Second City At Victoria

John Hartman John Hartman

Victoria Hosts Famed Comedy Troupe’s Fair & Unbalanced Tour.

By J.T. Ryder

John Hartman

A partial list of Second City’s alumni reads like a who’s who of comedic stardom: Alan Arkin, Harold Ramis, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, John Candy, Martin Short, Eugene Levy, Chris Farley, Jane Lynch, Mike Myers, Jack McBrayer, Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Jason Sudekis, Steve Carell, etc, etc, etc. The stage performances and stylized form of satirical sketches reach farther, touching almost every corner of comedy imaginable.

For example, take Second City’s current road show, Fair & Unbalanced. It not only takes sketches spawned from the daily headlines, but also pays homage to 50 years of satirical humor made famous on the troupe’s home stage in Chicago. From the silver screen to the political scene, there are no sacred cows that won’t be quickly turned into a Whopper (no onions) for the sake of satire.

John Hartman, a fairly recent addition to the Second City family but with a decade-long history of theatrical improv in his repertoire, spoke with DCP in advance of the troupe’s appearance Saturday, October 23 at the Victoria Theatre.

With the ‘Fair & Unbalanced’ tour is there a lot of adapting on the road due to the topical nature of the show?

In terms of the material? [HARTMAN]

Yes, like incorporating new elements.

Actually, yes. We change the material all of the time. Now, the Fair & Unbalanced show that we do on the road, it has 50 years of material to draw from, and we do draw from it. We go into the archives and, in the same way that we have all of that material to draw from, it changes in that way too. We’re constantly picking out new things to make it the best ‘Best Of…’ show we can, and that is what it is supposed to be: a compilation of some of the best scenes from the past 50 years, but also drawing from things that are more relevant for today. There will be scenes in the show that are from some of the newer shows that are playing in Chicago right now. Occasionally, some very new material makes its way into the Fair & Unbalanced show as well when we try out material and see how it works and, if it does, that gets put into the running order.  [HARTMAN]

Do you ever get calls from the home theater in Chicago who incorporated something into the show there that they want you to add to the road show?

We do, because sometimes, if we are out for a while, there might be a scene that is just killing in Chicago and they will want to put it on the road right away, so they’ll say, ‘We’ve got to get this out there.’  [HARTMAN]

When you are in other regions, do you adapt the show to accommodate certain regional elements or views?

Sure, and that’s a valid point that we definitely take into consideration, or the director does. The actors won’t have much say as to the running order, but the directors certainly do and they will think about where we are playing and depending on what kind of crowd it is going to be. Sometimes there is a specific type of venue with a specific type of crowd, like when we did a show that was in a synagogue. With that crowd, we made sure that it was going to be, and they even requested that it was to be, a completely clean show with no mention of religion at all. Second City is satirical sketch comedy, so politics, religion and those kinds of things are pretty fair game, but when we know that we have to take something out, we can just adjust accordingly.  [HARTMAN]

With Second City in general, with 50 years of history, is it hard not to be crushed by the weight of its legacy?

Sure! There is definitely some of that and there’s kind of a way of thinking at the theater now that we have the 50-year anniversary and those 50 years were great, but it’s time to kind of look to the future. There are a lot of scenes from the early ‘60s that aren’t relevant anymore and we can’t really use in the touring company. Second City is dealing with kind of a double-edged sword with wanting to be relevant, but also wanting to show how much we appreciate the past. But there’s kind of this feeling now that we want to look forward and that Second City never wants to appear to be out of touch, stale or, God forbid, like a tourist trap in Chicago because it is so well known. So, coming up with newer and edgier material is definitely on our mind.  [HARTMAN]

Second City’s Fair & Unbalanced Tour, a presentation of the Universal 1 Variety Series, performs Saturday, October 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St. Tickets are $28-$47.50 and can be purchased by calling Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visiting online at

Reach DCP freelance writer
J.T. Ryder at contactus@

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