In one skit in Saturday’s “Second City Does New Jersey: Paved and Confused” show at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, a man proposes to his girlfriend in an Applebee’s restaurant. The woman is disappointed that he didn’t choose a more romantic setting.
“We live in West Orange,” he relies. “This is as romantic as it gets!”
Obviously, the show’s writers have never been to the Highlawn Pavilion. Or the Pleasantdale Chateau.
Naturally, a lot of stereotyping and oversimplification was necessary to put together this show, in which about half of the punchlines had something to do with the Garden State. But a lot of care and intelligence went into the skits and songs, too, and they boded well for a possible ongoing Second City series at NJPAC. (This initial visit also included a Friday night show and improv workshops on Saturday afternoon; future projects are TBA.)
Targets ranged from Teresa and Joe Giudice to Gov. Christie and Sen. Booker, and the state’s professional sports teams. Perhaps the evening’s shortest segment was “Great Moments in Jets History” (someone wearing Tim Tebow’s No. 15, and looking befuddled) while a routine about the Giants included Bill Parcells saying about Jeff Hostetler before Super Bowl XXV, “Let’s hope he’s really good, or Buffalo’s kicker is really bad.” That’s not an obvious joke, but a good one.
“Chris Christie: The Musical” was good though unsurprising: A blustery guy singing Springsteen, Bon Jovi and Sinatra songs with changed lyrics (“It’s My Lane” instead of Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life,” for instance). But the sketch about Booker cut quite a bit deeper, showing the senator as a superhero more interested in taking selfies and sending tweets (“About to do a good deed #IKnowOprah”) than actually helping people.
The Jersey angle seemed shoehorned into some bits. A noir parody had some references to Atlantic City, but otherwise could have worked anywhere; the same went for the Applebee’s skit. But many other segments, including a long skit about Thomas Edison, had obviously been specially prepared.
The Second City comedy troupe is something of an expanding empire. It was originally started in Chicago in the ’50s; there are now outposts in Toronto and Hollywood, too, as well as three groups of touring comedians. Alumni include John Belushi, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Mike Myers, Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert. It would be great if visits to NJPAC or other Jersey theaters became more frequent. We New Jerseyans are tough; we can take a little kidding, especially if we get some genuine laughs out of it.