Thoughts from the Second City

Several weeks ago, I went to a Second City show with my friend Joseph Matthew Cancino​. Second City is an improv comedy group in Chicago, which has been the launchpad of some of the top names in comedy (like Tina Fey or Stephen Colbert.) The show we attended was a combination of improv and sketch comedy.

One sketch stood out in particular. It was set in a synagogue. A rabbi stood at the front, introducing a Christian missionary couple who were about to come up to say hello. Suddenly, the couple burst on stage, wearing bright curly blonde wigs, with a boisterous cry of, “Hellllloooo, Jews!!!” The couple started declaring how much they loved the Jews, “even though they only got half the Bible right.” They then broke into a catchy song and dance number. It was a hoot.

But as I was watching, I started thinking about the Christians that I know. Truth is, I don’t know any Christians that look or talk like this couple. The performance was a caricature, of course, but a caricature of someone foreign to me. The majority of the Christians I know have last names like Fong, or Lee, or Nguyen. Some of the Christians I know struggle with reconciling following God—which includes sacrifice and humility—with honoring their parents—who often demand strict obedience and economic stability. Some of the Christians I know struggle with the fact that they are the only Christians in their family, and in some cases the first Christians in their family’s entire history.

The Second City sketch depicted a caricature, one that may be familiar with the Midwestern audience in attendance. There were other such sketches too, including a sharp one in which a young boy reminisced over his “Summer for Jesus,” which started with picketing an abortion clinic and climaxed with setting fire to a mosque. I suppose the main thing I took away from the show was how my experience of what Christianity looks like is different from a mainstream American perspective.

One other thing stood out. The night that we went was a farewell night for one of the performers, John. He was leaving for Hollywood. He had played a pivotal role in the show, writing several sketches, including the two I mentioned above. At the end, after several cast members expressed their deep gratitude and appreciation, John came up to speak. He had prepare a few comments to read. He spent some time thanking his family, the members of the Second City cast and crew, and various mentors. Near the end, he started thanking his partner for his support and encouragement. As John spoke, he started tearing up, and said that after many years of busy late nights and time away, they would finally be able to go on dates and spend quality time together. Then  John said “And God…”, he paused, turned the paper over, and said “He’s not on here.” I suspect that there’s a great deal of history present in those short words.

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