Second City show presents improv with an edge
Jimmy Kemper | Monday, February 20, 2017
From the moment it took the stage in Washington Hall on Friday night, The Second City’s BlueCo. troupe made it abundantly clear that it was going to be a great night, but also a night that would address some of the biggest controversies in our country right now.
The touring group kicked off the show with a group song, centered around the refrain, “Nothing is wrong, everything is perfect,” where one comedian would start to complain about a serious problem, whether it be the immigration ban, global warming or race relations. He or she would then be loudly interrupted by the other members of the troupe, who would humorously attempt to convince the complaining member that it’s a non-issue. The song finally ended with an inversion of that refrain — “nothing is perfect and everything is wrong” — thereby introducing the audience to a central theme of the show.
The Chicago-based Second City, over the course of its 50-plus year history as a touring comedy troupe, theatre and comedy club, has developed a reputation for this sort of dark and timely humor. The program has given rise to sharp comedians such as Stephen Colbert and Steve Carrell and also has functioned as a feeder program into “Saturday Night Live,” serving as an incubator for some of the show’s biggest stars over the years, including Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Chris Farley and Bill Murray.
On Friday night, the comedy ensemble gathered together put on a show just as hilarious as some of the best “SNL” bits. It was diverse and fresh as the comedians varied between topical humor, timeless sketches, on-the-spot improv and quirky songs.
Sometimes, Second City seamlessly mixed these disparate comedy elements into a single performance, like the barbershop quartet piece that the male members of the cast opened with after the intermission.
In this sketch, the cast started singing their tune before quickly realizing that their fourth member, “Greg,” wasn’t going to make the performance in time. They pulled a random audience member out of the crowd, claimed he was “Greg,” and prompted him to finish off the lines of the song with obvious, yet funny, rhyming punchlines. Sometimes, “Greg” would go completely off course, in one instance replacing “iPod” with “Walkman” to hilarious effect.
The comedy troupe particularly shined in improvisational moments like this one, especially those which featured interactions with the crowds. Later in the show, one of the members looked to the audience to come up with a suggestion for a recent event that his character, a deep cover spy, was responsible for. The crowd chose Beyonce’s pregnancy. The comedians rolled with the absurdity of the situation with nary a smirk on their faces, transforming the skit into one of the more memorable moments of the night.
And even though none of the members of the ensemble had been to Notre Dame, Second City had clearly done its research. They incorporated football fans’ disappointment with the recent 4-8 season and the University’s choice to not become a sanctuary campus into the performance with ease.
Throughout the entirety of the performance ran an underlying discontent with the system which deeply resonated with the audience, as manifested by the intense amount of laughter throughout the show. Second City mocked the absurdity of the real world and current events with equally absurd comedic performance, like having a white male belt out an acoustic ballad mourning the death of “simpler times” where it was okay to discriminate against women and the disabled, or having Disney World character actors discuss Ferguson and racial tension in the downtime moments between children’s train rides.
Overall, Second City put on a fantastic performance that felt incredibly relevant. While these days it may feel difficult to carry on as if nothing is wrong, everything at Friday’s performance was perfect.