Bill Murray, Steve Carell and John Belushi have at least one thing in common besides fame. They all trained at The Second City, Chicago’s 53-year-old improv theater. Alumni have appeared on “Saturday Night Live,” wrote and starred in the Emmy-award winning series “30 Rock,” and one (Stephen Colbert) even announced a satiric run for president during the last election.
The next Dan Aykroyd, Tina Fey or Chris Farley may be coming to Des Moines. The Second City’s show called “Laughing Matters” opens at the Temple Theater on Wednesday.
Five members of The Second City will perform original material and interpret sketches by famous alums including Amy Sedaris and Carell.
“Laughing Matters” cast member Chelsea Devantez told us five things Des Moines audiences should expect at the show.
Devantez predicts audiences will hear material featuring a mix of pop culture and politics.
“What’s different about our show is it’s filled with laughs and comedy, but it’s coming from a grounded acting place. It’s coming from the top of your intelligence,” she said. Recent shows have explored same-sex marriage, women’s health rights, first loves, families and the presidency.
With the audience yelling out suggestions for the cast during the improv sections, Destiny’s Child, Beyonce and Manti Te’o have also been subjects of recent performances.
“We don’t take sides, but it really gets a conversation started while making you laugh,” Devantez said.
2. A fresh show
Ensemble members aren’t stepping into defined roles. Instead, they improv roughly 30 percent of the show, Devantez estimates. Each member also brings his or her personal experiences and perspectives to sketches performed by former Second City members, creating a fresh experience for audience members.
Devantez said improv means knowing a little about a lot of subjects, so when an audience member shouts out a suggestion, she has something to draw from.
“I like to pull a lot from my personal point of view and how I’ve lived my life when I get a suggestion,” she said. “I’ll initiate off of that. If I get a suggestion that feels really foreign to me, sometimes I’ll initiate off of a character or what I think I know about the subject.”
Coworkers, customers from her days waitressing and family members have all hit the stage as personalities Devantez looks to for inspiration.
“Once you’re onstage improvising with those qualities, they can often take on a new life.”
“When you watch improv and the players aren’t having a good time. You’re usually not having a good time. All of us really enjoy playing together, so we always have a lot of energy, a lot of excitement,” Devantez said.
The cast members play multiple characters. Sometimes a character will appear for a few seconds in one scene and again for a few minutes later in the show. Unlike some other sketch comedy, the scenes are unpredictable and too well-written to rely on slapstick humor, Devantez said.
“It has the really full feeling of a play, but it’s a sketch comedy show.”
WHERE: Temple Theater, 1011 Locust St.
WHEN: Wednesday-March 3