Smitherman before his comedic turn at Second City’s Second City for Mayor.
Clusters of guests were already at their tables—sipping on drinks and chatting energetically, when he strolled in with that steadfast gait, decked out in a black, trim-fitting suit, white collared shirt, a few buttons undone, no tie.
His entourage followed as he was escorted to his seat in the back of the theatre—a slightly raised area, surrounded by a railing. His boisterous voice carried above the rest as he casually leaned over the railing to nearby guests and said, “Are you here from Toronto? I wanna know if there are votes at stake.”
George Smitherman probably didn’t lose any that night, as he took a run at comedy during the Second City for Mayor show on Friday, May 28.
Like the rest of the audience, he watched and chuckled as a sax player let out a few sultry notes on stage as the show opened with a retro feel—the silhouettes of the actors were carved out against a set flashing in alternating primary colours.
Yes, there were skits that had nothing to do with the election or the city’s current hot issues: new fathers discussing “cracked nipples” at Shoppers Drug Mart, a jester trying to steal spicy ham from a guy with a top hat and colossal mustache.
But there was also the socially relevant cab-passenger skit flipped on its head: the foreigner in the backseat trying to sound out the driver’s name—Pat Smith, “an exotic name,” before noting the “pungent” odour and saying: “You people always smell like grilled cheese.”
There were the motorist, biker, pedestrian, and old dude having it out at a cyclist’s funeral.
And as the title of the show suggests, political satire abounded.
There was the phony politician pandering to whoever would listen—”I’m just like you: I know jackshit about politics.”
And asking guests: “What do you do?”
“If I’m elected there’ll be a shitload of drugs.”
There was Blue Falcon, the superhero (calling to mind one soon-to-be-former TTC chair) undone by an affair. Says one citizen, “You really think you can still be a superhero now that you’re an adulterous douchebag?”
Throw in a fortuneteller and some songs about Mexican workers, before the cast introduced Smitherman to thunderous cheers and hollers from his allies—and polite clapping and the occasional whistle from the audience.
Outside Second City before the show.
Fists pumping in the air and bald head gleaming under the lights, George took to the stage undaunted. Without much ado, he nabbed a seat beside a couple of the actors for some Q&A.
Why should he be mayor? “I’ve got the passion, drive, intelligence, and energy to make some shit happen in Toronto.”
Lively applause and laughter followed (He said “shit,” but he’s a politician!), then quieted (hoots from his cronies excepted) as he rattled on about his transportation plan.
A skit began, about a man clutching onto his grandfather’s arm saying, “Grandpa, we gotta take the TTC today.”
The curmudgeonly old-timer says: “Three dollars?! I ain’t payin’ no three dollars to go on that stanky-ass bus!”
So what drove Smitherman to switch from provincial to municipal politics? “I’m a bit of a frustrated Torontonian,” he said, bringing up the garbage strike, and noting that a “malaise” had set in. With trademark bravado, he vowed, “Damnit, I’m gonna do something about it.”
That turned into improv—an overly zealous coach gives a pep talk to his team: “Malaise has been setting in…As coach of this team I’m gonna make sure some shit happens!”
Smitherman taking a bow on stage after the show.
On his nickname and biggest misconception: “I’m a kind, gentle, suit-loving individual,” Smitherman said. “That I’m ‘furious’ in any way is way off.”
What’s the one thing people should know about George? Throwing up both arms, he loudly exclaimed “passion!” (This sounding slightly contrary to his answer to the previous question.)
Cue skit, as an actor loudly professes: “I am King Smitherman. I care too much about everything!” Enter one of many gay jokes of the evening, as a citizen replies: “And I am your queen,” to which King Smitherman says, “That’s for sure.”
Another citizen: “I heard you completed a subway, just on passion alone!”
The skits and a fair chunk of the Q&A were hits. Smitherman—the real one—has an in-your-face confidence, which should be off-putting, even abrasive, but can still translate into charm and likability.
The crowd continued to listen courteously when Smitherman talked about the inspiration he garners from Regent Park. But eyes began wincing and seats shifted when he went into his plans for the city.
Before a theatrical bow and more applause, things picked up during a fill-in-the-blank session. After a run about Little India, one of the actors suggested they all buy some saris and go to _______.
Smitherman: “Church Street.”
Actor: “It’s super-happening; you can get a ________.”
Long pause, Smitherman lifting his arms in defeat as the crowd broke out into laughter.
Eventually he answered, “Shawarma.”
Sure, some of his answers were safe, his transit plan sketchy, and he never got up from his stool on stage except to bow, but the energy of his personality came across easily and made for decent entertainment. Those who know “jackshit about politics” might just vote for the man.
Photos by Nancy Paiva/Torontoist.