Grinning From Fear to Fear at Second City E.T.C. doesn’t get funny till hour two | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Grinning From Fear to Fear at Second City E.T.C. doesn’t get funny till hour two

Until then, it relies too heavily on stale old jokes.


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Second City e.t.c.'s 43rd revue begins with the cast paddling through the audience in a faux water ballet. It spends the next hour trying to find its footing. Written and performed by Atra Asdou, E.J. Cameron, Mark Campbell, Andrew Knox, Laurel Krabacher, and Chuck Norment and directed by Anneliese Toft, the two-hour production finishes strong, but is hobbled by too many tired jokes and sketches that trail off when they should end with a comic kapow.

Do we need yet another sketch about how periods turn women into monsters? No, but we get one here, complete with a woman (Krabacher) wearing a face mask that makes her look monstrous. There's an equally tired bit about an old lady (Asdou) who fans her crotch in response to old-time Hollywood heartthrobs. The overwrought crotch fanning is an eye-roller the first time it's used as a punchline. By the fourth time you start to wonder whether everyone in the writers' room got distracted by sandwiches or something.

A more successful whack at low-hanging fruit arrives with a sketch about a serial killer (Knox) who only murders wealthy millennial bros. Knox saves the bit with his Hannibal Lecter-on-nitrous shenanigans, but coming for brosefs is old news.

Grinning does have moments of scathing, insightful comedy. Among them: Campbell as an unwilling contestant on Toss and Turn, the nightly game show hosted by your subconscious and designed to kill you via a lethal mix of insomnia and self-doubt. When the ensemble plumbs the fathoms of human insecurity, it discovers plenty of human comedy. Far too often though, it's treading water.   v

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