Second City Chicago is a breeding ground for the ultra-talented. From John Belushi to Chris Farley, from Tina Fey to Steve Carrell, these are just a few of the names that have dang near made us wet our pants over the years, all coming from the same place. Recently, I was able to sit down with current Main Stage resident performer Mike Kosinski and talk about his time at the legendary theater.
Hi Mike, would you please introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Mike Kosinski. I am an actor/writer/comedian/Netflix Enthusiast.
You are currently one of the six cast members of Second City’s Main Stage. How did you get involved in comedy?
Growing up, I found making people laugh to be the best feeling in the world. Even though I am doing it in a different capacity now, that still holds true today. When I was a freshman at Lake Forest College, they took us all to see a Main Stage show at Second City as part of our orientation. Despite growing up in the Chicagoland area, I had never heard of it before. I was completely blown away by the show but also terrified. I thought – This is what I want to do with my life…is there a way to do this job without all the fear, risk, and failure? (Spoiler alert: there is not). I found out that they had a training center where you could learn acting/writing/improv, and it only took me 3 years from that point to get up the courage to enroll in the beginning level improv classes. I’m so glad that I did.
Tell us about your career at Second City.
My career at Second City has been so wonderful at every step. After being in classes and performing around town for a couple years I felt equipped to sign up for Second City’s annual general auditions. The auditions are to become an Understudy to the National Touring Company – a gig that only pays if someone in one of the touring companies gets sick and you have to go in for them. Every year around 500-600 people audition. It is nerve-wracking. My nerves won that round, and I never heard anything from that audition. I auditioned again the next year. Slightly better, still not great. I heard nothing.
Then, while I was performing with an independent sketch group, a producer from Second City came to see the show. From that performance, I was offered an opportunity to perform on a cruise ship with Second City. I was THRILLED. I would spend 4 months cruising around Alaska and performing sketch and improv comedy. Once I was in the Second City system, I was so lucky to perform in a number of capacities with them. I have performed on a total of 4 cruise ships in Alaska, The Caribbean, Bermuda, Hawaii, and Northern Europe. Then I was hired as an understudy to the National Touring Company where I was able to tour all of the US performing material from Second City’s 53-year archive of scenes. It was a dream come true.
After touring around the country for about a year and a half, I was lucky enough to be hired to the ETC stage at Second City (one of the two resident stages here in Chicago). I co-wrote and performed 2 original reviews on that stage, and it was an even bigger dream come true!
Recently, I left the ETC stage and joined the cast of the Main Stage. We are currently in the process of writing a brand new show that is set to open around the end of March or April. I have come full-circle from that college freshman sitting in the audience!
That was a VERBOSE answer to your question.
With Second City being a live comedy venue that employs a good amount of improvisation, has anything crazy ever happened during a show?
Recently, during a bit where we pull an audience member on stage for a dance, we realized that the man that we pulled up had no teeth — not a problem for the bit, but at the end of the dance, for his big finale, he pulled his teeth out of his pocket and put them in. To his credit, it made for a great finale to the piece.
We had a woman a while back that kept breaking everyone on stage because she had a weird devil-goat laugh. I think in general, people sometimes forget that we can see and hear them during the show as well. So, if there is an insane laugh, or weird comment, or someone has fallen asleep. We usually know about it.
Now that you’re on Main Stage, what’s next?
Good question! I’m really not too sure. I’m trying to just enjoy what I am doing while I am doing it. In this profession, you are always having to look toward your next thing because no one gig really last forever, so I have a general feeling that I would like to work toward TV and film more, but working on a stage at Second City was a dream of mine, so I’m trying to focus on that right now.
What advice do you have for someone that wants to perform for a living?
My advice to people trying to perform for a living is to enjoy every step of the way. Almost without exception, you are going to perform for free, or even pay to perform, for a long time before anyone pays you to perform. ENJOY IT! Don’t put a timeline on when you should be achieving certain goals, and definitely try not to compare yourself to the people around you. It never ends well. Also, if anyone sees me in a coffee shop frantically studying for the GRE because I have decided to give up on comedy and go back to grad school, please remind me of all this advice I just gave.
Catch one of the funniest people in Chicago Mike Kosinski Tuesday-Sunday at Second City’s Main Stage.
Tyler Paterson is a Chicago native that tours the country with his comedy band. He loves ghost hunting and writing music. But not writing music about ghost hunting.
Tyler previously devised TV/Movie Mashups So Crazy They Just Might Work: