According to Jim had nine seasons, that’s the true punch line

Improv is where it started for Jim Belushi and now it’s where he has returned with a performance at the Centre in the Square May 8. Jim Belushi and the Board of Comedy’s North American tour was a back-to-basics homage to the comedic medium.

The five-person comedy troupe featured Megan Grano, Larry Joe Campbell, and Joshua Funk, all graduates from the famed Chicago’s Second City, as well as jazz pianist Trey Stone. The loud, mildly entertaining performance left audiences wanting more.

For his opener, Belushi performed a concert-worthy rendition of “Sweet Home Chicago” and ripped into a harmonica solo that left the audience cheering. He also dropped this gem in his monologue: “so the rim jobs are going away?”(on the downsizing of Blackberry). Unfortunately, it went downhill as Belushi started dropping f-bombs in place of punch lines.

The first sketch opened with Funk and Campbell, playing two friends discussing Campbell’s marital issues. The audience had chosen the backstory of the characters, including Funk as an alien. Funk proclaimed he possessed the ability to give other people orgasms on command and was from planet Orgasma. The sexual humour was banal but Funk’s magnetic stage presence, combined with the soundscape Stone created, gathered encouraging laughs from the audience.

Next, Belushi and Grano played a father-daughter duo. Of course, it’s the daughter’s first time getting her period. Belushi was not groundbreaking, but at least he had good delivery. Grano was quick, too.  You can probably guess the jokes that went down but Belushi made his seasoned sitcom experience work for him. Although laughing in predictable places, the audience was engaged.  Finally, before intermission, Belushi, Campbell, and Funk delivered a segment playing the Three Tenors, an imitation of Italian opera singers. They attempted to serenade several audience members and surprisingly, it was the lesser known cast members who shined, more so than Belushi or Campbell. For instance, by some dumb luck, Funk picked an actuary out of the audience to serenade. He belted out: “Hire me, I can be your HR, your Humping Ride.”

Overall, the first part of the show felt like a long warm-up to the second half.

In the second part of the show, the best scene belonged to Grano and Belushi. They were at the funeral parlour for their father’s service and Campbell was the funeral director. Before the skit started, the audience had called out examples of movie quotes, lyrics, things overheard, and bumper sticker slogans. Stone, the pianist, wrote them all down and tossed them across the stage. Later, Grano and Belushi randomly picked one up and incorporated it into their dialogues.

The audience went berserk; 600 people shrieked profanities with glee: “Ram the daughter, dodge the father” or “Don’t touch me there” or “Go pick up dog shit” and the occasional “Jesus loves you.” A nod of respect to the woman who did not give up on being acknowledged and yelled through her phlegm a real throaty:  “SHHHHHAYke your AHHHss.”

Unfortunately, just as the rhythm of the show picked up, it was over. The show needed less hackneyed dialogue and although Belushi’s improvised monologue was entertaining, a more rehearsed stand-up routine may have improved the first half of the show. Comedy is really, really hard, and watching struggling acts make you appreciate the greats even more.