200 Things To Do In Illinois – The Second City

Illinois celebrated its bicentennial as a state in December of 2018.  To celebrate, the Chicago Tribune published the Bicentennial Bucket List: 200 Things To Do In Illinois, celebrating the best the state has to offer in history, food, architecture, culture, sports, nature, drink, and oddities.  With the state still shut down due to the corona virus outbreak, I figured this was the second-best time to look through this collection and cover the ones I’ve done/eaten/seen.

We continue things this week with one of the entries from the Culture category: The Second City, from Chicago, IL.

Profoundly influential in American comedy, this nearly 60-year-old theater retains its edge by putting on a regular schedule of new, sketch-based shows that skewer politics and contemporary life.

It’s like Saturday Night Live, but right in front of you, and with sketches that know how to end.

I made my one and (so far) only trip to The Second City on November 4, 2017, in the midst of what turned out to be one of the worst weekends of my life.  Without getting too much into the drama of the beginning of the end of (at least what I thought was) an important friendship, a night out with my college friends was a nice respite from everything else that was swirling around me at the time.  I’d certainly like to go back sometime, perhaps to see what they make of this whole shelter-in-place craziness.

A Group Of Oddballs

oddball_lineupSunday night of the Toronto trip had been scheduled for dinner at the CN Tower, but then I got a message saying, “Hey, I jut got an email about this comedy festival on Sunday.  We should totally do this.”  I’d first heard of the Oddball Comedy Festival last year when Chris Hardwick was one of the performers.  I looked at this year’s lineup and got right on board.

The tickets claimed the show started at 5, which was kind of true.  The second stage had performers starting that early.  As you can tell from the picture above, the main stage didn’t kick off until 7:10.  To make matters worse, they weren’t letting people in to the pavilion, so you couldn’t even find your seat, leaving the 16,000 person strong crowd to battle for the limited shade on an unusually warm afternoon.

Once things got going, though, the show did not disappoint.  Other than the first 2 comics, Mark Normand and Katherine Ryan, I was familiar with all of the performers, so I had at least an idea of what to expect.  Sadly, the same could not be said for my travel companion Hayley, who, despite coming up with the idea of attending, had heard of Amy Schumer, but had never seen her in anything.  Normand and Ryan put on entertaining sets, followed by Michael Che, the current Weekend Update anchor on SNL.  His was a brand of humor that did not play well with the British contingent of my travelling party, but I found him to be quite good.

Following a theme, the next performer was Che’s cast-mate Jay Pharoah.  Jay struggles sometimes on SNL because he is a stand-up rather than a sketch guy, so it was good to see him shine in a more natural environment for him.  He was followed by Jim Norton, who I always find fascinating despite his long time association with Opie and Anthony, who I do not enjoy.

After a brief intermission, we entered what I am calling the Comedy Central part of the show.  Anthony Jeselnik, Nick Kroll, and Amy Schumer all have, or recently wrapped up, shows on the cable outlet.  If I had to pick a set that I liked the least, I would go with Jeselnik’s.  His brand of comedy doesn’t really mesh with my sensibilities, although he was a big hit with the English.  Schumer, after her big movie hit over the summer, was the obvious draw for many in attendance.  After her set, as Aziz Ansari took the stage as the headliner, the crowd starting filing out.  Granted, some of the crowd had been there for 5 hours at that point, but still… you can’t wait another half hour?

Anyway, I had a blast and, again, lament the fact that I never see live comedy in my home town.  I’ll certainly keep an eye out for the festival next year and, if the lineup is half as impressive, I’m definitely down for another go around.

The $90 Comedy Show

GandO

The musical comedians (or comedic musicians) known as Garfunkel and Oates came to town tonight and I had made plans to attend with a few friends.  However, the day after I bought the tickets, these so-called friends changed their mind, deciding against going because, well, there really wasn’t any reason.  At least not one that made sense.  So, for the past week or so, I’ve been alternately trying to find someone else to use the extra tickets and trying to control my anger.

Tonight, armed with three tickets, I headed down to Abbey Pub solo to see the show, figuring that I had spent $90 either way, so I might as well enjoy myself.  And enjoy myself I did.  Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome put on a great show, treating the crowd to some of their songs, some witty banter, and an unplanned cover version of the song they wrote for last night’s episode of The Big Bang Theory.  After the show, the duo came out and signed autographs and took pictures with the appreciative crowd.  For one night, at least, I have happy feelings about the whole episode.