Andrew Alexander is best known for his leadership of The Second City theatre company and the hit television show SCTV. Alexander is a major presence in the entertainment scene and also works as a theatre, film, and television producer.
Alexander was born in London, England. He studied at Tri-State College in Indiana and Ryerson University in Toronto. Working as a cab driver, truck driver, speakeasy operator, waiter, tree salesman, marketing manager, ad salesman, magazine editor, and producer in the alternative theatre scene in Toronto positioned him well for a career in the Comedy Business. That chance came in 1974 when he became the head of The Second City in Toronto.
As leader of the Toronto theatre, Alexander produced and developed content for live theatre shows in collaboration with the legendary performers of the 1970s: Gilda Radner, John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, Andrea Martin, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, and Joe Flaherty, among others. Two years later, he forged a partnership with Len Stuart to create The Second City Entertainment Company, whose first production was the groundbreaking television show SCTV. After almost a decade developing the Entertainment Company, Alexander and Stuart became owners of The Second City Chicago in 1985. Since then, Alexander has actively led The Second City in Canada and the United States for over thirty years.
Alexander has produced or executive produced over 200 Second City revues in Canada and the United States. Under his leadership, The Second City has created innovative revues that have inspired generations of comedic creators. Over the past 35 years, The Second City has made its mark by operating resident theatres and/or improv training facilities in Chicago, Toronto, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Edmonton, London Ontario, New York, and Cleveland. Never forgetting the company’s Windy City roots, The Second City has at one point operated three resident theatres in Chicago alone.
During Alexander’s prolific career as a television producer, he has co-developed and executive produced more than 185 half-hour shows and produced over 150 hours of television comedy for SCTV. Throughout the length of SCTV’s run, the comedy series garnered an ACTRA Award, two Emmy Awards, and 13 Emmy Award nominations.
Alexander has also developed television programming for numerous networks such as ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox Television, Comedy Central, HBO, Showtime, A&E, and the CBC. Alexander has had co-production deals with MGM Television, Imagine Films, Disney Studios, and United Artist. He has also produced movies and television shows with some of North America’s brightest stars including Ed Asner, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi, Bill Murray, Chris Farley, Bonnie Hunt, Shelly Long, Andrea Martin, Steve Carell, John Candy, Mike Myers, Catherine O’Hara, Harold Ramis, Martin Short, Stephen Colbert, and Tina Fey. Recently, Alexander served as Executive Producer for Second City’s Next Comedy Legend on CBC (2007). He was also executive producer of the Canadian feature film Intern’s Academy (2004), written by Dave Thomas and featuring Canadian comedy virtuosos Dan Aykroyd, Dave Foley, Dave Thomas, and Maury Chaykin.
Alexander was a founding shareholder of the Pay Television service Super Channel and also served on the Board of Directors.
Alexander serves on the Columbia College Board of Trustees. He is Chair of the Gilda’s Club Toronto Honorary Board and acts as an Honorary Member of the Chicago Gilda’s Club Board. Alexander has also served on the Board of the League of Chicago Theatres and the Canadian Walk of Fame. In 2008, he coordinated a reunion of the cast of SCTV in Toronto and launched the Alumni Fund, a fund that in its first months raised over $500,000 to assist actors and support staff during times of illness or economic hardship.
Alexander has received numerous awards including the Canadian Comedy Awards Chairman’s Award, Gilda’s Magic Award from Gilda’s Club, and the League of Chicago Theatres’ 2009 Artistic Leadership Award. That same year, Alexander was named Chicago Tribune’s Chicagoan of the Year. He has also been featured in Crain’s 2011 Who’s Who Chicago Business and Chicago Magazine’s 2012 Power 100.
Since acquiring The Second City Chicago in 1985, the company under Alexander’s leadership has collected over 150 Jeff Award Nominations and 30 Jeff Award wins. Since 1975, Second City Toronto has been nominated for 19 Dora’s and 2 Dora wins. On behalf of The Second City as a whole, Alexander has accepted the Spirit of Innovation Award 2011, the NAB Spirit of Broadcasting Award 2012, Lifetime Achievement Award from Just for Laughs, and the 2012 Big Shoulders Award from the Chicago Film Critics. Phi Beta Kappa Distinguished Service Award 2014.
Mr. Alexander retired in June of 2020
Where did the idea for The Second City theatre come from?
It was established in 1959 in Chicago I got the rights for Canada in 1973 in 1985 I purchased the main company in Chicago.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I recently retired after selling the company.
How do you bring ideas to life?
In inspiring through collaboration.
What’s one trend that excites you?
We pivoted our education business during the pandemic to virtual which was a gamechanger. It will inform our growth once the pandemic is over
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Asking lots of questions
What advice would you give your younger self?
Listen more, surround myself with better legal and accounting advisors
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Stay persistent be dogged in your beliefs
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Taking artistic risks surrounding myself with artists that have ambition and talent
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Took many chances that were not backed up by good data, since have made sure we drilled down.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Second City’s The Essentially Accurate History coffee table book, also Improv Nation.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.