Second City Director Loses Battle To Cancer

Second City Director Loses Battle To Cancer
Long-time Second City Improv teacher and director, John Michalski

I was shocked to find out yesterday that John Michalski had passed away a few days ago. This one hurt!

John was a loving, caring, considerate, kind, creative, intelligent and passionate friend. This one really hurt!

Our relationship started out at the Second City where I was introduced to him on a hot Saturday afternoon in August of 1985, the day Oprah attended his workshop. My group, The Chi-Town Players, badly needed a director. We found the perfect fit in John, who took a group of trained Second City improvisers and turned us into a professional sketch comedy troupe that received wonderful reviews from several of Chicago’s newspapers. Prior to John’s direction, we would have been run out of town on a rail. John directed two of our shows, both drew very well and and ran for six months and then a year. Take a bow John Michalski!

During those years, John and his wife Kate performed each weekend at the Improv Institute, an institution they helped found. Attending their performances, I was always proud to see John do so well. He loved the art of improvisation! He could teach it well, direct it better, and perform it with great confidence and results. In addition, he and his wife Kate were the best looking improv couple in Chicago, and most likely, on the planet.

After those performance years, as we each raised our growing families, John and I got to know each other more on a personal level and became friends. And this is the best part of the story. John is a really good friend! Very supportive! Kind as hell! Always there!

After he and his family moved to Santa Monica, I would visit every time I was in L.A. on business beginning with a trip in April of 1992 when I brought my wife Char, five year-old daughter Megan and two year-old son Sean. We were staying at the Loews Hotel in Santa Monica and invited John, Kate and their son Micah to join us for a swim. It was a beautiful day with blue skies, bright sun, lots of laughs, just great fun. Then, the Rodney King verdict came down.

L.A. turned into a war zone after Rodney King verdict was announced.

A decade later, around 2003, John was supporting his family by driving limos. Well, on the media tours I conducted with my public relations firm, we always used limos because we worked with celebrity spokespeople. So I hired John and flew him to Dallas to drive us to the news stations and convention center. This was a media tour with Loni Anderson promoting COPD awareness. Loni was very nice to John.

Loni Anderson was a terrific spokesperson for COPD and always kind

John was always appreciative that I hired him for that job. I was glad it worked out as well, since we had an opportunity to spend some time together.

As the years moved on, we fell out of touch for far too long, due to our growing families and the demands of life. We intermittently would talk by phone or send each other a note on Facebook. The last note I received from him was a positive one, as usual. It was just before Christmas. He wrote, “everyone is good here…although I have had a few issues…titanium bar in my left femur.” He downplayed it, making it sound like he would finish his radiation treatments and be back to work soon. I should have asked more questions.

That’s why when I received the call yesterday from my former Chi-Town Players pal, Mark Czoske, letting me know that John had passed away from cancer, I was absolutely shocked! And angry! This one really hurts!

John Michalski was a good man! A hero in many ways to me. I will miss him greatly and pray for him and his family during this very sad time.

A photo marking John’s arrival in Hollywood

Leave a comment