ChiIL Live Shows On Our Radar
What the Elf?
by Catherine “Land of Misfit Toys” Hellmann, Guest Critic
Second City shows can be rather hit-or-miss. Like Forrest Gump’s proverbial box of Advent chocolates, you never know just quite what you’re gonna get…I was sort of hoping that What the Elf? was going to be a hilarious sendup of my beloved movie, Elf.
It’s not. But--it is very entertaining as an absurd collection of goofy holiday sketches with a very talented cast of six: three women and three men who deliver an exuberant collection of strange, oddball, occasionally touching, and frequently funny scenes.
The show begins with a funny tribute song about Chicago scenes like The Bean and traditions like “Don’t Eat Ketchup on Your Hot Dog.” My first favorite sketch was a funny song by Javid Iqbal called “The Muslim Song” with lyrics that he “can’t wait to eat with you” at the end of Ramadan.
Two “identical twin” elves appeared (never mind that they are different genders) to interact with the crowd with gift suggestions for those hard-to-buy-for loved ones on your list. Bill Letz’s over-the-top energy was incredible in every scene he inhabited. When told that one woman’s fiance loves “The Bears, wine, and his iPad,” the twins advise that she needs to get him “some other interests for Christmas.” The fiance was sitting right there, which made it even funnier, especially after a couple drinks. Another guest with a tough-to-buy-for relative was told: ”Get him a fucking flashlight or something.”
One of our absolute favorite sketches was a game-show-like premise to guess “Which one is NOT an Elf?” One sweet-looking character, played by the very talented Jenelle Cheyne, had a surprise Satan voice, accompanied by her contorted face and hands, that was hysterical. The final summary was: “Don’t trust someone because they say things with conviction and have a platform.” Wise message. ;-)
Before intermission, there was a wonderfully choreographed dance number from The Nutcracker performed in office chairs. That was a hoot!
Scrooge and Jacob Marley did a wonderful sketch using audience suggestions that worked beautifully into the dialogue. Very funny results using lines of dialogue from movies and song lyrics, like the Bruce Springsteen line of “Tramps like us, baby we were born to run!” on Scrooge’s gravestone. (You couldn’t predict an awesome moment like that!) And “You shook me all night long!” very inappropriately said to sweet, innocent Tiny Tim. This is what improv was made for!
Jenelle Cheyne had some marvelous audience interaction as a poor, hungry orphan begging for food from the front row. Someone gave her a lime, which she scoffed as “wet citrus.” She persuaded a woman to give her a coat and another lady her cell phone; those items she planned to sell on Ebay!
One of the highlights of the evening had to be the wives of the Three Wise Men dishing about their husbands. “For three wise men, our husbands can be morons!” That was a very inspired scene with their gossiping how Joseph was a carpenter who “must be good with his hands!” and how Mary “should have had a birth plan” before she gave birth in a manger! What was Mary thinking not getting a hotel reservation?!
There was a bonus Act III with more of the pure improv and joy that has made Second City famous. It’s worth sticking around.
Whether you live in town or the ‘burbs, if you're hanging at home for the holidays, or need to entertain out of town guests, What the Elf? is sure to please every adult on your list this holiday season.
Catherine Hellmann has a birthday near Christmas and has always felt rather ripped off. But at least she’s on vacation from school. Santa would put her on the naughty list based on swearing alone…
What the Elf?
It’s just not the holidays without hot cocoa…and hot takes! Make merry at The Second City with this original sketch, variety, and improv celebration of the season. After all, what better time to look back and laugh at 2022? Let’s toast to the best…and roast all the rest.
Thursdays – Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 7pm
The Best of Holidays
We guarantee yule laugh a whole latke as The Second City unwraps the most wonderful time of the year in our nut-cracking-est, jingle-bell-ing-est revue ever! Celebrate over sixty years of sketches, songs, and comedic conviviality as the next generation of comedy superstars perform our greatest holiday hits.
Mondays at 8pm
Saturdays at 3pm
Holiday Improv Brunch
From uproarious laughter to limitless libations, The Second City’s Holiday Improv Brunch is the gift that keeps on giving! Bring your band of merrymakers as we scramble together two of everyone’s favorites, comedy and brunch, for a scrumptiously seasonal breakfast with a totally improvised experience from the city’s finest.
Sundays at noon