The Second City opens its Spring 2015 Mainstage show How to Kill a Comedian in Toronto
Spring is finally in the air. This week the temperature finally crested above freezing, Toronto’s snowbanks are melting away and its winter-beaten citizens are slowly emerging from hibernation. After that utterly miserable winter we all deserve a good laugh so it’s the perfect time for The Second City to premiere its Spring Mainstage revue.
The comedy institution’s new show, How to Kill a Comedian, doesn’t have as much of a thematic through-line tying the sketches together as some of its previous shows but it still relies on the tried and true formula; a crowd-pleasing collection of sketches featuring topical humour and a sort of light social satire which makes a point even if it never drives it in too deeply.
The cast of six is a mix of fresh faces and returning favourites; Ashley Botting, Leigh Cameron, Kyle Dooley, Etan Muskat, Kirsten Rasmusssen and Kevin Whalen. Though each ensemble member brings their unique talents to the table I felt the female cast members did the heavy lifting in most the show’s sketches.
Ashley Botting shines as a Broadway diva singing a largely improvised song about an unwitting audience member whom she singles out as her long-lost lover.
Kirsten Rasmussen’s cartoonish Medieval Queen character is delightfully larger than life as she leads the cast in a pantomime reality show to pick her new court jester; prompting the audience to cheer or boo each candidate.
The show is at its strongest when it focuses on social satire. In a sketch where three friends; a white guy, a “brown” guy and a woman play a board game called “Privilege” the writing is biting and clever. The Health Check sketch skewers sexism in the media and features a female reporter (Ashley Botting) asking a male scientist (Etan Muskat) condescending, sex-based questions. It received one of the biggest cheers of the night.
Another highlight of the show is a sketch that plays on Pope Francis’ “cool” image, placing him at the centre of an elaborate musical parody of Shaft.
Of course, not every sketch worked. I thought the one where a parking enforcement officer (Leigh Cameron) and a substitute teacher (Kevin Whalen) commiserate over being hated for their jobs fell flat. The pacing felt off, the sketch lacked focus, and the tone, which borders on earnest at times, ultimately felt odd.
The Girls’ Night sketch where two girls express their “best friend love” for each other also didn’t work for me. I found the ditzy girl caricatures one-note and grating and thought the sketch felt drawn out and aimless.
My favourite moments from the Second City revues often come when the cast picks a “volunteer” out of the audience and features them in a sketch. In this iteration the audience member is sent by two cops on an undercover drug bust. Cast members get a chance to flex their improv skills, Etan Muscat and Kyle Dooley playfully undercut each other throughout, and the spontaneity of the sketch combined with the edge-of-your-seat anticipation of what the volunteer will do next and how the cast will respond is wildly entertaining.
All in all, How to Kill a Comedian is everything you’d expect from a night at the Second City. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to laugh off your winter blues.
- How to Kill a Comedian is playing at the Second City (51 Mercer Street) through June 2015
- Shows run Tuesday to Thursday at 8:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m., and Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
- Tickets $25.00 to $52.00, Dinner and Show packages available. Student Tickets $14-$18 (not available for Saturday 7:30pm performances).
- Tickets available from The Second City box office, at 416-343-0011 or visit www.secondcity.com
Photo of Kevin Whalen, Etan Muskat, Ashley Botting, Leigh Cameron, Kyle Dooley, and Kirsten Rasmussen by Racheal McCaig