Left to right: Roger Bainbridge, Devon Hyland, Alessandra Vite, Brandon Hackett, Ann Pornel, and Lindsay Mullan. Photo by Racheal McCaig. Courtesy Second City.

Second City’s Unwrapped is an annual occurrence. The sketch comedy show satirizes the banalities of the over-saturated yuletide cultural traditions we are bombarded with during the holiday season. Not only does the show poke fun at the tackiness of holiday songs, the pressure of socializing at workplace Christmas parties, family feuds, and seasonal romance, but it cuts a little bit deeper as well. This year’s performance highlights the distance we can feel between each other during a time of the year in which we’re supposed to embrace our time spent together.

I had the opportunity to chat with cast member Brandon Hackett, a U of T graduate, about his journey into the world of comedy. Hackett graduated from Victoria College where he began his foray into sketch and stand-up at The Bob Comedy Sketch Revue. 

“When I first started out in university I was looking for a place to make friends, and [I] got accepted to The Bob and did that for four years,” Hackett tells me. “I began to do some comedy outside of school, and when I performed outside the confines of my peers, I got an inkling that this is what I wanted to do.”

Nonetheless, Hackett had a few reservations, and remained undecided about his future career path. “I didn’t realize comedy was a thing you could do as a career. I came to university thinking I would just study literature then figure it out, but eventually I started doing other shows and classes [at Second City] and got hired after I graduated their two-year program.” 

A particularly memorable skit incorporates Hackett portraying a holiday crooner in the same vein as Bing Crosby or Bobby Vinton. Glass of whiskey in hand, Hackett begins singing about Christmas-time, but slowly switches up the lyrics of the song to incorporate Hanukkah, Kwanza, and a plethora of other religious ceremonies and celebrations. The challenge was to be as ‘politically correct’ as possible, and to be as inviting and considerate as he could be. Eventually the song became a praise for the secularization of all holiday traditions. The skit nods to fervently opinionated Christmas spirited consumers, and it’s hard not to think of the Starbucks ‘War on Christmas’ debacle while watching.

The sketches escalate, and before you know it, cast member Lindsay Mullen is acting as a sloshed Virgin Mary unabashedly praising her son Jesus, intentionally embarrassing him while inadvertently embarrassing herself in the process. To make matters more hilarious, Jesus, in this case, was a member of the audience. The inebriated Mother Mary exhibits the typical colloquialisms and mannerisms of a middle-class suburban mom who has had one too many glasses of wine.

Unlike theatre production, Second City’s performances are written primarily by the cast. “[The cast] creates a concept, improvises and re-improvises the concept, we talk about it a lot to figure out the point of view and how to heighten the speed or the idea a bit more,” Hackett says. “There are 6 brains working on one thing, which makes it a gradual process that is discovery based.” The communal process creates an entertaining show that combines the humour of every cast member. During the show, it’s not difficult to see the actors bouncing their varying comedic styles off one another.

Unwrapped runs at the Second City Main Stage until January 1st.

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