Say the name Gilda Radner, Joan Rivers or John Candy. What comes to mind? Enduring comedy sketches, popular talk shows, hilarious movies?
Now try this one . . . Nia Vardalos.Ring any bells?
Maybe not yet, but given the course she's on, Nia Vardalos could someday be among these Second City alumni success stories.
Kind of like the story/spoof played by Nia and five fellow members of The Second City comedy troupe about adults attending their kindergarten class reunion . . . "Johnny, you were so little . . . and Suzie Wilson, remember how you used to eat lead paint off the walls!"
Just what did they grow up to be? Fireman, ballerina, astronaut, cowboy, and, of course, president of the United States.
The Second City comedy club in Chicago has been the training ground for comedians for more than 30 years, producing some of America's most successful comedic entertainers.
And Wednesday night's full house in Snowbird's Golden Cliff Room tasted 90 minutes of the wit and satire that has spawned three additional touring troupes from the original Chicago company.
The players write their own material, trying out new sketches and ideas, eventually taking the show on the road with hopes of making it to the "big time" - the Chicago stage or beyond.
The improvisation I was hoping to see really wasn't there. Maybe throwing in a couple "regional" quips qualifies as fresh material, but all 20 skits were obviously well-rehearsed and far from spontaneous.
A mention must be made of the massive hanging philodendron hovering center stage. It was very distracting. (A "Dark Shadows" pun might have worked here!)
A strangely familiar bit, mentioned in last year's review of Second City, was the spoof about the priest counseling a couple about the evils of in-vitro fertilization. Spontaniety?
It goes like this. The couple wonders, "How long we're going to spend in purgatory for this?" Then comes the "ad-libbed " reference tailored to fit the crowd: "Nobody goes to purgatory - it's like Salt Lake City."
A truly funny performance by amply-fleshed Tom Dorfmeister playing a messenger doing a Chippendale's birthday burlesque to the Beach Boys "Dance, Dance, Dance" brought howls and screams from the audience.
But other selections were a bit too much, like the homeless man rambling on about the war. And references to killer babies and toe-popper land mines - there's no humor in such topics these days.
The clever "dueling banjos" spoof that pitted a guitar against a synthesizer with instant-replay was the kind of witty stuff I expected more of from this namesake sextet.
Multi-talented company members Stephen Colbert, Tracy Thorpe, John Hildreth and Paul Donello were enhanced by the workings of stage manager John Holtsen and pianist Charlie Silliman.
Dreams can come true. One of last year's gang is performing on TV's "Carol & Company."
Hang in there, Nia!