home, turn off your cell phones and pagers, keep your conversations to a minimum, etc., etc. Okay, enough ranting.

My Level E class had only six students (including me) in it.  Of course, that meant lots of stage time for the "graduation" performance (pictured left). This show was performed on the Second City ETC Stage (next door to Main Stage, over in Piper's Alley) on a weeknight in front of a paying crowd! Thankfully, we had a reasonably big crowd and the show was a lot of fun. 

After that, I was rather hooked on improv, so I went where other improvisers go -- the place then known as ImprovOlympic (long-before the USOC made it change the name to just IO). Unfortunately, I had less fun there and, at the same time started to get really busy at work again. By the beginning of 2000, I decided to go back to being an audience member.

In February 2000, I took another solo Walt Disney World trip. On this trip, I made many visits to the improv comedy club at Pleasure Island ("PI") -- The Comedy Warehouse. Back then, PI had a New Year's Eve show every night at midnight with dancers, fireworks, and confetti. Each of the nights I was there, I'd catch at least one Comedy Warehouse show before midnight and then get back in line where there was always a great view of the midnight fireworks show before the doors opened for the post-midnight show.   (Quite a few of my days on this trip included Illuminations at Epcot, followed by a walk to BoardWalk through Epcot's International Gateway to catch the bus to PI.) At the end of this Disney World trip, I made another one of those important decisions (though, in retrospect, it would have been better to have made the decision at the beginning of the trip): I became a Disney Vacation Club ("DVC") Member.

For me, being a DVC member meant many more visits to PI to see Comedy Warehouse shows.  Over the years, PI’s every night is New Year's Eve celebrations first lost the confetti, then the dancers, and, eventually, ended completely in 2006, then they tore down the outdoor stage where the dance/fireworks show was, and, sadly, in September 2008, they closed all of the clubs, including The Comedy Warehouse!

After my Disney World visit in January 2004, I decided it was time for me to go back to doing more improv.  One of my Second City classmates had gone through ComedySportz ("CSz") and spoke highly of it -- so I signed up. That, in turn, meant more performances. Levels 101, 202 and 303 had one show each. Level 404 had three shows (when I took that level, it was considered the Performance/Graduation level). The "Styles & Music" class I took in 2005 had a show as did the all-music (new) Level 505 class I took in 2006.

In between "graduating" CSz and the introduction of the (new) CSz Level 505, I took three levels of classes at Annoyance Productions. I think the classes there were of a great help to me in moving forward with improv skills -- unfortunately, I didn't sign up for Mick Napier's class fast enough and was locked out by demand. (Annoyance then added another level before studying with Mick, and their schedule and mine never seemed to mesh.)

Around the same time I started the Annoyance classes, I decided to also do something I had been meaning to do for years -- start writing comedy. I figured there was no better way to get myself some of the discipline necessary to write than to take a class. By that time, I'd known a few people who went through Second City's comedy writing program over the years and they all spoke well of it,  and I had seen a few of the shows produced by the program.

By the end of 2006, I  completed of the entire Second City Writing Program. My class' sketch comedy review, Abandon Relationship! was produced at Second City's Donny's Skybox Theatre on the fourth floor of Piper's Alley, on Fridays, January 5, 2007 to February 2, 2007 at 9 p.m. It was a great success -- every show a sell-out! I found just as much enjoyment watching the cast sing the opening number of the show (which, as you'll find here on this Portal, were my lyrics) and watching/listening to the audience's responses as I do performing.

Earlier in 2006, around when I thought I might set improv aside again, CSz held a round of auditions for the then-Sunday-night show, Battle-Prov, at a time I could actually audition. I was added to team DragonFly and from July 2006 to February 2007 performed at 7 p.m. on a Sunday or two all of those ensuing months. Battle-Prov then went on on hiatus -- and, really, thank goodness because may of us BP'ers did not really like performing at The Spot (next door to a tattoo parlor and just a few doors down from a methadone clinic) while CSz awaited the opening of the new CSz Theatre on Belmont (which, though well overdue, finally opened in February 2008).

Like Battle-Prov, I took a hiatus from performing -- though not completely by plan. Though not planned to be at the same time, I gave my resignation to my then law firm at the end of February 2007 for a new position that I started in April 2007. To keep my toe (?) in improv, I completed a business transaction with ComedySportz Chicago as the fall approached and, as part of that, if you see a CSz program, you'll see that I'm now listed as Associate Producer.

Not long after the new theatre got up and running, CSz launched a new FREE Comedy Wednesday series with three shows -- REC League, Battle-Prov and The Improv Open Mike. Battle-Prov was re-launched earlier in the Spring as a late-night vehicle where "next generation" improvisers battle other comedy troupes from around Chicago. The REC League was launched to let us Alums of the Training Center (and students) create "mini-shows". My team, Grand Theft Awesome, created shows based on the making of a movie where we played short form improv games starting with the movie pitch, to casting, to various scenes (including stunts), to the film’s trailer, and concluded the show with movie reviewers.  My team's last show was August 20, 2008.

In the summer of 2009, CSz offered an Advanced Music and Rap class that I decided to try which resulted in a class show where most of my performance was Rap.  Tough but fun.

Branching off of my Disney Institute DJ experience and its related classes, and relating nicely to the improv skills I’ve developed over the years, in 2010 and 2011, I decided (and my schedule finally allowed me) to try Voiceover classes.  I enrolled in classes at Acting Studio Chicago which, over the course of the two courses I took, included eight sessions at Chicago Recording Company, a professional recording studio.

In 2011, I launched NoLegalZzzs with CSz Chicago.

You may view the details of my improv, comedy writing and voiceover training.  If something else relevant is happening, that will show up on this portal somewhere too.

So there you have it.  Thanks for visiting.


Improv, Comedy writing 
& Voiceover Portal
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Hi there! It's me, ASD: Alan S. Dalinka. One of my off-line activities over the past decade has been playing around with comedy.