Spending time at a comedy club can be an uplifting experience that leaves one with a warm glow, but The Second City show “She The People” is also absolutely hilarious and brings tears to the eyes. As the subtitle suggests, ‘Girlfriends’ Guide to Sisters Doing It for Themselves’ it is a show for women, and men—I took my partner with me and he shook with laughter—acted, written, directed by women. If the purpose of the show is to demonstrate that women can do it by themselves, they totally succeeded. Not only are The Second City women capable of writing, directing, acting, singing, dancing, and putting a show together without male input, but they are equally capable of making the audience shriek with laughter while making cutting political statements.
The show is an edgy collection of sketches—I counted at least 20—that portray situations that women live through on a daily basis, in the attempt to deconstruct and highlight the sexism that still exists in everyday life. The show was originally conceived and written for the Chicago theatre before the #MeToo movement broke. The Toronto edition has been updated to better reflect the present time, a different geographical context and to draw inspiration from the #MeToo movement. It is unquestionable that the sheer number of women coming forward to speak out against sexual harassment and various shades of sexism could no longer be swept under the rug. The vast explosion of incidents worldwide have made us all more receptive to conversations highlighting not only the injustice in a largely male-dominated society, but the stereotypes that revolve around women, including racism and misogynism.
Carly Heffernan, director of the show commented “I do think the #MeToo movement has made audiences more receptive to a show like She The People. More and more individuals want to support women telling their own stories with their own voices. For She The People, the movement also directly affected some of the show’s content. The Second City, being a satirical sketch comedy theatre, should reflect the world around us, no matter how tough, unfair, or just plain absurd that world may currently be. Shining more light on uncomfortable issues is how we move forward and more than ever audiences are craving the catharsis that comes from that light being shone.”
Carly’s words are reflected in a sketch that sees one of the six female characters waking up following a ten-year coma and learning that all her favourite actors are sexual offenders, Bill Cosby, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey. But that is not all! Donald Trump is President of the United States. Every shock from receiving such astonishing news was measured by the water she was sipping being spat into the face of the unwitting deliverer of the news.
Another sketch sees the character of a school girl who complains to her female teacher that a boy pushed her. The teacher tells her that no one will believe her. After all who else saw! An early warning to prepare the girl to the reality that women are not to be believed when they speak out. Although, as the teacher adds, things are getting better, which also means they are getting worse.
Many aspects in the present culture include stereotypes of immigrant communities. In this sketch, the character of an Asian woman is asked where she is from. It seems still common enough to assume that non-white people are from a faraway land. However, as it turns out, she is from Scarborough.
Which woman has not feared becoming like her mother? I have and overcame it, and so did the character in another sketch. After being confronted with the realization that she is more similar to her mother than she likes to admit, acceptance kicks in.
A few sketches address the issues of women’s looks, body image, outdated beliefs of femininity, and how women are depicted in adverts. Advertising still relies heavily on gender stereotypes, pressurizing women to attain impossible standards of beauty and perfection. Women are still judged based on their looks rather than what they say, states the character hiding under the guise of a dinosaur. In another sketch, a strip tease performance never ends as there are multiple layers of spandex to remove.
In the penultimate sketch, an alien has taken all men away, aside from Justin Trudeau whose mother fought off the invaders. With no more men around, what are women to do? How do they envision their life to be? Will they stop wearing a bra? Perhaps even wearing pants will be optional! They could have their first elected female Canadian prime minister! They will even ensure that the Ontario’s sex ed curricula stays the same. With a finale that sounds like a hymn for women to find self-assurance and self-confidence, the possibilities seem endless.
As Carly stated “it was an absolute joy to work on!” It certainly was an absolute joy to watch!