Somewhere between Cornbelt and Dairyland, Second City's national touring group, heading for the University of Wisconsin, has just shot past Madison. Second City is lost. It's not only lost, it's late. Not only that, it's also imcomplete, members scattered all over the Midwest. This will later prove inconsequential when all finally meet again backstage -- 15 minutes before showtime.

To most people outside Chicago, Second City is this wandering band of young comedic actors, spreading the gospel of improvisation around the country and aspiring to a slot in the resident company in Chicago. This is the Second City youth, taking its more than 50 routines from one town to another, far from home base.

"It's different every place we go," says one on the road between Iowa and Chicago. "The best place is Washington. We played there last year at the Cellar Door. The audience is very much in tune. Jeff Carter came down and later gave us a tour of the White House. The Oval Office and all. That was nice. And there's that place -- what's the name of it? Right. The Old Ebbitt Grill." He regards the passing countryside for a moment. "Great place."

Second City will again perform at the Cellar Door Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.