Knuckleheads (Tim Robinson, Aidy Bryant, and Cecily Strong) at Just for Laughs | Bleader

Knuckleheads (Tim Robinson, Aidy Bryant, and Cecily Strong) at Just for Laughs

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Aidy Bryant, Tim Robinson, and Cecily Strong, aka Knuckleheads
  • Aidy Bryant, Tim Robinson, and Cecily Strong, aka Knuckleheads
Tim Robinson, Cecily Strong, and Aidy Bryant were ripped untimely from Second City's womb last fall, and spirited off to be amusing for SNL. The departure was so swift and secretive, they say, that they didn't get to make their goodbyes to the people and places that loomed large in their Chicago lives. So that was the first thing they did on taking the stage Thursday, for the opening of a three-night stand at Up Comedy Club.

Strong bid farewell and thanks to the thief who stole her car. Bryant will miss the gay black teens who always look like they're having so much fun, hanging out at the corner of Halsted and Belmont. And Robinson reminisced fondly about the two homeless guys who had sex under his porch, in view of his little son. Good times.

The show itself demonstrated why Lorne Michaels felt compelled to steal the three of them away, black-ops-style. Performing as Knuckleheads, under the aegis of TBS's Just for Laughs comedy fest, they spun out 90 minutes of character riffs, sketches, and improvisations that were never less than engaging and occasionally much more than funny.

The three worked separately—and rather casually—for a stretch, offering up bits framed as works in progress. Bryant took us on a tour of the journal she kept when she was eight years old (favorite pet: "Turtels!!!!!"). Strong, the quiet Knucklehead, tried out oddball impressions, including one of Elizabeth Dole laying into a heckler. And Robinson whipped through a series of had-to-be-there portraits, ranging from the "Guy Who Agrees With You Just by Blowing Out of His Nose" to the great "Insecure Wife Abuser"—a would-be tough who spouts his threats in an emphatic whisper, presumably at a sufficient distance from his wife so that she's unlikely to hear anything more than the hard "b" in "bitch."

Together the trio played out a couple of strangely tender scenes involving people pathetically unclear on the concept of living.

But the highlight of the show was the improv segment, for which Robinson, Strong, and Bryant were joined by fellow Second Citizens Adam Peacock, Mark Raterman, and Michael Patrick O'Brien (all of them, for some reason, wearing plaid shirts). Not much made what you might call objective sense—there were passages involving Siamese twins, vaginal cysts, ape whispering at the San Diego Zoo, and a woman who kept falling down wells—but the fluency, boldness, and cohesion of the group were marvelous to watch. It all culminated, breathtakingly, in a hilarious, profound, slapstick passage featuring Robinson as a poor schlub who sells fireworks from the back of a van and makes ill-fated attempts to live out his fantasy of himself as a cool biker dude.

Of course, the show you see will be different.

Through 6/15: Fri-Sat 8 and 11 PM, Up Comedy Club, 230 W. North, 312-662-4562, upcomedyclub.com, $25.

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