Second City gives 1st-rate show at Convo

By Kevin Bartelt

Unanticipated jokes kept Second City improvisers on their toes and me on the edge of my seat at The Second City 55th Anniversary Tour Friday.

The performance, which took place at the Convocation Center and attracted more adults than students, included a massive variety of material. The improvers’ pieces ranged from clever one-liners to a 15-minute sketch set in a first-grade classroom.

The actors reenacted popular Second City sketches, improvised scenes based on the audience’s suggestions and even included members of the crowd. One audience member didn’t expect to be in a wedding scene where he said vows to performer Adam Schreck — especially since Prince, portrayed by performer Chucho Perez, was the priest.

The performance included several strong blackouts, which is a brief piece with usually one punchline. The blackout pieces included Captain Apathy, a superhero who has the powers of Superman but isn’t willing to use them. Another quick joke that landed well was an employee who didn’t understand why it’s inappropriate to have sex with a doctor’s patients. His co-worker explained: “Because he’s a vet.”

These clever jokes added smooth transitions to the longer, more complicated topics the Second City performers tackled, such as politics, history and war.

One funny scene came when performer Rachel LaForce rang a bell every time she wanted cohorts Lisa Barber and Maria Randazzo to replace their last line in an improvised scene: “There’s something I need to tell you. I’m transgender.” Ding. “I’m a man.” Ding. “I have both parts.” Ding. “I’m a unicorn.” LaForce pushed the improvisers’ wit as she rang the bell in short intervals.

The show “is hilarious…,” said Parker Settecase, 22, of Wheaton. “It’s cool to see them outside of Second City, outside of the actual place. I went to see them a couple times in the city. This is totally different, but it has a really cool feel to it.”

Settecase said the show seemed different from other Second City shows he’s attended because the improvers performed to a wider age range of people Friday.

The show’s downfall: Performers were obliged to pay homage to 50-year-old sketches that weren’t all as funny as Second City’s modern material. But, it’s an anniversary tour, so actors will pay their respects.

I loved the rendition of the 1997 Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch dressing room sketch where the actors, with thick Boston accents, described things as “wicked pissa;” but, the improvised sketches and spur-of-the-moment jokes kept me laughing harder than some of the awkwardly drawn out ’60s reenactment sketches.