Denver Post

From left: Eileen Montelione, Anthony Irons, Micah Sherman, Michael Kosinski and Sayjal Joshi carry on the Second City comedy tradition with a new show

From left: Eileen Montelione, Anthony Irons, Micah Sherman, Michael Kosinski and Sayjal Joshi carry on the Second City comedy tradition with a new show opening tonight at the Galleria Theatre. ( TC McGrath )

Second City following in famous first footsteps
By John Moore
Denver Post Theater Critic

When people think of Second City, such names as Alan Arkin, Joan Rivers, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy and Gilda Radner come to mind.

They don’t think of Micah Sherman . . . yet.

Whenever the legendary Chicago comedy troupe sends out a team of rising comedians to put on a show in Denver, the largely unknown cast members must overcome the fleeting, misguided hope some harbor that perhaps Bonnie Hunt or Mike Myers might be coming our way. They’re not.

Here’s how Sherman explains it:

“Let’s say I’m a congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives,” he said. “You wouldn’t assume that I was, say, Alexander Hamilton. I am your local, contemporary congressman. I’m someone the entire country hasn’t heard of yet . . . but I still have a promising political career in front of me.”

The problem with his analogy: “There are no congressmen who are funny the way that I am funny,” he admits. “They’re funny the way congressmen are funny, in that we like to laugh atthem.”

Unlike previous long-running stagings of “Red Scare” (a collection of current-events sketches), and “How I Lost My Denverginity,” which was largely localized for Denver audiences, the newest Second City offering embraces the old and the new.

“A Mile High Celebration: The Second City’s 50th Anniversary,” which opens tonight and runs through Oct. 10, is like a greatest-hits show. It’s all sketches and songs you’ve likely never seen but were created by the company’s most acclaimed writers. So there are no current-events sketches — which means our gubernatorial candidates have dodged a funny- bone bullet.

“All of the sketches that we will be performing in Denver were written by people like Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey and Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson)” Sherman said. “So while the material was written by people you have heard of, it’s all being performed by people you haven’t — like Micah Sherman.”

He describes the evening as a journey through Second City’s storied past, with narration peppered throughout explaining who was responsible for writing what scenes. He says one sketch written by Arkin in 1961 “is amazing for how well it still plays.”

Just don’t look for any of the scenes and characters that were born at Second City and eventually made their way up the pipeline and onto “Saturday Night Live.”

“If you’ve seen Second City perform live before, you may recognize a sketch or two,” Sherman said. “But our director specifically chose not to use sketches that have aired on TV, because comedy is better the first time around.”

Second City performed at the Galleria for all of 2006, which makes it one of the satellite cities the company feels closely tied to, Sherman said, along with Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto and others.

“We have come to think of Denver as a second Second City,” he said.

Peruse my comedy skits.

Preview my music comedy album, Please Be Seated, on iTunes.

Preview my sketch comedy album, Lampshades & Ottomans, on iTunes.