The awkward reality of the moment is that right now, mere weeks (sometimes days) after many of Toronto’s mainstay artistic institutions finally reopened their doors, ’tis somehow once again not the season to be promoting live in-person experiences. It’s Christmas, we’re all vaccinated (you are vaccinated right? RIGHT?!), and it’s been forever since we’ve been able to sit and laugh alongside other people while real life humans perform on a stage in front of us. But with cases soaring, it’s hard for me to say you should book tickets to one of The Second City’s new revues at their great new (temporary) venue on the Danforth. I think I’m probably going to say it anyway? But, like, use your head. If you’re feeling even slightly unwell and you go to Second City and you get Hannah Spear or Liz Johnston or Andrew Bushell sick, I will never forgive you.
But, hey, the shows are good so… um… go to Second City! If you’re boosted, and symptom free, and haven’t been in high-risk situations, and also please keep your mask on even though the arancini at Comedy Bar are so tempting, and if you could laugh in a closed-mouth shoulder-shake kinda way, that’d be ideal.
The trouble is, you’ll have to laugh. The mainstage show Welcome Back to the Future, in particular, is packed with big laughs no matter your humour style- from Chris Wilson’s goofy computer failure sketch to Nkasi Ogbonnah’s brutally honest jokes about systemic racism. Lighter on sentimentality than some of the mainstage’s more recent outings, Welcome Back doubles down on challenging ideas, high concepts, and societal catharsis. The cast is uniformly excellent and their execution is incredibly tight, a rare feat in the reopening era that’s generally seen a lack of cohesion and a general feeling that no one had enough time in the room together to rehearse as a group. But this group’s got their act together beautifully so see Welcome Back eventually even if you’re not comfortable seeing it right now.
The company’s secondary show, Tour Co’s The Fast & Furiously Festive, is a lot less polished and a lot more gimmicky. With a lot of daytime performances, Tour Co’s holiday show every year is quite obviously geared towards corporate holiday parties so it’s hard to blame them for the less ambitious goofery that pales in comparison to the sharpness of the mainstage. There’s a gem or two to be found in the holiday show but, unless your boss is footing the bill, the mainstage is where you should invest.