Toronto Second City‘s famous improv team return to the stage at their temporary new home, the Comedy Bar East on the Danforth. With the loosening of current Covid restrictions, the cast of the mainstage revue presents Welcome Back to the Future, a hilarious night of timely, relevant improvisation comedy.
As with any Second City revue, this performance promises a night of sketch comedy, improv games, and audience participation thrown in for fun. Due to the improvisational nature of certain scenes, the challenge for these comedians is to create funny on the spot.
Case in point would be the Psychic Twins sketch between Hannah Spear and Tricia Black. As “twins” the two actors’ goal is to say all their lines in complete unison, even with audience members calling out random ideas. The beauty of improv is that the comedy will not be perfect, and the audience will witness the actors do their best to push their way through the scene. Hats off to Spear and Black, as they did a great job!
I attended the show with my friend Kira, a first-timer to a Second City performance. Happy to report that she had a great time. We both loved the Psychic Twins scene, we also found the sketch featuring Black about brain noise when you’re trying to sleep painfully relatable.
A theme that seemed to weave through the show was racial experiences. The revisited sketch of a time machine taking the cast to various points in Canadian history where racially driven off-colour jokes might be appropriate was a good example. Turns out the answer is no. Canada has a history of racist leaders, and at no point are racist jokes ever appropriate.
Nkasi Ogbonnah and Chris Wilson featured in a sketch playing a couple trying to get into the mood who decide roleplaying racial stereotypes would be a fun way to spice things up. My friend Kira noted, “it used humour effectively to build to a serious point. It kind of reminded me of watching Nanette, circling back to the hard part of the reality that often gets left out of a joke for the sake of audience comfort.” Shout out to Ogbonnah for the heavy lifting in both these sketches.
It is always interesting to see which direction an improv cast will take an audience suggestion. During an improv scene featuring a newscast being bought out by different corporations or celebrities, I called out Gwyneth Paltrow. I thought they’d have plenty of room to make Goop references. Instead, it seemed most of the cast got stuck trying to shoehorn in a Shakespeare in Love joke.
Unfortunately, not all the sketches were heavy hitters. The sketch involving a terminal cancer patient and her motivational football coach husband didn’t hit all the right notes with us. With cancer being a sensitive topic, the difference between the two characters gave off some serious tonal whiplash, making it a hard pill to stomach.
Despite that, this performance proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable night off with plenty of laughs to shake off a stressful week. It was certainly worth a night out with the lifting of covid restrictions.
- Welcome Back to the Future is playing at the Comedy Bar (2800 Danforth Ave) until May 1 2022.
- Performances are at 7 pm and 10 pm (with 8 pm performances on certain days) from Tuesday to Sunday. See website for details.
- Tickets are $48 for a general seat and $58 for a premium seat and can be purchased online.
- Covid Measures: All patrons must show proof of full vaccination, with at least 14 days since date of second dose, along with government issued ID at the door in order to attend. All patrons must wear masks throughout the venue except when seated.
- Audience Advisory: This performance contains mature subject matter and coarse language. Smoke machines, strobe and flashing lights, as well as lasers may also be used. Viewer discretion is advised.
Photo of Nkasi Ogbonnah, Tricia Black, Natalie Metcalfe, Hannah Spear, Andrew Bushell, and Chris Wilson by San Veliz.