Second City in the River City

Still funny after 45 years

It's hard to believe that the Second City comedy troupe — that world-renowned, Chicago-based hotbed of topnotch comedic talent — has been around for 45 years. Then again, it did serve as the first stomping ground for both 71-year-old, still-kicking comedian Alan Arkin and long-dead funnyman John Belushi (who'd be enjoying his hamburger-ketchup with the aging baby boomers at the early-bird special if he were still alive today).

The 45th anniversary is the sapphire, so hopefully the Second City's touring troupe offers up one gem of a sketch show when it takes over the Touhill Performing Arts Center (1 University Drive at Natural Bridge Road; 314-516-4949 or www.touhill.org). Drawing from four and a half decades of written and improvised material, the cast and a musical accompanist perform a two-act revue of greatest-hits satirical sketches that take the audience back "We Didn't Start the Fire"-style through this country's most boffo political scandals, social upheavals and Watergate -- er, watershed -- moments. Of course, the actors will also be ready to create improvised comedy inspired by contemporary topics right before your eyes. And while the touring cast may not be as famous or even as name-recognizable as a Belushi or an Arkin (check out www.secondcity.com for bios and photos), someday these comedians may be, and you can say you saw them when they were milking the first 45 years of other people's successes.

The "Second City 45th Anniversary Tour" (you'd think they'd come up with something catchier, right?) hits the Touhill Friday, April 1, at 7 and 10 p.m., and Saturday, April 2, at 5 and 9 p.m. Tickets cost $35. -- Rose Martelli

The faces may not be familiar, but the name Second 
City sure is.
The faces may not be familiar, but the name Second City sure is.

Skin Deep
Ragged Blade flashes its Tattoos

James Grauerholtz is perhaps best known as the Boswell to William S. Burroughs' Dr. Johnson, serving as a combination personal secretary, literary agent and dear friend. But just like Boswell, Grauerholtz had his own writing to keep him busy when he wasn't aiding Burroughs. Jerry Rabushka has adapted one of Grauerholtz's stories into the play Tattoos, a drama about friends who have spent so much time together that they're getting on each other's last nerves (write what you know, eh, Grauerholtz?). When hot, young tattoo artist Pierce enters the group, flesh isn't the only thing to get pricked. Ragged Blade presents Tattoos at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 7 p.m. on Sunday (April 1 through 10) at the Theatre at St. John's (5000 Washington Place; 314-276-8693 or www.raggedblade.com). Tickets are $10 to $12, and the Sunday, April 3, performance is a benefit for the Madison County AIDS Project, so bring a friend. -- Paul Friswold

Reno 411
Janet Reno speaks

WED 3/30

So, do you think former United States Attorney General Janet Reno opens her speeches with a joke? Maybe some sly reference to her dancing abilities, vis-à-vis Will Ferrell's hilarious impersonation of Reno as the host of a teen dance party on numerous episodes of Saturday Night Live? Reno eventually appeared on the show, deliciously skewering her own gruff image in the process and proving she had a sense of humor (unlike her even-gruffer successor, John Ashcroft). As the first female attorney general, Reno had to hone that balance of gruffness and self-deprecation on a daily basis just to deal with events such as the Elián Gonzales incident and the inevitable second-guessing done by the public. Discover just how tough and humorous Reno can be when she delivers the keynote address to close out the Women's History Month activities at St. Louis Community College-Meramec (11333 Big Bend Road; 314-984-7661). Reno speaks at 1 p.m. in the campus gymnasium, and admission is free. -- Paul Friswold

Danzas Other Than Tony

FRI 4/1

Sometimes the most beautiful of spectacles are those you can't properly pronounce. Webster University's Department of International Languages and Cultures presents Música y Danzas de Latinoamérica, a celebration of the color, music and movement of Latin America, performed by Grupo Atlantico. The local educational and artistic collective promotes the legacy of Carribbean culture in Colombia and Central America through exotic folk dances such as cuerca, cumbia and bellerengue, and the somewhat more familiar merengue, salsa and gaita. Also dancing are Estella and Randy, whose Argentine tango is memorable enough to require just the one name each. The 10:30 a.m. performance takes place at the Loretto-Hilton Center on the Webster University campus (130 Edgar Road). Tickets are $4 to $5. For more information and pronunciation tips, call 314-968-7047. -- Jess Minnen

Secrets, Secrets Are No Fun

SAT 4/2

When you think of hot sex, adultery and obsession, the church community typically isn't what comes to mind -- unless you've read one of Chicagoan Kimberla Lawson Roby's past novels about the one and only Curtis Black. Find out what the reverend is up to now and what his not-so-chaste third wife is keeping secret in Roby's new novel, The Best-Kept Secret. You know you're dying to read about what a tangled web these two weave, and about the surprise ending -- we won't enlighten you, but maybe Roby will when she visits the Florissant Barnes & Noble Booksellers (13995 New Halls Ferry Road, Florissant; 314-830-3550) at 1 p.m. to read from and sign copies of Secret (line tickets will be passed out starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday). -- Alison Sieloff

 
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