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Second City’s latest comedy show goes from big laughs to deep emotions

Jason DeRosse and Stacey McGunnigle in Second City’s The Meme-ing Of Life, the company’s spring 2013 revue.

The throughline to Second City's latest revue, The Meme-ing of Life, involves small acts of kindness, the suggestion being that random displays of niceness would lighten moods and promote goodwill.

The notion doesn't have anything to do with the subject matter of the troupe's sketches. In fact, there's really no consistent narrative to the (often hilarious) bits. But if we talk about small gestures, there's plenty of that. I'm talking about bodily gestures – tiny expressions and subtle mannerisms tucked within the more overt physical antics of the show.

So, while the body language of a club-set scene is uproariously lost in translation, the tension of a border-crossing bit is more subtle. There aren't a lot of zingers, but the rubbery comedic actors on stage more than made up for that. In fact the Spanish soap opera sketch (in a foreign tongue, naturally) worked outlandishly well.

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It all came together in a scene involving a teenage boy (played extraordinarily by a woman, Stacey McGunnigle) and his bonding with a stepfather-to-be (Jason DeRosse). In one of the most dynamic, thoughtful sketches I've seen from Second City in years, Ms. McGunnigle's capture of teenage angst was brilliant to watch. The boy was all wound up, ready to burst. A lesser performer might have gone big with it the whole way through, but Ms. McGunnigle balanced the fury with a more nuanced approach to the boy's sad frustration. Mr. DeRosse deftly presented the stepfather figure as a compassionate guy capable of matching the kid's crazy-fun eruptions when required.

As for small gestures, here's a tip that won't cost you much: Go see Ms. McGunnigle now, for she's headed to bigger things and may not be around here much longer.

And one more suggestion: Skit-comedy fans have a wealth of options this week, what with the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival up and running to March 17. Improvisers and other troupes take over Lower Ossington Theatre (100 Ossington Ave.) and the Comedy Bar (945 Bloor St. W.), while headlining solo acts Eugene Mirman, Bruce McCulloch and Michael Ian Black appear at the Randolph Theatre (736 Bathurst St.) on March 9, 11 and 12, respectively.

Second City, $24 to $29. 51 Mercer St. 416-343-0011 or secondcity.com.

Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival, various prices and venues, torontosketchfest.com.

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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