Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Second City Unscripted (by Mike Thomas)

This seriously could have been so much better. It's in the same style (interview snippets) as the wonderful Live from New York about SNL, but it suffers in comparison.

The biggest problem is that a lot of things are never explained. For instance, they don't even outline what constitutes a "revue" or what the rules for improv are in their shows. I would have loved some nitty gritty talk about how a show is written and put together, but it's all just vague.

Also, they almost never talk about cast members leaving or why, so you don't get a clear sense of when people came and went (which is something else the SNL book does really well) or how the cast and their comedy styles evolved. They don't talk to a lot of key people (I don't recall anything from Steve Carell or Andrea Martin or Nancy Walls or Catherine O'Hara, for instance, just to name a few).

Some of the people they do talk to are just underused--I would love to hear more from the trio of Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello, and Stephen Colbert, for just one example. You get these frustrating tidbits, and not enough depth. I would love more specifics about the shows and what they included--I'm familiar with SCTV of course, and some of the offshoots of Second City (like many SNL performers and sketches, or Strangers with Candy) but a lot of it goes unsaid.

I got really annoyed when I saw the afterword, where the author talks about how much he cut out of the final edit. Um, maybe some of that stuff would have helped your book NOT BE SO ANNOYING, Mr. Thomas. Thumbs, sadly, down.


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