Second City with a holiday twist

By Luke Wilusz

Anybody looking for an ordinary holiday show should steer clear of “Second City’s Dysfunctional Holiday Revue” because they’ll probably be disappointed by the show’s lack of heartwarming family moments and good-spirited cheer. However, anybody who enjoys Second City’s trademark style of sketch comedy, improv and audience participation will find no reason to complain.

The revue, staged by The Second City Touring Company in The Second City e.t.c. Theatre, 1608 N. Wells St., on the second floor, features the same blend of sketches, short scenes, songs and improv games typical of a Second City show but with a little holiday twist.

Fortunately, the holiday theme doesn’t dominate the show. Rather than making the holidays the main course and using them as a crutch to support an endless barrage of Santa Claus jokes and annoying family scenarios, the company instead uses them as more of a light flavoring. Many of the improv games had nothing to do with the season.

The holiday theme is a setting or backdrop more than anything else. Some scenes are holiday-related, and most of them are in a Chicago winter setting, but the jokes—ranging in topic from drunk dialing to school closings and seemingly anything in between—stand well on their own.

This is a Chicago show to its core. It was written and performed by locals for locals, which was demonstrated by the show’s best scenes, such as a winter morning newscast detailing all of the city’s school closings—a familiar sight to anyone who’s grown up here. The monotonous drone of news anchors reading off school names turned into an opportunity for clever wordplay and puns as prestigious institutions are listed off, such as the “Torah Torah Torah Zionist Kamikaze Preschool.”

The most memorable moment comes in the form of a lovingly bitter musical homage to the atrocious winters Chicago is well-known for. The performers clearly knew their audience as they touched upon all of the worst aspects of the season—including the icy wind, never-ending snow and the slush sprayed at pedestrians by clueless tourists in cars—all while posing the same question we all ask ourselves around every January: “Why do I live here?”

However, comedy is a hit-or-miss art form. Not every joke can get a laugh, and no show comes without flaws. Some lines and pop culture references fall flat—a “Home Alone” reference and a Macaulay Culkin joke are hardly cutting-edge humor in 2010—and some of the quick one-scene skits are too short. Some almost seem like they were added to the show just to fit in a punch line that wouldn’t work in any other sketch. They end so suddenly, they almost feel like a waste of time.

These minor quibbles don’t make the show any less funny, though. The majority of the skits and scenes are well-written and performed, and the laugh-out-loud moments outweigh the groans and apathetic sighs.

If you’re looking for a good time and want reprieve from all of the traditional entertainment that can make the holidays feel obnoxious and nauseating, you could do a lot worse than “Second City’s Dysfunctional Holiday Revue.”

“Second City’s Dysfunctional Holiday Revue” opened on Nov. 30 at The Second City e.t.c. Theatre, 1608 N. Wells St., on the second floor of Piper’s Alley, and runs through Dec. 27. Ticket prices range from $16-$22. For more information visit