More than 50 years dropped off my back last night when the Second City touring company took the stage at the Touhill Center. Suddenly it was the mid-50s again, and a Chicago-based comic group called the Compass Players was under the lights at the Crystal Palace. Ted Flicker directed, and Del Close was there. And so were Mike Nichols and Elaine May and Will Holt and Dolly Jonah. . . .
In 1959, they became the Second City, and grew into one of the great comedy shows of all time. They're still in Chicago, and in Toronto, and have companies touring the world. Their humor is much the same, slightly less topical, slightly less biting. There were no Donald Trump references last night, only one to Sarah Palin and Rahm Emanuel. Francis Slay went unmentioned, too.
Still, it was a highly entertaining evening, and the almost-full house in the Lee Auditorium had a lot of fun. Many appeared to be old enough to have been in the Crystal Palace audience with me.
Second City closes its three-day St. Louis visit tonight (Saturday) at 8. The cast includes Barry Hite, Michael Kosinski, Rachel Miller, Eileen Montelione and Angel Sudik, with Alex Kliner as musical director and piano player. Kosinski, tall and thin, shows delightful Monty Python touches and a fine hand with physical comedy. Sudik, small and intense, displayed sparkling timing. The fact that she left her glasses in the dressing room in the second act did not affect that timing, of course. I was just curious.
The group has a large number of long-standing routines. There are frameworks that fit many of the responses drawn from the audience. For example, when a request for play titles drew "Road Rage," they went into a splendid routine about a cow that was killed in a highway accident. Very funny. Not about road rage. So what? Many good skits like that, reflecting the politician's favorite motto when facing a questioner, "Always answer the question you wanted to be asked, not the one you were asked."
Fine one-liners and complex word plays, too:
Actor in doctor's coat to woman, "Remember that lump in your breast that I found at your last visit?" Woman, after long pause, "But you're a dentist."
A wonderful skit about a kangaroo bringing in various marsupials, broad Australian accents, a great deal of funny nonsense.
Another involving a San Francisco detective, many jokes abut male sex organs, and a long, convoluted story that includes a search for a missing dog and ends up with a referenjce to "Sitting on the Dachshund of the Bay." Speak it slowly and carefully, remember your '60s music, and voila.
We sit in on some delightfully foolish and exasperating charades involving people waiting in line to buy tickets for a Cubs' game, and a reference to an Amtrak employee as "a trained engineer." Bada-bing.
All in all, a lot of fun and a lot of laughs. I just wish the performers would be as politically incisive as they used to be; they also should sharpen their scalpels and dig them more deeply.
"Fair and Unblanaced," by the Second City touring company, contnues on Saturday at 8 p.m. in the Lee Auditorium of the Blanche M. Touhill Center on the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis