During the hectic holiday season, sometimes a good laugh is just what the doctor ordered.
Luckily, Chicago’s legendary comedy temple The Second City is bringing the funny north to Milwaukee for 10 days this December.
Their "Dysfunctional Holiday Revue" is a merry mix of laughter, satire and improv; the show opened Dec. 6 at the Marcus Center’s Vogel Hall and runs until Dec. 16. Tickets are selling fast, and Marcus Center staff advise that the best availability for tickets is Thursday, Dec. 13 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, December 16 at 2:00 pm.
The show stars Neal Dandade, Alex DiGiacinto, Cate Freedman, Eddie Mujica and Chelsea Devantez.
Devantez, a native of New Mexico, moved to Chicago after studying drama in New York City and has been with Second City for a year and a half. She also tours with RedCo and performs at iQ Theater. She sat down with OnMilwaukee.com to dish about the revue, the state of improv comedy, and the inexorable popularity of Starbucks’ pumpkin spice lattes.
OnMilwaukee.com: How did you come to be a Second City comedian?
Chelsea Devantez: I went to school in New York City to study drama and while I was there I did this semester abroad … except the "abroad" was Chicago. It was a program called "comedy studies" and it was this semester where you go to Second City and you do comedy, like, five days a week, all day long and you get college credit for it.
After I did that I really wanted to move back to Chicago once I graduated. I took Second City’s conservatory classes and studied at some other theaters, and it actually took me two years to get good enough to get hired by Second City. So I’ve been working for it since I’ve got here, but I’ve only been working for them a year and a half now.
OMC: What does it take to be an improv comedian in an economy like this?
CD: A lot of dedication. A lot of do-it-yourself. Second City is a wonderful theater to work at; to me, it’s just the best job in the world. For an improvisational comedian, I don’t think there are that many jobs where you get paid to improvise, and Second City, in my opinion, is like the theater that really plays to the top of your intelligence and does smart comedy as well. And at Second City we all have our own independent side projects going because as I said, it’s a do-it-yourself market!
OMC: The holiday revue is known as being a departure from the "same old, same old" as far as Christmas humor goes.
CD: Right. A lot of the holiday standards would be like "drunk uncle" – and while we definitely touch on those things, it’s in a really new, fresh way. Nothing seems old and tired because a lot of it is brand-new material that our cast wrote together. So it’s really topical stuff. It’s a really good show and I feel really proud of it.
OMC: Plenty of irreverence, too?
CD: Well, you know, as Second City goes, it’s irreverence mixed with intelligence. So there’s no whoopee cushion jokes. But absolutely, always a bit irreverent, always a bit of satirizing whatever needs to be satirized.
OMC: There’s nothing easier to satirize than Christmas. What’s the most annoying part about the holidays, in your opinion?
CD: I’ll say the worst part about Christmas is when someone gives you a gift, a really thoughtful gift, and you got them nothing. That’s always a great occasion for a lie. The good old "I have you gift in my car …" excuse … and then think of what store is on the way to your car.
And pumpkin pie: hate pumpkin pie. Don’t want to see it. The worst thing is the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte Facebook status craze. Why is everyone talking about it on Facebook?
OMC: Yeah, I think there’s one day every holiday season where everyone’s status is something about the pumpkin spice latte with, like, a million exclamation points.
CD: I know! And maybe I’m just jealous of their enthusiasm but I just can’t get on board with it.
OMC: How about the constant family socialization during the holidays?
CD: Well, working for Second City, I’m not going home for the holidays this year. We have a show right on Thanksgiving Day and we have a show right before Christmas and right after, so I actually spend my holidays with my fellow comedians. It is definitely my little family.
My best friend also works for Second City and we live together. It’s perfect: she knows how to cook and I know how to buy things. So we talk about our families behind their backs. Unless, of course, they read this. In which case… (laughs) Honestly, though, I mean, holidays away from your family really makes you love them.
OMC: Being from the Southwest, what do you think of Christmas in the Midwest?
CD: I think Christmas is done best in the Midwest. I mean, in the Southwest you don’t get all the Christmas trees, you don’t get all the snow, you don’t get any carolers, and in New York City all the heart is kind of gone. So I think the Midwest is the perfect blend of tradition and happiness.
OMC: We get a lot of snow, though, which is beautiful but deadly.
CD: Yeah, totally. I’m always down for the roads to be shut down so I can just sit in my house and watch Netflix. No complaints!
OMC: How are the Milwaukee audiences treating you? The show is selling really well.
CD: The Milwaukee audiences are great. Very joyful. I have a feeling that Milwaukeeans love to party. (laughs) Which is great, because it’s a very party-like show, and I love to party too, so I think we’ll get along well. I love Milwaukee already.
Colleen Jurkiewicz is a Milwaukee native with a degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and she loves having a job where she learns something new about the Cream City every day. Her previous incarnations have included stints as a waitress, a barista, a writing tutor, a medical transcriptionist, a freelance journalist, and now this lovely gig at the best online magazine in Milwaukee.