Troubled times are going down at Second City in Chicago. The legendary improvisational comedy theater — which counts Chris Farley, Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Mike Myers, and Keegan-Michael Key among its alumni — is seeing a mass exodus, and some are citing Donald Trump as a key reason why. Chicagoist reports how seven staffers (four performers among them) have recently fled Second City due to an uptick in racially-charged shoutfests from the audience.
This news strikes a familiar tone for anyone who’s found themselves on the opposing end of an angry Trump supporter online. However, an in-person rendering of this hatred has proved to be too much even for hardened sketch comedy performers. The fourth to exit, Peter Kim, told Chicago’s CBS affiliate how racially-fueled rhetoric has risen with Trump’s candidacy. Kim believes audiences “seem to feel emboldened” by Trump’s shoot-from-the-hip style of speaking, and he feels that Trump has given people “carte blanche” to behave hatefully against minority groups.
Kim has witnessed an acceleration of anti-gay rhetoric and rattles off a recent example of racially-fueled outbursts, which he says happens regularly now:
“The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was a man was sitting next to a Hispanic couple,” Kim said. “We asked a question to another lady, completely different lady, we said, ‘Hey, ma’am, what is something small that pisses you off, like getting stuck in traffic.'”
The man, unsolicited, screamed out, ‘Sitting too close to a Mexican,’ while sitting next to a Hispanic couple. Kim said there was another time he felt physically threatened by a man who got too close to the stage.
The Chicagoist spoke with Second City CEO Andrew Alexander, who reveals that a financial downsizing has contributed to the exits. However, he confirms that a greater proportion of the exodus has been prompted by the “‘racist’ audience taunts,” which he says have risen to “unprecedented levels” during the past six months. Alexander insists that he’s working hard to protect his actors, but “in 44 years of this work, I’ve never seen anything like it.” He concludes that the vast majority of the audience members are still wonderful, but “the jerk who used to keep his mouth shut now feels like he has the right to say something.” Sad.