Channel Surfing, at the Idiot Box. Chicago’s comedic output is so plentiful that the city probably has more sketch-comedy troupes than el stations. Some of the groups are good, some mediocre, but all are unified by an uneasy response to the sensory overload of big-city life and a desire to shed the second city label.
Inspiration takes many forms for these troupes, of course. The seven performers in Channel Surfing take matters to ground zero, attempting to map out some of the influences the city’s ethnically diverse neighborhoods have had on our brand of comedy. It’s a strong premise, but more often than not it acts only as a convenient excuse for racial stereotyping: big-haired girls in Little Italy, bumbling Japanese tourists at Buckingham Fountain. And director Mars Mixon’s frequent interruptions–he introduces each scene in a cheesy faux-German accent–only obstruct the show’s flow. Which is too bad, since several scenes–including a spot-on parody of The Karate Kid and a humorous send-up of narcissistic actor wannabes–show real promise.
With more than a little editing, Channel Surfing might attain its stated goals. But as it stands now, it’s little more than a bunch of fart jokes and a few kernels of truth undermined by poor execution.