Chinatown and Second City

After thoroughly exploring the Pullman Historic District, we decided to check out Chinatown, one of the many ethnic neighbourhoods that Chicago has to offer. The weather had turned from cool and grey with the occasional peek of sunshine to dark, rainy and cold, so rather than walking around we decided to have an early dinner at a Chinatown restaurant called the Lobster King.

Both my friend Linda and I had ordered vegetarian dishes, but after taking our order the waiter returned and informed us that he was going to charge us $2 extra for each dish since vegetables are much more expensive during the winter months. I decided to have a look at their takeout menu and saw that the same low price was listed on the takeout menu as on the main menu. As a result I put forward an argument that if both the dine-in and the take-out menu are stating the same low price for both dishes, I would not agree with being charged an extra $2 for each dish based on a verbal announcement. Either change the menu to include the higher price or charge the prices that are shown on both menus. I am not usually a difficult, picky guest in any hospitality establishment, but to try to charge $2 more for a dish that is listed at a lower price on both menus did not seem a proper business practice to me.

Chicago’s Chinatown

The waiter / manager finally agreed to charge us the prices listed on the menu, and the food was indeed delicious. After exploring the Chicago Cultural Center and the Historic Pullman District we had gotten quite hungry and we really enjoyed our early dinner.

After reviving ourselves we hopped on the subway because we wanted to check out Little Italy. So we got on the Blue Line and were told to exit at the UIC (University of Illinois) Campus and walk southwards. By that time it was raining and it was a rather inhospitable clammy day. We actually never ended up finding Little Italy, but walked around for about 40 minutes in the rain and after this exercise of futility we decided to pursue our evening plans: to attend a live performance at Second City, Chicago’s famous comedy venue.

So we took the subway back downtown to Jackson and we waited for the Purple Line until we realized that this line only runs during rush hour on weekdays. So we inquired which line we had to take and we found out that the Brown Line (to Kimball) would take us to Second City. At that point we realized that we had also been waiting on the wrong side of the platform. I guess in the Loop el-trains only run in one direction and we had already been wondering why we had seen 3 brown line trains go by on the other side of the platform, but none of them had arrived on our side.

I’d say we spent a good 45 minutes waiting on the wrong side of the platform until we finally had enough and went downstairs to ask a CTA employee who directed us onto the correct platform. In the rainy clammy weather this wasn’t the most exciting part of our trip, but we managed to entertain ourselves with lots of insider jokes in our original Austrian dialects.

Entrance to Second City

Finally we caught a brown line train and made our way up to North Wells Street, into the Old Town Neighbourhood, home of the Second City Comedy Club. Since 1959 Second City has established itself as a Chicago landmark and a national treasure. This theatre has launched the careers of such comic geniuses as John Belushi, Mike Myers, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, and others more. It offers nightly comedy shows, as well as a variety of other programs and services.

The theatre has two main stages, both of which were sold out yesterday, so we headed up onto the 4th floor of the building which houses Donny’s Skybox Studio Theatre which is affiliated with Second City. This theatre features an eclectic mix of student productions as well as other alternative shows and at $10.00 per person, the tickets were a steal.

The Outreach & Diversity Program produces two to three original shows each year that are performed at Second City’s studio theatre, Donny’s Skybox, on the fourth floor of Piper’s Alley. At least one of these productions is an original revue written and performed by the Outreach & Diversity ensemble, a group of African American, Latino or Asian actors cast through annual auditions.

We bought tickets for the 9 pm show: “Six Degrees of Reparation”, a hip comedy revue featuring improv, original material and Second City classic scenes with an urban multicultural twist which was put on by 6 young comedians which included 5 black and 1 oriental performers.

Image of the Old Town Neighbourhood

The show offered a lot of physical comedy and a variety of different sketches. One of the funniest ones was a sketch entitled “Osama bin Laden could be anywhere”, where one of the female comedians donned a big black beard and kept popping up in different everyday situations. The “superior Asian girl” sketch played with A, B, C (Asian, Black, Caucasian) stereotypes and demonstrated how we all have pre-conceived notions of one another. In the “Black Black Awards” sketch the troupe made fun of famous celebrities such as Whitney Houston, Maya Angelou and even Martha Stewart.

One of the most poignant sketches was set in an imaginary Office Depot store, where the black and Asian store employees were giving very shoddy and unfriendly service to a variety of customers. At the end, the young black shopkeeper explained that with a wage of $6.50 an hour, after all her costs (food, rent, bus passes, doing her nails, etc.), she was $189 in the hole, and at that price a smile would not be included in the service.

We both enjoyed the live performance of these gifted comedians immensely as we both love live theatre and comedy performances. As far as culture is concerned, Chicago has something to offer to everyone.

Well, today is our last day here in Chicago, and the weather is forecast to be quite cold with a 60% chance of rain. Fortunately Chicago has many indoor venues to choose from so I am sure we won’t get bored.

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