The Second City Budgets Big for Laughs
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The Second City Budgets Big for Laughs

Never mind Drake. The company taps into Prime Minister Trudeau's largesse for its new spring revue, The Hotline Always Blings Twice.

Kirsten Rasmussen, Kevin Whalen, and Kyle Dooley send up the Blue Jays bandwagon in a sketch from The Second City's The Hotline Always Blings Twice  Photo by Racheal McCaig

Kirsten Rasmussen, Kevin Whalen, and Kyle Dooley send up the Blue Jays bandwagon in a sketch from The Second City’s The Hotline Always Blings Twice. Photo by Racheal McCaig.

The Hotline Always Blings Twice
The Second City (51 Mercer Street)
Runs to July 10
Tickets: $25 and up
4 Stars

The Second City‘s new spring revue dropped last week on the same day as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first federal budget. Coincidence? We think not. Like the government’s financial plans, this generously funny show is all give, give, give, with something in it for just about everyone.

You need further proof of a possible Liberal-Second City conspiracy? Look no further than those sketches that blatantly reflect the Trudeau agenda. There’s the poignant one about a grateful Syrian refugee (Kevin Whelan). And there’s the woozy one about a couple of potheads (Kirsten Rasmussen and Etan Muskat) trying out a new government-issued marijuana-dispensing machine.

But the most outrageous evidence that the Mercer Street gang are in cahoots with Sussex Drive is a musical number that touts the new PM as king, no less. Played by lanky Picnicface alum Kyle Dooley, with a wavy black wig and pop-star moves, this Justin is also a little bit Timberlake—and a little bit Mike Myers’ Love Guru (but in a good way).

And speaking of pop stars, the show is titled The Hotline Always Blings Twice—although, mercifully, we’re not subjected to yet another parody of Drake’s dad-dancing. Instead, we get treated to a little bit of mom-twerking, courtesy of the rubber-limbed Becky Johnson as an embarrassing parent who gets stumble-wasted at her college-aged son’s frosh party.

Let’s see: we’ve mentioned Johnson, Dooley, Muskat, Rasmussen, and Whelan. Add Leigh Cameron, the girl with the lethally sweet smile, and you have Second City’s current A-team. They’re in top form for this revue, creating and performing some of their sharpest material to date in a production, directed by Chris Earle, that whizzes by like a Marcus Stroman fastball. (And yes, there’s a Blue Jays sketch.)

Highlights include a well-aimed swipe at the hidebound Hollywood that gave us #OscarsSoWhite, with a pair of female filmmakers (Johnson and Cameron) watching their fresh pitches turned into rancid blockbuster fare by a quartet of meddling producers. As for the hotline always blinging twice, there’s a neat 1940s film-noir spoof with Cameron as a hard dame giving the boot to her old flame, Beck Taxi (Whelan), in favour of a new kid in town named Uber (Dooley).

TV-series binge-watching, Facebook unfriending, and the TTC’s new Presto card are among the other topical subjects given a passing jab as the sketches come thick and fast. The best Toronto-themed one involves Whelan and Rasmussen as a dad and daughter trying to enjoy a Jays playoff game despite the scorn of Dooley’s hardcore fan. It’s a cleverly crafted scenario that allows Whelan to finally let loose with one of his Chris Farley-style apoplectic fits.

The bespectacled Johnson, who looks like a goth librarian, just happens to appear in three of creepiest and funniest bits: with Whelan, as a posh couple playing a bizarre game of one-upmanship; as a flute-y-voiced medium possessed by bratty spirits from beyond the grave; and with Cameron, singing what may well be the first post-apocalyptic lullaby. The latter is especially well-written and deserves to survive after this revue—and after the apocalypse, too, for that matter.

Johnson, a Toronto comedy-scene vet, joined The Second City’s mainstage troupe last year for its fall revue, Click, Bait, & Switch. She’s an asset to what was already a strong team, with a gift for physical comedy and delicious weirdness that puts her in good company with Rasmussen and Cameron. And why are female comedians now the main attraction at The Second City, you wonder? Just ask our prime minister. Because it’s 2016, of course.