Kris Siddiqi says Rob Ford sketches may no longer be funny. Photo by Marcel St. Pierre
THIS PARTY'S A RIOT! written and performed by Rob Baker, Dale Boyer, Adam Cawley, Inessa Frantowski, Carly Heffernan and Kris Siddiqi, directed by Bruce Pirrie. Presented by Second City (51 Mercer). In previews, opens Tuesday (March 8) for a limited run, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm (plus Saturday late show 10:30 pm), Sunday 7 pm. $24-$29, stu $15. 416-343-0011, secondcity.com. See listing.
It's two weeks before the new Second City show, and Kris Siddiqi is thinking about Muammar Gaddafi. So far, there's no sketch about the Libyan leader.
"Gaddafi could be a pretty hilarious character," says the writer and performer, looking laid-back in a T-shirt, jeans and trucker cap. "We're trying to wrap our heads around this Middle East thing. And that's almost exactly what it is - a Middle Eastern thing. It's going on in Egypt, Libya, the north African states. This is the one kernel in the show that's waiting to pop."
That's the thing about a Second City show. Many sketches can be timeless, but if there's something going on right in front of you, you've got to comment on it.
Consider their last show, Something Wicked Awesome This Way Comes, which broke box office records and has the cast a tad worried about the follow-up. ("We have to come up with The Empire Strikes Back!")
"Our first day of rehearsals for that show was literally the first day of the G20 conference," says Siddiqi. "I was stopped by police on King and told I couldn't get in."
Obviously, that influenced the show's superb opening and closing bits about protesters and clamping down on freedom of speech.
As the cast's sole non-Caucasian, Siddiqi says he's happy to use his ethnicity for a sketch - up to a point.
In Second City For Mayor, his debut show, he turned the tables on expectations as a Pakistani taxi passenger who commented on the exotic food and habits of his Caucasian driver.
"That was so funny, because my dad is from Pakistan and my mom is Canadian," he says.
He's discussed the issue with Anand Rajaram - whom he replaced a few weeks before Second City For Mayor opened - and Darryl Hinds, two other non-white SC performers.
"We talked about having control over playing brown guys," he says. "How when you're doing a brown character, it's yours, it's not someone placing it upon you. On the other hand, Rob Baker has a theory that all this is theatre and each of us should be able to play anyone: man, woman, any ethnicity or height."
Siddiqi, who's raising a new child with SC alumnus Aurora Browne, got into improv through doing theatre at Northern Secondary. After studying film at U of T, he took improv classes at Bad Dog Theatre and Second City and was a Bad Dog regular until he got the call from Second City.
The new show hasn't been set yet, but Siddiqi tells me some sketches satirize baby boomers, zombies and yoga, which he's recently taken up.
But don't look for anything about the city's current mayor.
"We had a show called Second City For Mayor, and we've already heard so much about him in the news," says Siddiqi. "What else is there to say? It's almost too easy."