Second City Improv performs sketch comedy at Calvin

Second City Improv of Chicago mixed sketch comedy and improv, addressing both lighthearted and deep topics in a laughter-filled, sold-out show last Saturday.

The show included sketches written by stars such as Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert and Amy Poehler, who launched their careers with Second City. The current group of six members and a pianist tour nation-wide, while the Second City’s Chicago location boasts a training school and nightly shows.

Despite their national status, Second City related to the audience by joking about Calvin quirks.

“Everything was really current and really funny,” said first-year student Madison Tissue. “It tailored especially to the Calvin community with the Dutch jokes.”

Yet their jokes weren’t just for laughs—some sketches addressed social issues.

“There was a line in the playbill saying comedy is just a funny way of being serious,” said junior Cotter Koopman. “I thought it was cool they approached real issues in a very balanced and nuanced but also effective way. … I thought they hit that satire without being too cynical.”

In the after-show conversation, Second City members discussed why comedy matters.

“It brings levity to discussions that might be harder,” said junior Hailey Jansson, summarizing a member’s thoughts. “Maybe laughter allows people to communicate or meet a subject from the same perspective, or at least we’re here together thinking about it.”

But some in the audience may have felt uncomfortable with these topics. “There were probably a lot of people that didn’t necessarily like some of the jokes or some of the language,” said local Mike Swierenga.

Both Second City and show-opener Calvin Improv kept the audience laughing with their off-the-cuff jokes.

“It amazes me how they come up with and how they continue the story,” said Eric Tissue, a father in town for Family Weekend. “Their minds must be working a mile a minute to make that work.”

“It was fun to see Calvin Improv first to get a little teaser and then having them in the audience being able to get inspired,” said alumnus David Noah.

Opening for such an acclaimed group provided an opportunity for Calvin Improv to learn as well as laugh.

“I did as much laughing as I did just staring in awe,” said senior Michael Ribbens, co-captain of Calvin’s team with senior Taylor Emmons. “We can definitely learn a lot,” he said. “In an improv-context you always feel the need to fill the silence. But they weren’t afraid of silence which made whatever happened next even funnier.”

“Sketch is a good vehicle to talk about current issues,” said Ribbens, “but I think improv has the ability to do that, too.”

This was one of Calvin Improv’s first shows of the year — they did a full show the previous night in the Gezon. Their next show will be November 6, free in the Gezon.