A well-executed live comedy show produces enthusiastic audience reactions while giving the performer a sense of satisfaction. To consistently make that authentic connection, comedians often spend years perfecting their routines’ delivery.
And yet, one much-admired comedy professional never walked onto a performance stage. Andrew Alexander is a legendary comedy producer who worked with rising comedians who later performed on the national stage.
Alexander also partnered with many well-known television networks and movie studios over a career that spanned almost 50 years. While he excelled in his profession, he also maintained a connection to entertainment industry workers who helped facilitate his success.
Traveling a Winding Path
Born in London, England, Andrew Alexander spent his childhood in the United Kingdom before traveling to North America in his twenties. There, he attended Indiana’s Tri-State College and Toronto’s Ryerson University.
After college, Andrew Alexander tried his hand at diverse occupations while searching for a personal passion. He worked as a taxi driver, a waiter, a tree salesman, and a magazine editor. Although Alexander didn’t stick with any of these jobs, he later reflected that each position played a role in his comedy industry evolution.
Discovering Live Comedy’s Magic
Andrew Alexander found his comedy calling unexpectedly. During the mid-1970s, he was sitting in the audience for a Chicago improv comedy show. This emerging comedy genre had begun to catch on, and Alexander wanted to experience performance firsthand.
As he watched the quick-thinking comedians engage the audience with inspired improv routines, Alexander felt a creative connection to these talented performers. He wanted everyone to catch this infectious energy, and he believed that the experience would positively influence their lives.
Next, Alexander and Len Stuart created The Second City Entertainment Company in 1976. One of the team’s first productions was the well-received SCTV television program. In 1985, this successful duo took over The Second City Chicago’s management.
Chicago’s Comedy Scene Expands
Andrew Alexander was excited to return to Chicago, as a Windy City comedy show had helped to spark his lifelong interest in this entertainment form. Over time, he transformed The Second City Chicago into a sought-after comedy venue. Many aspiring comedians stepped onto the company’s stages, focused on fine-tuning their routines in preparation for a chance to perform on the national stage.
Under Andrew Alexander’s skillful direction, The Second City Chicago became a significant part of the North American comedy landscape. The company gradually expanded and now operates several resident theaters along with improv training programs. Many comedians have used these performing platforms to cultivate regional and often national careers.
The Second City (the company) also frequently mounts the United States and Canadian comedy productions. Known for its top-tier shows, The Second City has earned numerous industry awards.
Memorable Comedy Collaborations
Over the past several decades, many talented comedians have debuted in Andrew Alexander’s acclaimed live comedy shows. Some performers later made their way onto the national stage, and they also earned top billing in television programs and films.
Original Saturday Night Live cast members Gilda Radner and Dan Aykroyd were among the notable comedians who appeared in Andrew Alexander’s productions. Famous comedian John Candy was also an Alexander alumnus.
When he wasn’t helping to further comedians’ careers, Alexander served as the developer and executive producer for many award-winning television programs. His well-known dedication to excellence ensured a high-quality result that set the standard for other entertainment industry productions.
Managing Multiple Industry Commitments
As Andrew Alexander gained more media and entertainment industry connections, his collaborative opportunities grew. He began to divide his time between Chicago and Los Angeles, widely known as a global entertainment center.
Alexander was well known for his superb skill in building a rapport with comedy audiences. As a result, numerous media and entertainment companies wanted to partner with him. His typical projects included content development and production management for films and television programs.
Over the years, Andrew Alexander partnered with major television networks, including ABC, CBS, and NBC. He also worked with A&E, HBO, Disney, Comedy Central, Fox Television, and Showtime. He forged co-production agreements with Imagine Films, Disney Studios, United Artists, and MGM Television.
Because of Alexander’s stellar comedy industry reputation, many well-known comedians were eager to work with him. During his comedy production career, he partnered with Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Bonnie Hunt, Shelly Long, and Martin Short. Ed Asner, Tina Fey, and Stephen Colbert also stepped on Alexander’s performance stages.
Even while involved in his entertainment and media endeavors, Andrew Alexander maintained control of The Second City Chicago’s comedy operations. He monitored the organization’s 12 touring companies while carving out time for his corporate consulting work.
Awards and Industry Recognition
Over nearly 50 years in the entertainment industry, Andrew Alexander played a crucial role in developing many comedians’ careers. He collaborated with nationally known media and entertainment industry organizations. His commitment to excellence gained him many admirers, and he earned awards and accolades from the comedy industry and external partners.
Toronto Area Accolades
During Andrew Alexander’s years in Toronto, he enhanced the city’s comedy scene by attracting a steady flow of talented comedians. Over time, area venues attracted larger audiences, helping the diverse Toronto entertainment community to flourish.
For Alexander’s dedication and professionalism, the Toronto comedy community presented him with the Gilda’s Club Gilda’s Magic Award. He also served as the Gilda’s Club Toronto Honorary Board Chairman.
Andrew Alexander earned The Canadian Comedy Awards’ Chairman’s Award. He also held a position on the Canadian Walk of Fame’s Board of Directors. In 2008, Andrew Alexander brought the cast of SCTV Toronto together for a reunion. This well-received event gave performers and audiences a chance to experience these live performances again.
Chicago Area Recognition
Andrew Alexander was recognized for his contributions to Chicago’s comedy industry and the business community. In 2009, the Chicago Tribune presented Alexander with its Chicagoan of the Year Award. During that same year, he received the League of Chicago Theatres’ Artistic Leadership Award. He had previously served on the organization’s Board of Directors.
In 2011, Crain’s Who’s Who in Chicago Business spotlighted Andrew Alexander in its widely read publication. In 2012, he was named to Chicago Magazine’s Power 100 list. On the comedy front, the Chicago Gilda’s Club Board presented Alexander with an Honorary Membership.
Support for Industry Workers
In 2008, Andrew Alexander established the Alumni Fund to support actors and entertainment industry workers faced with illness or economic hard times. During its first few months, donors contributed over $500,000. Alexander also provided support to similar groups.
In June 2020, Andrew Alexander retired from his successful comedy and entertainment industry career. However, his passion and dedication continue to serve as a model for aspiring comedians and performers everywhere.