By Robert Bethune
We've been told for centuries that theater is supposed to entertain and instruct. I regret that with The Second City's new "The Best of The Second City" show, I can hope to do no more than make a feeble attempt to convey the depths that have opened for my soul.
I blush to reveal the depth of my spiritual poverty, for I did not know that if you string together a whole collection of the names of well-known chain restaurants, you can create a wonderful sexual innuendo. They showed me that if love is meant to blossom, blossom it will, yea, even at Applebee's.
Nor had my benighted mind ever contemplated the beatific vision vouchsafed unto me at The Second City of a Chihuahua in a burkha.
Nor have the greatest academic minds of our generation appreciated the insights to be had from applying the famous boxing match between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, with a side dish of NASCAR, as a paradigm to the war in Iraq.
Whole new visions of social commentary, not to mention musical creativity, have been opened up in my mind by The Second City's presentation of the stunning esthetics of Grosse Pointe rap. Who knew of the suffering of countless young GP women, forced to endure the shame of postponed breast augmentation? I dare say no one, but now all is revealed.
I now can reveal the question that can bridge all social, religious, political and esthetic differences that so sadly divide person from person, nation from nation: "Wanna get high?"
In other words, he said, stepping down from the podium, if you're looking for some good laughs and creative, fresh wit, you will find it at The Second City.
The approach is deliberately unpretentious. The game is to poke fun, satirize, send up, mock. Sketch and improv comedy is a joke done in dialogue and/or action. It doesn't have to be smooth and polished. In general, it wouldn't be as funny if it were. For example, when the troupe comes out for a murderous take-off on Michael Flatley, they're all wildly out of step and a lot of the steps aren't even Irish, but it doesn't matter. The point gets made, the wickedly barbed joke gets across, and that's all we're looking for.
Right from square one, the fourth wall disappears in a puff of oily blue smoke. They make sure we're in it with them. If you catch the football or volunteer your ethnicity, you will indeed be in it with them. Something always gets turned on its head, and that something is always our expectations; the guitar-strumming, singing immigration guys who briefly prevent us all from immigrating are keeping us out of Mexico. Some tropes are a little bit predictable; when the cowpoke from Texas got to wrangling with the cowpoke from Oklahoma, sure enough, "Brokeback Mountain" started to rear its head, funny even though we could see it coming, or even because we could see it coming.
That's what this kind of comedy is all about, and The Second City continues to do it well.
'The Best of The Second City'
The Second City, 42705 Grand River Ave., Novi. Through July 6. Tickets: $15-$20. For information: 248-348-4448 or http://www.secondcity.com.