With a piano, a few chairs and a lot of blue-collar comedic pizzazz, Jim Belushi and The Chicago Board of Comedy charmed a near capacity crowd at the Lied Center for Performing Arts on Friday night. The Second City troupe performed nine sketches — with Belushi routinely pressing the pause button to get the audience involved. “Give me a polysyllabic adjective, a noun and a verb,” he asked. His request answered by shouts in every direction: “Delicious!” “Caterpillar!” “Regurgitate!”
“It’s so nice to be in the Pinnacle Bank Arena,” Belushi joked, as he began his opening monologue. He was soon joined by the Board — comedians Megan Grano, Larry Joe Campbell, Brad Morris and Joshua Funk — who skillfully impersonated everybody from Rosa Parks and an Indian cab driver to The Three Tenors and ravenous bears. And to complement each sketch, pianist Trey Stone added color and drama, creating a subtle but important soundscape.
In one memorable sketch, a la Mad Libs, Campbell asked the audience for three movie lines, three song lyrics, three bumper sticker slogans and three things they heard today. Each response was written on a small piece of paper, dropped onto the floor and then woven into a plot in which Belushi, Morris and Funk played three gonorrhea-stricken fraternity brothers. Just listening to Campbell and the audience was fun. For instance, when “Honk If You Love the Kardashians” was suggested as a slogan, Campbell quipped, “No, you shouldn’t honk, you should hit that car!”
From beginning to end, Belushi and his cohorts refreshingly mixed comedy, theater and improvisation. No skit was predictable or cliché-driven. The comedians always felt energized. And that was due in large part to the audience, who clearly felt the same way, and thankfully had no reluctance expressing it.