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'Workaholics' star reminisces about Second City days

(Tribune file photo )
February 17, 2012|By Julia Borcherts, for RedEye

When The Second City's UP Comedy Club celebrates its grand opening Friday, expect to see Second City alum Maribeth Monroe among the luminaries on stage. The Michigan native--who called Chicago home from 2001 through 2006 and now stars as office manager Alice Murphy in Comedy Central's "Workaholics"--began her career at Second City Detroit but moved to Chicago in 2001 and joined the mainstage cast in 2003, where she also created the character of Desdemona in the viral "Sassy Gay Friend" video series.

At this week's grand opening, she improvises with fellow alum Colin Mochrie ("Whose Line Is It Anyway?") and actors from The Second City's Improv All-Stars in a show that also features a headlining stand-up set by "Cash Cab" host Ben Bailey. We called Monroe to catch up.

What do you like best about the Chicago sketch and improv scene?
The level of talent and the amount of improv and sketch shows and just the amount of activity that exists in Chicago as opposed to anywhere else. [When I was living in Chicago] I probably was going to see a show or performing in a show or talking about shows or hanging out with people who just did a show every night of the week.

One of your early career moves was playing Desdemona in the 'Sassy Gay Friend' series. How was that?
One of my favorites! Brian Gallivan is just fantastic; we wrote three shows together. That scene--Sassy Gay Friend: Othello' didn't actually make the [Second City mainstage] show "Red Scare," where the other two--"Hamlet" and "Romeo and Juliet"--made the show. It was such a fun character and I was thrilled to get it out in the world.

The last Second City cast I was in gets together every month. I think every brunch, we're like "Are you going to do another 'Sassy Gay Friend'?" And [Gallivan]'s like, "I'm just going to let it sit for awhile. It's got a life of its own." I'm really proud to have been a part of that.

How did you land the role of Alice on'Workaholics?'
It was a pretty traditional route, although I discovered later that one of the reasons I did get hired was because one of the writer-creators and stars of the show, Anders Holm, had seen me at The Second City in Chicago. So it ended up being connected to my time at Second City, which was really lovely. Second City kind of helped me get that one, I think, a little bit.

And a funny story is that the very first call that the casting director got regarding someone to audition to play Alice was for me, which they laugh about now. They were like, "You were the first one--we should have just stopped there." [Laughs] But they brought in about 200 people.

It was a traditional route as far as how the auditioning goes, but then later after I got the role, Anders mentioned, "You walked in the room and I was like, "Oh, my god! It's the girl I saw in Chicago that I loved! And here she is!''

At the time [of the mainstage show], Anders was in the Second City conservatory program. And then, here he is--he gets this big opportunity and then I benefit from him seeing me then. You never know who's going to see you in a show at any level. It's amazing.

What's next for Alice?
I ran into my casting director yesterday for a different audition and she kind of winked and me and said, "You better get ready cause there's some really fun storylines that are going to be happening with Alice."

It's all on the hush-hush right now, and I have no inside information 'cause they're very secretive about it. But based on last season, I'm really hoping that maybe they'll explore some romantic relationship between Adam and Alice perhaps. And I'd love to maybe meet Alice's boyfriend if she gets a boyfriend or something. I have no doubt it's going to be hilarious and irreverent, whatever's going to happen.

The characters all work at a telemarketing firm. What's the worst real-life job you've had?
I worked at a spin-off restaurant that was trying to be a Hard Rock Café but instead of a Hard Rock, it was a Race Rock. [Laughs]. We had racing paraphernalia on the walls and race cars on the ceiling. I was a bus girl--I was only, like, 15 at the time--so I had to wear a pit jumpsuit that was way too big and I was terrible at my job. And I had to deal with dirty dishes and awful people all the time.


UP Comedy Club Grand Opening
Hosted by Ben Bailey ("Cash Cab") and featuring Maribeth Monroe ("Workaholics"), Colin Mochrie ("Whose Line is it Anyway?") and The Second City's Improv All-Stars
Friday, 8 p.m. at UP Comedy Club, 230 W. North Ave., 3rd floor
$50; UPcomedyclub.com  

Julia Borcherts is a RedEye special contributor.

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