I've been a big fan of Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black for a long time, and was thrilled to find out that they were headed to Chicago to do a live show, based on the success of their Comedy Central show Michael and Michael Have Issues. When I heard it was at the Metro, I was confused. What kind of comedy venue is that?
The answer? A lousy one. The guys came on at about 9:45 and started in with some conversational schtick, playing hilarious (though woefully unedited) real footage of a recent interview they'd done on Detroit's local morning news. They continued in this casual vein, clearly not hot to peform any carefully-planned material. They were just funny guys being funny. It's not a strategy that works for everyone, but for the first half of the show, it was hilarious.
As the show continued, however, things started to get strange. After Black explained that their series had not yet been picked up for another season (it may still be), an audience member upset at what he thought was its cancellation shouted "Try harder!" This slight was not to be ignored, and the guys riffed on that for a while, talking to the heckler and making a joke out of it. A long joke. They moved on, but some audience members were under impression that it was now a participation act. Girls in the Metro's balcony, which hangs very close to the stage, started shouting out any thought they had, directing the show through their drunken rambling. If they were trying to derail the whole enterprise and make it about them, these ladies succeeded. It was awkward and unpleasant for everyone.
How should the Michaels have handled it? If they'd ignored the shouting, the second half of the show would likely have been much smoother and shown clearer direction. But ignoring something as loud as this in such a small space would also have been truly odd, and out-of-character. It was a lose-lose.
Maybe I'm biased, but I'm tempted to blame the choice of venue. Sure, opener Jessi Klein was able to deftly handle a couple of audience outburts that occurred during her straight-forward standup set, but it was much shorter. If the Michaels return to Chicago, I'll be thrilled to see them again, but only if their booking agent chooses a different venue. Preferably one that doesn't have a balcony that hangs close to the stage. Oh, and seats would be nice.