In New Jersey, apparently, we’re so used to being made fun of that we actually hire professional comedians from other states to come here and do it for us.
That’s one way, at least, to look at “Second City Does New Jersey: Paved and Confused,” a show that the national touring company of the venerable Chicago comedy troupe, Second City, will present at NJPAC’s Victoria Theater, Nov. 7-8 at 8 p.m. (Cast members will also offer free improv workshops for adults and teens, Nov. 8 at 4 p.m.)
Second City has been one of the country’s leading training grounds for comedians and comic actors since it launched in 1959. Among those who have passed through its doors are John Belushi, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Mike Myers, Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert.
We spoke to Kelsey Kinney, who’s in the cast of the Newark shows, by phone last week. And we really admired her diplomacy, particularly when it came time for the “What’s so funny about New Jersey?” question.
Q: Is it unusual for you to be doing a show that’s specifically humor about one place, or do you do other shows about the humor of … I don’t know, California or wherever? Boston?
A: It’s not actually too new for Second City to customize a show specifically for one place. We’ve done it in D.C., and in Dallas — in Denver as well, I believe they had a show there. It’s something new, definitely, for New Jersey, so we’re very excited to get to the East Coast, and try things out there. We’ve had a lot of fun working with the material, and keeping up to date on what’s going on there.
Q: I imagine there will be a lot of Chris Christie jokes, and “Real Housewives of New Jersey” jokes, and things like that.
A: I wish I could say we could avoid the Chris Christie jokes, but they kind of write themselves.
Q: Are any people in the cast New Jerseyans, or have personal experience with the state?
A: Two of the gentlemen who wrote most of the material, Kevin Sciretta and T.J. Shanoff, are natives to the area, I believe. I know T.J. lived there for a very long time. They were the ones who came up with the base original material, and then as a cast, we’ve been seeing what works, and what doesn’t, and making adjustments, as we go along, throughout the process.
Q: So, besides those things like Chris Christie and “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” what, to you, is funny about New Jersey?
A: Actually a thing that I think is funny about New Jersey is the fact that it gets so much crap from the rest of the country, for being New Jersey. I’m from Cleveland, which is another city that’s notoriously made fun of and mocked, nationwide, so I kind of have a connection in that way.
I lived in New York very briefly, just for a couple of months. I almost went to NYU a few years ago, and I’d go around the city and explore a little bit. But I really enjoyed it, I thought it was great, and I thought the view from Manhattan, looking to New Jersey, is one of the best views, skyline-wise, around. I don’t know. There’s a lot to offer there, but it’s extraordinarily underrated, it seems, so I think that’s where a lot of the comedy comes from.
Q: Is the idea to come back regularly, and do this as a series of shows? Or is it a one-time thing?
A: As of right now, we’re doing the shows on the 7th and the 8th, and we’re kind of seeing what type of reaction we get, if it’s something that we could possibly set up as a longer potential run in the future, which is something we’re really hoping we can make happen.
Q: Will the shows be only the Jersey material, or will you do some of your regular material as well?
A: There will be some archival material in the show — some of the scenes that are considered some of the best from the past 55 years of Second City’s history. And a lot of them were chosen because, whether or not they were created specifically for New Jersey, they might have a type of flair, or thematic elements, that would work well with the rest of the pieces that we’ve created for New Jersey.
Q: And I assume there are some parts of the show that you can’t really talk about because they’ll be improvised.
A: That is absolutely true. There will be some improv elements to the show that will be exciting and also give us another chance to introduce elements into it that we wouldn’t have a chance to, otherwise. Like, get actual suggestions from audience members who live in New Jersey, and expand on that.
For information about the shows or the workshops, visit NJPAC.org.