Arizona Theatre Company brings The Second City to Phoenix to Make Fun

Here in Arizona, we're used to being the butt of the rest of the country's jokes -- and now Arizona Theatre Company has invited some more by comissioning one of the best comedy troupes around to make fun of us this spring.

We joined some other Phoenix types this morning at Tom's Tavern for breakfast with writers from The Second City comedy troupe (the Chicago/Toronto-based group best known as a launching pad for Saturday Night Live performers), as they tried to learn about what makes our city tick -- and what makes it funny -- for performances in Tucson and Phoenix this April and May.  

Now, we've gotta say, the last time a local group commissioned a national player to swoop in and tell us about ourselves, we were underwhelmed. Anna Deavere Smith's 2008 take on justice, paid for by Arizona State University's Future Arts Research and performed at the Herberger Theater in Phoenix, was good in parts but surprisingly weak in others, and actually included a fund raising plug for the ASU law school, and interviews with ASU folks that appeared to be shoehorned in by those footing the bill. (You can read more about F.A.R. and Smith here.)

It's hard to say if there will be any of that associated with this. When Phoenix City Councilman Bill Gates told this morning's group that he thought it would be a good idea to make fun of Paradise Valley -- since that's where so many rich people (including notable athletes like Charles Barkley) live -- ATC associate marketing director Jennifer Spencer cringed and mumbled something about Paradise Valley being home to many of ATC's subscribers.

But there was no indication at the breakfast table that any censorship would take place. In fact, dissention was strongly encouraged in the discussion, with topics ranging from gun ownership to irrigated lawns to the rivalry between Phoenix and Tucson.

And although they plan to visit at least one shopping mall later this weekend -- a sure source of frothy subject matter -- after breakfast the writers were off to tour Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Tent City. Someone at the table remarked that it would be a lot harder to find the humor in that place if the tour was taking place in August, rather than a cool, pretty day in January.

In any case, we'll be interested to see what these folks find to make fun of around here. As for us, some days, we can't stop laughing at this place.  

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at amy-silverman.com.