Second City Network

How to Survive as a Working Improviser (Tips from an Anonymous Second City Actor)

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 I’m a true blooded American who believes in God and the Sun.
One of them put me here for a reason.
To Act.

Supple. Mental. Income.

If you’re like me, you’ve traveled the world working for Second City, but blew all your money at host casinos, Señor Frogs and Greek strip clubs. So I pick up extra work. Odd jobs that don’t appear in want ads, but are passed down from one man-child actor to the next. Here’s a few examples.


Handing out stuff. Basically, a company wants personable folks to hand out promotional garbage, connect to consumers face to face, and promote their product as a representative of that brand.

In other words, you get high as soon as you wake up. Then you keep getting high, as long as you can still open and close your hand, the only requirement of this job. Then you give most of your samples to homeless people, spending the rest of your shift hiding in trees and Porta Potty’s, getting high some more.

Due to long hours and extreme temperatures, the pay is usually pretty good, ranging from $16-$25 an hour. Plus, if I’m going to be morning drunk at Taste Of Chicago anyway, I might as well cash in.

Dance Club Secret Shopper

Next time you’re at the club and you see someone walking solo across the dance floor, lurking like Blade on a vampire hunt, you might be looking at me. But I’m not hunting Vampires. I’m hunting employee theft wherever money and/or goods are exchanged.

If I’m doing my job right, I’m buying lots of cocktails. The expectation is for me to dump my cocktails into a urinal, and not drink on the job. Problem is, expectation is no match for that beat and it’s ability to make me alcohol thirsty. Some might argue that this unprofessional behavior is no different than the stealing I’m looking for, and that would be a good argument, hard to deny, but I will deny it, for as long I need to.

Ultrasound Modeling

An ultrasound machine is like baby expensive. No one’s going to buy one unless they see it in action. So thanks to my flexible schedule and improv ability to lay down and shut the fuck up, I get paid to be ultra-sounded all day.

Most shifts are easy. Mainly napping between a few simple scans. But once in awhile, the scans are so intrusive, I regret my exposure to Star Search and the dream it put inside of me.

I was once paired with a scanner featured in a popular instructional video. He was the Tiger Woods of Ultrasound Imaging. And he violated me. I remember moments, but not much else. Lying on my stomach…a pillow shoved under my hips…my bottom arched to the sky…nervously trying to cover my exposed crackus…wearing only boxers with a stronger Christmas theme than I’d previously noticed.

The long term effect of exposure to ultrasound radiation is unclear, but at $225 a day minus ultrasound agent fees, I really don’t care.

Job Fair?

Supplemental work, a harsh reality for the natural born performer, is nothing more than a means to an end. If I refuse to take it serious, give nothing of my acting soul, never try, never commit, truly believe that it’s beneath me, I may still manage to keep my integrity.


Michael Lehrer works at The Second City e.t.c. and iO Chicago.   Past work includes: Paid Programming (New York Television Festival), Andy Kaufman Award (2010 Semi-Finalist) Big Ten Network (Co-Host), Chicago Tribune, Chicago Underground Comedy, and the TBS Just for Laughs.