Last Monday Second City co-owner Len Stuart died in hospice care surrounded by his family and friends, among them Second City CEO and executive producer Andrew Alexander. Stuart was 73.
Alexander met Stuart in Toronto in 1975 when the former was heading up the Second City in Toronto; Stuart stepped in to invest in the first seven episodes of SCTV. The show went on to air 135 episodes, win two Emmys, and launch the careers of Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, and John Candy, among others. In 1985 Alexander and Stuart bought the Second City in Chicago; Stuart was an essential part of financing the shows and classes that helped grow the comedy theater while keeping its esteemed reputation intact.
“He was always there for financial support and advice when I was looking for it,” Alexander says. “We always had a partnership based on the handshake. I think that speaks volumes to the relationship we had.”
Stuart was more interested in the business than the entertainment, but according to Alexander he was always a major supporter of every project produced at the comedy theater. He last flew in from his home in the Bahamas to survey the damage from the fire that destroyed the theater’s offices in August 2015. Stuart’s death comes just a month before the grand opening of Second City’s new digs and the unveiling of the Harold Ramis Film School on March 18.
Beyond their working relationship, Alexander and Stuart became close friends over the course of their four decades together. “I spent the whole ten days with him when he was in hospice,” Alexander says, “and the things that stuck out was his courage and the way that he made his family feel.” Alexander mentions that Stuart never appeared afraid and seemed at peace in his final days.
In his lifetime Stuart traveled the world on his own boat and plane, developed and built nearly a dozen charity casinos in Canada, and, according to Alexander, truly lived life to the fullest.
“He was a very big personality, he was very colorful, he liked to have a good time—and he did,” Alexander says. “I miss him.”