Holy War, Batman! or the Yellow Cab of Courage, Second City E.T.C. The new show on Second City’s second stage is somewhat misleadingly titled: timely political satire is not the thrust of this hilarious, fast-paced sketch revue. Instead the splendid ensemble–Andy Cobb, Jack McBrayer, T.J. Jagodowski, Samantha Albert, the Gilda Radner-like Abby Sher, and the marvelously versatile Keegan-Michael Key–focus on brash behavioral humor. Limber and likable, they’re equally proficient at broad physical comedy and shrewdly nuanced characterization.
Two running gags anchor the evening. One concerns an Arab taxi driver (Key) determined to prove his pro-American sentiments by playing patriotic pop on his radio; the other revolves around an eager-beaver Applebee’s waiter (McBrayer) determined to stimulate consumer confidence by writing a new birthday song to sing to customers. From these two slim narrative strands the troupe and director Joshua Funk spin a web of clever cross-references and free associations; topics include feminist folk music, American celebriphilia, the Last Supper, the Boy Scouts’ antigay policy, pop-star monks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Batman, post-9/11 neopatriotism, racial inequality (a wonderful vignette features Jagodowski and Key as a New England preppie and a ghetto black comparing childhood memories), and teen beauty contests–an ever reliable target that’s especially funny here.
Steering clear of potentially controversial or quickly outdated references to the current crisis, this show fulfills the same function that Bob Hope and Abbott and Costello movies did during World War II, making life more bearable simply by making us laugh long and loud.