Second City founding member Paul Sills, dead at 80

The Chicago Improv Festival would start on a somber note as the Chicago improv community learned that Paul Sills, a founding member and original director of Second City as well as its predecessor Compass Players (where he worked with Nichols and May), had died earlier today. Sills was 80. A tribute is up on The Second City page, where they write: "The Second City extends its condolences to Carol Sills and the Sills’
family. Paul will never be forgotten and the inspiration of his work
will certainly live on forever." He also co-founded the New Actors Workshop in 1987 with Mike Nichols and George Morrison.

The AP obituary notes that Sills created the "Story Theatre" format in the late 1960s that emphasized characters as their own narrators, as storytellers. His own site, Paul Sills’ Wisconsin Theater Game Center, continued offering one-week improv intensives every summer. And his mother, Viola Spolin, literally wrote the book on improvisation.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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One thought on “Second City founding member Paul Sills, dead at 80

  1. Paul was a great director and wonderful teacher, providing both the actors and the audience with experiences that carried all into the theatrical mystery. Notwithstanding his own pioneering work, his brilliant creativity, and his many successes, he never failed to credit his mother, Viola, and her mentor, Neva Boyd, with providing the blueprint for the world of improvisational theater to follow. Under his leadership his loving family has been deeply committed to maintaining the integrity of the true improvisational experience. Unlike many, he eschewed the quick joke, the obvious set up, the on stage script writing, and the cult of personality. It’s a great loss.

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