It was back in March that Chicago came out in force to protest the Trump rally and forced it out of town. And while that pushback and protest didn’t precede an electoral victory, it’s Chicago again that comes up with a cure for the inauguration blues we’re in. For this, we must thank Second City and its brilliant, daring, hopeful and hilarious Winner… of Our Discontent. This two-hour show features an amazing ensemble of Second City’s finest presenting thoughts on the state of the union through music, speech and song. I was quite surprised to find more than a few heavy-hitting dramatic moments. If there was a cure for what ails us, I’d say Second City has bottled it and distilled it into one comedy show.
Winner isn’t just one thing. It presents a variety of pieces either directly related to the upcoming Trump administration or simply commenting on the world as it is today. Going in, I worried that the focus of the show might lead it to seeming preachy, but I never did feel that way. To open the show, the ensemble ran what we in Chicago might consider the best and worst of the year simultaneously: The Cubs and their World Series win and a Trump win. It was surprising how similar the feelings were: anxiety, hopefulness, nausea… until the finish, when in one case, we were exuberant, and another, fearful.
From the opening, the show took a quieter tone, and in one of our favorite pieces, became almost a live-lit/spoken-word piece on Black Heaven, a place where Prince presides and all are welcome. A place where “you’re sexy and you matter” no matter who “you” are. This was a place we thought ensemble member Shantira Jackson in particular really shone. She was able to bring everyone in to “Black Heaven” and make us laugh at the same time she radiated warmth and acceptance. Comedy is at its best when it’s from the heart, and we could see the heart she put into this sketch.
One of the funniest moments in the show was a driver’s ed sketch. In a world where drama teachers are pushed from their roles by budget cuts…perhaps they become driver’s ed instructors. And while you might not have learned anything about actually driving a car when cast member RaShawn Nadine Scott was at the helm, what you would learn is perfect timing, masterful physical comedy and amazing energy. With a few flicks of a fan and some crazy glasses, she took us on one hell of a journey to find out where we’re really going, anyway.
It’d be a shame to spoil you on everything that Winner is, but I think what I can tell you is that you’ll likely find yourself surprised and inspired. Second City hit it out of the park with this one. Their timing, heart and intelligent comedy make even the most controversial subjects accessible, and their ensemble cast handled the material with the most capable of hands. While I did expect laughs and perhaps some pointed punch lines that would make me think, what I didn’t really anticipate was the amount of inspiration, solidarity and solace I’d find facing the new year and the impending inauguration. I felt as though I’d commiserated, yes, but also found myself uplifted and charged with the important duty of speaking up and speaking out.
The Winner… of Our Discontent could not be more appropriate for the times. If you need to find a warm embrace, a little song to sing, a dance, a call to action, a laugh, and a drink to wash it down, it’s what you’ll find during your two-hour stay with this ensemble. This is the best medicine we’re always hearing about. Second City’s 105th revue, The Winner… of Our Discontent, has an open run, playing every Tuesday through Sunday night on the mainstage at Second City, 1616 N. Wells St. Tickets are available through this link and run from $19-46.