Weekender

The Second City brings comedy ‘Cure’ to State College

The Second City Touring Company’s new show, “Cure for the Common Comedy” will stop at The State Theatre on Friday.
The Second City Touring Company’s new show, “Cure for the Common Comedy” will stop at The State Theatre on Friday. Photo provided

What’s funny?

I asked an expert — Mark Campbell, a member of the touring company for Chicago’s famed The Second City.

“I find humor in things that are silly and energetic,” said Campbell, his remarks complimented by a voice upbeat and free of cynicism.

“I enjoy physical comedy. Verbal humor. I like puns, clever word play. I like bad ‘dad jokes,’ ” he said. “If you’ve got ‘dad jokes,’ I want to hear ‘em. I enjoy that more than the ‘angry’ style of comedy.”

The Second City Touring Company’s new show is called “Cure for the Common Comedy.” The “Common Comedy,” in this case, may be the bellowing, acerbic style of humor (often political and social in tone) that is en vogue at the moment, and that Campbell is understandably wary of.

The Second City, formed in 1963 and long acknowledged as the spiritual predecessor of comedy shows like “Saturday Night Live,” “Mad TV” and “Keegan & Peele,” has never been afraid to bear its teeth when approaching social topics and current events.

“The political divide has always been a source of comedy, ever since ancient times,” Campbell said. “But, we’re aware a lot of comedy fans, regardless of their views, are getting hit over the head hard with the political stuff and may be a bit worn out.”

As such, “Cure” aims for a different approach, looking to mine the humor found in personal relationships.

“For the creation of ‘Cure,’ we took a lot at a lot of classic sketch comedy tropes, premises and stereotypes, and looked at how we could re-work them completely,” Campbell said.

“You have a family in their living room, something weird or funny happens ... that’s the sketch. So, instead, maybe The Second City looks at complete strangers meeting for this time. What’s awkward about it? What’s weird? What’s edgy? Where’s the comedy in our daily interactions?”

A young performer and native of Glen Ellyn, Ill., Campbell cut his teeth with troupes in the Windy City’s flourishing arts and entertainment scene, including “Improv Olympic: Chicago,” “Comedy Sports” and “The Annoyance Theatre.” You may very well hear him holler “Live from New York, its Saturday Night!” someday, but in the meantime, Campbell and The Second City are a fine fit.

He credits the touring group’s rapport as one of the many secrets to The Second City’s staying power.

“We spend a lot of time bonding. Older group members are supportive of the newer folks. Everyone gets the space to explore and hone their talents, and discover shared comedic influences.”

The State Theatre performance of “Cure for the Common Comedy” will be the Second City’s lone stop in Pennsylvania for the year. At this tour’s conclusion, they’ll immediately begin work on their holiday special. Don’t count on any overdone sketches about debating politics with your relatives at the dinner table, either.

“Yeah, that’s been done,” Campbell agreed. “We’ll see if we can take that premise somewhere different.”

IF YOU GO

  • What: The Second City Comedy Tour’s “Cure for the Common Comedy”
  • When: 8 p.m. Friday
  • Where: The State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College
  • Info: www.thestatetheatre .org
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