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Live from New York, it’s Chicago’s newest improv boss.
The Second City, the storied live-theater troupe that for decades has served as a star-making springboard for comedy talent—and often a gateway to Saturday Night Live—has announced a new chief executive officer.
Ed Wells, most recently the head of media and education at Sesame Workshop, took the top job at The Second City last week, the company announced today. He is tasked with revitalizing a brand that was badly damaged during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, both due to extended closures of live theaters and as a result of controversies over its treatment of Black performers, who alleged a culture of discrimination and abuse in an open letter in 2020. In June of that year, Andrew Alexander, its longtime CEO, resigned, and the company made a vow to change its ways.
Wells brings a versatile mix of experience in live events, consumer products, and global media, having been responsible for broadening Sesame Workshop’s international ambitions in regions such as Europe, Japan, China, and Latin America. He’s also served in leadership roles at Viacom and WWE.
“I look forward to joining and leading this incredibly talented team as we develop a long-term growth plan including geographical expansion and new media opportunities aimed at bringing The Second City magic to audiences everywhere,” Wells said in a statement.
The Second City, which also has locations in Toronto and Hollywood in addition to a network of improv training centers, was acquired in early 2021 by Strauss Zelnick’s private equity firm ZMC, which is known for leveraged buyouts. The pioneering improv brand—first opened in 1959—has a lengthy list of famous comedy alumni that spans generations, including John Belushi, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Mike Myers, Steven Yeun, Tina Fey, and Cecily Strong.