Terrence Carey

Madison West High School graduate Terrence Carey is a current cast member of the Second City Touring Company.

Terrence Carey will never forget the first time he did improv comedy and made a roomful of people laugh.

And not just because he was wearing a tiara at the time.

Carey, a Madison native, went to school at Madison West High School and took a theater class “because I thought it would be easy and it was an English credit.” He liked performing monologues and scenes from plays, but didn’t really see himself become a trained actor.

Then came improv. On the day Carey was supposed to improvise before the class, West was doing a “theme” day where students were encouraged to dress up as a mythological creature.

“I was dressed as a genie, with a wand, weird-looking pants and a tiara,” Carey said. “So I did this improv scene and pretended to be this genie granting wishes. I just remember kids all laughing and loving that feeling. ‘Dang, this is way more fun than I thought I would be.’”

Carey will be back in Madison this Friday to make an audience laugh, this time as a member of the prestigious Second City Touring Company. The company’s new show, “Look Both Ways Before Talking,” plays at 8 p.m. Friday at Overture Hall, 201 State St. Tickets are $25-$45 through overture.org.

Carey still maintains strong ties to Madison and to West, and plans to teach a workshop at the high school with drama teacher Holly Walker before the show.

After the genie scene, Carey enthusiastically dove into comedy, writing and performing sketches. He and several other African-American students started their own sketch comedy group called Black Man Group and played two packed shows for the school.

“It was a banger,” he said. “Everybody came. It was such a great feeling that we were doing something that was affecting people in a positive way. ‘I might do this.’”

After graduating high school, Carey moved to Chicago, considered the epicenter for improv and sketch comedy. He initially was focused on acting, studying theater at Columbia College. Again, he couldn’t resist the lure of comedy, auditioning for campus sketch comedy teams and taking part in a joint Second City/Columbia College study abroad program.

After graduating from Columbia, Carey stayed busy in Chicago comedy, working with several improv teams, auditioning at Second City and working on his own material. He said there’s so much going on in Chicago, and so many opportunities to collaborate and create, that it’s not that traumatic if you don’t get cast.

“It’s really cool because it’s like Chicago is competitive, but it’s competitive in a really beautiful way where it’s really supportive,” Carey said. “Everybody in the room is really supportive, and the feeling is like if you don’t get it, that’s okay because you’re working on this other thing.”

Carey has only been with the touring company as a full-fledged member for about four months, and is looking forward to showing the other cast members around Madison. (“I think I’m going to take them to La Hacienda,” he said. “That was my joint for a minute.”)

Carey said it’s important for a good sketch comedy group to get along both creatively and personally.

“There’s something beautiful when you see an ensemble all together making each other laugh, living and having fun, playing around with each other and finding new discoveries together,” Carey said.

Rob Thomas is the features editor and social media editor for the Capital Times, as well as its film critic. He joined the Cap Times in 1999 and has written about movies, music, food and books.

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