Laughing Gas | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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LAUGHING GAS, at the Chopin Theatre. With its ingenuous, often juvenile ridicule of the status quo, sketch comedy is traditionally a young person's game. But what effect would marriage, kids, and other adult responsibilities have on the genre? Laughing Gas, emerging from retirement 16 years after its debut in 1984, sets out to show us.

They still consider going pee-pee funny, and waiting to go pee-pee even funnier. Ditto for Catholic priests behaving badly and send-ups of The Dating Game--in this case, a geriatric version featuring stereotypical geezers, a man-in-drag contestant, and a hapless audience member. But their sketches involving children--preparing to be born, puzzling over an inept sex-ed lesson, or sighing with the Shangri-Las over the "Eater of the Snack"--reflect a mature, logical comic sensibility and respect for their subjects. "It's Trojan Time"--a parody of beer commercials ("for those who want to have sex without getting filled up")--displays the genre's satirical bite. And many otherwise feeble gags are rescued by John Creighton, who mugs with the mobility of a Jim Henson puppet.

Running nearly two hours, this compilation of material from the Laughing Gas repertoire includes sketches that can't help but show their age. But in a field dominated by postadolescent chauvinists, the attempt at irreverence from a grown-up perspective is commendable--and rare.

--Mary Shen Barnidge

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