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Funny man Horatio Sanz trades jokes with a hero in ‘Great News’

Horatio Sanz (top row, right), and his "Great News" castmates, Adam Campbell (from left, clockwise), Nicole Richie, John Michael Higgins, Andrea Martin and Briga Heelan. Photo Credit: NBC

As is often the case with celebrities from Chicago, my chat with former Second City e.t.c. ensemble member Horatio Sanz started by focusing on the Cubs’ historic World Series win. While back in town last fall, the actor and comedian said, he was able “to get to both the playoffs and the World Series games in Chicago. Seeing those last couple of games in Chicago at Wrigley Field was something very special, and I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Reflecting on the uneven beginning to the team’s 2017 season, Sanz admitted, “It just seems so hard for them to do it again. I know there’s a lot of pressure for them to repeat, but last year was so magical. All the things that had to happen were happening and did happen. This year’s a little bit harder.”

Sanz’ current gig is playing a video editor on the new sitcom “Great News” (premiering at 8 p.m. Tuesday, WMAQ-Channel 5). Learning he’d be appearing on the show alongside veteran comedian Andrea Martin “was really exciting,” said the entertainer, who grew up on Chicago’s West Side. “First of all, she is hilarious playing the intern at the station where we all work on ‘Great News’ — a woman her age being an intern, such a funny, wacky idea! But beyond that, because of her ‘SCTV’ connection [on the Canadian-produced Second City TV show], we obviously have a Second City connection.

“Every now and then when we’re filming a scene on ‘Great News,’ she and I will look at each other and give each other one of those ‘uh, huh’ looks of comedy recognition. … She’s awesome. The first thing I told her when I met her on the set of ‘Great News’ was, ‘Listen. I’m not even going to [expletive] around here. You’re one of my influences. I watched ‘SCTV’ obsessively as a child, and you’re awesome. I’ll see you later,’ and just walked away.”

From his work at iO and Second City and his eight-season run on “Saturday Night Live,” Sanz understands the importance of an ensemble jelling well, and other cast members on “Great News” make him giddy about going to work these days. As for John Michael Higgins, who plays the pompous lead news anchor Chuck on the show’s newscast, Sanz said he’s “beautifully combining elements of Ted Knight’s Ted Baxter from the old ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show’ and Alec Baldwin’s character from ’30 Rock,’ ” which starred Tina Fey, who serves as an executive producer on “Great News.”

Sanz also praised co-star Nicole Richie, who plays Portia, Chuck’s much younger co-anchor whose world is totally focused on social media. “Nicole is so perfect. She gets the joke. All you see out here in L.A. is the older dude anchoring the news with some young, hot girl,” said Sanz.

To play his own character, who works behind the scenes with lead actress Briga Heelan’s producer character, Sanz drew on real-life experiences from Chicago.

“I’ve worked with so many editors over the years and I kept an eye on them. I saw how they work and must have filed it away. … But, I basically have known a bunch of those people — all smart enough and having the ambition to become stars in front of the camera, but things worked out differently for them.

“Back at Columbia Chicago, I wanted to be a cameraman, and work at WGN or something. Only problem, I wasn’t any good, so I got into improv,” where obviously Sanz found his niche.

On “Great News,” Sanz doesn’t have much opportunity to use his improv skills — yet he counts that as a plus.

“The writing is so good, the show is so funny, there is no need to throw in improv lines, simply because the writing is so crisp and tight.”