|The Second City e.t.c. presents|
|The Absolute Best Friggin’ Time of Your Life|
|Directed by Bill Bungeroth
Musical direction by Jesse Case
The Second City e.t.c., Piper’s Alley, 1608 N. Wells (map)
Open run | Tickets: $22–$27 | more info
Reviewed by Leah A. Zeldes
Second City e.t.c.’s new revue, The Absolute Best Friggin’ Time of Your Life, may not exactly live up to its boastful title, but it’s probably among the funniest times you can have for the price.
Like all such sketch-comedy shows, this one has its upsides and downsides, but when it works, it really clicks, and it works more often than not.
Much more musical than many Second City shows, Friggin’ offers some especially funny songs, delivered by a terrific cast who knows how to use their voices, backed by capable music director Jesse Case.
Beginning with a musical tribute to the "Good Old Days," the running joke of the revue, is a look back to the supposedly better days of the past — which seem to be the late 1990s, though few actual historical events are mentioned beyond general references to full employment, budget surpluses and no wars. That gives them ample scope to skewer the present, however. Christina Anthony, Beth Melewski and Mary Sohn, clad in stretch pants showing ample curves, take on the country’s idiotic "war on obesity" with a defiant song and dance on the joys of being "Rubenesque" that had nearly every woman in the audience cheering. Tom Flanigan is sidesplitting as a scat singer crooning to a group of dull-witted Tea Partiers. And Tim Baltz dramatically captures the all-encompassing and irrational rage of Obama haters in an office sketch.
Very little effort has gone into making this comedy politically balanced — the few digs at Dems are far outweighed by the arrows aimed at the increasingly easy targets of the right wing. I’m not sure this show would play so well in outside a liberal stronghold, but the Chicago audience ate it up. (Has any previous sitting administration ever been so lightly treated by comedians because their opponents made so much more compelling butts?)
A few skits don’t deliver, such as one in which Flanigan and Anthony play a race-reversed doctor and nurse — beyond the initial surprise when you realize the white guy is playing a black man, there’s not much there.
The evening culminates with an overlong skit in which Brendan Jennings, wonderfully expressive throughout, time travels to his high-school prom with an audience volunteer. Jennings carries it off impressively, but the jokes don’t match the premise of a nerd who regrets having skipped the dance in the first place, and I imagine much depends on how well the volunteer plays up.
Overall, though, Director Bill Bungeroth has given us a fast-paced and hilarious look at those times that, for many of us, have been the worst of our lives.