To those who said that the presidency of Barack Obama would ring the death knell of political comedy, I humbly present this two-hour series of comedic sketches proving what most of us already know: that funny people will find a way to make you laugh regardless of who the president is (or will be, rather). Following the success of the equally topical revues "Between Barack and a Hard Place" and "No Country For Old White Men", The Second City mainstage presents its 96th (yes, it's been around since 1959) revue, titled - with tongue firmly in cheek – "America: All Better!"
Director Matt Hovde makes the most of his dynamite cast, repeatedly drawing out strongly unified performances. His actors have enough time to indulge in their characters, especially since most sketches last more than five minutes. In one, a bumbling but confident Mayor Daley (Michael Patrick O’Brien) pitches Chicago to the 2016 Olympics committee; in another, a couple (Joe Canale and Emily Wilson) arguing amicably about their 35-year-old son moving back into the house; and later on, we witness a mandatory movement rehabilitation class for death row prisoners (led by Brad Morris). A stand-out among stand-outs, Michael Patrick O’Brien ties everything together as a sideshow barking narrator. In one brilliantly memorable gag, he showcases an expertise for awkward humiliation that's rivaled only by Steve Carell and Ricky Gervais.
The best part about "America: All Better!" is that the writers take the time to hit local topics (the Tribune, the Cubs, the El) along with national news (the economy has a big enough part to remind us all that things are bad, but small enough so that we can still laugh at it) and still leave enough time to sprinkle in some timeless relationship-oriented sketches. It's the rare show that may actually manage to please all people, all the time. Whether you’re a local Chicagoan on a night out or an out-of-towner looking for a good time, The Second City Mainstage delivers the goods.