Thursday February 22nd 2018

“Cook County Social” review by Sean Kugler

cook county social “Curtsy.” It’s a simple word with a simple meaning and it usually isn’t done by men. That’s probably why it was the suggestion provided by an audience member Friday night at the iO. You see, Cook County Social Club have been delivering convention busting improv for years. The four members thusly did not seem phased at all when presented with such an odd request. All they did was smirk amongst each other for a brief moment before everything went to black and they went to work.


The scene began and we were transported to an idyllic ballroom to witness a class for young girls learning the art of civility. The madam in charge of these two girls was in a very poor mood because the general would soon be coming to witness their progress. The stakes were quite high because the general expected to see a perfect curtsy. If he did not, he would be burning their plantation to the ground. For comedy’s sake, the two girls did not perform as planned. This led to a dramatic fake slap delivered by the madam to one of the girls. “She hit the air in front of my face!”, the distressed girl remarked to her friend. The audience couldn’t help but chuckle at this breaking of the 4th wall. It wouldn’t be the last time, though.


The two girls remained on stage and turned into young men having a conversation in church. One of the young men tried to convince his friend that this was the church for him. The friend seemed a little unconvinced until a very pretty girl headed by and commented that he was “cute.” If that wasn’t enough, Troy Aikman came by and gave one of his Super Bowl rings to the church member. “Hey, maybe I’ll have one for you too, maybe.”, Troy remarked to the friend before heading off. To cap it all off, that guy from Sublime headed by and also greeted the friend. “I just have one question to ask you”, said the church member. “The answer is yes”, remarked the friend. “Will you kill that guy from Sublime?” the church member responded.


The next scene consisted of a kangaroo court. The details were a little sketchy, much like the merits of such a proceeding, but it appeared that the person on trial had either killed someone by accident while delivering a news report in a moving news van or “that guy from Sublime.” Everything seemed funny enough, but one of the performers decided it was time to gather his group mates for a little in-show pep talk. “C’mon, Cook County”, he started. “We’re better than this.” Once again, the audience appreciated the honesty, though their laughter made it obvious they didn’t agree with his assessment.


The pep talk wasn’t enough though apparently, because the group member decided to “sit this next one out.” The three remaining members proceeded to pretend to play instruments while riffing on the fact that Troy was having second thoughts about continuing to perform with them. “We all sing back up”, one member lamented. “We need Troy.” The scene continued with the group performing at a show that was seen by an executive for “NBC Records.” Due either to the opportunity or a sense of responsibility, Troy showed up to play with his group. You could tell he was serious about it because he unfurled his ponytail.

The next scene saw two high school lovers together in a deserted cabin. Things started to get hot and steamy, especially when the girl unfurled her ponytail. To further the physical comedy, two of the group members climbed the rafters behind the stage and watched the two lovers lay down together. Things didn’t get any further because an injured man entered the cabin with a pair of broken ribs. Before long, a cop came and admonished the man. “Somebody up in a tree jerking off again?”, the cop asked while shaking his head.


The rest of the scenes injected a lot of callbacks into the proceedings. One memorable callback saw the three backup singers (sans Troy) “back at the groove plantation” and seemingly without that big record contract from NBC. They lamented briefly over their performance at the big show. “Sweet, Sweet Lady. We didn’t even practice that one.”, one band mate commented. They tried to get back into practice but in the end they just gave in. “Let’s torch this f***** and go home.” one frustrated band mate offered.


The last scene of the evening conjured up fond memories of the first. The darkness continued though and the madam told the girls in her charge that they “have been selected for a possible burning.” The four group members then looked out over the audience as they were applauded for a brilliant show. They could very well have curtsied at this point if they wished.


“Cook County Social Club” is comprised of Greg Hess, Bill Cochran, Brendan Jennings, and Mark Raterman. iO Chicago is located at 1501 N. Kingsbury. Call



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