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Second City’s latest alumni breakouts

Sampling of comedy enterprise's next talent class

Despite a number of new comedy schools to compete with (including the Upright Citizens Brigade and Chicago’s Annoyance Theater), Second City remains a fountainhead for talent. Here’s a sampling of the laff institute’s latest alumni breakouts:

LIZ CACKOWSKI
SC legacy: After serving an 18-month stint in Tourco, Cackowski had a short run on Mainstage before impressing “Saturday Night Live” scouts.
Breakout: Penned such “SNL” sketches as “The Needlers” and a Bob Fosse opening routine for guest star Catherine Zeta-Jones, then went on to launch (and star in) popular soccer-mom Web series “The Jeannie Tate Show.”
Up next: Writing for NBC sitcom “Community” and developing “Jeannie Tate” for HBO.

JOHN LUTZ
SC legacy: Notched a spot in Tourco during autumn 2001. A pivotal sketch for Lutz was his role as an overweight child whose mother force-feeds him Suzy Q’s and makes him cry.
Breakout: Was hired for “SNL” during the same season as Cackowski. Fey invited him to appear in the “30 Rock” pilot.
Up next: Has been an “SNL” scribe since 2003 and plays a recurring role on NBC’s “30 Rock.”

BOB MARTIN
SC legacy: Alum of four shows on the Toronto Mainstage, where he served as artistic director.
Breakout: As a wedding present, Martin’s SC pals gifted him a pile of 1920s musical sketches, which inspired “The Drowsy Chaperone,” which he co-shepherded with fellow SC alum Lisa Lambert into a Tony-winning Broadway tuner.
Up next: Retooling the book for the musical “Minsky’s,” which had a January tryout at L.A.’s Ahmanson Theater.

T.J. MILLER
SC legacy: Scored a spot with The Second City Touring Company (aka Tourco) after his first audition, distinguishing himself with his knack for improv (he credits studying SC tapes of such greats as Steve Carell and Tina Fey).
Breakout: 3 Arts Management signed Miller in Chicago. Did a stint at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, where he was seen by a Paramount casting director and hired for a featured role in “Cloverfield.”
Up next: Starring in “Get Him to the Greek” with Russell Brand, and Tony Scott’s “Unstoppable.”

MICHAEL PATRICK O’BRIEN
SC legacy: Known for cleverly breaking the fourth wall, O’Brien is living proof that persistence pays off. He waited in the wings for a spot on Mainstage for seven years after working as everything from box office manager to Tourco director.
Breakout: Scooped up by “SNL” scouts after teaching an audience member how to play the spoons.
Up next: Recently hired to write this season on “SNL.”

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