Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: America All Better!!

America All Better!! Photo: Todd Rosenberg

I’ve seen two of the past three collaborations between Chicago’s famed Second City and Woolly Mammoth. America All Better!! (make sure you use two exclamations to differentiate it from an older revue with the same title) has less of an overall theme that unites the show compared to Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies or A Girl’s Guide To Washington Politics. However this show is the funniest of the Second City shows I’ve seen yet. The material is fresh, quick-hitting, and topical. It is two acts of intense, in-your-face comedy that will leave your face aching from laughter.

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Entertainment, The Features, We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies

Photo by Michael Brosilow

In my previous job I analyzed the prevalence of fear and risk in current events and news. So if I know anything about society, it’s that we love to worry.

We are afraid of a lot of things: invasion of privacy, food contamination, and deadly diseases. West Nile, Cancer, and Swine Flu are just some of the buzzwords that have infiltrated the evening news in recent times.

The problem is we have become so scared stiff we have lost all perspective in measuring and weighing risk. In the summers of 2001 & 2002 it was “The Summer of the Shark”, to which The Daily Show pointed out- more people are killed by falling coconuts than by shark attacks.

Does that mean we should wear helmets outside? Does that mean we need to constantly sanitize our purses and make sure our kids don’t eat french fries so they don’t get cancer?

My answer is no- but don’t take my word for it, the players of Chicago’s Second City are here to shine the light on death, doom, and gloom in their production of Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies. The renown Chicago-based comedy troupe returns to Woolly Mammoth Theatre to offer up another show of sketches, songs, and shtick.

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We Love Arts

We Love Arts: A Girl’s Guide To Washington Politics

Photo Colin Hovde

How good is Wooly Mammoth’s A Girl’s Guide to Washington Politics? Well let’s take a look at the buzz.

The show blasted through the theatre’s box office before the production opened, breaking every imaginable pre-sale record in the theatre’s 31 year history.

The show’s opening night was attended by not one, not two, but 12 female members of the Senate.

A lot of the buzz can be attributed to the famed Second City. The show was written and is performed by Second City talent. Those that aren’t familiar with the Chicago-based Comedy Conservatory will certainly know some of the many alumni that have walked through those hallowed halls. Notable alumni include Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Stephen Colbert amongst many others.

The Second City name and the success of their 2009 production of Barack Stars has given A Girl’s Guide very high expectations. Luckily the show delivers everything you expect: a solid sketch comedy show that follows the recipe for a great night of comedy.

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We Love Arts

We Love Arts: Barack Stars

photo by Colin Hovde
The full cast of Barack Stars
photo by Colin Hovde

Barack Stars isn’t a play or a musical – it’s almost two hours of sketch comedy that has a general but not terribly specific theme. I don’t say that as a judgment – I just want us to have our definitions in line. We can’t really talk about the script, overt or implied themes, or much of anything else we might use to rate a play. The performers aren’t really called upon to inhabit a character and make us empathize or connect with them; if anything, too much nuance is a detriment when  you’re trying to do an impression. It’s called a sketch for a reason.

So when talking about this production I’m lifting from my beloved Filmspotting (which I believe they said they lifted from someone else) and making a determination about if it’s good or not based on only one thing: Did it make me laugh?

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