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article imageReview: Trumpism not the only target in ʻEverything Is Great Again’ Special

By Jeff Cottrill     Mar 23, 2017 in Entertainment
Toronto - Given a title like “Everything Is Great Again”, you know Donald Trump’s presidency is taking some shots in the new Toronto Second City show, which opened last night. But as easy a target as he is, the Orange One is surprisingly absent.
Instead, the U.S. president takes a backseat to some of the side effects of his rise to power. Under the direction of Second City alumnus Kerry Griffin, Everything Is Great Again takes some expected swipes at Betsy DeVos, race, privilege, white male rage and more – but many of the better scenes are the ones that poke fun at relationships and social hypocrisy. It’s as if the cast wants to leave the more in-your-face political satire to Saturday Night Live and mine more universal territory for laughs.
There’s one funny and timely sketch in which a schoolgirl (Lindsay Mullan) brings her dad (Colin Munch) to her class to talk about his car-manufacturing job, but it turns out that he’s a Trump supporter – leading to some suspicious questions from the other kids about their Muslim relatives and Mexican workers. It doesn’t take long to figure out that you’re seeing a Sean Spicer press conference in disguise, with Mullan awkwardly defending her dad in the Kellyanne Conway role (but with slightly more maturity).
Another topical scene has Ann Pornel quizzing American would-be immigrant Devon Hyland on Canadian culture, while a later one has Munch as a loud right-wing guy interrupting a dance performance to whine about freedom of speech. These bits have their good moments, yet they’re weakened a little by lines that seem designed to get applause rather than laughs; when Pornel shames Hyland into going back to the U.S. to “effect change,” or when she tells off Munch in a long rant, it’s not challenging satire so much as it is preaching to the choir.
More successful is a hilarious parody of Animal Planet, with a narrator describing a one-night stand between Paloma Nuñez and Hyland as if it’s a nature ritual, and a short scene about a group of thirty-something friends partying at the Dance Cave – but not having any fun and revealing it in quick asides: “I would rather be working!” “[The DJ] told me I used to babysit him!” Another good sketch has Brandon Hackett as an overbearing actor auditioning for a car commercial requiring “real people” and turning it into a bad Shakespeare play; anybody who’s been involved in acting has known a ham like this. And a scene with Hackett and Munch as a pair hooking up has one of my favourite lines in the revue, describing Grindr as “Tinder’s drunk, horny cousin.”
A few other sketches feel more routine and derivative, like one about a cynical middle-aged couple giving a pair of newlyweds a preview of what comes after the honeymoon phase, and another in which a couple reveals secrets to each other with predictably disastrous consequences. A quick blackout bit that parodies an old Foreigner song plays as if it were a lot funnier at the time it was conceived – a “you had to be there” moment. Balancing these are a couple of fun improv bits, including one with an audience member brought onstage to pilot a plane and another with Hyland as a songwriter with silly lyrics based on audience suggestions. Also unexpected is a pantomime sequence between Nuñez and Pornel as lifelong school pals who grow apart; it’s not terribly funny, but it is sweet.
Mullan, Pornel and Hackett return from the previous revue, with Hyland and Munch making their Second City Mainstage debuts. But while all of these cast members have their shining moments, they’re blown out of the water by Nuñez, a familiar face in local TV and comedy for many years (she also had a bit part in the movie Spotlight). Nuñez is simply a knockout throughout the show, especially in an early bit in which she plays an aunt warning a young married couple (Pornel, Munch) about the horrors of childbirth and child-raising. “Wait ’til you have a baby!” she shrieks in refrain, with accompanying scary lighting and music. (Pornel’s kabuki-esque horrified expressions during this sketch are also great.)
Everything Is Great Again is a mixed bag of topical and social commentary, but it’s never boring; Griffin brings nonstop energy out of this cast and moves things along at a brisk pace. Even if the title promises more political content than the show delivers, you’ll find plenty to laugh at here.
Everything Is Great Again is running for an extended engagement at the Second City Mainstage in Toronto.
More about Second City, Toronto, Comedy, Satire, Donald trump
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