Karen Parker (left) and Leslie Seiler get laughs that aren’t recycled.
BARACK TO THE FUTURE Written and performed by Marty Adams, Kerry Griffin, Darryl Hinds, Reid Janisse, Karen Parker and Leslie Seiler. Second City (51 Mercer). See listings. 416-343-0011.
The Second City's latest revue begins with a timely sequence that imagines Barack Obama being sworn in as the U.S. president. It doesn't end well for Obama; in fact, one of his handlers falls to the ground dead. Unfortunately, you could say the same thing about much of the show, which is one of SC's weakest yet.
I can't recall the last time a sketch show kicked off with so many unfunny scenes. Whether it's a rambling, inconsequential bit about two strangers (Leslie Seiler and newcomer Reid Janisse) who meet cute in a park, or a highly physical ping-pong match played out like a spaghetti western, these early sequences lack originality - and, more important, the twists to elicit laughs.
The troupe is on firmer ground when they deal with specific issues affecting the city. A sketch in the second half scores recognition points as Darryl Hinds plays a man trying to haul his recycling bin out onto the sidewalk. The joke goes further when Seiler and Karen Parker, in robber masks, play a couple of nimble raccoons who come equipped for the job.
Kerry Griffin, who's new to the cast, draws on his regular-guy persona for several sketches. In one, he's a political type who slickly talks his way through every step of a relationship with an infatuated aide (Seiler). In another, he's the affable host of a game show about comics going "too far" with their humour.
There's an improv element to this last bit that's refreshing - and on the night I went, that provided a good chance to hear something that did indeed go too far, a reference to Bernie Mac's recent death.
But the cast and director Bruce Pirrie - who does weird things with pacing like program two consecutive short scenes - should have taken that irreverent gamble in the rest of the show. With the exception of one bit about suspected Canadian spy Omar Khadr, very little travels far from the safe and familiar.