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Second City: Satirizing Our Flaws Through Comedy

Posted by on Saturday, February 13, 2016 in Blog posts, , , , .

It is no secret that our society is riddled with flaws, many of which are seem uncomfortable or awkward to face head on.  Second City’s recent performance on Vanderbilt’s campus, Hooking Up with Second City, uses comedy in order to bring these flaws into the public spotlight.  Second City’s performance presents topics ranging from sexual orientation to relationships to gun control, demonstrating our inherent reluctance in dealing with these sort of topics.  Second City pokes fun at these topics and people’s response to them in an attempt to systematically change the way that we approach these topics, moving away from awkwardly dancing around the issues, to facing them head on.

The set for the performance was quite simple.  There were no backdrops or props besides four chairs in the middle of the stage.  To the side of the stage was a piano played to accompany the six performers (three males, three females) and provide transitions between the scenes.  The only special effects used throughout the performance were spotlights, used to draw attention to certain performers while dimming out others.  The color of the lights would also change based on which mood the performers wished to evoke in the audience.  For example, when a character became scared that he was going to be shot with a gun, the lights turned red, representing violence or blood.   The simple staging allowed the audience to focus explicitly on the performers.  In effect, the simple staging itself forces us to face the awkwardness of approaching these topics.  In these ways, Second City attempts to transpose their emotions and ideas upon the audience.

Of the many critiques of society one may have, none were off limits for Second City.  For example, the performance attacked racial stereotypes in one skit where an interracial couple calls each other a “safe black” or “safe white,” referring to how the other “acts” like each other’s race, making it okay for them to date.  The performers capitalized on the liberal tendencies of college students by poking fun at various aspects of the conservative dogma.  In one skit, Cupid finds himself sponsored by the NRA, and has his bow and arrows replaced by a gun.  He explains how he makes money doing it and that it’s no big deal because he isn’t in charge of the wellbeing of millions of people – a direct shot at the pro-gun sentiment of many conservatives.  Two skits focus on same-sex relationships, both of which belittle the contentiousness of the topic.  Bringing up the morality of same-sex relationships in casual conversation would seem pretty strange, but the forum which Second City provides its audience allows for topics like this to be addressed openly.  The comedy of these situations promotes open dialogue surrounding topics like same-sex marriage.  One of the skits about same-sex relationships involves a teenage girl practicing telling her parents that she is interested in a girl with two passengers on a plane.  The performers embrace the awkwardness of the situation, making it that much funnier.  Despite the awkwardness, the performers press on in dealing with the situation.  In a way, the humor of the skits gets a metaphorical foot in the door to open conversation about such a topic.  Comedy as a genre is able to address any topic in a non-hostile way.  Second City uses this power in an effective way by bringing society’s flaws into the limelight.


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