‘Here’s Meghan!’ New show at Second City Studio Theaters puts woman in Carson’s shoes

By Miranda Manier

Meghan Babbe, host of “The Tonight Show” in 1972, interviews Rachel Moore, star of the action-packed spy series “Jill Bond.” She chats with Moore’s onscreen eye-patched sidekick Edna and discusses Gladys Knight’s presidential bid.

This is the imaginary world of “Identity Heist,” a new show at The Second City Studio Theaters, 230 W. North Ave., which is a partner with Columbia’s comedy writing and performance program. 

It poses the question: What if gender roles were entirely reversed? Babbe, writer and host of the show, is the conduit for the audience’s experience of a different 1972, in which Jill Bond has an arsenal of Bond boys and “The Godmother” is the year’s most successful drama. 

“I was thinking, ‘If there’s a female host, what else is true?’” she said. “If women had always had these opportunities, then everything would be different.”

“Identity Heist” will run in Judy’s Beat Lounge, in The Second City Training Center, on the last Wednesday of each month through April, with each performance acting as another episode of the show.

The first performance on Jan. 31 included interviews with guests like Allison Pacino and Rachel Moore—instead of James Bond’s Roger Moore. It also featured Babbe’s clueless secretary Bill and jazzy music by an in-house band.

At the end of the show, a real-life sloth was brought onstage and all pretense fell. It was no longer 1972 but 2018, and a member of the Flying Fox Conservation Fund was talking about the group’s website while audience members captured Snapchat footage of Steve the sloth.

However, this departure from the theme and time warp of the show did not detract from it. Audience member Nick Mestad, a kindergarten teacher’s aide from Andersonville, said the sudden appearance of the sloth added to the absurd contrast within “Identity Heist.”

“[The gender role reversal] was an important thing snuck into the show, rather than being like, ‘This is what the show’s about,’” Mestad said. “The whole tone of the show was absurd. To have that switch within it was a nice touch.”

While Natalie Toland, senior theatre major, thought a host like Babbe would have completely changed the way women in comedy are seen today, she recognized that a show like the one in “Identity Heist” could not have actually existed in 1972 outside of its absurd reality.

“If you had an early icon like that, they probably would have received a lot of backlash,” she said. “It probably wouldn’t have been very successful.”

Babbe agreed that a female host at the time would have been monumental.

“If there had been more diverse voices in the room,” she said, “and they had been allowed to stay and evolve and change, what we would see [in entertainment today] would be completely different.”

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