When the Chicago City Limits improvisational troupe started performing in 1978, people listened to music on twirly things called "phonographs," made phone calls but did not have to push the pound sign for more options, and would have defined the term "web address," as a spider's house.
Eighteen years later, consumers are opening CD's and asking "what's DAT?;" they're checking voice mail from pocket cell phones, and they're staring at this story on their internet-linked home computer and wondering when the writer will come to his point.
But what about the years just before CCL arrived? The era of disco, leisure suits, Watergate, Begin-Sadat and the Bicentennial? Horrifying as the idea may be, some people are actually nostalgic about the 1970s -- hence the title of Chicago City Limits' one-night-only show, "A Comedic Look at the 70s," to be staged Apr. 30, not at the troupe's usual New York home on the upper East Side of Manhattan, but at the theatre district's Town Hall Theatre. The event is part of Town Hall's "Century of Change" series, with 1998 productions devoted to exploring the culture of the 70s.
CCL's line-up for the gig is the same as its current cast for @ChicagoCityLimits.comedy: Joe DeGise II, John O'Donnell, Carl Kissin, Denny Siegel and Paul Zuckerman, with pianist Frank Spitznagle all combining on sketches and improvisations.
@ChicagoCityLimits.comedy, which has been running since Apr. 1997, looks at life in the techno age, including long-distance phone card wars, cloning and obscenity on the internet, as well as zinging an array of political targets. Under the gun are Swiss banks, cigarette companies and White House fund-raising strategies. The troupe was formed in Chicago in 1977 by George Todisco and other performers in workshop at Chicago's legendary Second City. Todisco, who died in 1981, served as artistic director and producer for the troupe during its early years. After moving to Manhattan a year later, the group began appearing in nightspots and comedy clubs, eventually moving Off Broadway (1980) to the Jan Hus Playhouse and, currently, their own theatre (on First Ave. and 61st St. in New York). For 15 years and counting the troupe has also been offering workshops in improvisational theatre for both beginners and seasoned performers.
Previous Chicago City Limits titles have included: CCL With Clam Sauce; He She And It; X The Roman Numeral; Scandals Of `89; Saddam You're Rockin' The Boat; The Official Comedy Team Of The 1992 Olympics; Lame Duck Soup and Let Loose The Dogs Of Improv.
Founding CCL member Paul Zuckerman directs @ChicagoCityLimits.comedy began Apr. 2, 1997 and will likely run until midsummer, when the troupe will have enough material for its next edition -- or until computers take over.
For tickets ($15-$25) to the Town Hall show, call (212) 840-2824; For tickets ($20) and information on @ChicagoCityLimits.comedy call (212) 888-LAFF.
--By David Lefkowitz