Comedy revues have to be timely enough to feel relevant yet non-specific enough to get laughs after the headlines and pop-culture targets change. Second City shows are even tougher. The best bits feed the touring company, to be performed years later. And consider the audience: locals and 905ers, and don't forget American tourists. Will Bush-bashing go down as well for folks from Buffalo? What happens after the war ends?
Despite the politically inspired title and publicity image, The Bush League Of Justice strikes a good balance.
All of which sounds way too serious to describe a show that includes a silly but hilarious scene about a little girl (Aurora Browne) making out with her hand puppet while her concerned dad (Matt Baram) looks on. Or an ongoing bit about two geeks (Baram and Sandy Jobin-Bevans) that's cute but also touching.
Sure, there are lots of political references. Paul Constable shows a new energy as Dubya in an Air Force One sketch, then plays a guitar-strumming John Lennon who's got clearer ideas about his anti-war song Heaven after coming back from the dead.
But more often the show takes shots at our xenophobia. One bit looks at a couple's subtle racism in criticizing an ethnic cab driver before eating a shawarma.
The troupe has always been strong at satirizing the media, and one of the cleverest bits here is a deadpan version of broadcasters Sandy Rinaldo (Carolyn Taylor) and Ann Medina (Browne) doing The Naked News. Yeah, it's an absurd premise -- and the black-out image is like something by the Farrellys -- but it nails the inanity of actual Web program and the objectification of women. Ditto the exploitative dating-ritual takeoff that actually uses broadcaster David Suzuki's voice.
If there's anything different about this show -- besides the cast, the most organic and confident in years -- it's the use of improv. One scene uses a grade school history lesson (shout out country names) to skewer global inequities. Another is a dead-on spoof of silly Brit-twit quiz shows, with a bizarrely coiffed Baram as host and Browne and Taylor as two pretentious experts who make up word etymologies.
Not everything works -- an all-female scene about American tourists feels underwritten -- but at its best, this show is as strong as anything I've seen on the mainstage.