Every Little Birdie on Blue Jay Way is Shutting Up and Texting in Tweet Tweet Tweet.

reid janisse, rob baker, adam cawley, dale boyer, darryl hinds and caitlin howden
I sit at a table and stare at the empty Second City stage, which is dominated by a gigantic photo of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He is staring at me eerily as I try to decide whether or not to indulge in a drink with a funny name or a platter of sweet potato fries. The Second City, of course, has become a mythic theatrical institution in Toronto as its alumnus has included some of the world superstars of comedy: Dan Aykroyd, Joe Flaherty, Gilda Radner, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Dave Thomas, Mike Myers, Colin Mochrie, and Ryan Stiles. It’s nearly inconceivable that it would take almost a quarter of a century for me to find my way into the audience for a Second City revue. And yet; here I am.
Shut Up and Show Us Your Tweets is a show that sits on the very edge of the world as it is being experienced at this precise moment in history. Like a monologue from a Late, Late Show or weekly sketches from Saturday Night Live or This Hour Has 22 Minutes, the Second City cast uses the sharpest of wit and provocative humor to help contextualize and examine our world riddled with irony, hypocrisy and absurdity.
The show establishes its “take no prisoners” philosophy right off the top with no subject too taboo, and no issue too important or solemn to escape an acute dressing down. From a party where guests balk at the suggestion of personal interaction in favour of updating their tweets (via Twitter), to an examination of our, at times absurd, desire for personal space, especially on crowded public transit, this revue paints an accurate portrait of the beeping, ticking, mechanized, automated, ringing, vibrating, computerized, disconnected, insular world our media and our technology has created for us to exist in.
Indeed, the phrase “Shut Up and Show Us Your Tweets” is a perfect encapsulation of our newfound ability to live life virtually through a cell phone reducing the art of conversation into something wistful and obsolete. And then, of course, there’s politics. What would happen if an asteroid were hurtling toward the Earth and estimated to destroy only the Middle East? How would the G8 Leaders respond to such a calamity? How do Canadians reconcile their Peace Keeping image with the reality of clubbing baby seals to death? As in any good revue of this sort, Shut Up and Show Us Your Tweets has the ability to make an audience laugh as well as to reflect critically on the issues that are being hurtled from the stage wrapped in sardonic absurdity.
The six performers in the show are all hilarious in their ability to create precise, pastiches of characters that we encounter in our daily lives, from politicians, to people we see on the subway, meet in the office, have met while dating, or have seen on television. Darryl Hinds is particularly incredible as a pitch-perfect devious Dell Support Technician (who hasn’t been on the phone with Gary in India for four antagonizing hours?). He also enlivens the entire stage in a mesmerizing gun dance which has the most precise footwork and meticulous timing I have seen outside a musical in a very long time. Reid Janisse gives consistently captivating performances throughout the show and is especially great as the poor, liberal schmuck attempting to give a lecture on Healthcare Reform in Town Hall, America. This scene is one of the most vibrant in the show, as the room erupts into chaos, with each of the performers screaming and heckling the most ridiculous Republican anthems overtop of one another from scattered throughout the audience. Caitlin Howden, in particular, become most belligerent and nonsensical, yet, I have to wonder whether she copied her lines down verbatim from an actual rally captured on youtube. This scene packs so much punch because although it seems utterly outrageous, it’s actually (sadly) one of the most realistic sketches in the show. I also was in stitches watching the “White People Doing Stereotypes” sketch, which was all sorts of politically incorrect fun.
I appreciated director Sandy Jobin-Bevans’ use of media throughout the show. Having Stephen Harper continually looming over the action certainly helped to perpetuate the idea of his conquest of our nation and our pathetic attempts to pacify him out of fear that he’ll one day go berserk and annihilate us all.
I did find some of the Ontarian-specific jokes to be a bit above my own consciousness and it’s clear that the performers are primarily improvisers, comedians and actors rather than “singers,” but, in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my foray into the world of Toronto’s Second City. I must also tell you that the theatre was jam-packed and the audience was going absolutely wild for every moment with hearty, continuous howls of laughter. So, in true Harper style, Ecouter and Repeter, you sons of bitches, if you have a gang of friends, an office filled with coworkers, a class filled with people who like to study the same thing as you, it’s a good idea to gather them all up and head to the Second City for an aptly named drink, some sweet potato fries and to Shut Up and Show Us Your Tweets.

Shut Up and Show Us Your Tweets plays Tues, Wed, Thur at 8pm – $23.00
Fri at 8 pm, Sat at 8pm & 10:30pm – $28.00>
Sunday at 7:00pm — $23.00
The Second City: 51 Mercer St. at Blue Jays Way, next to Wayne Gretzky’s. For tickets please call 416.343.0011 or visit
www.secondcity.com.

As a bit of an aside, if you ever go to Second City, or even if you just creep its website, or even if you just creep any website at all, you should considering donating, even as much as a toonie, to Gilda’s Club Toronto. Gilda’s Club is named for the brilliantly hilarious, stunningly captivating Toronto Second City alumni and original Saturday Night Live Cast Member Gilda Radner, who died tragically far too soon from cancer in 1989. Gilda’s Club is “a free non-profit support community for men, women, teens and children living with cancer along with their families and friends. It provides a comprehensive program of social and emotional support and is based on the philosophy that no one should face cancer alone.” For more information, you should visit this website. It’s a pretty incredible organization.

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