Renowned Chicago-based comedy club launches Asian-American fellowships

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Comedian Zarna Garg. Photo Twitter @ZarnaGarg

The renowned comedy club The Second City, which began in Chicago and now has branches in other cities, announced May 2, 2022, that it will be offering Asian American and Pacific Islander fellowships for which the first auditions will be held in August.

The news release from The Second City said the new fellowships will be in improv comedy for which The Second City is famous since its inception in 1959, and from where many of the famous standups of today began their careers.

The tuition-free Masters fellowships, Victor Wong Fellowship for AAPI Voices in Comedy, are named after the first Asian American who was at Second City.

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The field of standup comedy and improv boasts a number of Indian-Americans ranging from established comedians like Hasan Minhaj, Hari Kondabolu and Aziz Ansari to up-and-coming one like Zarna Garg.

Hasan Minhaj stars in “Patriot Act.” (Photo: Cara Howe, Netflix via Washington Post Syndicated Service)
Comedian Hari Kondabolu. Photo:Twitter @harikondabolu

Fellowships begin this fall when 16 individuals will be selected from among applicants. The fellows will receive ten weeks of training in improvisational comedy taught by The Second City’s top professional instructors and directors. The fellows will also have access to the theater’s executive creative team and alumni, including AAPI mentors. At the end of the program the Fellows will present some original material as well as replays of past performances, the press release said.

The new fellowship program is funded by Peng Zhao, CEO of Citadel Securities and his wife Cherry Chen.

“Beyond professional success on stage and screen, the skills of improvisation are a kind of super-power for life,” Parisa Jalili, COO of The Second City is quoted saying in the press release. “We are thrilled that this gift will allow us to train emerging AAPI talent to both hone their comedy skills as well as their skills to be deeply collaborative, resilient, and creative individuals,” Jalili added.

“Comedy connects us by validating our shared experiences and opening our minds to new ones,” said Zhao and Chen. “Further diversifying the comedic community will help move this important medium—and the society it serves—forward. We are excited to help bring the unique perspectives of AAPI talent to the stage.”

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