Second base

Aug 24, 2005 at 12:00 am

Unlike its former theater-style downtown location, Second City’s new digs are in a strip mall, upstairs from an Andiamo restaurant. Let’s be honest, the move from Detroit to Novi has knocked the comedy club down a few notches on the “urban cred” scale. (It’s not just us, even the new show riffs on Novi.)

To their credit, the owners have done a fine job of making Second City’s suburban location as welcoming as possible. Gone is the stadium seating; in its place, cabaret-style tables. And guess what that means, ladies and germs? You can take your drinks with you. Seems that the owners understood that nothing greases up the old laugh-hole like some booze, and, rightfully, the hooch was flowing on opening night of In iPod We Trust.

With nothing more than a few chairs and the occasional prop, Second City’s cast — Margaret Exner, Jenny Hagel, Shawn Handlon, Quintin Hicks, Tiffany Jones and Topher Owen — perform 30-second to five-minute bits that are divided equally between esoterically Detroit musings to ain’t-it-funny-in-a-universal-way type skits.

Invariably, the most entertaining sketches are musical numbers. The song “The Greatest Day of All Time,” for example, reels theatergoers in. In this bit, a relieved couple rejoices over their respective experiences with on-time plumbers, honest mechanics and drivers who have made proper use of the passing lane. Sound simple? It is. And that’s precisely why it works.

Much of the 75-minute show focuses on tried and true topics such as workplace gripes, spousal relations and current events. And while some of the shtick is predictable at best, it didn’t stop most of the crowd from tittering, guffawing, chuckling and thigh-slapping throughout the show.

One standout skit featured Hicks and Handlon, who, while having a conversation about nothing in particular, are interrupted by the appearance of zombie-fied Owen. Deadpan and Monty Python-esque, this sketch’s total lack of meaning makes it refreshingly hilarious.

Kwame Kilpatrick’s mayoral run is perfect fodder for one of In iPod’s funniest bits. In this skit, actors Exner and Owen, play a singing Mary Matalin-James Carville-type couple. Separated by politics but united by love, the R&B-slinging vocalists trade differing opinions on the “hip-hip mayor.”

And then there’s the recurring Fox 2 newscaster with the Flinstonian sobriquet, Rock Sideburns, played by Handlon. The talking head appears throughout the show with several short “field reports.” In one interview, Sideburns interviews the Z-snapping, finger-waving girlfriend of a soldier in Iraq, played by Jones. Less concerned about the conflict in the Middle East than she is her boyfriend’s evil ways, the disgruntled girlfriend vows to “beat on” her shiftless lover, should he ever return from the war. Jones is spot-on with the caricature, which is replete with down-the-nose stares and grabs for the mic.

And then, there are a few bones thrown to their new host city, Novi. Set in a city planning office, the entire cast performs “Nobody Walks in Novi,” an ode to the city’s ubiquitous strip malls and shopping centers. It goes:

Nobody walks in Novi/We don’t even know why/they put the sidewalks in/Nobody walks in Novi/Not anywhere in southeast Michigan

Except for maybe Ann Arbor/but they’re a bunch of hippie liberals/Or maybe sometimes in downtown Detroit/But they’re a bunch of welfare criminals.

Ultimately, the show still has a few kinks to work out. The sketches are hit-or-miss. But the singing and clever lyrics alone make this night on the town money well spent. In iPod would be well-served to give the audience a bit more credit instead of laboring so much for a connection. All in all, it’s a fun ride.


In iPod We Trust runs Wednesday through Sunday at the Second City, 42705 Grand River Ave., Novi; 248-348-4448. No closing date scheduled.

Ellen C. Sawyer is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]