Forget Trump—Second City E.T.C. reminds us of the ‘humor in humanity’ | Comedy | Chicago Reader

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Forget Trump—Second City E.T.C. reminds us of the ‘humor in humanity’

The latest E.T.C. show, Fantastic Super Great Nation Numero Uno, focuses more on the people than the politics.

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In the weeks and now days leading up to the inauguration, it seems like the jokes about Trump and the current state of our political climate are basically writing themselves. Between rumors of golden showers and the president-elect's meeting with Steve Harvey, it sometimes feels as if we're all living in one long political sketch. So where are comedians supposed to go from here?

The newest revue on the Second City's E.T.C. stage, Fantastic Super Great Nation Numero Uno, gets the requisite Trump humor out of the way early in a few entertaining sketches: a man who has been blacked out since the Cubs won the World Series comes to terms with the election results; seeing a reality star being elected president inspires former president Jimmy Carter to become just such a star; and a ship's crew summons a kraken to captain their ship, going against the popular vote onboard. But it's when the cast decides to steer away from the obvious and find the "humor in humanity" that the performers' individual talents are used to their highest potential.

In light of recent incidents of homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, and prejudiced comments being hurled at Second City cast members and audience members alike, it was encouraging to see the cast fully embracing their ethnicity, sex, race, and queerness. Two of the standouts, Tien Tran and Jasbir Singh Vazquez, are charming in an early sketch that features them as a couple in a rowboat each speaking their native language (Vietnamese and Spanish, respectively). Through their inflection and some great physical bits they're able to connect with each other and with the audience even though very few people (if any) understood both sides of the conversation. It speaks to a larger message throughout the show: in times of political peril, it's better to look for similarities in others rather than stress the obvious differences.

Later on, Vazquez once again speaks only in Spanish, pulling an unsuspecting Spanish­speaking audience member onstage for a sketch that ended up being about immigration policing. The audience member translated for Vazquez as he answered questions posed by two police officers (Andrew Knox and Alan Linc) to prove he was American. Seeing the two strangers connect over a shared language was a delight. And in a musical number performed by the women of the cast, it was proven that perhaps nothing unites us more as a country than our mutual disgust for the word "moist."

Fantastic Super Great Nation Numero Uno is by no means Second City's most inspired or politically hard-hitting revue. But what it does offer is plenty of silly fun—a semi-improvised scene featuring all the women of the cast on a The View-style panel talk show was particularly hilarious—and a chance to have a shared human experience outside of the current political circus.  v

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