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The Second City’s Walking on Bombshells ignited the room

Walking on Bombshells premiered at Toronto Second City on March 19. The 82nd revue at the iconic comedy club took us on a comic journey against the backdrop of a TTC subway station. This brand-new show is hysterically funny, fast-paced physical comedy with a wonderfully talented cast. After two hours, which felt like five minutes, I was left wanting more.

Whether riding the TTC or bike, or driving, the cast took us through different scenarios where we “walk on bombshells” in the minefield that has become modern society. The subway setting acts like a petri dish where humanity meets, chats, questions, exchanges views that strive to be more or less politically correct.

Sprinkled with politics, themes encompass modern life, relationships, technology, condo buying, bilingualism, cultural and ethnical divides, body shaming, politically correctness, prejudice, racism. Even the recent legalization of recreational marijuana has a spot in this comedic reflection.

One of the sketches sees a character going to the doctor for a sore throat. The doctor, noticing the body mass of his patient, orders him to lose weight as if the two things were remotely related.

“Is it warm or is it wet?” Is the question that a character in another scene sings to herself when sitting riding the subway. This hit a personal note as I too have a similar story. I was sitting in the train and throughout the journey I wondered what kind of holy liquid had my seat been blessed with. Unfortunately for me it wasn’t water, soda, or anything you drink.

Who doesn’t enjoy the email virtual assistant that makes suggestions and cuts out time and typos? However, in another routine the virtual assistant takes it too far, reading the comedian’s mind and finishing the sentences for him. It’s rather unsettling to know that Google can second guess you so much.

The stress of condo buying is a huge thing in Toronto. The character in question in one of the first sketches shows excitement about his new condo shouting “You know, I bought a condo!” Sadly, in a later sketch, he comes to the realization that he can’t afford it. Housing affordability is a sore spot for many Torontonians.

One of the most exhilarating scenes has the whole troupe debate while crucial words are left unsaid in an effort to avoid confrontation and make the interaction gender and racially neutral. However, minds speak for themselves and can’t help thinking thoughts that make us cringe to say the least.

A love cycling story in Toronto could not be missed. Boy meets girl and together cycle their way to his place to the tune of “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship. The cycling part is mimed and by the cyclists’ body language and gestures, we guess that the crazy drivers around are not making their trip an easy one.

A sketch set in a sauna features the two female protagonists in a I-show-you-mine-you-show-me-yours moment. By the end of it, they come to the conclusion that their vaginas are nice looking, which they both find reassuring and uplifting.

Probably one of my favourite scenes brings up the recent legalization of recreational marijuana. The protagonist is in prison for possession of a substance that is now perfectly legal and that everyone else in the country is freely enjoying. Singing to a reggae lilt, he tells the racially charged story of a black male in prison for an offence that is not an offence anymore.

Cultural divides is the theme of another hilarious routine where a Muslim and a Jewish fathers express their deep unhappiness about their son and daughter dating each other. They claim cultural difference, while they sound and gesture the same. Even the moustache makes them look alike.

Walking on Bombshells will make you laugh. It certainly blew the roof off on its opening night. Just a word of caution. You will be judging the show as much as the cast will be judging you. Because there are all kinds of laughs and not all laughs are created equal.

She The People: Laughter is a women’s movement #too

 

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!