Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Tina Fey returns to her Chicago improv roots for SNL's Chicago Improv (a Dick Wolf production)

Illustration for article titled Tina Fey returns to her Chicago improv roots for iSNL/is iChicago Improv/i (a Dick Wolf production)
Screenshot: Saturday Night Live

On last night’s underwhelming Saturday Night Live season finale, former SNL head writer/star/Weekend Update anchor Tina Fey gave the people what they wanted to see, stepping back into the Alaskan accent and pageant hair of former Vice Presidential candidate and current Bass Pro Shop shill Sarah Palin. (If you wanted to see Fey’s Palin alongside John Goodman’s visiting Rex Tillerson and various cast members crooning the show tune “What I Did For Love Trump,” that is.)

But, in the last sketch of the season, Fey also dug even deeper into her performing past for a funnier bit about things that comparatively few people really want to see. In an impeccably rendered commercial for Chicago TV dramatizer extraordinaire Dick Wolf’s dramatic new series, Chicago Improv, the former Second City improv all-star led a rag-tag squad of improvisers as they—like all true Dick Wolf protagonists—reacted to their job’s every challenge and danger with clench-jawed intensity, and abstruse Chicago improv community lingo. (“Hey—great object work out there.” “Oh yeah, ’cause all of your sweep edits were perfectly timed.”)


The film used the reliable old standby gag of befuddled reviews read enthusiastically. (“What they hell was everything they just said?,” raved the New York Times, after one flannel-clad improviser separated two squared-off colleagues by exclaiming tearfully, “Stop it! We’re all on the same Harold team!”) As the commercial’s narrator put it breathlessly, there’s nothing quite like the deadly serious drama of watching men and women try to “balance love and ambition in America’s number three comedy market.” And, sure, as one review put it, all the ad’s fireman imagery is a little deceptive, but do firefighters have to cope with Chicago improv audience suggestions? “Two dildos!,” one dildo shouts after Fey’s team leader asks for a suggestion other than “a dildo.” No, and that’s what makes it... Chicago Improv.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter