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Coming Back for Seconds: Revisiting the Second City and SCTV (Ithaca Blog)

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Coming Back for Seconds, Second City, State Theatre, Ithaca

Second City Comes to Ithaca’s State Theatre

The Cast of SCTV As a kid, I loved when my parents threw parties. Nothing big, maybe 3-4 couples. Nothing raucous, though we typically saw at least one parent imbibe just a tad too much. I loved the ritual of it. The pre-festivity cleaning was accompanied by records on the record player (we listened to music mostly in the car and on weekend mornings, by my best recollection), often ones we rarely heard. My mother liked to clean to Willie Nelson and Leon Redbone. I recall mostly tolerating the music (as my brother and I did with Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger on car rides with my father), but now, Whiskey River evokes a sudden need in me to both dance and clean something.

Finger foods were prepared and laid out on the dining room table, adjacent to the record player, in the room of rarely used objects. Andes Candies were a given, or perhaps After Eight Mints, either way there would be at least one playful hand smack or backwards glare as I snuck one in before the sun set. I still am a sucker for mint and chocolate.

We showered, we dressed, we put last minute things in the oven, laid out dishes and utensils and usually finished just before the first guests arrived. As I said, these guests often included couples who, more often than not, were the parents of friends from the neighborhood. The inevitable happens, as does anytime adults and children gather together, after everyone’s had some food and the kids disappear when the conversation turns “boring.”

In our case, we typically went to the basement, unfinished, but offering a record player of our own, a sofa, games and the opportunity to discuss school gossip away from the ears of parents. As the night went on, we’d make our way up through the party, where it seemed they’d all but forgotten we were there and head to my parent’s bedroom, on the second floor, where the 2nd television set in the house lived.

This was the best part of the night, no doubt. Special occasions were great, like New Year’s Eve when we were guaranteed a late night, but my favorite times were the birthday parties, the celebrations whose reasons I cannot recall, that fell on a Saturday night.

In what was the brand new age of cable television (records and cables being new…have I dated myself yet?), there were a myriad of movies my parents asked that we not watch but, there was very little on broadcast television that fell into that category.  Among the two I remember are “Saturday Night Live” and the Canadian import “SCTV.” This is what made Saturday parties so amazing. The guarantee that by 11:00pm, our parents would have lost track of the time and we could, at the very least, catch a few sketches with Eddie Murphy.

I couldn’t tell you what night, or what time, ”SCTV” was on, nor which channel. I just remember being introduced to Martin Short and Andrea Martin while sitting on the floor of my parent’s bedroom. I remember thinking something was different and attributing it to the show’s Canadian roots and not to the completely different format from SNL. At the time, in my memory, both shows were doing a lot of recurring characters, which I loved, but there was something about the energy of “SCTV” that I loved. Perhaps it was the fact that most of the cast was, at the time, unknown to me, whereas I’d been sneaking in listens of Eddie Murphy’s comedy tapes after school with my brother. “SCTV” was the unknown, and endearingly, the foreign.

Imagine my excitement then, when nearly 10 years later, I’d have the opportunity to visit the Second City Comedy Club in Chicago. Though the show got its start from the club in Toronto, this was, at the time and even now, of little import to me. The opportunity to see live improv was exciting, perhaps as exciting as the ritual of a party, at my parent’s home, when I was a kid. There was all the build-up built right into the travel, the getting dressed up, the food I’d not normally eat, fancy (non-alcoholic) drinks and a few of my friends laughing.  What made that night even more special was the audience participation. The cast clearly knew we were coming (part of a school government conference) and was able to incorporate our lives into their humor.

Second City on television is funny. Second City on stage, making fun of you, is even funnier. That’s why you should head out to the State Theatre in Ithaca on Friday night, October 21st at 8pm and get your laughs in person. This isn’t the first time the troupe has visited the State Theatre and I don’t imagine it’ll be the last as the reception is usually fantastic and everyone I know who’s seen them perform live once, is eager to go back for seconds.

For fans of “SCTV,” be sure to also check out Andrea Martin at the Hangar Theatre on November 12!

Jennifer B. Brown is a Contributor to The Free George.

The Free George is the online magazine and visitors’ guide of Upstate NY, covering things from Albany to Lake Placid, including Saratoga, the Lake George region and the Adirondacks. Check out our City Blogs section for our extended coverage areas as well.


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