Comedy fans will
enjoy ‘Second City’

Review by John Berger

"Curious George" Bush was nowhere to be found, nor were there any other references made to contemporary political issues, but fans of basic improv and sketch comedy got almost two hours of prime-time entertainment as the Second Center Touring Company opened its four-night engagement at Gussie L'Amour's on Thursday.

"The Best of The Second City"

Repeats 8:15 p.m. today and tomorrow at Gussie L'Amour's, 3251 N. Nimitz Highway. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door; also available at Hawaii's Natural High, 339 Saratoga Ave. Call 926-3000.

Since the show is titled "The Best of The Second City," it would seem that none of the group's political material made the cut as being among its best -- an omission that would make anyone curious. Oh well. The troupe -- six actor-comedians, plus musical director Jason Grimm on keyboards -- served up an assortment of sketch comedy pieces and two notable improv segments.

"Balloon" was the key word in a segment skewering public radio. Its broadcasting was parodied as a mix of ponderous interviews on balloon-related topics, a pretentious program on folk music and labor songs that featured a trio playing a song about the struggle to organize balloon factory workers, and a "replay" of a previously aired interview with a distraught German composer a "few minutes before he committed suicide." The fill-in-the-blanks structure of the piece was evident, but it had some clever moments.

A more interesting improv came as the group broke down into teams of two, performing three unrelated improv sketches with topics taken from the audience. Either of the teams that weren't performing could jump in at any time, but they had to start off by repeating the final line the previous team had used. This one worked well.

The most memorable sketch comedy piece was about the efforts of a Catholic priest who had to sort through the 78-rpm record collection of a deceased elderly nun to find an appropriate song to play at her memorial service. Every song, it seemed, was of the comic risqué variety; three members of the group did an excellent job re-creating the sound of old, scratchy, low-fidelity recordings.

There was also a well-written Shakespearean-style sketch about an encounter between two knights. One of them comes on the scene ready to slay a dragon and enjoy the sexual charms of the damsel to be rescued, but discovers to his chagrin that the dragon has already been slain by another knight. To make matters worse, his rival is a "wearer of the monthly cotton" and "a lady of the pink triangle" who is claiming the damsel for herself!

Other sketch comedy highlights involved the misadventures of men and women in discos, and an office party with a twist: Costumes are required, but everyone took off from work early and didn't get the memo!

A high school choir practice segment in which the audience becomes the choir is excellent interactive material and worked well despite its length on Thursday.

Add more sketches, more improv and some snappy two-liner bits, and "The Best of Second City" has plenty to offer comedy fans.

Even without "Curious George.

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