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Second City funny girl

By Kiley Peters, Comm ’08

The Second City theatre has a reputation for discovering some of the nation’s greatest comedic talent. Newcomer Carisa Barreca, Comm ’02, is making her mark as a resident actor on Second City Chicago’s e.t.c. stage.

The same stage that once was home to comedy powerhouses Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Steve Carell and Chris Farley, Sp '86, is now introducing Barreca to comedy audiences.

She moved to Chicago two years after graduating and landed a job on the night staff at Second City.

“I would host and sell merchandise most nights so I could watch all the shows,” she says. “I’d take conservatory classes on Tuesday, work nights at Second City Wednesday through Saturday and was a receptionist at a gym during the day. I got there at 6 a.m., worked until about 3 p.m., came home, took a nap and then came to Second City and worked from 5 p.m. to midnight. Then I’d go home and do it again the next day. I did that for about two years.”

When acting in a burlesque-style satirical comedy (no nudity) in a show called Off Broadway, Barreca caught the eye of Beth Kligerman, director of talent at Second City. She was hired to work on a Second City cruise ship and then was cast in a number of shows before joining the e.t.c. stage as a performer in the revue A Clown Car Named Desire.

“Carisa has that magical quality  an unteachable one, by the way  that makes audiences unable to take their eyes off her when she’s on stage,” says Kelly Leonard, executive vice president at Second City. “She’s a funny, dynamic and wholly original performer. The fact that she’s one of the nicest people you will ever meet is just icing on the cake.”

There is no average week in the life of a Second City e.t.c. actor. They perform six shows Thursday through Sunday. Backstage becomes a second home, and the cast does everything there from taking naps in the middle of the day to prepping for auditions.

When the doors open for audience seating, the cast is backstage, most likely eating a salad from a nearby grocery store or a burrito bowl from Chipotle. The girls, Barreca says, stay on the “girls’ side,” where they get ready, apply makeup, take selfies and chat about boys. The guys hang out on the “boys’ side” and spend the time jokingly mocking the girls and planning pranks.

Pre-show is a bit different for the late show, according to Barreca. “We have about an hour to kill in between shows,” she says. “Each of the girls bought a 'onesie,' so we put that on, make popcorn and watch TV for the hour between shows. The guys go out to get frozen yogurt.”

The cast has a post-show dining routine  Thursday night at Corcoran’s for nachos, Friday and Saturday at Old Town Ale House. On Sunday, they hit Old Town Social for pork belly tacos and wine.

There is no guarantee of what lies ahead. An actor’s time with Second City is contracted for the run of a particular show.

“I never thought I’d get to be on a stage. I don’t know what I want to do next,” Barreca says. “It would be my pleasure and honor if they would hire me back for another round, but someone else could come along that works out better. One thing people don’t realize is that after you get Second City, there’s still the next step. That’s something I’m trying to figure out.

Learn more about Second City's sweetheart in this web exclusive. Keep up with Kiley Peters’ Chicago comedy blog,


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