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Del Close and the Roots of Second City

Detail from the cover of <i>Guru</i> by Jeff Griggs.
Detail from the cover of Guru by Jeff Griggs.

Scott Simon talks with author Jeff Griggs about his book Guru: My Days with Del Close. Learn more about Close, a forefather of improvisational comedy, the Second City club that gave rise to John Belushi, Bill Murray and many other comic talents, and Chicago's surrounding Old Town neighborhood.

Read an Excerpt

Del was standing guard over my new bed frame in Ikea's parking lot. I could see him from the cab of my truck, but it seemed like I would never reach the spot. As I sat in traffic watching him, I witnessed an interesting event. Several children began gathering around him while he stood there oblivious to their existence. One of the kids reached up and tugged at his shirt, and Del bent down and listened. Then he stood up straight and responded loudly enough for all the kids to hear. I arrived just as all the children ran away screaming. A woman beside Del angrily said something to him, but Del continued to stare straight ahead....

I jumped out of the truck and began to load my frame onto the truck. "What happened?" I asked Del as he opened the door and sat down.

The lady in the loading area answered, "Those children asked if he was Santa Claus, and he told them he was Santa Claus's brother and he had killed Santa Claus in his sleep. Then he told them to go tell all their friends that Santa Claus is dead."

I stifled a laugh and continued loading while the woman yelled that he was an evil monster.

"Is that your grandfather?" she yelled.

"No," I assured her. "Santa Claus was actually my grandfather, but that man in my truck killed him. So now he’s my foster grandpa." I could hear Del laughing in the truck.

"Both of you are sick, twisted deviants," she screamed. She continued yelling at me, but I walked away.

The clouds darkened as I settled in behind the wheel. "Why did you do that?" I asked Del as I started the truck and pulled out of the loading area.

Without a bit of remorse, Del replied, "I hate children."

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