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Comedy Wed Aug 08 2012
There's a new name in late night and that name is ...Barack Obama? That's right, with veteran improvisor Patrick Rowland hosting as a goofier, more laid-back version of the current POTUS, iO Chicago's new show Barack All Night! may be a traditional late-night talk show with monologues, desk pieces, special guests, and stand-ups, but it is far from staid. Seeing the prez dish out surprisingly biting topical jokes that one suspects, or at least hopes, get told behind closed doors in the West Wing is a dream come true. From his suggestion that the recent hugs the First Lady gave to the US Men's Basketball team in London mean that he has twelve new names on his "kill list" to his ideas for new Chick-Fil-A slogans like "Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Loser, loser gay marriage," Rowland's Obama is brazen and eager to show who the leader of the free world really is.
Rowland's supporting cast help the show by bringing a zany energy to the proceedings. As Obama's former personal aid Reggie Love, Nnamdi Ngwe smiles and chuckles his way along in the classic Ed McMahon-style, late-night sidekick role, always goaded by his former boss to be more forceful. Brianna Baker did double duty at this performance. As Michelle Obama, she comported herself as one imagines the first lady would had she become a Stepford wife. Her beautifully awkward explanation of her work to fight childhood obesity, in which she referred to the children as grossly obese, then morbidly obese, then big-boned, then fluffy, finally reclassifying her crusade as a fight to end childhood puffiness, was simply brilliant. Her surprise appearance later in the show as Beyonce, fiercely stomping around on stage to clarify the nature of her relationship with the first lady ("I don't want my president thinking I'm a trifling ho,") was an equally strong turn.
Overall, the show has great character work, some dynamite zingers, and this unsettling, awkward energy that always keeps the audience on the edge of its seat. To get a better sense of the show, check out this clip from a previous run at Chemically Imbalanced Comedy, in which Obama interviews Ben Franklin and John Adams. It sounds crazy, but they play the bit as if nothing could be more normal. In a world where a sitting president is hosting a late-night talk show, who's to say what normal is anyway.
Barack All Night! runs Saturdays at midnight through Sept. 22 in The Del Close Theater at iO Chicago, 3541 N. Clark St. Tickets are $5. Check out the dates of upcoming shows and call the box office at 773-880-0199 to reserve seats.