Saturday, July 7, 2007

Second City—Between Barack and a Hard Place

Got a chance to go see this last night at the legendary Second City here in Chicago. Let me just say right off the bat that the two things I consider the most difficult in life are: Freestyle rapping and stand-up comedy.

To go into a room filled with people who are expecting you to make them laugh, and them make them laugh, is not easy. It is very very tough.

Before I go into what I thought of the show, you should know who and what I think is funny. Seinfeld, to me, is a genius. Family Guy is the funniest thing on TV today. I like Frasier, though that's not really "Ha ha" funny. I like The Office and the whole Jon Stewart/Steve Carell brand of humor. I also really liked Office Space.

Moving right along, the first thing you see when you go into a Second City show is the wall of pictures with all the famous people that performed here, that trained here, that began here. It has to set incredible expectations with patrons and put a tremendous amount of pressure on the performers. Maybe I was about to witness a young Steve Carell or Craig Ferguson before he/she got his/her big break. So right away I told myself that what I would pick out one person from the show—the one person I think would make it or has the best chance to make it big in the world of comedy.

It was an easy choice, but unfortunately the show wasn't very funny. There was very little improv, which is good because that is rarely funny, but the show itself just didn't have many funny lines. The crowd did laugh, there was no heckling these performers. But it was like being at a sitcom taping—the laughs were expected, the humor was standard, it was like watching King of Queens—you can see each joke coming a mile away and when you get surprised with something you didn't expect, it's not all that funny.

I may have been the only one in our party that felt that way, but you never know. The one funny line I really liked was when two smokers were out in front of an office building and a guy coughs his way past them, eventually harassing them and asking them, if they know it's bad for them, why they do it. The woman (who looks JUST like Hillary Clinton) goes:

"I do it so that my unborn baby stays tiny and doesn't hurt as much on its way out."

THAT'S a line I would've written!

I don't know what could've made it funnier, I'm not a stand-up guy. I can't do it. It's too hard.

The more interesting part of the night was betting on who could blow up in the future. My guess is it'll be Ithamar Enriquez. He was the only one of them that really cut loose and let it all out. Most of the other ones were very reserved, containing themselves and trying too hard to "act" when what they need to be doing is being funny. Ithamar had some good lines but his joie de vivre was evident in his performance. He won't be the next Chris Farley (he's not that over the top) but he could be the next Horatio Sanz or the Asian gay guy on Mad TV. He looked like he was having fun up there, while the rest of them just tried to get their lines out at the right time.

Again, the whole experience just goes to show how hard it is to make people laugh. High risk, high reward, and extremely difficult.


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